How To Make Grey Wash Tattoo Ink

Black and grey tattoos always remain all-time favorites for they are inexpensive, quick to draw, and slow fading. Artists use grey-wash tattoo ink to draw the tattoo. A curious mind might wonder what is grey wash ink or how to make grey wash tattoo ink.

The simplest way to make grey wash tattoo ink is by laying several ink cups on a flat surface. Add drops of black ink to the cups. Increase the drop number with the cup number.

For example, The first cup gets one drop, the Second one gets two drops, and so forth. Fill the cups with distilled water and mix the contents with a sterile stick. You can also buy premade grey wash tattoo ink from stores and online.

This article covers what grey wash ink is, how to make grey wash tattoo ink, and how to grey wash a tattoo. I will also take part in the evergrowing debate about Colored Tattoos vs Black and Grey tattoos. So, let’s jump into it.

Grey Wash and Color Shading: Surface-Level Talks

Grey wash tattoo ink is a type of ink that is used to create various contrasts in a tattoo. This ink is primarily used in black and grey tattoos.

Color Shading is concerned with the different appearances of the same color in an artwork or design. Shading itself refers to using a brush, pencil, pen, or tattoo machine to bring out the depth of a design.

This effect is achieved by drawing lines or blocks of color. While using a pencil or a pen, we use different amounts of pressure to create various shadows. These shadows might appear light or dark depending on the effect the artist wants to achieve. But, tattoo shading doesn’t work like this.

Unlike paper, human skin is a living thing. You cannot just increase or decrease the pressure willy-nilly. Also, the tattoo pigment cannot change its appearance depending on the pressure. Rather, you have to mix and dilute the pigment with water or other liquids to achieve the shade you want.

Now, Let’s talk about the grey-wash stuff. Grey wash is a tattoo shading method using only black or grey inks. Grey wash allows tattoos to have the same depth and shading as pencil drawings. This results in a tattoo that looks more realistic and light on the skin.

Grey wash tattoos tend to give your skin an artistic look and make the tattoo pop more. There are two forms of grey wash.

  • Premixed Grey wash
  • Freehand or on-the-spot mixing

Premixed grey washes are different shades of grey wash that are available commercially or you create them before the tattooing process. It requires you to create different shades in different ink cups to work.  On the other hand, Freehand refers to creating shade on the spot. This requires quite a mastery for it can fail at a slight mistake.

How To Make Grey Wash Tattoo Ink- 3 Methods!

There are several ways you can make your own grey wash tattoo ink. The ink is just black ink diluted with distilled water. You can easily make this ink in your home if you know the right steps.

Method 1 of 3: The Traditional Method

This method is the most widely followed way of making grey wash tattoo ink. Many tattoo professionals think it is a sin to create grey tattoo ink in any other way.

  • First, Arrange four or five ink caps on a table or any flat surface. Make sure the cups are clean and sterile.
  • Add a drop of black in the first ink cup. You need to increase the drop number with the next cups. For example, Add two drops to the second cup and three drops to the third cup.
  • This step is important to create various shades. Add distilled water to the ink cups and mix using a sterile wand or toothpick. Voila! You now have various shades of grey wash ink in your arsenal.

Method 2 of 3: The Direct Method

This method is only advised for people with professional expertise.

  • Get some black ink into an ink cup. Dip the needle into the ink cup and then dip it in a cup filled with plain water.
  • You have to dip the needle quickly to adjust the shade.
  • Check the shade on a paper towel to see if you got the desired result.

Method 3 of 3: The Vodka Method

This is a very peculiar method for its choice of ingredients. You’ve seen us using water or distilled water to dilute the ink. But this time, we’ll work with vodka!

  • Get an ink cup in the first place. Pour some vodka, a few drops of black pigment, and glycerin into it.
  • You can also add propylene glycol for added brightness.
  • Mix the contents thoroughly and use them on your tattoos.

If you feel uncomfortable making grey wash ink in your home, buy some premade ones from online or a tattoo ink distributor.

Color Tattoo vs Black and Grey Tattoos: Which Is Better and Why?

Well, it depends on the person who is getting the tattoo. While colored tattoos offer a range of styles, masking scars and adding meaning behind a tattoo, Black and grey ones are long-lasting, require less time to draw, are inexpensive, and are great for people with dark skin.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of both of these tattoos to better grasp the idea.

Pros of Colored Tattoo

  • The first and foremost pro is that colored tattooed complement a whole plethora of art styles. You can get a traditional Japanese-looking tattoo with color or even get a classical Indian-inspired tattoo. Your artist gets the freedom to unleash their creative genius and work their magic.
  • Colored tattoos are better suited for people who have light skin tones. This allows you to show the contrast naturally.
  • Color tattoos work great as a cover-up tattoo. Some people get tattoos to hide bodily scars. Colored tattoos can easily mask up the scar and present you with a beautiful piece of work that helps you to shake off body dysmorphia.
  • Colored tattoos unlock a whole range of styles for you. This allows you to find experts who specialize in the particular art style that you want.
  • Adding color to a tattoo allows you to emphasize or add meaning to your tattoo. Colors can easily set a tattoo’s mood and tone. They can also emphasize or add meaning to a particular design.
  • Those of you who are looking to get a big or a medium-sized tattoo, grab your clothes and get ready to get a colored tattoo. Colored tattoos generally look good in a bigger size. The bigger the canvas, the more bright and visually appealing the tattoo looks.

