Tattoo inks are made of pigments and carriers. Carriers act as a solvent that carries the pigment from the point of the needle trauma to the dermis layer of the skin. Some carriers used include ethyl alcohol, water, methanol, and rubbing alcohol and are used to keep the ink evenly mixed. Inks are generally available in a range of colors and can be mixed or thinned to customize them.

Although tattoo inks are subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the regulation is not generally followed. It’s common for tattoo ink pigments to be the same as industrial-strength colors made for computer printers and automobile paint.

Professional inks are usually made from iron oxides, plastics, and metal salts. Some heavy metals used to create certain pigments are lead, mercury, iron, zinc, copper, and carbon. Specialty inks can create glow-in-the-dark and blacklight-sensitive tattoos as well. These high-quality inks make laser tattoo removal more difficult because they’re made to withstand certain elements and last a lifetime.

Amateur or homemade inks are typically very low quality or made from ingredients that are found around the house, including pen ink, dirt, soot, or even blood. Fortunately, these amateur tattoos and low-quality inks make laser tattoo removal easier to achieve.