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Black & Grey Tattoos NYC


Black and grey is a style of tattooing that only uses different shades of black ink. Black and grey techniques are often employed for a variety of tattoos. Japanese irezumi, classic Chicano, and photo-realistic portrait tattoos are commonly done using the black and grey style. Photo-realistic portrait tattoos tend to last longer when employing the black and grey style as black ink does not fade as quickly as colored ink when exposed to the sun.


Even in color tattoos, tattoo artists may use black and grey initially to create a base for the tattoo and then add the subsequent color shading. Colored ink can be added directly above any black and grey portions of a tattoo. This makes black and grey tattoos easily modifiable and adaptable.

Mikhail Andersson

Our Black & Grey Tattoos Artists

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History of Black & Grey Tattoos

This tattooing style is believed to have originated in prisons during the 1970s and 1980s when inmates had limited access to materials. It is believed that they resorted to using guitar strings for tattoo needles and used cigarette ashes or pen ink for the tattoo ink. This is where the “black and grey” name came from; those were the only colors they could create. The inmates would also use the small motors from tape players to create makeshift tattoo machines. This was all done in secret as prisons prohibited inmates from tattooing themselves or others. 

There is also speculation that the black and grey tattoo style may have originated from the Chicano culture in Los Angeles given that many classic Chicano tattoos, such as the Mexican Flag or Catholic icons, are done in black and grey style.

The Future of the Style

Black and grey tattoos are a staple of the tattooing world. Arguably, black and grey may be the one style that outlives all other tattoo styles and fads. The black and grey tattoo style has a very interesting history and has been used by modern artists to create very impressive pieces. The black and grey style also looks great alongside other tattooing styles. Other tattoo styles that are commonly combined with black and grey are Japanese tattooing, neo traditional, realistic, dot work, and geometric style tattoos. 

Another style that combines well with black and grey tattooing is blackwork. While the names sound similar, these two tattoo styles are very different. Black and grey tattoos use a variety of shades and soft tones. Blackwork on the other hand is much harsher and focuses on solid black lines. These two styles compliment each other nicely and can make very interesting pieces of art. 

black and grey tattoo (tiger eyes)

Black & Grey Tattoos Gallery

Black & Grey Tattoos FAQs

Who do black and grey tattoos look best on?

There is a common misconception that particular styles of tattooing may only look good on particular types of people or skin tones. This is not true. All tattoo styles can look excellent on anyone, and black and grey tattoos are no different. If black and grey is a style that interests you, and you have done proper research on your studio and tattoo artist, then you should pursue this style of tattooing. 

Do black and grey tattoos fade easily?

Black and grey tattoos tend to fade less than other tattoo styles that use color inks. This also means that they do not need to be touched up as often. Black and grey tattoos are also less prone to sun damage, which is a benefit to anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors.

Is black and grey a good tattoo style for beginners?

If you are thinking of getting your first tattoo a black and grey tattoo may be a good place to start. Tattoos using only black and grey ink often take less time to complete than color tattoos. This also means the tattoo will hurt less, since it will be over faster. Additionally, not using colored ink will bring down the overall cost of your tattoo. Another benefit is that, while no one goes into a tattoo planning to get it removed, black and grey tattoos are some of the easiest to remove or modify. Black ink (as well as green and blue ink) is the easiest to remove. Additionally, with black and grey tattoos, color can be added on top of them if you decide that you want to revamp the tattoo.  

Can any tattoo ink color cover black and grey tattoos?

If you are looking to cover up your black and grey tattoo using colored ink, there are some colors that will work better than others. Generally, the color palate used to cover older tattoos includes blues, browns, and blacks. If you are trying to cover up a black and grey tattoo, those darker colors would yield a much better result than lighter colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows. These colors simply do not provide the coverage necessary to cover a black and grey tattoo but can be used alongside a black and grey tattoo in order to enhance it.

Black & Grey Tattoos & Cover Ups

In the world of cover ups, black and grey pieces tend to be easier to be covered, though larger designs can work as cover-ups as well. They can be used to cover smaller, duller pieces with the solid outlines and shading within. But to cover even an old dull tattoo, you need a different, larger, and deeply saturated piece in order to hide all the ink from the design below. Experience is key in cover ups, something that the team at First Class Tattoo has a lot of training in. Start working on your cover up at First Class today!

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Ask us a question or inquire about booking a time for your Black and Grey Tattoo!

52 Canal Street, New York, NY 10002  |  Tel: (646) 998-5203

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