Just like every tattoo artist has their own preferred style, machines, techniques — you name it — every tattooer also differs greatly when it comes to the inks they like to use most. Oftentimes, as an artist, trying a variety of inks from various brands is the best way to discover first-hand which ones best meet your needs.
That being said, we want to try and help you answer one of the most commonly asked questions regarding ink: Which black ink is the best? Of course, there is no one correct answer, as every option on the market has its own strengths (and weaknesses), but below, we’ll take a closer look at what four major brands are offering in an effort to help make your decision a little bit easier.
Terry “Tramp” Welker first started manufacturing ink in the United States back in 1980 when he founded Eternal Tattoo Supply to provide artists with all of the tools, they needed to create great work. Water-based, non-toxic and glycerol-free, all Eternal Tattoo Supply’s inks are suitable for vegans and manufactured in the US. Today, the company crafts eight different types of black ink, all of which are pre-dispersed for a truly smooth application.
Included in Eternal Tattoo Supply’s collection are Lining Black (their original lining formula), Motor City Blackbird (the thinnest black ink in the lineup, which “performs as an excellent lining and shading ink and provides a very neutral base when mixed or thinned”), Jess Yen Ninja Black (which is mixed to match the consistency of traditional tebori ink), Big Meas Lining Black (“formulated for tattoo artists who specialize in black lettering”) and the famed Triple Black. Triple Black is Eternal Ink’s thickest black ink and its “consistency is perfect for packing black into large areas with excellent saturation.”
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink
Originally manufactured exclusively in Japan, the Kuro Sumi range is now also made in the United States but continues to be crafted using secret formulas that have been passed down from generation to generation by Japanese tattooers. Taking its name from the legendary ancient Yayoi Kuro Sumi Tangnuni warriors who were known for their bravery, strength and “bold markings found under their jaw line and abdominal region”, these inks are meant to withstand the test of time... just like the legend of the Yayoi Kuro Sumi Tangnuni warriors. Known for their longevity, Kuro Sumi’s inks are organic and vegan and, as the brand states on its website, “made from the best stuff on earth and cultured to perfection.”
Nowadays, Kuro Sumi’s product line has grown to include 58 different coloured inks, but the company is best known for its black outlining pigment, which it promotes as the “most trusted outlining ink on the market”. The liner is perfect for all styles thanks to its quality and consistency and famed tattooer Louis Rubino AKA Tattoo Lou has actually dubbed it “the best tattoo ink I have ever used. I've tattooed over 50 years and have tried every product on the market. Kuro Sumi is the brightest and most consistent ink in the world.”
Intenze Tattoo Ink
Founded by Mario Barth in 2002, “Intenze was the first company to label its bottles, the first to offer a 54-colour set and the first to publicize ingredients.” Placing its inks under serious scrutiny, the company strives to offer the safest products on the market and goes as far as to have each batch of ink sterilized and tested by a third-party lab. Nowadays, they offer an unrivalled 196 colour options, all of which are vegan and live up to strict EU quality standards. Working with tattoo legends such as Bowery Stan, Bob Tyrrell and Mark Mahone, one of Intenze’s main goals is to allow other artists to “harness the power of [tattoo legends’] years of experience and push their own tattoo work to remarkable levels”.
Included in the Intenze black ink lineup are Lining Black (“the perfect shade of black for outlining”), True Black (“there is little need for a different foundational black for lining or solid areas with the most perfect standard black tattoo ink on the market”), as well as Zuper Black, which is “the darkest and most intense black” ever developed by Intenze. As tattooer Kevlar Mantis shared on Mike DeVries’ blog, “the Zuper is my choice for tribals, and looks good on darker skin tones.”
Dynamic Tattoo Inks
If there’s one key differentiator that Dynamic Color Co. prides itself on, it’s the unrivalled intensity of its inks. In fact, the company, which was founded in 1990, goes as far as to recommend that artists dilute their pigments before use, particularly when it comes to their black ink. Said to be the blackest ink on the market, Dynamic states that “due to Dynamic's colour strength, certain colours will have to be cut with white (WD1) plus use (YD2) to lighten brown.”
The U.S.-based company uses premium pigments to create inks that are highly recommended for bold, saturated new school tattoos. Artists in all styles, however, can appreciate just how smoothly their inks are applied thanks to them being pre-dispersed. Just remember to always pick up a bottle of white to mix in with your black and a bottle of yellow for your brown. Once healed, Dynamic Color Co. inks will remain dark black and is ideal for tribal, as well as any designs that require show-stopping darkness.