As body art and tattooing grow more popular, more product lines pop up here and there. Tattooing is still not as regulated as it should be in 2022, so artists and clients must always look out for problematic products. Of these facsimiles, the worst offenders are red tattoo inks.
Fake or inauthentic tattoo inks can cause skin infections, allergic reactions, poisoning, scarring, and even cancer. Red tattoo inks are notorious for causing skin reactions because they contain cadmium, mercury, or iron oxide. You’ll have to choose your ink carefully to ensure it fits the bill.
You need to find a red ink that matches the style of tattoo you want, along with good dry time, shade, flow, and viscosity. You’ll also want to check whether the ink has any health and safety certifications, and vegan certification if possible. Based on these factors, I’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best red tattoo inks on the market.
Let’s get started!
10 Best Red Tattoo Ink Reviews
We’ll be going over 10 red tattoo inks that are the best in the following criteria.
- Dry time, ink flow, and viscosity
- Healing rate
1. StarBrite Colors Scarlet Red
StarBrite Colors is an ink manufactured in Connecticut, the USA by Tommy’s Supplies. The ink has a bright red shade and thin consistency, making it ideal for general application.
Scarlet Red has the shade of a dull, bloody red. Interestingly, the ink’s dull nature makes it more eye-catching, almost like a bloodstain. The shade is similar to Venetian Red. The color is also long-lasting, although it can fade if not taken care of.
The ink has a rather thin consistency, meaning the viscosity of the ink is low. The ink dries late because of this, taking up to 20 minutes. The ink almost pours out of the bottle unprompted. The carrier to pigment mixture has good solubility, so the pigments do not separate while the ink dries. Drying doesn’t thicken the ink enough to matter, but it reduces in volume.
StarBrite Colors tattoo inks are made in a certified (class A 100,000) ISO 8 clean room with heavy-powered HEPA filters. The brand is part of the CTS organization which stands for Coalition for Tattoo Safety, CAPT (Connecticut Alliance of Professional Tattooists), APT (Alliance of Professional Tattooists), and other safety groups worldwide. The inks are made with certified vegan ingredients and are claimed to be one of the safest inks in the world.
Because of the extensive effort to make Scarlet Red so safe for the skin, the ink has a great healing time. You can expect to see signs of near-full recovery within a week and a half and be fully healed by 2 weeks.
StarBrite unfortunately doesn’t go to such lengths when it comes to its packaging. The bottle is a regular PET tattoo ink bottle that is possible to duplicate. The bottle does have a seal on its neck, but not one that isn’t impossible to fake. The cap doesn’t have any transport safety seals or any other features that could make it hard to forge or duplicate the ink.
The ink is great for general use, but it’s great for any tattoos that feature realism. It’s also very effective at simple designs such as flowers, pattern work, and portrait background shading.
A half-ounce bottle of StarBrite Colors Scarlet Red will cost you $7.00. This may seem not as expensive, but it provides much less for the price. The 1:14 amount to price ratio makes it one of the more expensive inks.
StarBrite Colors Scarlet Red takes the 1st place on this list because it is the only tattoo ink that is produced with safety in mind. The shade it produces is great for general use, and the healing rate is fantastic. The cost works against it a bit, but even then, it’s worth the safety.
2. World Famous Liberachi Red
World Famous Liberachi Red is well known for being one of the most safely produced red inks on the market, with packaging that ensures no copies can fool its customers. The ink has a beautiful purple-reddish hue that stands out in a tattoo.
Liberachi Red has a very unique and distinctive shade of red, verging on the purple side. It closely matches the shade of the color Her Fierceness. The color is surprisingly long-lasting, despite its shade.
The dry time for the ink is average, taking 10-12 minutes. The viscosity is a bit on the higher side, but the ink flow isn’t too badly impacted. The ink thickens as it dries, but it shows no signs of pigment separation.
