Controversy over 'watercolor tattoo' trend should make you think twice

Sep 9, 2015 at 1:50 p.m. ET
Image: Mediaphotos/E+/Getty Images

Getting a tattoo is a lifetime commitment. We all know that. So one of the things we ought to consider when getting one is how it might look 20 years from now.

The "watercolor tattoo" trend is so hot right now, and anyone who has seen the genuinely stunning work of some of these artists would be hard-pressed to not want one of their very own.

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Beautiful, right? The colors are amazing, and everything blends. It's like having a Monet on your body. And yet, it is a difficult technique. When it goes wrong, it goes very wrong. As tattoos mature, the ink spreads and blurs. Anyone who has one (or 10) knows this. It's part of the process and is generally OK. But with watercolor tattoos, it can cause a big, old mess.

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Without dark and defined lines, the watercolor tattoo's abstract image could become a splotch, colors bleeding into one another and generally looking undefined and messy. So what do you do if you want a watercolor tattoo? It seems the first tip is this:

1. Know your tattoo artist

No matter how much you like the person inking your skin, it is vitally important that you see versions of their work. Especially if they have done similar work. As tattoo artist Gene Coffey said to Tech Insider, "It's just like anything else. If you haven't done it and aren't familiar with it, you aren't going to do a good job."

 2. Make sure you have defined lines

The watercolor look is best with black that holds the image together. A good artist knows this. Artist Deanna Wardin says, "It is true that watercolor tattoos with little to no black and all soft colors will probably fade much quicker than a traditional tattoo, but here is the kicker… watercolor tattoos can and should use high contrast and a black base. That way, if some of the colors begin to fade, there is still a skeleton to the piece, and it will still read well as it ages."

More: 10 Cool watercolor tattoo ideas that will make you want one

3. Take care of it

More than any other kind of tattoo, watercolor tattoos must be babied. Wear sunscreen over it. Protect it. Treat the tattoo with care, and it will be with you for years to come.

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