Cons of Colored Tattoo

  • Colored Tattoos have a short life compared to black and grey tattoos. They tend to fade faster due to most of the pigments being light.
  • Colored tattoos will cut down your time in the sun. Sunlight can increase the rate of fading. So, you would either have to cover up the tattoo with clothes or use sunscreen while in the sun.
  • Certain pigments like pink, yellow, and burgundy may need frequent touch-ups to maintain the tattoo.
  • Your tattoo artist will need some extra time while doing a colored tattoo.
  • While colored tattoos work well in big designs, they are not that great for small designs. The colors can appear dull and boring. The tattoo might also look muddy and distressing due to the small design.
  • Colored tattoos take longer to heal. Due to using a number of pigments, your skin gets more holes in it than a grey tattoo. This results in more skin damage which needs extra time.
  • A colored tattoo requires a more tedious and thorough aftercare routine than a black and grey tattoo.
  • Colored tattoos are more expensive compared to black and grey tattoos. The pigments can be expensive and hard to find sometimes.
  • The inks used in colored tattoos can contain harmful and potentially toxic elements in them. This can result in allergic reactions or tattoo infections.

So, we can see that colored tattoos have a ton of cons associated with them. So, Weigh in both the pros and the cons before making a decision.

Pros of Grey Tattoo

  • Black and grey tattoos are rich in contrast. People who have a darker skin tone should get black and grey tattoos.
  • Black and grey tattoos require less time to draw. The tattoo artist uses only one type of ink which makes his job easier and less time-consuming.
  • Black and grey tattoos require less time to heal. The ink pen doesn’t need to create a ton of holes in the skin which cuts short the healing process.
  • The Black and grey tattoos are neutral. They don’t belong to any specific style and don’t clash with your outfit no matter how eccentric.
  • Black and grey tattoos prove to be more versatile than their colored counterparts. You get more choosing freedom and pick out any style you want.
  • The black ink used in black and grey tattoos is totally safe. The ink is made from carbon soot, carbon, or iron oxide. This ink rarely causes any allergic symptoms or infections, unlike its counterpart.
  • Black and grey tattoos tend to fade slower than their counterparts. They don’t need sun protection like their colored counterparts.
  • Black and grey tattoos are suitable for both big and small designs.
  • Black and grey tattoos don’t break the bank like colored ones. You need only one type of ink which cuts down the cost a lot.

Cons of Black And Grey Tattoo

  • Black and grey tattoos can be sometimes monotonous. Tattoo artists only use lines and shading to draw the tattoo.
  • Black and grey tattoos sometimes have a hard emphasizing or adding a meaning. Colored tattoos have various colors associated with them which easily adds meaning to the design.
  • Black and grey tattoos have a limited number of tones. They have only 5 tones which makes it hard for the artist to achieve gradients.
  • Black and grey tattoos are less glamorous than colored ones.

So, you can clearly see that both of these tattoo styles have pros and cons associated with them. To answer which one is better, we have to say it depends on the tattoo wearer.

Can You Get A Black and Grey Tattoo Colored?

Yes, you can get a black and grey tattoo colored. But, you cannot put color over the solid black color. Rather, you have to add the colors around the original design to fit it in.

Before getting a tattoo, you have to decide what type of tattoo you want. You can get your black and grey tattoo colored after going through the needle. But, the process is quite expensive and can sometimes ruin the original design.

When you try to get an existing tattoo colored, you limit the canvas for your tattoo artist.

Elevating a tattoo design is harder than creating a new tattoo design. Sometimes, the added color can result in a brutish-looking tattoo and you might have to remove the tattoo which is pretty expensive. To avoid these kinds of problems, you can follow some steps.

  • If you want to morph your black and grey tattoo over time with color, talk to the artist before getting the tattoo. This will allow them to save room for the colors and modify their techniques to accommodate future designs.
  • If you already have a black and grey tattoo, then first decide what you want to add. Talk to a  colored tattoo artist about your vision and they will let you know if it’s possible.
  • If you want to change the colors of your colored tattoo, then you might be in a pickle. Some color changes are not possible. The best your tattoo artist can do is to increase or decrease the gradient and refresh the old colors.

How To Dilute Tattoo Ink For Shading

Black and grey tattoos are made through various shades of the same ink. To create these shades, you need to dilute the ink. The dilution is pretty easy and you can do it after you try it once.

Things You Will Need

  • Tattoo ink
  • Distilled Water
  • Clean inkwell cups
  • White tattoo ink

The Diluting Process

  • Bring out some fresh and disposable inkwell cups. Pour a little amount of the full-strength tattoo ink. The more you pour, the less you can dilute.
  • Add some distilled water to the ink and stir to mix. This creates a runny, diluted ink solution. This technique is primarily used for black ink as it can create gradations.
  • Add one or two drops of white ink to any shades that you want to lighten. This will create a lighter color without changing the consistency of the mixture.
  • Make sure you have enough of the custom dilution to finish the design since remixing shades can present uneven results.


Well, I think now you know what is grey wash tattoo ink and how to make grey wash tattoo ink.

Grey wash tattoo ink is a type of ink that is used to create contrast in tattoos. It is very easy to make at home. You just need a couple of ink cups, distilled water, a mixing stick, and black ink. Arrange the cups in a line and add drops of black ink in there.

Fill the cups with distilled water and mix them using a stick. You can also buy them from stores and online.

I hope this article helped you in your quest. Now, use the information and get yourself inked up!

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