Negative space tattoos are nothing new, but their artistry can sometimes go unnoticed. Because these types of designs can sometimes be subtle, negative space can be misconstrued as a normal outlined part of the ink. This style of tattoo is something different, though; instead of drawing an outline to create a shape, the design is done by using heavy colors to contour an area of skin to create a design. In simpler terms, your skin forms the image, rather than the ink.
These types of tattoos are unique because artists have to essentially ink a reverse image. Just like creating a stamp, the artist is carving out the parts that don’t touch the skin with ink and highlighting the major parts of the design by leaving them blank. While not all negative space tattoos are done in all black, it’s most common, considering blackwork will create the most contrast and, in turn, create a crisp tattoo design.
If you’re considering getting a negative space tattoo, the possibilities are endless. To help you find your next design inspiration, we’ve rounded up 19 beautiful negative space tattoos you need to see!
Animal Negative Space Tattoo
Negative space tattoos open a world of endless possibilities. If you’re a big animal lover, a great design idea is to create the black background out of the creature’s shape and use space within it to add detail, like these outlined florals.
Outside the Lines Negative Space Tattoo
Just because you’re using a lot of black does not mean that your negative space design has to fit into a precise shape. This tattoo is a great example of drawing outside of the lines by having the flowers hang over the edge of the background.
Double-Outlined Negative Space Tattoo
Creating a negative space tattoo by essentially drawing extremely thick outlines gives the ink a sense of whimsy without feeling informal. The disconnected black shapes also help to create bold impact in the design.
No Outline Negative Space Tattoo
Another great way to use negative space in your tattoo in a unique way is to create a blackwork design that doesn’t have an outline. By not defining the limits of the design, it almost feels like the black ink is interwoven with the skin.
Thin-Lined Negative Space Tattoo
If you really want to make a huge visual impact with your ink, try using thin amounts of negative space juxtaposed against a solid black background. By using thin “lines” of skin, the tattoo feels crisp and intricate because of how it pops.
Another cool way to showcase a negative space tattoo is by creating a sort of yin-yang effect by blacking out one figure and just outlining the other, like the bird-and-hand tattoo above.
Cloud And Moon Negative Space Tattoo
Being a big fan of blackwork tattoos is not a requirement for negative space tattoos, and there are a number of unique designs that don’t use mass amounts of black ink. This tattoo, for example, relies on the blackwork to define the shape of the design, but it doesn’t rely on it for impact.
Rose Negative Space Tattoo
Just because negative space tattoos are a design element all their own doesn't mean you have to keep the rest of the ink simple! Instead, try the more-is-more approach: Add on as many elements as you’d like, from colored roses to animal details.
Geometric Negative Space Tattoo
Because negative space tattoos have to have their shapes defined somehow, incorporating a few different geometric designs allows the tattoo to feel balanced. In this ink, the shapes also help to define where each element begins and ends.
Photorealistic Negative Space Tattoo
For those who prefer photorealistic designs, utilizing negative space means your artist can spend a lot of time focusing on the details. The astronaut’s shape here was originally carved out by the black background before the artist went back in with shading.
Graphic Art Negative Space Tattoo
The look of negative space tattoos easily lends itself to graphic art simply because of the way it pops. If you’re a big graphic art fan, try getting a favorite panel tattooed in this style as a way to pay art-accurate homage.
Minimal Negative Space Tattoo
A minimalist negative space tattoo may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s entirely possible! Keep your design simple by using black ink to define large shapes, rather than using thin lines or small forms.
Black Diamonds Negative Space Tattoo
Rather than using blackwork only as a background for negative space tattoos, try incorporating them as an individual design element. Here, two solid black diamonds are used both as definition for the negative space flowers and as a shape for the snake to wrap around.
Shadow Negative Space Tattoo
If you have a design that will leave you seeing double, a negative space tattoo is a great idea for a unique ink. The fading-out dot design emphasizes the “carve-out” nature of the tattoo as well.
Watercolor Negative Space Tattoo
Why not combine two out-of-the-box tattoo techniques into one? This negative-space/watercolor tattoo hybrid is vibrant, eye-catching, and a little trippy.
Negative & Black Negative Space Tattoo
By having a negative space design that continues outside of its background, your tattoo will feel more like it’s taking up space on your skin, rather than carving it out. This flower that starts in black ink and ends up as negative space is the perfect example of a minimal design that still creates the intended statement.
Armband Negative Space Tattoo
An armband is a great idea for negative space designs, as it means a large surface area and an innate feeling of movement. This tattoo also uses outlines and shading on the inner floral design but not around the edges of the overall tattoo, giving it a feeling of endlessness.
Starburst Negative Space Tattoo
A “bright” starburst in the middle of a dark design is a beautiful and unique way to add negative space to a tattoo. Here, the entire tattoo is inked around a starburst that seemingly cuts through the entire design.
Bold Shapes Negative Space Tattoo
Negative space designs, just like all tattoos, can also be made whimsical with all the right elements. Here, the large shapes feel simple and the varying thicknesses adds playfulness, making the inner triangle pop just that much more.