Pigment and Skin under and outer tones


  • The traditional concepts of colour theory in the beauty industry, such as makeup application, are very different when applied to cosmetic tattooing, as the clients skin tone will heal and blend with the pigment implanted into the skin over time. One of the most complex factors is the changing skin tones of a client over the seasons.  Skin tone can be affected by a variety of factors, such as skin conditions/diseases (for example Albinism: a disorder characterised by little or no melanin production in the skin, Vitiligo: a disorder that affects the loss of skin colour in blotches on the skin) genetic makeup, environmental factors and nutrition.  
  • Each client will have their own unique skin compositions and complexions, and this must be considered when choosing a technique for the CT procedure. One of the most important components of the skin that relates to the complexion is melanin.  This pigment in the skin is a large factor when determining skin colour and its variations and ratios in the skin are different in ratio in every individual.
  • The ratio of melanin also contributes to a person’s hair and eye colour. Melanin behaves differently in everyone and are produced in specialised cells that are called melanocytes.  
  • The higher the ratio of melanin in the skin results in a darker complexion, the lower the ratio of melanin the lighter the skin tone.  Humans commonly change the ratio of the melanin in their skin by tanning, as the skin stimulates the production of melanin thereby protecting the skin again excessive UV exposure.  This environmental and seasonal factor needs to always be taken into consideration when selecting an appropriate pigment colour.
  • The skin’s outertone/overtone can change over time, however the undertone of the skin will always remain the same.  Undertones are the colours beneath the surface of the skin, the overtone of the skin is what we see with the human eye.
  • Determining your client’s skin outer and undertones will directly affect the healed results of your client’s cosmetic tattoo procedure. 


  • The pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their colour. Darker skin has more melanin in the skin than lighter skin. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes.  Freckles, which occur in people of all races, are small, concentrated areas of increased melanin production.
  • High levels of melanin in the skin, above the pigment implanted, may partially or entirely cover the tattoo. This depends on how dark the skin is and the pigment the cosmetic tattoo artist decides to use. A third session will most likely be necessary. 
  • How the pigment will eventually fade: If you have implanted the pigment correctly into the top layer of the dermis, the pigment will slowly shed off overtime in the first week of healing. It is like removing a splinter, your body recognises a foreign body and pushes it into the epidermis where it will be completely shed during the keratinisation cycle. (The process by which vertebrate epithelial cells become filled with keratin protein filaments, die, and form tough, resistant structures such as skin, nails, and feathers).
  • The skin undertone is affected by vascular supply. Oxygenated blood provides the bright red through to maroon colours, and the deoxygenated blood provides blue through to maroon colours. Fat cells and connective tissues can add yellow or white hues. 
  • Melanin can sometimes be found within the dermis and can appear yellow, red, brown, black or even bluish/grey depending on how deep the melanin is. The epidermis may range in colour from white through to yellow. Melanin within keratinocyte cells (cells that are deep within the skin that comprises the epidermis) in the epidermis can add yellow, red, brown and black hues to the skin.
pink, red or bluish undertonesyellow, peachy, golden undertonesa mix of both cool and warm undertones

Skin Inner tones

Check your veins on the inside of your wrist. If they appear blue, you likely have cool undertones. If they appear more greenish, you have a warm undertone.

Skin outer tones

Your client’s “outer” tone will add colour to the final healed result of the tattoo. Higher levels of melanin in the upper part of the dermis and epidermis can have a dramatic effect on the healed pigment colour, it can sometimes hide the tattoo completely. 

Use of pigment modifiers

  • Modifiers are corrective pigments that assist with modifying colours when required, and colour corrections.  For example, brown pigments can be made darker, which allows a technician to avoid purchasing more than one shade of dark brown.
  • Modifier pigments have a high concentrate of green, yellow and orange and should be used moderately.
  • Blue should not be used as a modifier due to its high density.  Blue is twice as strong as red, and three times the density of yellow.
  • Red is also high in density and also has transparent properties therefore a good alternative is orange.
  • Cool colours neutralise warm colours, as do warm colours neutralise cool colours
  • Complementary colours absorb light from colours therefore neutralising them
Reference: https://www.peachpit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=2162084&seqNum=2
  • As a general rule, it is better to add warmth to a pigment mix as most pigments will heal cooler in the skin.  If a client’s tattoo has healed too warm either add a cooler pigment or take out the warmer pigment used prior.
  • By using a cool tone incorrectly, you risk the pigment healing grey, which will then need to be colour corrected and sometimes difficult to treat.
  • As long as you use the prescribed amount as per the brand guidelines a pigment will stay true to its dominant hue when using a modifier.
  • Blue base pigments are very dense in colour and should be avoided in eyebrow pigments, as you may end up with purple tones.

When Changing A Base Pigment

To darken a pigment, use a small amount of the complimenting colour pigment, which is located opposite on the colour wheel.  Refer to above complimentary colour wheel.

Orange is the complementary colour to blue-grey and green

Yellow is the complementary colour to violet

Green is the complementary colour to orange and red 

Another example:

If you want to create a cooler brown, add a small drop of a green modifier to a neutral brown pigment.

If you want to create a warmer brown, add a small amount of orange or ochre modifier to a neutral brown pigment.

Colour Corrections

  • Note that Violet, red and blue are NOT used as corrective colours.
  • Make sure you know the base colour of the pigment that you are using as this is what you will refer to when managing a colour correction.
  • Colour corrections generally require more than one session so as to saturate the new pigment with the original during the healing stages.  Be sure to inform your client of this during consultation, including fees involved.  A successful colour correction is more likely if the original tattoo has faded to at least 50%.  Even then you can never guarantee a perfect outcome for your client, as results vary due to skin healing etc..
  • Tattoo colours in the skin fade in stages from dark, medium to light – therefore when adding modifiers, the scale of dilution solution used will change.
  • For example: When adding a modifier to a dark shade of tattoo, you may not need to add any dilution solution.  When working on a medium shade of tattoo use 5 drops of dilution solution or desired pigment to one drop of modifier.  Lighter shades just add a few drops of the correction colour to your choice of pigment.
  • Another method that can be used if the client’s tattoo is not too dense is to commence one pass of modifier, followed by a blend of your target colour and corrector mixed together.  Explain to your client before you do this method that their brows will appear slightly green or orange initially, disappearing as the brow heals. 
  • If the client has a high saturation of unwanted pigment in the skin, an alternative is to refer them to a reputable laser removal clinic.  At Mien Brows we recommend in Victoria Lazer Erazer which they can find at www.lazererazer.com
  • After they have completed their session of laser removal you may proceed with either a correction or a normal first session, depending on how much pigment has been successfully removed.
  • Scar tissue on the brows is well known for pigment to not last well in the skin.  Always explain this to your client as they will need frequent refresh sessions on that particular area of the brow.
  • If not maintained, pigment that has been implanted on the brow area will eventually fade and shrink leaving slight residue in the skin.
BlueOrange or Yellow
based Browns or Mahogany
RedGreen or Olive
PinkLight Green or Yellow
VioletYellow or Light Orange
Dark GreyOrange or Rust
YellowBrown with minimal Yellow
OrangeGreen or Olive