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The Complete Guide to Watercolor Tattoos

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Watercolor tattoos have seen a major increase in popularity over the last decade or two. These tattoos stem away from the traditional methods and designs of tattooing, which creates a novel form that is more akin to a watercolor painting than an American traditional tattoo. Traditionally, tattoos were designed with thick black outlines and deep saturated colors. Watercolor tattoos serve as a total break from traditional conventions; watercolor designs not only lack the solid black outline, but also usually have washed colors that feather and flow over the skin, which opposes the standard of deeply saturated color usually seen in tattoos.

In this complete guide, we will look at some popular examples of watercolor tattoos including their subject matter and color choices. After, we will explore frequently asked questions for this relatively new, ever evolving style of tattoo. If you want to break away from normal tattoo conventions and get a piece that is more gentle and free flowing than a traditional style tattoo, watercolor is the perfect choice for you!

Subject of Watercolor

Unlike other traditional styles of tattoo like Japanese or American traditional, watercolor tattoos can encompass a huge variety of subjects. These traditional styles tend to use similar elements to one another: American traditional has a lot of eagles and roses. Japanese traditional has a lot of dragons and tigers. Watercolor tattoos can be of absolutely anything!

While your options for a centerpiece in your watercolor tattoo are endless, some scenes tend to work better than others. Let’s look at some popular design choices that are tried and true on skin.


In general, animals are a great subject for watercolor tattoos. But more so than others, birds are a fantastic subject for a piece. The dramatic colors that some birds have, including blue jays, hummingbirds, and phoenixes, combined with the wispy, dramatic nature of feathers and flying create the perfect centerpiece for watercolor tattoo. Whether you need a deep red, a bright blue, or a dramatic green, watercolor will be able to depict the color of any bird. What’s more, birds tend to carry significant meaning in their image; for example, a phoenix can represent life and rebirth, which makes for a great tattoo.


One of the most effective ways to capture the dramatic colors of stars, galaxies, and other phenomena in space is through watercolor tattoos. A lot of these features lack solid, dark outlines, which fits exactly into the scheme of watercolor designs. Amongst other colors, you can usually incorporate purples, blues, greens, reds, and yellows into a picture of space. Through watercolors, you can capture the feelings of wonder and exploration that is created what lies beyond our planet.


Unsurprisingly, flowers are a great subject for a watercolor tattoo. Flowers, like roses, tulips, and lotuses, usually make for fantastic pieces. The watercolor style does a great job replicating the deep colors of flowers; there are so many flowers that there is a color for everyone and watercolor can do it all! What’s more, the lack of solid outlines does wonders for capturing the delicate nature of petals as they rest on your skin. Flowers can represent a lot of different meanings; with so much variety, there is a way to personalize a flower perfect for your body, style, and life.


Naturally, paintings themselves are a great subject for a watercolor tattoo. Watercolor tattoos already look like a painting, so this style provides a wonderful opportunity to put a real painting on your skin. For example, you can take a piece of a painting like Starry Night and apply it to your body. The shades of blue and yellow dramatically flowing into and out of itself can be perfectly captured by a skilled watercolor artist.

Download Our Water Color Tattoo Guide

Water Color Tattoos NYC
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Frequently Asked Questions

Do watercolor tattoos fade quickly?

This is the number one question for watercolor tattoos. Searches online will yield a variety of results. The fact is that all tattoos fade; the cells in your body actively want to break down ink molecules. If you design your watercolor piece with undertones in mind and take care of it thereafter, your watercolor piece will last and continue to look good over time.

Do watercolor tattoos take longer to complete?

In general, watercolor tattoos tend to take longer to complete when compared to other styles. This is due to the detail and complex shading that is required to make your piece look like a painting. They are similar to a color realism piece; the complex techniques that are often required take extra time to finish.

Get Booked With the Watercolor Experts at First Class Tattoos!

For the premier tattoo experience in New York City, First Class Tattoo is 100 percent the destination! Our team of expert watercolor artists can help you design and go home with a tattoo you love. We can walk you through the process to create the tattoo of your dreams. Contact First Class Tattoos today to talk with an artist and start your first or your next tattoo journey.

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