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Black and Grey Style Tattoos at San Diego’s International Guesthouse Tattoo Shop in Pacific beach

Collaborate with some of the best Black and Grey Style Tattoos artists in San Diego

Diego Perugini

Xavi

Karlla Mendes

Daniel Thompson

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Tattoo Artists With The Black & Grey Style

What we like to call the “jailhouse” or “joint” style, the black and grey tattoo style was founded in jails around the 1970’s and ‘80s and still remains one of the most popular and preferred styles today. Due to having very little access to instruments around them in the slammer, jailhouse inmates would use guitar strings as needles and would mix cigarette ash and scarce pen ink as ink to implement this intense style of body art.

They even got so creative as to form tiny tattoo machines from motors built inside cassette players instead of utilizing the traditional carving methods, if they had these at their fingertips. Since these markings were banned in jails, the tattoos would be given in secret and not until the late ‘70s were they finally brought to professional tattoo parlors. Renaming the scandalous title to “black-and-dim,” this simple yet classically ornate style of tattoo grew in popularity first in the Los Angeles regions where Chicanos predominantly resided.

What Are Black and Grey Tattoos?

For those that do not know, the grey ink is created from the distilled watering down of standard black ink to make it appear with a lighter contrast. Artists utilize white and black ink to create the darker shades of the grey that require a more careful and slower application and function as incredible hues of contrast to bring the tattoos to life. Not only does it make the contours pop, but it also establishes a more durable presence for the wearer as the body art tends to blur over time without integrating solid black tones. This technique gives the tattoo an illusion of a sketch-like look with similar depth to that of a pencil drawing; plus, it really looks great on any shade of skin!

Remember: Grey washing techniques are known to look slightly darker than when they heal, so there is no skin tone in a realistic portrait if done properly. A special grey wash ink recipe is: vodka, propylene glycol, glycerin, and black pigment.

Primarily, Japanese irezumi, classic, religious Chicano tattoos, and photo-realistic portraits utilize this style and method and, unlike other tattoo designs, the black and grey tattoo only requires a single needle throughout the process. You will also see scripture and handwriting tattoos in this traditional sense since they are prepared to last and age well in these colors compared to others that may fade. Colored tattoos will utilize this style to lay the base foundation for the shading, so you will see this as the beginning stages of illustrative designs depending on the artist’s technique.

Our Process for Creating  Black and Grey Tattoo Masterpiece

When creating the pattern from the picture chosen, we use a computer scanner and crop the parts of the image that are you only interested in receiving on your body. We then print the image in the highest resolution in several copies so we have a few on hand and at least one to refer to while delivering the body art. We then lay the printed image down on the stencil and we work on the specifically shaded areas to sculpt the construction together one contour at a time.

Once the black ink is diluted in the cap of distilled water, the needle is then dipped in the black ink and dipped in a cap containing plain water. The machine is then set on low and the artist will proceed to draw the design carefully against your skin canvas. Depending on how large of a tattoo you are receiving, the process can take anywhere from minutes, to hours, to separate days appointments.

Depending on the artist, different techniques can be used but if you are receiving a facial portrait, it is most likely best to start with the lighter shades and move to the darker ones. Although, some will choose to start with the darker shades to avoid getting the needle dirtier when going over the lighter shades; it will all depend on the artist you end up choosing. If they choose to utilize the first method with the lighter shades first, they will go back and tighten smaller details of the portrait when the shading is finished. Finally, they will use a small round liner to outline the darkest shaded areas. This important technique allows the portrait to pop even more and will bring a more realistic and lifelike feel to the design.

Your Vision Is Our Vision

When providing black and grey tattoos, we think of ourselves as copy machines that are able to apply every inch of shade, light, and detail to the tattoo just as the original image contains. Although we are artists in every sense of the word, we are a conduit for your vision and direction to flow through. We are here to serve you as you see fit, so it is best to be as clear as possible with us when it comes to the details of the tattoo. However, every artist has their own unique tattoo style based off of your vision, so determining the right artist that will bring what you want is also vital to the process. This is exactly why we love to meet with clients at least a few times before actually building the artwork to ensure that everything will be to your liking. We pride ourselves on having a selection process for picking the best artists for you, and not just who is next. Please browse our selection of artists for your next black and grey piece.

A major key to creating a realistic portrait in black and grey ink is the proper use of the white highlight hue; when done correctly this color has the ability to actually bring the image to life with incredible and realistic qualities. However, if done improperly it can distract from photo realistic qualities of the design and wash out the skin. We highly recommend requesting human faces or body designs with contours and curvatures in black and grey ink over the illustrative style since various, bright colors are more likely to blend over time and/or fade. These incredible shading techniques can be done on anything non-body or facial related from flowers to a portrait of your favorite book.

Photo Quality Is Imperative

As mentioned above, it is imperative that you choose a great quality photo or image for the artist to create from; if the quality of the image is not up to par, you risk losing quality on something that will be a part of you for the rest of your life. So often we see tattered images brought in that are almost impossible to implement onto the skin, and although we understand that these are sentimental and close to your heart, it will determine the way your tattoo will be able to be delivered. As we work with some of the best illustrative artists in San Diego and Pacific Beach, we will collaborate with you as best as humanly possible to ensure that we fulfill your vision for a new masterpiece.

When choosing an image of a face from a photo, we recommend that you get the image of the face professionally blown up before coming in to book a consultation. When zooming into an image on a standard computer or with our scanner, the quality of pixels will decrease which will make it harder for the artist to implement the details of the face onto your skin. If you are insistent on choosing an image that can be not remastered in any way, we can still deliver the service but know that the quality of the tattoo will decrease over time as the pigments will inevitably blend together.

The Right Choice For Your Black And Grey Tattoo

With artistic talent also comes vision, so if you are in search of a black and grey tattoo near you and you’re not sure what to get, we can definitely help! We have done it all over the years from celebrity faces, intricate religious drawings, floral compositions, ironically lifelike skulls, beautiful and majestic animal portraits and more! We, of course, always suggest that the design be meaningful and purposeful as you will be wearing it for quite some time.

Why Choose The International Guesthouse?

For nearly 20 years we have gathering some of the best talent from around the world to join our Pacific Beach shop. Our artist have have been refining the best black and grey tattoo techniques right here in San Diego  that have cultivated our award-winning team of artists. With world renowned artists featured at our International Guesthouse Shop, the designs, portraits and realism tattoos that they can bring to life will blow your mind.