How to make gray wash tattoo ink

Written by maude coffey
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How to make gray wash tattoo ink
Many people prefer tattoos featuring grey wash tones. (tiger tattoo image by Dmitri MIkitenko from

Tattoo portraits are primarily tattooed in black and grey tones. Whether the piece is a portrait of a deceased grandfather, a favourite pet or a celebrity that the wearer admires, grey tones provide a soft and subdued look to the tattoo. Black and grey tattoos are the equivalent to black and white photos in the photography world. While some opt for brightly coloured pieces on arms and legs, some tattoo collectors prefer the more subdued look of black and grey tones.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Gloves
  • Lap cloth
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Tongue depressor
  • Disposable cup
  • Distilled water
  • Ink caps
  • Black tattoo ink

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  1. 1

    Wash your hands and put on a pair of gloves. Lay a lap cloth--plastic side down--on the tattoo workstation. Gather a disposable cup, four ink caps and a bottle of black ink.

  2. 2

    Spread a thin, horizontal line of petroleum jelly onto the lap cloth with a disposable tongue depressor. The horizontal line should measure eight inches. Dispose of the tongue depressor in the trash.

  3. 3

    Place the four ink caps onto the horizontal line of the petroleum jelly with an inch between each cap. Fill the disposable cup--your rinse cup--with distilled water. Place the rinse cup next to the ink caps on the lap cloth.

  4. 4

    Fill the first ink cap with five per cent black ink and 90 per cent distilled water. Fill the second ink cap with 20 per cent black ink and 80 per cent distilled water. Fill the third ink cap with 30 per cent black ink and 70 per cent distilled water. Fill the fourth ink cap with half of black and half of distilled water. The lightest grey wash is in the first ink cap and the tones become darker when moving to the next ink cap.

  5. 5

    Dip the needle into the rinse cup in between each shade of grey while tattooing to avoid mixing dark tones with the light. Dispose of the lap cloth, gloves, ink caps and rinse cap into a biohazard trash receptacle after tattooing. Deposit the needle into a sharps container.

Tips and warnings

  • Start with light tones and blend to dark.
  • Change gloves before beginning the tattoo or touching a client's skin.
  • Never reuse needles or tattoo ink.
  • Never attempt a tattoo unless you have completed an apprenticeship, licensing and work in a professional, licensed tattoo shop.

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