How to mix ink colors for tattooing

Updated February 21, 2017

Color is one of the many ways to enhance a tattoo--using it incorrectly is worse than not using it at all. Mixing ink colours is an all-or-nothing deal and if done incorrectly will leave a horrible mess on your skin that you will have to live with unless you have the money for tattoo removal. Tattoo ink exists in two forms: water-based and pure pigment. Pure pigment inks are alcohol-based and cannot be mixed--they are considered true colour and mixing them would mean mixing different chemical properties that could become toxic. Water-based inks can be mixed.

Cut a strip of cellophane or plastic wrap and lay it on your work space. This is the only thing that you want to mix on as nothing will be transferred from the surface.

Place a small amount of ink 1 on the cellophane. Don't use a large amount as you don't want to waste it because it is expensive. Make sure there is enough to do all of the section you are tattooing in that colour because it's difficult to make the exact same shade more than once unless you're highly experienced.

Place the same amount of ink 2 on the cellophane next to ink 1. Use more or less if you are trying to make a darker or lighter shade.

Mix the two colours together with your toothpick. Don't touch it with your skin. Make sure that you thoroughly mix all of the colour together so that it is the correct shade you want.


The nine basic water-based tattoo ink colours are black, brown, green, purple, red, yellow, orange, white and blue. Anything in brighter or darker shades must be mixed. If you want a more pure colour, use pigment instead of colour, because pigments are more vibrant. Remember, however, that pigments cannot be mixed.


UV tattoo ink cannot be mixed. White ink only makes colours look muddy. If you have allergies to chemicals or metals, use tattoo ink instead of pigment.

Things You'll Need

  • Cellophane
  • Ink 1
  • Ink 2
  • Toothpick
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About the Author

Nicole Ramage has been writing professionally since 2005. She holds a certification in professional cake decorating and creates and sells custom cakes. She also teaches arts and crafts, specializing in weddings and baking. She earned her ordained ministership in Washington and Oregon in 2009 and an Associate of Applied Science in professional baking from Clark College.