There is a big difference between good and great tattoo ink. Great tattoo ink is not only a better investment in regards to needing less touch-ups, but it also holds best within the dermis and produces high-quality pieces.
You could have the best tattoo gun and kit but if you don’t have the best ink with the highest standards producing the most impressive results, your hard work will be wasted. Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up our favorite tattoo ink brands and given each a thorough review.
Quick glance at the best tattoo ink:
Table of Contents (clickable)
When we were putting together this article, we reached out to the artists we know and love and there was a reason why so many of them mentioned Kuro Sumi as the best ink available. This product is originally formulated in Japan, where tattooing is a very highly regulated and respected profession, and so the high standards of Japanese tattooing traditions are integrated into these products.
Made with a vegan organic formula that is completely free from harmful chemicals, the potency of this ink and the brightness of the pigments simply can’t be denied. It has a water-based formula which means that the ink doesn’t require extensive saturation (lasting you longer) and you are sure to have phenomenal tones show through with this ink.
While you have a more limited color line, you can certainly mix pigments without issue. And the black is, in fact, the number one black ink sold worldwide.
Artist Bryndon Shepherd uses Kuro Sumi ink for his intricate dotwork.
Artists love that there are very minimal allergic reactions to this ink, and say, “This is probably some of the best ink I've ever used, saturates super well, works great for my traditional Japanese style. It also ranks low among most other common inks in terms of hazardous metal content, animal products, etc. ”
Base Ingredients (vary by color): CI 77266 (Pigment Carbon Black 6), Aqua, Propylene Glycerincol, Witch Hazel, Isopropyl Alcohol and Benzyl Alcohol.
If you are looking for a potent black or a bright white, you’re going to want to turn to Panthera inks. They only produce a gray range because they are most certainly specialized in the formula. Their ink goes on smooth and deep and stays sharp even after healing. They also claim that they have a formula that gives extra durability from the sun, causing less fading due to sun exposure.
You can find a black that suits all your needs, from black to fill large pieces quickly and easily, to a black specialized for quick and solid lining. Panthera also stresses that you’ll especially notice the difference and the strength of their ink at the six month mark, when tattoos begin to lack their bright and defined look.
In addition, all products by Panthera are sterilized using gamma rays.
Artist Martins uses Panthera Ink.
Artists stress that this ink is some of the most potent black they’ve used in their practice, saying, “This is the best ink I've used for my entire career; it's easy [to] make good shades, lines, and solid black! I will definitely buy [it] again!”
Base Ingredients (vary by color): Aqua, glycerin, alcohol, hamamelis virginiana extract, carbon black CI 77266.
Another powerhouse in the black, gray, and white ink department is Silverback Ink. Look in any tattoo shop and I don’t doubt that you’ll see these bad boys sitting on an artist’s shelf. It’s a mainstay in the industry and has been popular for over a decade.
It has a consistency that is described as flawless and it integrates so well in the dermis that tattoo artists like Inna at Dark Umoya studio say it requires fewer retouches, simplifying the tattoo process for both her and her clients.
Silverback uses high-quality ingredients that are vegan friendly and they offer a wide range of black-toned lines for all your needs, including shading, lining, fast and fine lines, and dense designs.
Famous artists like Mumia use Silverback Ink.
Base Ingredients (vary by color): Aqua, carbon black (CI 77266), organic compound, alcohol, polyvinyl polymer, aliphatic triol, glycol ether, pyrone acid.
Eternal Inks is one of the most popular USA-made inks in the world, and for good reason. One of the primary issues with tattoo ink companies is that when they remake batches of their pigment down the line, the color changes. Even slight changes in an otherwise consistent product can drastically alter work on a client, or even an artist’s standard color scheme. Eternal Ink is known to be hyper-consistent in their batch remakes, and their pigments remain authentic and bright.
Lianne Moule, an artist at Immortal Ink says, “I’ve used all of the top brands over the years and they all behave very similarly as in some are thick some are thin some opaque and some translucent so you have to experiment with them all to get an idea how each colour works and how they interact with each other. What I have noticed with Eternal is that the batches are consistent, other brands I have used I’ve noticed that I would re-order a colour and it’ll be different to the previous batch. Eternal’s quality control is spot on.”
A piece by Lianne Moule using Eternal Ink.
Eternal Ink is a brand that is created for tattoo artists by tattoo artists, so they know exactly what professionals in the industry are looking for in an ink: saturation, pigment strength, brightness overtime, and high-standard ingredients within the formula.
Base Ingredients (vary by color): Organic pigments, distilled water, witch hazel, and alcohol.
This made in America brand of tattoo ink has a special formula that allows for easy ink flow and some of the most potent pigment content to ensure your artistry is bright, bold, and beautiful. They stress that their color production is consistent, so you don’t need to worry about any changes when they create new batches of ink.
If the cheeky color names don’t get you laughing, the quality you’ll get from tattooing with this range will certainly leave you smiling. Considering the affordable price range, these inks that have a rich application and a wide variety of pigments have definitely been made to impress.
Tattooed with Millennium Moms Ink.
People tattooing with Millenium Moms say, “These were my 1st "higher" quality tattoo inks and they work wonderfully! Nice BOLD color, the black is definitely black! The yellow is very bold and stays nicely! I highly recommend these for anyone looking for decent, affordable inks. ”
Base Ingredients (vary by color): Water, glycerin, pigment carbon black or tattoo inks colors. Isopropyl Alcohol 99% at 11. 5%.
