What began as a way of covering up a no-longer wanted tattoo is now being cited as a trend in its own right, prompting thousands of popular instagram images. But there’s no going back from black
Embracing past mistakes is a concept that the tattoo community is familiar with – whether it’s a misspelt Sanskrit script on a shoulder or the name of an ex inked on a bicep. If laser removal is an expensive way of rubbing them out, blacking out tattoos – basically, colouring them in – is a cheaper, and often more effective, solution.
“Tattooists and customers have started to see how limited traditional cover-ups are in terms of aesthetic results,” says Maxime Buchi, founder of Sang Bleu London Tattoo studio in Dalston. “You will always see there is something underneath – they can be OK, at best, in my opinion. I recommend blackouts instead, they always work very well.”
Now, ‘Blackout’ tattoos are being hailed as a trend in their own right, following a general shift towards more minimal designs – see the home-done stick and poke. “People still tend to go for safer options first,” says Buchi, who argues the trend is not, in fact, particularly new. “But we are in a sort of golden age of tattooing; the average customer is now fairly educated about tattoos, and so more people go for these extreme forms. The internet, and Instagram, has also completely changed the tattoo industry over the past five or six years.”
Instagram has nearly 12,000 posts with the hashtag #onlyblacktattoos, with arms and legs inked entirely in black pictured. As might be expected, it’s a time-consuming process, sometimes involving several sessions with a tattoo artist, a significant amount of pain, and the need for a refresh as the black ink fades, although Buchi finds that “most people just let it age with them – that’s part of the charm of a tattoo.”
But the reward may well be a much-liked picture. Linjojo’z, who covered up old tattoos with an all black piece covering her right arm and her chest, scored more than 6,000 Instagram likes when an image of her with the piece was posted by an artist at Oracle Tattoo, the shop in Singapore that did the work. The only issue? You can’t go back from black.