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Best Tattoo Ink in 2021

With a combined experience of 20+ years in the tattoo industry, the 5 tattoo artists on the InkedWay editorial team have prepared a list of the best tattoo inks available on the market. We have tested and reviewed over 40 brands in our search for the best all-around choice that will work for all tattoo artists.
Updated March 30, 2021

This review is based on the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: You will not find any inks in this list that contain chlorine, bromine, iodine, or heavy metals that contain lead, arsenic, etc. (which can cause skin irritations and/or malignancies); azo dyes, and aromatic amines (which are carcinogens).
  • Quality of tattoos made with these inks (including tattoos that are several years old)
  • Manufacturer's reliability
  • Maximum consistency of color in the manufacturer's photo and the actual ink color
  • Speed and easy healing
  • Smooth inking under the skin

Please check before buying! How to avoid buying fakes?

Intenze Color Tattoo Ink
Best tattoo ink sets

The INTENZE brand has become the leader at the TOP of this list because it combines high-quality manufactured products, an immense color range, and maximum quality of ALL shades of tattoo ink (both for colored and black and white tattoos). Born in the early nineties, INTENZE was the first brand to provide a complete formulation of their inks. What the company pursued was the task of inventing inks that would be suitable for everyone with no exceptions. As a result of extensive testing, they succeeded and are the first company in the tattoo industry to operate a certified ISO 9001:2015 manufacturing facility.

The brand's pigments are designed to meet the highest standards of quality and safety, and the transparency of their ingredients is made public online. INTENZE has special markings to distinguish the original from the fake, as well as seals and protective films to make sure that no one has opened the bottle before you. Their #1 priority is the safety and effectiveness of their products.

User Experience

The INTENZE brand of tattoo inks contains all the shades you need for any complexity. The immense color palette they offer is unparalleled. The 54, 1oz bottles provide you with a wide range of colors, giving you the freedom of variety. Moreover, they mix perfectly with each other, so you will get exactly the shade you want, even if it is not in your palette.

INTENZE manufactures the safest, highest-quality tattoo ink on the market in more colors than any other brand, and they are continually growing and further expanding their product lines.

Each batch of INTENZE ink is tested by two independent laboratories, to assure sterility. These inks are guaranteed to be free of mutagenic toxins called amines, as well as spores, Staphylococcus, Bacillus, Micrococcus, yeast, and biological and fungal bioburdens. All supporting documentation is available on the brand's website.

As one of the best pigments in the world, INTENZE pigments are ideal for both beginners and professionals. Customers deserve first-class materials so, when working with INTENZE ink, you never risk the client's health nor your reputation.

Pros
  • Huge color palette
  • More color complexity
  • Vivid colors
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Thick and easy to work with
  • Ideal for beginners and professionals
  • 100% Vegan-friendly
  • Quick and easy healing
  • Less drying time
  • Slow consumption
  • 100% safe and sterile
Cons
  • Short shelf life

Best Black Tattoo Ink

Those who create blackwork, Dotwork, ornamental and tribal styles are always on the lookout for the "perfect black”. While for blackwork and tribal you can use ink that is slightly blurry and thick, for Dotwork you cannot do that, you need clarity and precision. After testing all black pigments, we suggest you try out a few of the inks described below.

Dynamic Black
Best tattoo ink brand

Dynamic Black is the best quality black tattoo ink to use and a solid black pigment for clear and even lines. It is a liquid ink that does not leave any drips. It is time-tested and will suit both professionals and beginners (beginners are better to learn with a good product such as this from the beginning).

User Experience

Many users are pleased with its longevity. This also makes it a low-maintenance tattoo ink. When covering black areas, the pigment is applied evenly. There is no need to "circle" in one area for a long time to get dense coverage. Lines and small details are also great - clear, thin, less blurred, and less dense over time.

The healing process is also quick and painless. No allergic reactions to this ink have been observed. After healing, the pigment also remains as black as possible, without color changes, lightening, etc.

The manufacturer mentions that this technique is also good for the grey wash technique. Dynamic White is also considered one of the best white tattoo inks, so you can buy a set of these inks to create amazing grey wash tattoos as well. The ink is ideal for all tattooing styles and techniques, but among other things, it is known to be the best tattoo ink for tribal work.

Minimal cost is one of the many advantages that this brand delivers tattoo artists.

