Black and Grey Tattoos

Simplicity in one colour

Black and grey tattoos are made by only using black ink and different shades of grey wash, sometimes with white highlights that are used to emphasise where the light source would hit the tattoo.


Black and grey tattooing is a style of tattoo that first emerged in prisons in Southern California.

The prisoners were unable to obtain coloured ink inside the prisons which meant they had to rely on ordinary black ink from standard stationary pens, adding water to dilute the ink creating different tones of grey.

This style was particularly popular with the Mexican immigrants living in the United States and for this reason, many of the designs that became popular for this style revolved around gangs and the lifestyle associated with being in a gang.

Beautiful women, low rider cars and different icons from Latin American culture were the main subject matter for black and grey tattoos. Another style of tattoos that emerged from this genre of tattoos was fine line script with a single needle also commonly known as “Chicano script”.

Some of the pioneers of this style where Freddy Negrete, Jack Rudy and Mark Mahoney.

Today, black and grey Chicano tattoos are a popular style of tattoos that revolve around gambling, evil clowns, script and anything which represents a general “devil may care “attitude.

Not all black & grey tattoos are “chicano” style; there are also regular black and grey tattoos or “blackwork” tattoos. With black & grey tattoos, it’s extremely important to remember that all tattoos fade a little over time and for that reason it can be a good idea to have your tattoo slightly darker when it’s first done, as it will fade over time. Check out our work using this technique below!