Since 2020, World Famous has attained ISO 13485 certification, which is given to a medical-grade safe manufacturing facility or workplace. The company additionally takes great care to purify the bottles of Liberachi Red and seal them in sterilized bottles. This red is amongst the safest inks made for tattooing and made from a fully vegan formula.
The healing rate for Liberachi Red is 2-3 weeks, which is average. The ingredients in the ink, especially pigments, aren’t made to be safe for sensitive skin usage. However, World Famous doesn’t have any complaints about their ink so far.
World Famous takes the greatest care to ensure that its bottle preserves the authenticity of the ink. The bottle of Liberachi Red is a crystal-flex bottle that comes with a tamper-proof and waterproof label. The bottle even sports a scan code to verify authenticity, which no other brand on this list has.
Liberachi Red is made for general use, providing an oomph and flair to any tattoos. However, artists that do anime, cartoon, and impressionistic tattoos love its shade.
A half-ounce bottle of Liberachi Red will cost $7.25. This makes the amount to price ratio 1:14.5, which is on the expensive side.
This ink places 2nd on the list for its attention to authenticity and safety, as well as its unique shade of red. It is expensive, but the shade and safety aspects make up for the cost.
3. Intenze Bright Red
The Intenze Bright Red is possibly the most used red ink across the globe. Artists and clients alike love the bright red shade it provides and its versatility.
The tattoo ink shade is a very vibrant red, almost painfully bright to look at. The exact matching shade is Electric Red. The color translates excellently onto skin and doesn’t get muted or lose vibrancy when used on tattoos. The ink shade holds quite well over time, although the brightness will fade.
The dry time for this ink is 10-15 minutes, which is a fairly good amount of time before it can affect the tattooing process. The ink flow is a bit staggered, as the ink is quite thick. The ink is rather difficult to work with when it is drying, as it becomes thick. However, the pigments do not separate.
Intenze Bright Red is manufactured in America, and the company has an ISO 9001: 2015 and ISO 22716 facility. Intenze is certified as one of the safest ink producers in the market. The inks the company makes are also vegan, meaning they do not harvest or use animal-based ingredients.
Intenze Bright Red ink heals quite well and in relatively less time than most of its competitors. The ink is known to be inoffensive to the skin, and many people with known allergies have shown little reaction to the ink when tattooed. The ink is quite safe, and a surefire choice for safety.
The biggest downside of being the most used ink on the market is that Intenze Bright Red is also one of the most copied inks on the market. You’ll find many fakes made in the Philippines, India, and other parts of Asia that range from obvious fakes to very hard to tell apart. The quality of these inks is highly suspect, but the packaging can confuse even seasoned artists.
The ink is also good for most kinds of tattoo styles, disagreeing with almost no styles. The bright shade stands out initially but doesn’t clash or disagree much with any other colors present in your tattoo.
The ink is sold for $12 per ounce, making the amount to price ratio 1:12. The ratio makes the ink fall in the expensive bracket, but not as expensive as Liberachi Red and Scarlet Red.
Although Bright Red is the most used red ink on the market, it ranks 3rd on the list. It’s a great ink for its shade and safety but suffers heavily from fake copies.
4. Kuro Sumi Dragon’s Breath Red
The Dragon Breath Red is a great ink from Kuro Sumi, featuring a deep blood red shade. The ink is loved by artists who specialize in oriental and tribal-style tattoos.
Dragon’s Breath is quite deep in shade, almost a dark blood color. The matching shade’s name is Dark Candy Apple Red. The ink color is vivid and has great depth in dimension. The shade remains consistent when used in tattoos. It is a very time-resistant ink, even if the client doesn’t take great care of it.
The dry time of this ink is extensive. The viscosity is low, so the ink takes 20-25 minutes before begins to reduce in volume. It doesn’t thicken much, nor do the pigments separate.
All Kuro Sumi inks are manufactured adhering to the ISO 13485 quality control system. Also, Dragon’s Breath is claimed to be made from organic ingredients, and vegan.