Pros
  • Smudge-free
  • Retains color / Doesn't fade
  • Excellent coverage
  • Delivers sharper lines
  • No allergic reactions found
  • Well-balanced pigments
  • Exceptional ease of work
  • Fast healing process
  • Slow consumption
  • Reasonably priced
  • Sold in various sizes
Cons
  • It can be hard to wash off the body

Beware of fakes: if the ink costs less than the manufacturer's price - it is NOT the original!

Nocturnal Lining & Shading Black
Best quality tattoo ink

This brand was founded by two tattoo artists, one of whom is Franco Vescovi, the creator of the Bishop tattoo machine. Nocturnal pigment goes on quickly, smoothly and has a rich dark color. The composition of Nocturnal tattoo ink can be considered a reference because it does not contain heavy chemical solvents.

User Experience

With the same fluidity as other premium inks, Nocturnal Lining & Shading has a much deeper black color and allows you to create perfectly smooth and even shadows. This pigment is used for any type of line, solid black shading, and grey wash techniques.

The result of using this brand will be a pleasant surprise. It is very smooth on the skin and very dark. Nocturnal Lining and Shading is the easiest-using pigment for black and white tattoos. Moreover, it is the best formula for black pigment on a molecular level.

Nocturnal will be even more expressive after the healing. Your client will definitely be satisfied with its performance!

Pros
  • Heals quickly and easily
  • Retains color
  • Does not drip
  • Easy to get under the skin
  • No negative skin reaction
  • Smooth dispersion during tattooing
  • Suitable for all tattooing techniques (lining, shading, grey wash)
  • Sold in various sizes
Cons
  • Price just above average
  • Easily soiled

Beware of fakes: if the ink costs less than the manufacturer's price - it is NOT the original!

Best Color Tattoo Inks

Eternal Tattoo Ink Set
Best color tattoo ink

Eternal is one of the best inks for tattoos today. The complete absence of acrylic, other chemical impurities, and animal products in its composition makes it completely organic and usable for the absolute majority of tattoo artists. This brand produces more than 150 different shades and colors that will satisfy any tattoo artist. Eternal leads the way by setting strict standards in product consistency, quality ingredients, and outstanding performance for all tattoo inks.

User Experience

The set includes 60 different colors. You will have the greatest selection of colors, the most diverse kit choices, and the widest range of bottle size options per color. While black is always in short supply, it is best to order more. The other colors are perfectly matched, are universal, and are close to what you see in the bottle.

You will notice by using Eternal ink, that it is highly pigmented. This saves material and the tattooist's time due to the lower number of runs over the skin. The bonus is the client's minimal trauma during the procedure.

The Eternal ink is relatively thick, which makes it easier to work with. The color rendering of these pigments is outstanding, which is why they are used by the best artists around the world! This product is highly recommended due to its quality pigments and value for the money.

Pros
  • Bright colors
  • 100% Vegan Friendly
  • Heals well
  • Good value for money
  • Low consumption
  • Same color as in the bottle
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Incredible color palette
Cons
  • You may need time to get used to the consistency

Millennium Moms
Best cheap tattoo ink

Millennium Mom's Ink is the world's first homogenized, mineral-based tattoo ink. Millennium Mom's tattoo ink is the best option for both pros and beginners, with a homogeneous consistency, balanced composition, and at an affordable price. These pigments are considered ideal for conveying all the splendor of New School, and Old School-style tattoos.

User Experience

The color palette includes more than 40 shades, which is even enough for the experienced tattooist. All tattoo inks from Millennium Mom's are vegan-friendly and come in a broad range of color choices. The ink is soft-edged, gentle on any skin type, and most importantly, it is long-lasting.

The bottle contains enough ink to cover small to large-sized tattoo designs. The coverage is awesome, so there is no need to keep refilling your tattoo machine. Another interesting advantage is that there is no need to shake, stir or dilute the colors before you begin, so it is ready to go when you are.

The ink is easy to use, and the colors are bright and pigmented. It is made from all non-toxic ingredients and thus can be used even on the most sensitive skin. All inks from Millennium Mom's are sterilized and tested through a 3rd party laboratory.

All Millennium Mom’s tattoo inks have a shelf life of about 4 years.

A wide variety of gorgeous bright colors - test them all for yourself!

