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Black & Grey Tattoo Guide

Getting a tattoo can be a unique way of self-expression and self-identity. They have become increasingly popular and contextually diverse. One style that has gained traction is Black & Grey Tattoos. Black & Grey is a style of tattooing that stands out as it only uses different shades of black ink. This style contains a lot of depth and personality. If you are interested in this style, you’ll find this guide incredibly helpful as we will discuss the process of getting a Black & Grey Tattoo.

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Questions Before Getting a Black & Grey Tattoo

So, you’ve decided to get a Black & Grey Tattoo. You may be wondering what exactly comes next after making this decision. After deciding on this type of tattoo, you should think about the design you want and style you are looking to work with. This should be done before going to a tattoo studio and is key to finding the correct artist. Your tattoo artist will need reference images in order to create the design you envision and a thorough explanation of what it is you want to see in this piece. The photos that you choose must be clear and as detailed as possible, multiple references are super helpful! This is going to be a permanent aspect of your body, so you need to do your research and come in with a clear idea of what you want. Here are some questions you may want to ask or be aware of during this process:

Should my first inking be a Black & Grey Tattoo?

Black & Grey is a good style for beginners. This is the case mainly because Black & Grey ink typically takes less time to complete than color tattoos. The pain can be considered more manageable, and the overall cost can be lower. Additionally, with Black & Grey Tattoos, color can be added on top if you decide in the future that you want to redesign it.

Will a Black & Grey Tattoo look good on me?

There is a common misconception that certain tattoo styles may only look good or flatter certain types of people / skin tones. This is far from the truth. All tattoo styles can look good on anyone regardless of skin tone. Black & Grey Tattoos are no different. If this style truly interests you, then you should pursue it without this kind of worry.

Will my Black & Grey Tattoos fade easily?

Black & Grey Tattoos tend to fade less than other tattoo styles that use color inks. This means that they won’t need to be touched-up as often.

Black & Grey Tattoo Styles

As mentioned before, Black & Grey tattooing is a style that employs different shades of black inks. This is a technique that can be used for a variety of tattoos. Black & Grey Tattoos are commonly used for the following styles:


This is the most standard style for Black & Grey Tattoos. This style focuses on life-like artwork. A common topic for Back & Grey realism is portraits. Photo-realistic portraits are incredibly popular especially in relation to pop culture. A lot of people tend to get a movie scene, or their favorite characters / celebrities tattooed in this style. This is a style that excels in versatility.

Old School:

This style is also known as American traditional. Old School is influenced by work in the 19th century such as sailor and military tattoos. Popular subject matters include pin-ups, mermaids, anchors, etc. This style of art is a classic and will forever be popular.


This is one of the most requested styles due to its visual appeal. Traditional Japanese tattoos use soft black and grey tones. In fact, most colorful Japanese tattoos use black and grey as a base. Japanese tattoos are incredibly varied when it comes to subject matter. From mythical creatures such as dragons to natural themes like flowers and fish, there’s a wide spectrum of Japanese Black & Grey Tattoos.


What once was an offensive term is now a word of empowerment. Having been reclaimed, Chicano is linked to Mexican American pride and community. From this, a beautiful art style has emerged. Chicano tattoos are inspired by Catholic themes such as crosses, rosary beads, and Virgin Mary portraits. Other subject matters include bandanas, cars, skulls, etc. Lettering, also, stands out as an important aspect of this style and is striking when done in black and grey.

Black & Grey Tattoo Style FAQ

Can color be added to Black & Grey Tattoos?

Yes, colored ink can be added to Black & Grey Tattoos. In fact, as previously mentioned, the Japanese art style sometimes incorporates black and grey as a base. Colored ink can be added directly above any black and grey portions of a tattoo. Black & Grey Tattoos are modifiable in this way.

What style fits best for what I’m looking for?

Style is super important. It helps you understand the correct artist, how the layout of the tattoo should be, size and everything in between. Since there are many different branches to Black & Grey Tattoos, figuring out the exact style you want your piece in is the first step. This can help make everything else easier.

Size & Placement of Your Black & Grey Tattoo

The size and placement of any tattoo is incredibly important. Size can impact the following:

Design and Artist:

Smaller tattoos that hold a lot of detail will need an artist that specializes in micro work. Details can be compromised when it comes to sizing. Medium to Large pieces will require a lot of preparation.


Some people think smaller tattoos will cost less but that is a myth. Small tattoos that require a lot of detail will take the artist time to execute to perfection. Usually Artists price per hour. How fast a piece takes has many factors such as final design, experience and placement.

Healing and Aftercare:

Smaller tattoos can be easier to take care of because you don’t have much surface area to look after. While larger tattoos will peal more and need more attention.

Additionally, the size of your tattoo will determine its placement. For example, you can’t get a large tattoo on your finger. When you decide how big or small you want your tattoo to be, that will narrow down the places you can get your tattoo.

Size & Placement FAQ

Where should I place my tattoo?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Everyone is different and obviously wants something different. However, there are some parts of the body where a tattoo will have a harder time healing. Tattoos on the hands, face, lips, and neck tend to require more aftercare and potentially many more touch-ups. Also, some designs might not look good on certain places. This is when you should trust the artists suggestions.

Can the placing of my tattoo cause it to fade?

There are placements that can cause tattoos to fade faster. These placements are typically subject to wear and tear and experience exposure to water and sunlight. However, black and grey tattoos are less prone to sun damage therefore they tend to last longer. Hands are the main areas that are subject to fading due to washing your hands often and the oils they produce.

Selecting an NYC Black & Grey Tattoo Artist

Not only is choosing a Black & Grey Tattoo an important step but so is choosing the artist to make your image come to life. You should 100% do your research. Don’t just go to the closest shop or artist. See which artists specialize in the type of Black & Grey style you are looking for. Check out websites, Instagram pages, tagged pictures. Also, visit or do research on the studio. Don’t be afraid to ask for a consultation and shop around to find the right fit. Also, connections between clients and their artists are super important. Go with someone who makes you feel confident in your decision. The best way to tell whether an artist is experienced in the Black & Grey Tattoo style is to look at the variation in their shading. If they can achieve soft and subtle shades alongside harsher shadows, then it’s clear that they have practice in this style. You want to make sure your artist understands what they’re doing.

Selecting an NYC Black & Grey Tattoo Artist FAQ

What should I generally look for in a tattoo studio?

While in a studio, you want to make sure the area is clean. A studio needs to be immaculate in not just the waiting rooms but the rooms where your ink will be done as well. A dirty shop is a health hazard and can potentially put you at risk. Equipment and workstations need to be sterilized and any excess ink needs to be disposed of.

Why should my tattoo artist be specifically experienced in the Black & Grey Tattoo style?

Black & Grey Tattoo work involves heavy precision which can only be acquired through experience. Shading is incredibly important. If done poorly, like any other tattoo, it will fade, look blotchy, and generally not hold up over time.

Download Our Black & Grey Tattoo Guide

Black & Grey Tattoo Guide PDF
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Book Your NYC Black & Grey Tattoo at First Class Tattoos

All in all, deciding to get a tattoo is a big step. You want to make sure that you are truly getting the tattoo you want and that you have the artist who can make that happen. First Class Tattoos is a shop that will ensure you get a tattoo inked and customized to your standards. We’ve employed artists with varying styles of Black & Grey. No matter their individualized style, our artists will create a stunning image that will last the test of time.

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