The healing rate for Dragon’s Breath ink is average. Tattoos will take about 2-3 weeks to heal up. The organic ingredients in the ink won’t mostly cause any issues during the healing process.
Kuro Sumi inks generally struggle with making the packaging stand out. The high quality of their ink inspires many to create fakes, and they have little in place to deal with the problem. However, the Dragon’s Breath does have an advantage. Its shade is hard to reproduce for any forgers, and it’s easy to tell apart from the original.
The ink performs excellently on any skin tone and maintains its shade in all tattoos. It’s loved by artists whose works are oriental and tribal, as this ink pops yet maintains the glazed-over look.
Kuro Sumi Dragon’s Breath retails for $18 for 2.24 ounces. This puts the amount-to-price ratio at 1:8, making the ink one of the cheaper ones.
Dragon’s Breath places 4th on the list because of excellent performance, shade consistency, healing rate, and safety. The potential issues with fakes cause the ink to rank lower than it may have placed.
5. Kuro Sumi Chi Red
The Kuro Sumi Chi Red is a Japanese formula and ingredient-based tattoo ink that is manufactured in the USA. The tattoo ink is a favorite for many artists to use for highlights in tattoos.
The Kuro Sumi Chi Red is a bit muted when it comes to brightness. Its shade is darker and deeper, a match to Carmine. The color looks rich but can turn a shade or two paler when applied to the skin. Chi Red will last for a good while but lose its color.
Due to its low viscosity, the ink dry time is much higher than average, giving the artist more time to work with. The dry time can average between 20-25 minutes. The ink flow is generous, as it is rather runny. The viscosity is low, but the ink pigments do not separate, nor does the ink feel too thin.
All Kuro Sumi inks are manufactured adhering to the ISO 13485 quality control system. However, the company does not explicitly claim nor have a certification stating that Kuro Sumi Chi Red is a vegan ink.
The healing time for Kuro Sumi Chi Red is average, needing two or three weeks to achieve a decent stage of healing. The inks are created using organic materials and authentic, and old Japanese formulas. Thus, the inks are rarely reactive or harmful to the skin.
Kuro Sumi struggles to separate itself from any fake products that exist out there. The Kuro Sumi Chi Red has many copies in existence, and it can be hard to tell them apart. The bottle quality of Kuro Sumi inks is shoddy at times, leading to ink leaking from the bottleneck. The lack of packaging quality control makes the ink hard to identify.
Kuro Sumi Chi Red is a favorite red color for many artists to do highlighting work. The ink also performs great in Japanese or watercolor-inspired artwork. The ink can create subtle shade variances depending on how it is applied, which is great for these specializations.
The price of Kuro Sumi is $7.38 per ounce, making it an inexpensive ink to work with. The amount-to-price ratio for Chi Red is 1:7.38, which makes it the cheapest ink of the top five.
Overall, the ink place 5th in the list, for its ease of use, high dry time, and organic nature.
6. Viking Double Red
Viking Double Red is part of the Viking Tattoo Inks lineup offered by Dynamic ink. The tattoo ink is known for its deep red shade, and for working well on darker skin. The ink is claimed to be manufactured for those with very sensitive skin.
The shade of the ink is very deep, focused more on generating an intense deep red shade on the skin. Curiously, this matches the exact shade of Blood Red on the color palette. The shade can sometimes look a bit pinkish on lighter complexions. The color will lose its vibrance over time.
The dry time of this ink is average ranging from 10-12 minutes. It does thicken when dried, but the pigments do not separate. The ink is a bit more viscous than most and will flow with slightly more resistance out of the bottle. Surprisingly, it has been said to be able to go through very thick skin easily.
Like all other Viking tattoo inks, Double Red Tattoo ink has been defined as non-hazardous by OSHA under 29 CFR 1910.1200(d). The ink claims to be completely harmless for any with sensitive skin. It has no other manufacturing certifications or ISO approval. However, all Viking tattoo inks are claimed to be vegan.
