Black and Grey tattooing is one of the most recognisable in the industry. Not limited to just one style, Black and Grey can be applied to anything from realism, portraits, Japanese Irezumi and more.
Although the actual execution can vary from artist to artist, it typically uses a single needle and black ink, with further shades achieved using water to create what is called a “wash” By using these varying shades artists can build up depth and texture that often lends itself to impressively 3-D and intricate designs.
One of the benefits of Black and Grey tattoos is that they, typically, suffer less from deterioration than brighter colours and have a crisper feel for a lot longer. Artists can use white ink for highlights, and on occasion, in the ink – however this is not considered traditional.
Black and Grey (or Black and Gray in the US), is also sometimes known as Jailhouse tattooing due to its unusual origins.
Although there was a culture of tattoos in prison dating back into the Victorian era, in the 1970s the quality and volume of tattoos in American prisons increased dramatically. There was a rise in handcrafted tattoo machines, usually created from salvaged motors from cassette players, and prison artists were able to create more intricate fineline work at a much faster pace.
However, there were many restrictions on the craft itself given the nature of the setting – tattooing in prisons was, and still is illegal, this meant they were often only able to use a single needle. Tattoo machines would be crafted using whatever was available whether it be guitar strings, paperclips, rubber bands and pens amongst other items.
Colour-wise, they were also restricted to whatever they had at their disposal. Many items used for improvised ink included boot polish, cigarette ash, pen ink – all of which were black and grey – leading to the development of the monochromatic designs we recognise today.
Despite the limited number of tools and resources they had, inmates were able to create hyper-realistic and detailed imagery, of numbering different styles and forms.
It was around the late 70s and early 80s that the external tattoo industry started to take note of the jailhouse style. At this point, there was a sharp rise in the mainstream of fineline tattoos and the associated techniques and methods around them.
And now we are bringing that same style to you. In a safe, professional and friendly environment. No jailhouse needed.