Vegan Tattoo Ink Guide & Our Favorite Brands
A tattoo can be a beautiful way to express yourself. The artwork can be a message about your values, beautiful design, or a symbol that’s meaningful to you.
However, not all tattoo ink is created equal. In many cases, the ink for your amazing tattoo can be a sneaky hiding place for animal products and other unsavory ingredients.
What Could Possibly be Non-Vegan About Tattoo Ink?
It doesn’t sound like tattoo ink would be a hiding place for animal ingredients. However, once you’ve been vegan long enough, you start to realize that nothing is off-limits - milk in fast food rice, crushed beetle shells in candies.
It’s really the first rule of veganism: even if you don’t think it contains animal ingredients, it probably does.
While the exact ingredient list varies from product to product, the most common animal ingredients in tattoo ink include bone char, glycerin, gelatin, and shellac.
- Bone char is used to make black ink, the most commonly used color in tattoos. This ingredient is made from the burnt animal bones to achieve the “crispest, darkest shade of black.”
- Gelatin is a common culprit in many products. It is made from the boiled connective tissue of cows and pigs and serves as a binding agent in many varieties of inks. Shellac, an ingredient made from insects, also acts as a binder in these inks. Yuck!
- Glycerin is a derivative of animal fats. It functions in tattoo ink as a stabilizer and makes the ink easier to deal with.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ingredients - you’ll want to check the product label to be sure - but it is the list of the most common animal products in most tattoo inks. Of all the colors, black is usually the one you need to pay the most attention to.
Luckily, this doesn’t mean you have to trash the tattoo design you’ve been working on! Vegans can opt for plant-based inks that are completely devoid of animal products.
Is Vegan Tattoo Ink Safe?
In an effort to cater to vegan and eco-friendly lifestyles, many ink companies are opting to choose more natural and organic ingredients in their products. Just like personal and beauty products, the use of these kinds of ingredients can make for a safer, better experience when compared to traditional products .
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean the overall ink is safe. Tattoo inks aren’t covered by the FDA, so they don’t go through the same rigorous testing and analysis that food products do. The FDA denotes that some inks contain ingredients that are not recommended for contact with skin. This varies greatly from product to product.
The best way to keep yourself safe and healthy is to communicate with your tattoo artist and even the company that manufactures the ink. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the ingredients and manufacturing process - you have a right to know what you’re putting in your body!
When choosing a vegan tattoo ink, you’ll also want to take note of where in the world the ink is made. Inks made in China and Japan go through far less testing and regulation than we have in North America.
Cheap Asian inks have been linked to infections that enter the bloodstream through the contaminated ink. To make sure you’re getting the safest product possible, avoid using tattoo inks from these countries. Instead, choose a product that is made and manufactured in the United States or Canada.
Does Vegan Tattoo Ink Fade Faster?
While a tattoo stays with you for life, all tattoos experience some fading over time. You can slow the fading of your tattoo by practicing good aftercare, like protecting your tattoo from the sun with a plant-based sunscreen.
From a strictly “vegan vs. conventional” standpoint, plant-based inks do not fade any faster than traditional inks with animal products. The longevity of your tattoo will come down to the choices you make about it.
In addition to how you care for it afterward, the phrase “you get what you pay for” is never truer than in the tattooing world. If you take your time to find an experienced artist, and are willing to pay for the best quality you can afford, you’ll find your tattoo stays more vibrant for longer than if you try to cut corners with cheap inks. Your tattoo will only give what you put into it!
List of Vegan Tattoo Ink Brands
If you’re looking for inks for your next vegan tattoo, or you’re a tattoo artist who wants to better serve vegan clients, look no further! We’ve compiled an extensive list of vegan-friendly tattoo inks, so you can spend more time sketching and less time shopping!
Read more about our favorites below:
Kuro Sumi Outlining Tattoo Ink
Kuro Sumi inks are made in the United States and are best known for their bold, bright colors. The product has origins in Japan, and the color is derived from burnt plant material.
