If youre into your ink, you probably keep an eye out for the latest, greatest trends and up and coming styles in the making from the world of tattooing.
Whether youre a hard-core ink junkie whos on first-name terms with your artist of choice or simply like to see whats new now and again, Ive done some of the legwork for you, so check out my findings on two of the latest tattooing trends-and some of their potential drawbacks.

Watercolor tattoos

If you ever wander North of the border into Pinterest territory when browsing for ink, youre probably already aware that watercolor tattoos seem to be popping up everywhere at the moment, and are quickly gaining traction in the style stakes. Whilst the number of artists who are able to offer good quality watercolor tattoos is still relatively small, as interest in this unique and undeniably impressive style of tattooing grows, so too will the range of artists who are working to add it to their portfolio.


So, whats the deal?
Watercolor tattoos are intended to mimic watercolor painting styles in terms of their colors, shapes and outlines, to produce a vibrant, unstructured result that is bright and very eye-catching. The equipment used is the same as for any other form of tattoo, and so theoretically any artist can claim that they offer watercolors.
But as with everything else, it is wise to pick an artist that already has a portfolio of work of this type, rather than someone who is looking for any available body part to have a go on!
Watercolor tattoos are inked freehand, and include effects like blurred borders, ombr graduations and paint-splattering, without defined outlines or a whole lot of geometric structure.

If this all sounds like just the look that youre going for, hold up a second-there are a couple of caveats that you should bear in mind.
First of all, the bright, vibrant colors of watercolors, along with the lack of clearly delineated borders, mean that watercolor tattoos are apt to spread and blur slightly over time, and depending on the degree of pigmentation within the ink itself, youre exponentially more likely to need to get your work touched up in a few years that you are with more traditional tattooing techniques.


However, for many watercolor enthusiasts, this is part of the appeal-watercolor tattoos are vibrant, fluid and very Bohemian in appearance, and the natural changes and evolution that each tattoo goes through over the course of its life will of course for some people be part of its attraction, reflecting the living map of their lifes journey.
If this all sounds a little bit like lentil knitting to you though, a watercolor tattoo is unlikely to be your thing!

Ash tattooing

One element of tattooing that has always been very popular worldwide is the use of a tattoo to memorialize a lost loved one, as youll no doubt already be aware, given that Mum and Dad or variants of such are apparently by far the most commonly requested text tattoos!

But if you want to go one step further and quite literally keep a part of your lost loved one with you forever-you probably already know where Im going with this-then you might have found your Google-finger itching to type in ash tattoos.
Wait, what?
Ash tattoos are tattoos performed with normal ink in the normal fashion, with one vital difference-a small quantity of ash (from cremains) is ground up to a very fine powder and added to the ink, so that you literally get to carry a part of your lost person-or pet-with you forever.

But before you make a beeline for the ATM and start sieving out Grandma, hold up. Whilst the concept of ash tattooing is likely to be highly appealing to a whole bunch of different people, me included, youre likely to find it hard if not downright impossible to find an artist who is willing to do it for you, for a whole bunch of reasons.

First up, lets look at cremains in more detail-or if youd rather not, you might want to skip this paragraph! Cremains are basically made up of bone ash and grit, as the soft tissue (skin, muscle, fat) burn away to nothing on the cremation pyre. This is why your cremated rellies ashes take up such a small amount of space, even if old Uncle Bob was pushing 25 stone when he got immolated.
Ergo, cremation ashes are not strictly ashes, as youll probably know if youve ever taken a good look in an urn or handled cremains whilst scattering them-they are gritty, like sand with some larger particles mixed in, which, as you can probably tell, is not really well designed to pass smoothly through the needle of a tattoo gun.
In order to use ash in ink in the first place, it must be ground up into as fine a powder a possible, and even then, it is still not ideal.
Tattooists spend a lot of time and effort making sure that their inks and guns remain free of contaminants that can clog the gun and leave uneven results, so deliberately introducing a foreign substance into the ink and then trying to work with it is something that most tattooists will be keen to take a swerve on.
Added to this, the ash will tend to settle into the bottom of the bottle, and so it is questionable how much actually makes it into the gun to work with at all.
Finally, the presence of the ash in the gun can make the surface of the tattoo slightly uneven, and particularly, interfere with the process of achieving clean borders and smooth color blocking.
Oh and also, its not sterile, something else that most tattooists view with a healthy amount of nope.

All of these reasons combined mean that very few tattooists will consider performing an ash tattoo for a client, even if youre really, really sure that you want one, and are prepared to take the risk that your finished ink may have flaws; although what constitutes a flaw is of course, open to interpretation.
Having said that, tattooists are generally nothing if not extremely maverick when it comes to trying out new things on themselves and each other, and so there are a reasonable number of artists out there who may have already performed at least one ash tattoo, or know someone who has.

Its certainly worth asking around if you think that an ash tattoo might float your boat and youre aware of the potential issues with them-but be prepared to have to travel some distance to find an artist who will play ball!

floi Journal author