Pros
  • The best price for excellent quality
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Homogeneous and no residue
  • Delivers rich results after application
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Long shelf life
  • Wide variety of colors
  • Doesn't require shaking, stirring, or diluting
Cons
  • Slower drying time
  • Bottles can leak

The next related products would also be a useful addition to this kit:

World Famous Tattoo Ink
Best tattoo ink on the market

Tattoo artists of international fame create their masterpieces with tattoo inks from World Famous Tattoo Inks. By choosing this brand of ink, you will improve the quality of your work, making it more contrasting, powerful, bold, and vibrant than ever before. This is exactly what World Famous Ink's world-class pigments are known for. They have a very large palette of colors and many different sets designed by various famous tattoo artists.

User Experience

The ink is well packaged, which is a significant advantage compared to other manufacturers. They offer convenient tubes with easy opening and closing lids. The colors are vivid and colorful with a large and diverse palette. This set is from the pro series, which consists of juicy and soft color pigments - there are no standard black, white, and gray pigments.

World Famous Tattoo Ink brings you premium quality tattoo ink with super high pigment content and an amazing flow rate. Their inks are vegan-friendly and are sterilized with gamma radiation and bottled in crystal-flex bottles with a secure twist cap and a tamper and waterproof label.

World Famous Ink flows well into the skin and heals super fast. With a massive palette of colors, this ink will make your job as an artist much easier, and make your tattoos pop!

The ink consistency is thick and dense, which makes the tattoo come to life! Before use, the ink should be shaken well so that it becomes more homogeneous. World Famous Inks are backed by the most sought-after artists around the globe because they amplify their designs, evolving them into something darker, bolder, brighter, and stronger. No allergies or rashes were noticed as a result of many years of working with this manufacturer.

World Famous Ink is revolutionizing the industry with its high-quality tattoo inks.

Pros
  • Many colors to choose from
  • Good, comfortable consistency
  • Sterilized with gamma radiation
  • Tamper-proof label
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Brighter and bolder
  • Safe on skin
  • Convenient bottles
  • EU approved
Cons
  • Price is a little higher than average

NBK Fire Red Set
Best Red Tattoo Ink

This NBK Fire Red Set from World Famous. The set contains four fire-red hues for color tattooing. It's perfect for both trash polka tattoos and other colored styles.

The set consists of different brightness and shades of reds, including four essential warm, crimson colors. From light, ruby red tones to deeper scarlet shades. This variety will help you achieve even better results. The perfect set for red designs with a gradation of shades!

Pros
  • Good, comfortable consistency
  • Tattoos look sharper after healing
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Easy flow under the skin
  • Best brightness
  • Safe on skin
  • Convenient bottles
  • EU approved
Cons
  • Price is a little higher than average

Kuro Sumi
Best professional tattoo ink sets

One of the best basic tattoo ink sets for its price is this set from the Japanese brand Kuro Sumi, which consists of 7 basic colors. This kit has a good quality black pigment (the company produces one of the best black pigments), and the most popular white, with blue, green, yellow, red, and orange colors.

User Experience

Kuro Sumi is one of the most popular brands in the tattooing industry. Whatever is your preferred tattoo type, this brand’s tattoo ink is promised to give you the desired result. This one set is unlikely to be enough to work fully in color tattooing, but it is the basic set to which the necessary colors can be purchased separately.

The first thing worth mentioning is the stunning contrasts in the color range. The pigments have a very good color rendering and look bright on the skin. They remain bright with no changes, fading or lightening of colors. They also heal fairly quickly without allergic and other reactions to the skin. The consistent flow rate of the ink makes the shading and lining work easier than other tattoo ink.

Once opened, bottles often leak, so we recommend stocking up on empty bottles so you can immediately pour the ink into another container. This will be safer and perhaps save you money in the future.

Pros
  • Smooth and consistent
  • Good quality-price ratio
  • Fast healing, no allergies or other reactions
  • 100% Vegan friendly
  • Versatile colors
  • Made from organic ingredients
Cons
  • Bottle caps may leak
  • Thicker than normal tattoo inks

Best Tattoo Ink – Buyer’s Guide

What do tattoo inks consist of and which manufacturer should I choose? Let's get into the details.

Tattoo ink components:

Black
This is the most popular pigment, as it serves as the base for any pattern. It is created from soot derived from animal bones, rust, tar, tree resin, and Campesina extract. The vast majority of black inks are made from these components because they provide excellent quality and are very safe.
White
Contains lead carbonate, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide.
Red
This is the second most popular color. It contains cinnabar, cadmium selenide, or mercury sulfide. Micro doses of these elements are generally safe for the human body.
Yellow
Contains cadmium sulfide, turmeric, and some inorganic substances. They are not as safe, but given the small proportion, it is not likely to cause any harmful effects.
Blue
Contains cobalt.
Brown
Contains iron oxide, clay, yellow ochre. This pigment is very safe.

