Is India Ink Safe For Tattoos – Our Breakdown!

Although Indian ink has been used for centuries for various types of artwork, the switch over of tattoo moving from being part of certain sub-cultures to being mainstream has lead to more and more people asking about using India ink for tattoo work. Although India ink has been used for decades for some types of tattoo work, mainly stick and poke with minimal issues, we still see a number of people reaching out to ask if India ink is safe for tattoos.

Due to seeing so many people reaching out and asking for advice on using India ink for tattoo work, we have decided to publish this article going over our thoughts on using India ink for tattoos, if it is safe, as well as a number of other common questions that we see about India ink for tattoo work. Our hope is that we will be able to help our readers make a more informed choice for their tattoos that not only have a lower health risk but also usually result in better looking tattoos.

There is an absolute ton of India ink on the market these days with a number of them not being toxic and having been used for stick and poke tattoos for years. One of the more common options is Winsor & Newton Liquid Indian Ink and we know that it has been used heavily for tattoo work over the years.

In our opinion though, regular tattoo ink is almost always going to be better than using Indian ink and it is often around the same price as regular tattoo ink too. We know that a number of people do make their own homemade Indian ink and we would never recommend that you use homemade Indian ink for your tattoo work.

Is India Ink Safe For Tattoos?

Although India ink is technically safe for use with tattoos, there are a number of conditions that do apply that will make it increasingly risky for both potential health issues as well as tattoo quality. As we touched on earlier, there are a number of none toxic India ink products on the market that do tend to be fine for stick and poke style tattoos but some India ink formulas may have higher levels of toxins so always double-check the toxicity level of your ink prior to use.

That said though, even if you do use a none toxic India ink formula for your tattoo, there is still a relatively high risk of different types of reactions as well as ink rejection so in our opinion, it simply is not worth it. In this day and age, actual tattoo ink is often cheaper than the better India ink formulas making it much more cost-effective to just get real tattoo ink that has been designed for use with tattooing.

The chance of any negative side effects are drastically reduces when using an ink designed for use with tattoos and the chance of ink rejection for the majority of people is minimal. In addition to that, a big risk with people who do stick and poke tattoos is that their equipment may not actually be sterile increasing the risk of problems even further. This compounded with the relatively high chances of reactions and ink rejections with India ink should be enough to push most people away from it.

Due to the pigmentation in India ink being based around soot or charcoal ash, it tends to be less black than modern tattoo ink too making it a pain for a number of tattoo styles too. If you are wanting a professional-looking tattoo to last you for a long period of time then a real tattoo ink will be a better option.

Which India Ink Is Best For Tattoos?

If you are set on having your India ink tattoo the there are a number of different brands that can all work well with the process and deliver decent results. In our opinion, the Winsor & Newton Liquid Indian Ink is one of the better options and it is commonly used for general tattoos as well as stick and poke tattoos too.

As we touched on earlier in the article, we know that more and more people are starting to make their own homemade India ink as it is quick, easy, and cheap. Homemade India ink should only ever be used for general art, not tattoo work as the risks skyrocket due to the often unhygienic ingredients that are used in its creation so always avoid using any inks that are homemade for tattoos.

Even when using a more reputable India ink for your tattoos though, you will almost always see a dramatic improvement in the quality of your tattoo if you opt to use an actual tattoo ink instead of India ink. We know that some people like the old-school style of India ink but they do have their issues that we will touch on in the next two sections of the article.

Is An India Ink Tattoo Permanent?

Although Indian ink is marketed as “permanent” it does not hold up to the archival ink standard and is not classed as a truly permanent ink. Ofcourse, this will come down to the brand of Indian ink that you are using as well as the instrument used for the tattoo but it is unlikely that an India ink tattoo will last for a long time in high detail.

There are countless reports from people who have had India ink tattoos, both modern needle gun style tattoos as well as stick and poke style tattoos and they have faded much quicker than tattoos done with a modern ink. If the tattoo that you are planning needs a high level of detail then Indian ink is definitely not the best choice as the line work will not only start to fade but it will also start to go patchy.

How Long Does An Indian Ink Tattoo Last?

There are a number of factors involved in how long an Indian ink tattoo will last. These include how much bleeding your skin does during the process, if you have any reactions to the ink, the formula of the Indian ink, and the tools used to break the skin when tattooing. It is highly likely that most Indian ink tattoos will start to lose their sharpness in as little as a year with it becoming more and more obvious that the tattoo is fading as time goes on.

In addition to this, some Indian inks have been known to turn a grey, blue or green color while fading too making your tattoo look even worse. As we have mentioned multiple times in the article now, it is much easier to simply use some actual tattoo ink that will last much longer and hold its detail better than Indian ink.


That brings our article on using Indian ink for your tattoo to a close. Although there are a large number of people who use Indian ink for tattoos, we really don’t recommended it as there are better and often cheaper means available for better tattoos with less health risks. If you are dead set on using Indian ink for that old school look then ensure that it is from a reputable brand and is a none toxic formula to minimise the risks but again, we would always recommend actual tattoo ink in this day and age.

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