Guide to Vegan Tattoos: Artists, Inks, & Meaningful Animal Tattoos

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vegan tattoos guide

Are tattoos vegan? Where can I find vegan tattoo artists, tattoo parlors, and vegan tattoo ink? What are some creative vegan tattoo ideas or meaningful animal tattoo ideas? We go into all of this and more in this guide to vegan tattoos!

Do you consider the body to be a living canvas? Tattoos are the ultimate art form that you wear every day. A permanent illustration of your memories, hopes, dreams, and favorite things. Having a tattoo that aligns with your personal values is just as important as the imagery. As with any other major life decision, it’s not one that should be taken lightly, or without doing a good deal of research in advance.

Getting a vegan tattoo doesn’t have to involve imagery or words about animal rights. Unfortunately, there are many aspects of the actual tools and materials that could contain animal products. Know what to looks for, how to avoid it, and what your alternatives are before that needle touches your skin.

Why Aren’t All Tattoos Vegan?

Most studios are moving away from antiquated practices that involve blending animal fat with ash to make ink, but there are still several unsavory ingredients to look out for.

Further complicating matters is the fact that it’s not always easy to find information about exactly what goes into each brand’s proprietary formulas, and there are no FDA regulations surrounding what can or cannot be included. Manufacturers aren’t required to list all the ingredients or conduct safety tests before putting them on the market. That’s why it’s crucial to work with an artist that can source from reputable companies.

  • Gelatin could be used as a binder and stabilizer found in commercial tattoo ink. This comes from animal bones and hooves.
  • Glycerin is one of the most common carriers to help disperse pigment evenly. Glycerin can be plant-based, sourced from soy or palm oil, but has traditionally come primarily from animal fat.
  • Bone char might be used for black ink, but there are many other natural sources for black pigment, so it’s not as big a concern these days. Bone char comes from exactly what it sounds like.
  • Lanolin, made from sheep’s fat, could be in some stencil transfer paper. This is easily avoided if your artist prefers to draw the design free-hand, but there are also plenty of plant-based options available.

Organic tattoo ink isn’t necessarily any safer or better than conventional. In fact, these alternative options are more likely to contain animal-based additives because they’re seen as more “natural,” like beeswax, cod liver oil, or shellac.

Delicate Vegan Symbol Hand Tattoo from Bianca
Photo credit: Bianca Geroldi / @bianca.tattooart

Best Vegan Tattoo Ink Brands

Luckily, you don’t need to go over every bottle with a magnifying glass. There are many brands of ink that are 100% plant-based, ensuring quality, safety, and compassion towards animals. Availability may vary depending on your location. While most artists have brands that they prefer, if you feel strongly about providing your own ink or sourcing from specific companies, ask in advance if they would be open to that possibility.

These are the best brands currently available in the US that produce all vegan tattoo inks. Always double-check with the manufacturers because ingredients are subject to change.

Vegan Tattoo Aftercare

Once you’ve gotten your fresh ink, that’s not the end of the story. The healing process that follows is critical to the vibrancy and longevity to your new tattoo. Although it can be painful and take up to a month of delicate care, it’s not hard when you’re prepared.

Common sense advice for everyone is keep the skin clean and let it breathe. Use a very basic unscented soap, don’t scrub hard, don’t peel or pick at it, and keep it unwrapped and wear loose-fitting clothing so it doesn’t rub or chafe. Gently moisturize the skin with light lotions or balms; nothing too thick that it won’t absorb right away.

There are plenty of vegan balms and ointments specifically designed with tattoo aftercare in mind to make this a foolproof selection. Bestsellers include:

You can always keep things natural by simply using jojoba oil, olive oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, or shea butter as a DIY vegan tattoo balm as well.

kat von d vegan for love tattoo art illustration by fanilopez  art
Kat Von D illustration credit: @fanilopez_art

Vegan Tattoo Artists and Vegan Tattoo Studios

There are thousands of incredibly talented artists across the world creating masterpieces that are worthy of hanging in galleries, but instead chose to showcase them on living canvases. Portfolios are more important than any thing else when deciding on your desired design, so decide what style speaks to you most. Do you prefer photo-realistic portraiture, or more cartoon-like figures? Black and white or brilliant color? Graphic shapes or abstract watercolor?

Big cities naturally host the widest number of vegan tattoo artists, including some entirely vegan tattoo studios. For such a big decision, it might be worth traveling to get exactly what you want. Bear in mind that the most successful artists often book appointments many months in advance. Contact them first before booking any airplane tickets!

You’ll be in good hands in these completely vegan tattoo shops in the US:

Although far from complete, you can also use the Tattoos Wizard directory to search for individual vegan tattoo artists near you.

Vegan Tattoo Ideas

The most important advice to remember when considering you tattoo is that it shouldn’t be rushed. Take your time to get it right or spend the rest of your life regretting that haste. If you want something that speaks to your vegan lifestyle but can’t figure out exactly what, there’s an abundance of inspiring resources to help! Meaningful animal tattoos or a classic vegan symbol are only the beginning. You might not draw the same attention as Moby when he got tattooed by Kat Von D, but you can easily surpass his concept in creativity.

friends not food vegan tattoo by farbian
Friends Not Food tattoo design by Florian Farbian (source: @FarbianArt Instagram)

What Does a 269 Tattoo Mean?

In 2012, two Israeli animal activists had the number 269 branded onto their skin with hot-iron instrument in an effort to bring awareness to the animals on factory farms who are treated as mere numbers rather than individuals. 269 tattoo is the number on the ear tag of a sweet calf with angelic white fur who was destined for slaughter, but was rescued by an activist at the last minute.

Since then, thousands of vegans and animal advocates have gotten a 269 tattoo, and there have even been mass tattooing events asa form of protest of the heartless meat industry.

Do You Have A Vegan Tattoo, Tattoo Ideas, Favorite Artists, or Other Resources?

We hope you found this guide to vegan tattoos helpful! We love seeing creative meaningful animal tattoos and vegan symbols that are worn proudly and permanently as a sign of compassion. Whether you’re looking for a vegan tattoo artist or a cruelty-free tattoo ink, the options are continuing to grow. Did we miss any of your favorite tattoo artists, designs, or recipes? Please show them some love in the comments below!

Cover photo from Canva. Vegan tattoo photos each include credit below the photo. This article may contain affiliate links that support our work at World of Vegan.

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  1. this was really insightful and I know it will definitely help others.

  2. Such a thorough guide to tattoos! I’ll definitely be sharing this with all of my tattoo-loving friends. Thank you!

  3. The guide I didn’t know I needed! Excited to check out the Austin location!

  4. If you have an awesome vegan tattoo, please do send us an email with a photo and how you’d like to be credited! We’d love to consider including more awesome vegan tattoo photos and animal designs for inspiration.

  5. Such a great guide! It’s disappointing that not all tattoo shops can be vegan!

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