Future Trends in Tattooing: Light-Reactive, Nanotech, and 3D Printing

Tattooing has a long and rich tradition. But like everything else, it’s adapted to new technology and new techniques.

Here are some of the most intriguing future trends in tattooing.

Light-reactive Ink

It’s stunning to see tattoos that glow under black light.

UV ink enhances body art in unique ways (1). Whether it’s an alien spaceship among the stars, lightning bugs in a garden, or invisible writing that only shows up under the right conditions, the effects are gorgeous.

But since this type of ink is thin and hard to work with, not every artist has experience with it. It tends to behave like a grey wash.

Fortunately, it’s possible to use the ink with any of the best coil tattoo machines.

Bio-sensitive Ink

Bio-sensitive ink is being developed by Harvard and MIT (2). The ink changes color according to changes in the skin.

This idea is aimed at helping people with diabetes who need to monitor glucose levels or athletes who are at risk of becoming dehydrated. It could also reveal if you have a fever or are getting too much sun exposure.

To learn more, check out the Dermal Abyss team at MIT.

Medical Tattooing

What if you have vitiligo or scarring from surgery or an accident? Would you be willing to get a tattoo to correct the pigment?

Medical tattoos can restore color to the skin and even the cornea of the eye. Moreover, these tattoos last up to five years before they need a touchup.

This takes cosmetic tattooing to a new level. Of course, specialized training is required.

Interactive Tattoos

What if you could not only tattoo “Mom” on your arm but actually to hear her voice when you scanned your tattoo?

SkinMotion allows you to upload an audio file then download a personalized tattoo. Once you’re inked with that pattern, you or anyone else who has the app can scan the tattoo and hear the audio file.

To learn more about Soundwave Tattoos, visit Skin Motion’s site.

Smart Digital Tattoos

Instead of wearing a fitness tracker on your wrist, wear it underneath the skin. NewDealDesign submitted a concept for a new kind of wearable technology.

A digital tattoo like theirs could track your sleep and exercise, transfer data with a handshake, and unlock your doors (3).

Temporary Tattoos

Remember those “stickers” that you soaked with water and pressed on your skin? Well, the new subdermal temporary tattoos are a leap beyond that.

Imagine that you’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo, but you’re uncertain about the long-term consequences. Will you like seeing it every day for the rest of your life? Will your family, friends, or boss react badly to it?

After all, tattooing is permanent, and tattoo removal is prolonged and painful.

Therefore, the solution is to get a tattoo using ink that’s temporary and easy to remove. It still goes under the skin like a regular tattoo.

You can learn more about temporary ink technology on the Ephemeral company website.

Hybrid Tattoo Machines

You’ve heard of rotary and coil tattoo machines, but have you ever used a pneumatic one?

The Neuma Hybrid is a pneumatic tattoo machine that can run on electricity so that you don’t need an air compressor. Moreover, the iron itself is not clunky – it’s similar to a rotary tattoo machine.

3-D Printing Tattoos

As artists, we tend to collect tattoo machines. We’re always looking for the ones that make our job easier.

Lately, I’ve been a fan of the best rotary tattoo machines as they are lightweight and easy to control.

But students in France adapted a Makerbot 3-D printer to tattoo skin. There’s no artist needed.

Don’t worry, we don’t suspect that this will push tattoo artists out of the studio anytime soon.


It’s thrilling to see innovations in tattoo inks, machines, and technology. Have you had experience with any of the concepts we described above? If so we’d love to know.

1. https://www.inkedmag.com/original-news/black-light-tattoos-uv-ink-guide by Tess Adamakos, published January 2, 2019, accessed July 19, 2019

2. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/09/harvard-researchers-help-develop-smart-tattoos/ by Alvin Powell, published September 28, 2017, accessed July 19, 2019

3. https://www.fastcompany.com/3036175/from-the-designers-of-fitbit-a-digital-tattoo-implanted-under-your-skin by Mark Wilson, published October 1, 2014, accessed July 19, 2019

This article was written by Daniel