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Written by Kieran

Why Do People Get Blackout Tattoos?

Tattoo, Tattoo FAQ

There is no single reason for why people choose blackwork or why people get blackout tattoos. A blackout tattoo can be used to coverup existing tattoos or it can be a standalone statement piece. It may even be a symbol of grief and mourning.

To try and understand why people get what’s often incorrectly called a blackout tattoo, let’s first endeavour to understand what a ‘blackout tattoo’ is and in which genre of tattooing it fits. 

What are blackout tattoos?

‘Blackout’ is a generic catchall term given to any type of tattoo that involves a heavy use of black tattoo ink.

Tattoos that are termed ‘blackout’ all tend to make use of heavy blackwork. These tattoos all use a consistent application of opaque black ink over a large bodily surface. As such ‘blackout tattoos’ all fall within the style of tattooing called blackwork.

Blackwork as a tattooing style uses solid panes of black ink to create abstract patterns and geometric shapes. Blackwork as a style of tattooing uses only black ink.

The most common placements for ‘blackout’ tattoos are the arms and legs. Though other placements are becoming more common thanks to tattooists like Ruslan & Tonya at AbuSevTattoo.

Blackout tattoos aren’t new. Blackwork as a tattoo style is as old as tattooing itself. The use of large panes of solid black ink is common in many different cultures.

Negative space blackout tattoo sleeve

Are blackout tattoos a single style?

Blackout tattoos are not a single style or coherent standalone genre of tattoo. All blackout tattoos fall within the traditional domain of ‘blackwork’.

The larger and more bold the use of black is, the more likely it is to be labelled as a ‘blackout tattoo’.

Yet there are many different styles or sub-genres of blackwork tattoos that make heavy use of black ink. And these are all lumped together and often mistakenly called ‘blackout tattoos’. 

What are some types of ‘Blackout’ tattoos?

Two types of blackout tattoos that stand out are large negative space tattoo designs and large geometric blackwork. Though larger tribal or neotribal tattoo designs also seem to be making it into the ‘blackout tattoo’ catchall on social media these days.

Pretty much, if a tattoo is large and uses a single solid shade of black it’s likely labelled as a ‘blackout tattoo’ on social media.

How are Blackout tattoos done?

Tattoos labelled as ‘blackout tattoos’ will involve tattooing a large area of the body using only black ink. Typically the arms or legs.

The application of dark black ink is consistent across the designs. And shading isn’t used in ‘blackout’ designs.  

Negative Space Blackout Tattoo

Can you tattoo over blackout tattoos?

You can tattoo over blackwork. One stylistic element of blackout tattooing that is rising in popularity is the use of white ink over larger blackwork designs.

Blackout tattoo sleeves with white ink are rising in popularity thanks to social media. And the use of white ink over a large ‘blackout sleeve’ can allow for the creation of subtle designs with a striking contrast.

Colors other than white ink won’t work well over a black tattoo. So if you desire a colored tattoo you will first need to have the black tattoo removed. 

Why do people get blackout tattoos?

There is no single reason for why people choose blackwork or why people get blackout tattoos. A blackout tattoo can be used to coverup existing tattoos or it can be a standalone statement piece.

Blackwork in general has less intricate details and no shading. And blackwork tattoos will likely resist ageing and fading far better than most other styles of tattooing.

It’s important not to label all blackwork that uses large panes of black ink as a ‘blackout tattoo’ and assume that the work is a coverup.

The majority of the tattoos seen on social media that are labelled as blackout tattoos are not coverups of older tattoos. The majority of the tattoos labelled as ‘blackout tattoos’ are standalone tattoo pieces. They aren’t coverups. 

Why did I choose to get a ‘blackout tattoo’?

My black tattoo sleeve is a negative space design. It’s often referred to as a negative space blackout tattoo. Yet it will soon have the addition of white ink tattooed over the black sleeve in parts of the design.

I had my artist design this black tattoo sleeve for me. It contrasts with my colored tattoo sleeve and was created as sign of loss and mourning.

In western cultures a black armband is often worn as a symbol that the wearer is in mourning. And this meaning translates across into tattoos.

Historically a solid black armband tattoo represents the loss of a loved one. In western cultures black is the color of death and mourning. And my black tattoo sleeve represents or symbolizes the act of carrying with me the memory of the deceased.

It’s a more permanent black armband.   

Man holding out arms with blackout tattoo sleeve and colored tattoo sleeve
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