Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Are you interested in getting a black and grey tattoo from a tattoo artist in Sydney? Do you want to learn more about black and grey tattoo’s and the styles the genre can provide? Do you want to explore the potential benefits of this style of tattooing and who the best artists in Sydney are? If so, here’s everything you need to know before going to get a black and grey tattoo in Sydney.

Origins of black and grey tattoos

Black and grey tattoos use varying shades of black ink to deliver an image that pops off the skin. This style is significant as the tattoos have finer lines and subtle shading within their designs. These lines and their varying sizes make sure the image stands out. This design choice has the additional benefit of aging well as it settles into the skin. The style itself first came to prominence in East LA’s Chicano culture in the 1970s. It gained prominence for being ‘jailhouse’ and ‘joint style’ tattoos, as they were usually acquired by gang members whilst incarcerated. The black and grey designs were born out of necessity with inmates having limited access to materials. Sut, baby oil and other materials that could be manipulated with heat were used for the creation of black ink, while the machines themselves were built using pens, guitar strings, tape deck motors and any other materials at hand. Because of the archaic nature of the one needle machines and the fact that
tattooists would be punished if caught, the tattoos were created with neat fine lines that could be executed quickly. Nowadays these techniques have been improved upon. To get the varying shades of black, artists will now mix black ink with water or white ink. The different line sizes is now achieved differently, with artist tuning their machine based on the amount of ink they want to penetrate the skin.

What styles of black and grey can tattooies get

A variety of imagery can be used within the genre of black and grey tattoos. Originally, the style depicted Mexican-American imagery like catholic symbols, images of loved ones, women and revolutionaries. But as the art form gained prominence, the visuals depicted became more varied.

Photorealism black and grey tattoos

With the rise to prominence black and grey tattoos, there was the realisation that it was a great platform for photorealistic designs. These designs blend intricate line work to recreate an image as realistically as possible. Popular subjects for these designs include people and animals but may also include elements of classic artwork and landscape imagery.

Portrait black and grey

Portrait black and grey tattoos are similar to photorealism in the use of thin lines to create realistic looking designs. The difference between the two is that with portrait black and grey tattoos, the artist has more creative license. They can experiment with colour to draw harsher contrasts or alter backgrounds for a more complete look. The subject of portrait black and grey tattoos can be people (both real and mythological), objects and natural scenery.

Surrealism black and grey

Whilst featuring some of the subjects presented in the prior examples, surreal tattoos explore the style made prominent in the 1920s. The imagery in this genre is more out of the ordinary, juxtaposing normal artistic conventions and being overall more abstract. These approaches result in a great deal of creative freedom and are perfect for someone looking for a design that will continue to be different.

Other designs affected by Black and Grey

A couple of styles that predate black and white tattoos have seen crossover thanks to the style’s rise to prominence. Traditional American tattoos, also done with black ink, have seen a mixing of the shading techniques from Black and Grey. Whilst the Japanese traditional tattooing style of Irezumi has also shown the versatility of the adoption of black and grey line styles. What this shows is that, given you get the right artist, you and your tattooist can create a variety of stunning and achievable designs.

Why you should come to the best

There are multiple reasons why you should make sure you are working with the best black and grey tattoo artists in Sydney. Firstly, because of the thin lines within their designs, bad shading can result in a dull tattoo that doesn’t pop off the skin. Furthermore, black and grey tattoos when done right have great longevity. However, if your tattoo is not shaded and drawn with this foresight, the tattoo can fade quicker and require touch-ups. These tattoos require a great deal of experience too, so if you want social media-friendly designs, you should pick an experienced tattoo artist.
That’s why you should pick Lighthouse Tattoo for your next tattoo. We have the best black and grey tattoo artists in Sydney at our disposal. Each tattooist’s portfolio is available on our website, ready for you to explore here.

If you have any further questions or are ready to book a consultation, check out our contact page and get in touch with our Sydney and Botany locations.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


  • Tania Joseph

    Good morning,
    I am wanting to get my sons portrait done on my left hand side of neck/upper arm .
    Would like to organise a time to come and see you possibly this Monday.

  • Tania Joseph

    Good morning,
    I am wanting to get my sons portrait done on my left hand side of neck/upper arm .
    Would like to organise a time to come and see you possibly this Monday at your Surry Hills studio

Leave a comment


Get in touch

Monday – 10:00am-5:00pm
Tuesday – 9:30am-5:30pm
Wednesday – 9:30am-5:30pm
Thursday – 9:30am-5:30pm
Friday – 9:30am-5:30pm
Saturday – 9:30am-6pm

Tuesday – 10:00am-6:00pm
Wednesday – 10:00am-6:00pm
Thursday – 10:00am-6:00pm
Friday – 10:00am-6:00pm
Saturday –10:00am-6:00pm

Lighthouse Tattoo Studio Sydney © 2024 . All Rights Reserved.

Lic#: 010948 | Lic#: 011269