Criteria for choosing the right tattoo pigment

  • The style of tattoo you practice. Tattoo inks should be chosen depending on the type of tattoos you are creating. If you do black and white tattoo styles, such as Chicano, blackwork, tribal, etc. you need good, dense black pigment. We recommend buying ink from a brand that specializes in producing only black ink, such as Nocturnal. You will need colored inks for new school styles, old school, watercolor, illustration, realism, etc. The best brands of color pigments are Intenze, World Famous, Eternal, and Millenium Mom's. We also recommend red inks from World Famous for trash polka tattoo styles.
  • Composition. As previously noted, the different colors of the inks differ in their active components. Depending on the ink composition, most are organic (that is, extracted from the natural environment) and inorganic (components extracted chemically). While most pigments and components on the market are organic, always check each bottle of tattoo ink for the presence of harmful and hazardous substances.
  • How the color performs over time. It is always good to look at company reviews and view the artwork of popular tattoo artists before purchasing ink. By doing this, you can check to make sure that the ink doesn't fade too quickly, doesn't blur, or change color after healing. You won't find any product recommendations in this list that don't live up to these requirements.
  • Brand. Avoid choosing unfamiliar manufacturers. These manufacturers are not always transparent about what is in their products. Trust the companies that are well known, tested, and used by famous tattoo artists with real buyers' and company reviews.
  • Cost. By using professional inks produced by reputable manufacturers, you may face paying more but you will also be given a guarantee regarding fading, blurring of the image, and its distortion over time. So, if you have to pay more for the ink, you are paying for quality and the guarantee of an excellent product.

How much do tattoo inks usually cost? More well-known brands are usually more expensive due to their quality ingredients, lab testing, and demand. No tattoo artist will work with cheap inks after working with an extensive palette of colors by a quality brand and having seen the effectiveness of the inks

Most importantly never buy "replicas", fakes, or cheap tattoo inks from shady manufacturers. Remember that the tattoo ink quality affects not only the result but also the client's health and well-being.

For vegans

According to The Vegan Society, the entire tattooing process is marred by animal products. Non-vegan black ink is made from charred, shredded, and degreased animal bones, which are believed to give the ink its deepest rich black color. They may also contain glycerin or animal gelatin as a stabilizer.

While most mainstream tattoo pigments contain animal ingredients, there are some inks on the market that are suitable for vegans. One must understand that any claims by manufacturers that "vegan inks are healthier and safer for the human body than conventional inks" are not proven by any research. Vegan inks are simply a way of not using animal byproducts. These vegan inks contain plant-based products and inorganic chemicals. Likewise, you should check the composition of each product.

FAQ

What is the best tattoo ink to use?

The one that's perfect for you. Quality, original, made by a verified manufacturer. We would recommend choosing one from our list in this article.

How deep does tattoo ink go?

The depth of the needle penetration is on average 1.5-2 mm. If the pigment does not enter deep enough into the skin, it will leave a barely noticeable mark or will simply blur and be faded. At the same time, too deep penetration under the dermis leads to too difficult, problematic and painful healing, which also negatively affects the quality of the tattoo.

How to make tattoo ink stay in the skin?

Unfortunately, colored tattoos are bound to lose their intensity if they are not taken care of from the beginning. We recommend immediately after the session, to lead as healthy a life as possible, because during the rehabilitation period the body's immunity drops and it needs strength to recover. Also, try to refrain from drinking alcohol. To keep the color of the tattoo as long as possible avoid exposure to direct sunlight and protect the tattoo with the right creams.

Can I make my own tattoo ink?

No! You will never be able to achieve the necessary sterility of the production conditions to create safe tattoo ink at home. Remember, you are responsible for the health of your client! The more so, the manufacturers have already done everything for you.

FINAL WORDS

It is difficult to say for 100% sure what's the best tattoo ink for all tattoo artists in the world, all levels and styles of tattooing. There is no one unambiguous answer to this question. But there are recommendations for choice, and this abbreviated list of the best tattoo inks, among which it is already much easier to choose.

Write down what you think of these brands and if you've had experience using them, and which one you think is the best tattoo ink to use!