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  • Writer's picturebarbara fox

Why the healed color will not be same as you see in the ink cup at the proceedure.

What you should know about color theory in inks & pigments.

It is important to remember that traditional makeup sits on top of the skin, whereas permanent makeup is implanted in the skin – the healed results will always be a combination of the pigment color and the natural undertones of the client’s skin.

What is color theory?

To have harmony between the tones of the pigment and the undertones of the skin, an you must first understand basic color theory. This is how an artist selects the perfect pigment shade for you, their client, that works best with skin tone. Color theory is also how we correct color when the color does not heal as desired or has changed over time.

Color selection is very important in restorative tattoo and can go wrong if undertones are assessed incorrectly. The skin on the face is more delicate than otheris areas of the body, and scar tissue is also delicate. Depending on the area of the body, the color may be more likely to change during the healing process and over time when compared to a traditional body tattoo.

The Color Wheel

The color wheel can be split into three categories: primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors. (Tertiary colors are a combination of primary and secondary). As shown above, they are also split into cool and warm tones.

Primary: red, yellow, blue.

Secondary: violet, orange, green.

Tertiary: lime green, turquoise, blue-violet, crimson, red-orange, yellow-orange.

Complimentary colors are colors which lie opposite each other on the color wheel, for example: red and green. Complimentary colors (when mixed) will always neutralize and cancel each other out. So if your brow is looking blue we add orange. They cancel each other to a lovely brown.

Pigments created with more red tones will be warmer and pigments created with more green will be cool.

Skin Undertones

Clients will fall into one of 3 categories when it comes to skin undertones: cool, neutral or warm. Clients who sit in the ‘cool’ category will require warm toned pigments to neutralize their cooler undertones and produce natural results - and vice versa.

If cool pigments are used on a cool-skinned client, the result may be blue or grey-toned brows and using warm pigments on a warm client may result in orange or red toned brows. You want a neutral color that looks as natural as possible

Cool: ivory or fair skin, burns easily in the sun, usually light eyes, prone to redness or flushing when exercising.

Neutral: fair, olive or golden skin, tans in the sun – may have yellow or peachy undertones.

Warm: darker skin tones, tans very easily in the sun/never burns, usually dark hair and dark eyes.

Where cool skin requires warm pigments and vice versa, neutral skin tones work well with most cool or warm pigments. Clients that appear neutral may still have some yellow or peachy undertones which can affect the healed color. A more in-depth assessment of skin type is usually the safest route to take before choosing pigment shade.

Which Brings Us To The Fitzpatrick Scale.

The Fitzpatrick scale for skin typing is a widely used method of identifying the amount of pigment, melanin, in a person's skin and tolerance to sun exposure. Melanin, is a dark brown to black pigment occurring in the hair, skin, and iris of the eye in people and animals. It is responsible for tanning of skin exposed to sunlight. In fact, the FDA uses it when evaluating the SPF values of sunscreens and determining the risk of developing skin cancer in people with light to darker skin.

Which one aren you?


Very fair skin, extremely sun sensitive.

  • Your unexposed skin is pale to very fair (think ivory)

  • Your eyes are light blue, light gray, or light green

  • You’re a natural blonde or redhead

How your skin reacts to the sun:

  • Always burns and peels

  • Never tans

  • Freckles appear

Celebrity soulmates: Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Nicole Kidman, Ella Fanning, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Prince Henry, Eric Stoltz, Sam Heughan, Neil Patrick Harris, Owen Wilson, Ed Sheeran


Very sun sensitive, burns easily, tans minimally.

  • Your unexposed skin is fair

  • Your eyes are blue, gray, or green

  • You’re naturally blonde

How your skin reacts to the sun:

  • Often burns and peels

  • Tans poorly

  • Freckles appear

Celebrity soulmates: Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Bell, Taylor Swift, Margot Robbie, Julianne Hough, Blake Lively, Ryan Gosling, Robert Pattinson, Chris Hemsworth, Justin Timberlake, Chris Pratt, Matt Damon


Sun sensitive skin, sometimes burns, slowly tans to light brown.

Your unexposed skin is fair with a golden tone

  • Your eyes are hazel or brown

  • Your natural hair color is dark blonde or light to medium brown

How your skin reacts to the sun:

  • Occasionally burns

  • Occasionally tans

  • Freckles appear

Celebrity soulmates: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Megan Fox, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lawrence, Mathew McConaughey, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Ben Affleck, Zac Efron


Minimally sun sensitive, burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown.

Your unexposed skin is olive or light brown

  • Your eyes are dark brown

  • Your natural hair color is dark brown

How your skin reacts to the sun:

  • Rarely burns

  • Frequently tans

  • Freckles are rare

  • Larger darkened areas may appear after mid-30s on the cheeks, forehead, and nose (a condition known as melasma). This occurs more commonly for Fitzpatrick Types 4-5 and during pregnancy for all skin types.

Celebrity soulmates: Sandra Bullock, Eva Longoria, Lucy Liu, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Sandra Oh, Johnny Depp, Antonio Banderas, Keanu Reeves, George Clooney, Kit Harrington, Randall Park


Sun insensitive, rarely burns, tans well.

Your unexposed skin is brown or dark brown with an olive tone

  • Your eyes are dark brown

  • Your natural hair color is dark brown or black

How your skin reacts to the sun:

  • Hardly ever burns

  • Always tans

  • Freckles are rare

Celebrity soulmates: Halle Berry, Beyoncé, Kerry Washington, Alicia Keys, Rhianna, Mindy Kaling, Thandie Newton, Jesse Williams, Will Smith, Tiger Woods, Obama, Donald Glover, Ice Cube


Sun insensitive, rarely burns, tans well.

Your unexposed skin is dark brown to black

  • You have eyes that are brownish black

  • Your natural hair color is black

How your skin reacts to the sun:

  • Never burns

  • Always develops a dark tan

  • Never freckles

Celebrity soulmates: Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Aisha Tylor, Whoopie Goldberg, Taye Diggs, Blair Underwood, Don Cheadle, Samuel L Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Daniel Kaluuya

How a correct color is chosen

Most reputable pigment brands will specify which of their shades are warm or cool. Product descriptions can also describe what the base color of the pigment is (green, yellow etc.) and which skin tone it is most suitable for. Some come with shade charts.

How an artist chooses color during consultation will depend on their training, experience, and personal preference. Skin tone may be assessed using the Fitzpatrick scale and artists may swatch a few different pigments near the area working to see how they look with the skin’s undertones.

It is advisable to use a lighter shade initially, as pigments often heal cooler than they originally appear and can seem darker once cooled down. If the healed pigment is still not deep enough, a darker color can be used to achieve that. It is much easier to add depth to a treatment and darken the pigment than it is to lighten pigment that is too dark.

Color Correction - Adjusting!

Touch up appointments are a chance for artists to correct anything that their existing client isn’t happy with – including color.

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