As the ink doesn’t have any hazardous or toxic ingredients, it doesn’t negatively impact the skin healing process at all. The healing time with Viking Double Red is quite fast. The client is expected to heal within 2 weeks.
Viking Tattoo ink comes in a specialized PET bottle. The ink is sealed with the Viking logo emblazoned on top of it. There are other features such as the cargo seal, which doesn’t let the ink out during travel. These features and the excellent build quality of the bottle are hard to replicate and make it easy to tell the real one apart from the fakes.
The ink works well when it comes to darker skin tones. Unfortunately, this also is the downfall of the ink. It doesn’t perform consistently with lighter complexions, sometimes sporting a lighter shade of pink.
Viking Double Red ink comes in half-ounce bottles for $8.26. The amount-to-price ratio in ounces comes to 1:16.52, which makes it the most expensive ink on the list.
Viking Double Red places 6th in this list because of its non-toxic nature, easy healing, and authenticity. However, it’s not the perfect fit for every skin tone out there, and the most expensive. These factors worked heavily against it in this rating.
7. Viking American Red
Taking on the shade of red of the American flag, the Viking American Red is another great offering from Viking ink. The ink’s shade is quite vivid, and just like Double Red, it’s made for sensitive skin.
Viking American Red boasts a shade that matches the red of the American flag, which is known as Red (NCS). The shade is bright, vibrant, and eye-catching. The intensity of color fades a bit faster over time.
The dry time of this ink is average, taking 10-12 minutes to show signs of thickening. The ink pigments do not separate. American Red flows at a typical rate out of the bottle and doesn’t show much resistance when going into the skin. The ink is not as viscous as Double Red.
Similar to Double Red, the American Red has been declared non-hazardous by OSHA under 29 CFR 1910.1200(d). Viking claims that American Red is similar in quality to the rest of its lineup. The ink is claimed to be vegan, and usable for very sensitive skin.
The healing rate of American Red is quite fast due to its harmless composition. The tattoos heal within two weeks on average. The ink pigments don’t compromise the skin in any way, even for those with existing skin conditions.
Just like any other Viking ink, the ink comes in a PET bottle that is well-designed for transport and use. The sealing method is specifically designed to be spill-proof while transporting. The Viking logo printed seal on the neck of the bottle protects the ink till opened and adds a layer of security. These features are hard to reproduce, making the American Red less likely to be forged.
American Red performs fabulously across most complexions. The shade is perfect for general uses of red in any tattoos. However, the ink was designed to be used for tribal and Nordic tattoos, and it performs exceedingly well.
A 1.01 fluid ounce of Viking American Red tattoo ink bottle costs $9.90 on Amazon. The amount-to-price ratio for the ink comes to 1:9.80. This puts the ink in the row of affordable tattoo inks.
The ink places 7th on the list because of its friendly nature to sensitive skin, consistent shade, usability, specialization, security, and pricing.
8. Intenze Ruby Red
Intenze Ruby Red is an excellent dark-shaded tattoo ink that is manufactured by Intenze. The ink comes with the same promise of excellence and safety, but its shade limits its use cases.
The shade is a darker variation of red, which is known as UE Red. Out of the bottle, the shade matches most closely to Heidelberg Red. The shade is quite intense but lacks the brightness of Bright Red. It has a problem with fading without good care.
The ink has a large or high viscosity that creates friction and resists flow. It takes 8 to 10 minutes to begin thickening, not giving much space for work. The ink also thickens considerably, but there are no signs of pigment separation.
Just like Intenze Bright Red, the Ruby Red has been manufactured in the company’s ISO 9001: 2015 and ISO 22716 facility. The ink is one of the safest red inks to use. It is also vegan and doesn’t cause any animal cruelty.
The healing rate of Ruby Red is 2 weeks on average. The ink is safe, and its pigments typically don’t cause any issues for the clients while recovering.
