Sometimes here at BellaOnline Body Art emails arrive asking the question, "Should I get my tattoo in all black and white, or should I do it in color?" Obviously, the color choice really is a matter of personal preference, but let's take a look at a few things that differ between blackwork tattooing and color work.
Outline vs Shading
Nearly all tattoos are outlined. Not only does this do the obvious of making the shapes and designs, but over time a tattoo with an outline will show up more defined than a color patch against bare skin that doesn't have an outline. Most tattoos have an outline that is done in black but that doesn't have to be a hard and fast rule. Shading provides shadow and contouring, giving the design dimensionality instead of just looking flat.
Many people argue over whether outlining or shading is more painful. The outline of a tattoo is often done with a single needle whereas shading is accomplished by a grouping of needles, either arranged in a flat line or a round cluster. Most likely what makes people say shading is more painful isn't the use of more needles but the fact that shading often requires more than one pass over an area. To tattoo over an area that is freshly-punctured definitely is going to re-stimulate an already tender area again.
No-Color vs Color
When you look at the application of color to a tattoo, most often you are talking about shading and fill which is going to require multiple passes over an area. But colored inks contain different pigments than black ink and it is possible for various colors to go into the skin with some variation. Larger pigment particles might be harder to get into the skin, but this is going to vary from person to person so there's no way to predict if you are going to feel coloring as more painful or not. But it's not uncommon for some people to feel that getting tattooed with a particular color is tougher to endure or more difficult to heal cleanly.
What To Do?
If you are wish to get a complexly colored and shaded tattoo, it's often a good idea (especially if the design is very large and very ornate) to not try and do the entire thing in one sitting. Many tattooists prefer to do all the blackwork in one session, which means doing the outline and some or all of the black shading at one time. Then don't get any color shading done for two weeks or more to allow the skin time to fully heal. This will help avoid tattooing over raw skin and can be a good way to make sure any spots that need a touch-up can be adjusted. If you've had problems with a particular color combination in the past, think about avoiding it for future work.