It’s 2019. While your social media feeds may fill you with dread and anxiety, progress is happening on and offline. More women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community are running for and holding elected office; representation in entertainment and sports is improving; and, with any luck, the next James Bond will be a Jane Bond.
And while we’re moving forward, there are still areas where we’re falling short. In the tattoo industry, that area is POC representation. When we say representation, we mean both in the style of tattoos as well as an artist’s ability to use
Powerful but delicate
Delicate, script tattoos are more popular than ever and people are using their bodies as a canvas to make their beliefs known. This tattoo, which says “no less than the trees and stars; I have a right to be here,” was done on a queer woman of
Randell combines florals and portraits in this “lovers” tattoo, appropriately placed on the chest. “Lovers” may be interpreted as loving another but the use of mirrored imagery turns our thoughts to self-love. Either way, the androgyny and simple portrayal of love, whatever that means to whomever, are what make this tattoo especially beautiful.
A bold take on the Afro
This portrait strikes a hard balance between playful and powerful. The artist’s use of color in here is sparse but is bold a in way that color tattoos can fail on a person of color. It’s tagged with #BlackExcellence, which we ascribe to both the talent of the artist and the woman they created with this tattoo.
An ethereal femme
Speaking of powerful tattoos, the ethereal femme in this design really works for us. The artist incorporates multiple techniques to balance what could otherwise be an aggressive design. The fine lines tame all-black figure, while still allowing it to take center stage. We can only imagine the strength this tattoo gives the person wearing it.
A slew of ferns
Botany tattoos are popular, but the fine-line and single needle styles used to create them are washed out on dark skin. Artist Jordyn Hilton still manages to keep this fern design delicate while adapting the style so the finer details of the black ink are visible against their client’s skin tone.
An armful of pine needles
Similar to the fern leaves above, this pine needle and cone forearm tattoo doesn’t use thick lines to create contrast within the design. The spacing of the needles on this evergreen design give it a playful, airy quality that we don’t typically associate with lush forests.
A stunning portrait
Shading in tattoos is a painstaking process, so working with a talented artist when having your partner’s portrait tattooed on your body is important. In this tattoo, the artist uses single and other small needles to create a deep gradient that highlights the bone structure in the portrait rather than chiseling severe lines to create the face shape.
Randell recreated the Justice tarot, which is typically depicted as a white woman, to be more inclusive of people of color with this tattoo. Also straying from the traditional Justice, who looked straight ahead with a fierce gaze, there’s a humbleness to Randell’s version, that reminds us justice does not require force.
A leafy outline
Jess Chen is a Toronto-based artist whose tattoos often incorporate sweeping botanical and abstract line work, like these florals. Chen uses cool colors to add contrast to her bold designs. Thick lines are a stylistic choice across all of her work, but it is in the color and heavy-handedness of the needle that’s adapted to shine on darker skin tones.
A bright flower pot
Another example of Chen’s brilliant use of color on darker skin is this flower pot, which is not lost against the backdrop. The blooms are as bright as anything in your garden, outlined in lighter inks creating natural dimension.
A mythical merman
Unlike a lot of the designs we see that try to add light to darker skin tones by using light-colored inks or space in between dark lines, this merman by Adriana Hallow reject that practice and adds layers of dark, fine details to this exquisite figure. The black and gray technique used here is done with a single needle, which allows the artist to create finer details in small spaces that still catch the eye.
For more tattoo inspiration before committing for life, check out the semi-permanent tattoos over at