The color palette of Intenze Tattoo Ink is, quite plainly put, incomparable. Between limited edition series that capture the color of a particular art period, to bright pastels, to extra bold colors that are specially formulated for dark skin, you simply have to tip your hat to the multitude of options available with the Intenze ink line.
On top of an outstanding and vivid product line, Intenze also goes through rigorous testing for any toxins or fungal bioburdens, and shares these toxicity tests to the public.
They have a consistency that artists find easy to work with, making this product excellent for beginners in the industry.
A piece made with Intenze Ink’s Japanese Dragon Color series.
Base Ingredients (vary by color): Intenze Ink hides their ingredient list but shares their testing on their website. Manufacturers are not actually required by law to share their ingredients.
Bloodline has been in the tattoo game for over 25 years and has been featured on shows like Miami Ink. It’s the kind of company you want to get behind, not just because they make an outstanding range of vibrant tattoo inks, but also because they initiate and support numerous humanitarian causes with the sales of their products.
These inks are highly saturated, can be mixed and combined with other colors, and sit in the dermis effortlessly. They go on smooth and heal bright. They are vegan friendly, cruelty free, and they are created in the USA.
Bloodline is also the first company to create safe and heavily tested UV ink that glows under blacklight. They still recommend that this product is tested on clients prior to being used in tattoos, as everyone reacts differently to the ingredients in the product.
A tattoo made with Bloodline ink.
Some artists see Bloodline as their go-to brand, saying, “I've tried several tattoo inks like Kuro Sumi, Intenze, but regularly use [Millenium] Moms tattoo ink. When it became time to order more ink, I decided to try bloodline because this kit had the colors I needed. This ink is by far, way better than those mentioned above and several others in my opinion. Way easier to lay down and the colors are more vivid. For me it's such night and day that I don't think I need to try any other brand. I know everybody has their own preference on ink but I highly doubt you would ever regret buying this ink. Highly recommend it.”
Base Ingredients (vary by color): Bloodline do not share their ingredient list. Manufacturers are not actually required by law to share their ingredients.
While we love a wide palette of colors and we adore a cheaper price point for ink, there’s nothing we love more than really high quality ink, and Kuro Sumi beats the other contenders out of the battlefield.
Nothing ages quite as well as a tattoo done with Kuro Sumi ink. They’re heavily pigmented and experience very little fading or dullness, while also causing very minimal allergic reactions in clients.
Made from completely organic ingredients and inspired by an ancient Japanese formula, Kuro Sumi holds itself up to the highest standards. Whether lining, shading, or filling a piece, their ink gets the job done.
While it may have a smaller line of color options and the price point might be a bit higher, Kuro Sumi has narrowed down what color renderings will age best and have still given artists an immensely impressive line to work with. In addition, you can mix their colors with their Hakuji ink to saturate it and make the product last longer, and they have bronze and cherry shading inks which literally give your tattoo a sepia tone effect and a reddish hue that will make your tattoos look “brand new” all the time.
There are no inks quite like Kuro Sumi tattoo ink, and we know that your professional tattoo venture will be completely changed if you introduce this ink into your practice. And while you’re at it, check out their color Bonzai Blue; it’s game changing.
Tattoo ink could be what makes or breaks the quality of a tattoo. It’s for that reason that we kept a few factors in mind when selecting our favorites.
First and foremost, the safety of what goes in your or your client’s skin is of an utmost priority to us. We love inks that are made with organic ingredients, are vegan friendly, have clear ingredient lists, or show their product manufacturer’s material safety data sheets to the public. If there have been notable allergic reactions to a specific brand, we made sure to highlight that as a con. But having been tattooed with all of these products on the list, we trust them and recommend them to others.
That being said, it is always recommended that you buy directly from the manufacturer or through a marketplace managed by the manufacturer, to ensure you are not getting knock-off or fraudulent ink. Cheap ink is simply not the way to go, no matter where you are in your professional tattooing journey. The health danger that cheap ink or ink made primarily of a chemical base could cause your clients, and then the negativity that may infiltrate your entire reputation in the industry, is not worth the risk.
We selected tattoo inks that stood through the test of time - and have the reviews to prove it. We love inks that remain bright, vivid, and sharp, one, two, or twenty years down the line. While your tattoo will never look exactly as it did when you stepped out of the artist’s chair, we selected ink that stayed crisp (with maintenance) after healing, sun exposure, aging, and everyday living.
No matter where you are on your tattooing journey, whether you’re an apprentice, beginner, or professional, we selected tattoo inks that can meet you there. With various price ranges, consistency for ease-of-use, and palette options, we have something to meet the needs of any artist.
We know and understand that some inks are easier to use than others, and some are merely not in the budget. On that same note, some inks might not be valuable for the specific artistry needs you have, so our list is versatile and covers all ground. Whether you do outline tattoos, tribal ink, watercolor, or Japanese style tattoos, there’s an ink that’s perfect for you.
Did you know that tattoo ink companies employ a pro team to represent them? They sponsor artists by providing them with tattoo ink and then feature their work on their social media page. You can tell a lot by a brand by what artists are using them, and if they have a high-quality pro team on board, you know they are respected in the tattooing industry.
We selected inks that are backed by some of the best artists in the world. Each pro team is vastly different and gives a perfect representation of how the inks work best for various styles. We also reached out to our personal favorite artists in the business and asked them for insight on their go-to brand. We trust the experts.
Selecting an ink for your profession will be as personal as selecting a tattoo gun or specializing in a tattoo style. You will never know what works best for you and your artistry until you test them out yourself.
If you have a favorite brand that we missed out on, drop it in the comments; the tattooing community needs to support one another and nothing helps more than sharing first-hand experience with quality products.