The outlining ink is a rich black, perfect for dark outlines and filling in. You can use the ink straight from the bottle, or dilute it for shading. Artists note that the ink is on the thinner side, and spreads easily.
Artists and buyers both love the long life of this ink. It is easy to use, heals beautifully, and stays a true black for a long time.
What We Love
Kuro Sumi is committed to ensuring customers aren’t fooled into buying counterfeit inks. They make special designations about their packaging that helps buyers easily detect the real thing versus a cheap knockoff. With tattoo ink ultimately being injected into the body, we’re impressed by the company’s commitment to safety.
We We Didn't Like
No second thoughts here! This ink is a dark, rich black, so don’t expect to be able to cover it up later or remove it easily. This particular ink requires commitment.
Skin Candy Tattoo Ink
Skin Candy’s all-purpose black ink is a deep, dark black. Fresh out of the bottle, it’s perfect for tribal designs, while it can be diluted with distilled water, witch hazel, or Listerine for other outlining.
This ink isn’t just for outlining, either! Diluted further, you can use it for shading, or to fill in areas of the design. Skin Candy Ink is incredibly versatile and can be used with any tattoo style. Artists and buyers love the crisp, distinct black lines this ink creates.
Skin Candy Ink is made in the United States!
What We Love
This is a vegan ink you can stock up on! The ink is good to use for over two years, so you won’t have to worry about it going bad on the shelf before you have the opportunity to use it.
We We Didn't Like
This ink needs a borderline to create crisp, stark lines. When used without any borderline, it has a tendency to blot.
Crazyhorse High Quality Lining Ink
Crazyhorse inks are 100% vegan, made in the United States, and made with organic ingredients. Each bottle comes sealed for maximum safety against contamination, keeping you healthy and happy.
The Black Stallion lining ink is a traditional lining ink and makes a rich outline for your tattoo. It takes easily to the skin and looks fantastic after it heals. Artists and buyers note the color stays dark and rich for a long time - this color has great longevity once it’s been tattooed.
You can purchase Crazyhorse inks in 4- or 8-ounce bottles, so it’s easy to stock up. This is especially great if you work in a high-volume studio, or have a large vegan customer base.
What We Love
It’s really exciting to see an ink brand that touts 100% organic ingredients! The world of tattoo inks is a little late to the natural/organic craze, so we’re happy to see this company at the forefront of natural living.
We We Didn't Like
Some artists complain that this ink is on the thinner side. It has a watery consistency, so if you’re used to thicker inks, you may find this difficult to work with.
Southeast Tattoo Supply
The ink from Southeast Tattoo Supply is 100% vegan and bottled in Smyrna, GA, USA. Each one-ounce, easy-pour bottle contains entirely vegan, natural, and plant-based ingredients.
Their outlining ink is the darkest on the market. It can be used fresh from the bottle for bold black lines, or diluted to be used as shading and filler. The ink goes on in one fluid pass, so it’s super easy to work with.
Each bottle comes with a safety seal, so you know you’re getting quality, authentic product. No nasty infections here!
What We Love
Artists love how easy this ink is to use. It sticks easily to the skin and is simple to work with - those who love a thicker ink that won’t run will be pleased with this product.
We We Didn't Like
A few reviewers noted that, while this ink goes on dark black, it heals to more of a navy color. If you’re looking for a rich black long after application, your mileage may vary with this particular product.
A Lasting Animal-Friendly Impression
When you’re getting or giving a vegan tattoo, you want to ensure the ink being used is 100% vegan-friendly. Luckily, many companies are seeing the demand for vegan tattoo ink, meaning you get the luxury of choice when it comes to your next tattoo.
As the vegan stuff is just as efficient and long-lasting as animal-based inks, there’s really no reason to choose the product that uses animal suffering and cruelty. It’s possible to express yourself through body art without having to rely on cruel, outdated products.
For your next tattoo, consider talking to your artist about using our favorite vegan-friendly inks. By choosing these inks, you can express your veganism on the outside, while remaining 100% vegan on the inside, too!