Intenze Ruby Red is not as heavily copied as Bright Red, but fakes exist on the market. Ruby Red isn’t as sought after, so the number of fakes isn’t as numerous. But Intenze itself hardly makes the effort to make their inks stand out.
The Ruby Red doesn’t carry a shade that is great for general use. It produces muted coloring on tattoos. So, it is best used for background work and subtle lining that draws attention to other shades on the tattoo.
A 1-ounce bottle of Intenze Ruby Red costs $12.00. The 1:12 content to price ratio puts the ink in the expensive bracket.
The Intenze Ruby Red places 8th on the list due to its specialized, niche use, and pricing. While the ink is just as safe as Bright Red, it’s not the most usable one.
9. Millennium Mom’s Viper Red
Millennium Mom’s Viper Red is another USA-made artist favorite. The ink’s well known for its rich tone, and usability.
Viper Red has an almost eye-searing bright red shade out of the bottle, which is the closest to Traffic Red. The ink isn’t as bright when used on the skin, but it’s still quite attractive. The shade on the skin is similar to the infamous red shade of your teacher’s red pen, which looks great for highlights. The color does fade if the client doesn’t take good care of their tattoos.
The dry time of Viper Red is around 10-15 minutes, which falls in the average range. Due to a proper mixture of carrier and pigments, they do not separate. The ink itself doesn’t thicken, or become dry, but reduces in volume.
Millennium Mom’s inks aren’t certified for safety, and the manufacturing process or facility does not have any ratings. However, the inks have been used for a long while, and not many complaints have been heard. The company claims that Viper Red is a vegan tattoo ink.
Tattoos that use Viper Red can take up to three weeks to heal. This isn’t out of the expected recovery time, but it is on the longer end.
Viper Red comes in a generic tattoo ink bottle that doesn’t have any notable special features. The bottle is typical of good quality but does not have any protection to seal the ink properly during transport. So, cases of forgery and spillage are unfortunately somewhat common issues.
Viper Red has a great shade that can work on any tattoo and play any role. However, using the tattoo ink for highlights or small details makes a tattoo pop in people’s eyes.
A 1-ounce bottle of Millennium Mom’s Viper Red goes for $12.99. The amount-to-price ratio comes to 1:12.99. This price places the ink on the more expensive bracket.
Millennium Mom’s Viper Red Places 9th on the list. The ink has been in production without much complaint and boasts a great shade. But the ink doesn’t have any certifications for manufacturing and safety, indicating that the quality control efforts of the company aren’t standardized, or they are not consistent.
10. Dynamic Fire Red
The Dynamic Fire Red ink comes from the Dynamic Color Company. Established in 1990, the company has been producing quality inks in America. The ink is used by many tattoo artists, especially because it is a vibrant red.
The tattoo ink is quite bright, but not as intense. It matches Fire Engine Red on the color palette. The red looks a bit too light, but it works quite well when applied to the skin. Dynamic Fire Red is known to hold quite well over time for most tattoos.
At 10-12 minutes, the ink dries a decent pace while working, but it is a little less time than you’d be comfortable working with. It does get thicker when drying up but the pigments don’t separate. The ink flows quite well, with low viscosity which improves its ease of use. This helps while you are working on long projects, as the ink doesn’t dry up and hinder your work much.
The company manufactures its inks in America, but the company doesn’t have any certified facilities or any accreditations to its name. The company is praised by many artists, but that’s about it. In fact, in 2019, Dynamic Color Company was cited by FDA for having microbial contamination in its black and white inks. The site for the company claims that the ink is vegan, but has no certifications to show for it.
The healing time for Dynamic Fire Red is better than most of its competitors. It takes two weeks or so at most for the tattoo to heal decently. The high concentration of pigments can cause some issues for clients if they have allergic or skin issues.
The company is aware of the attempts to copy and market false products under its name. To protect the customers, all Dynamic Color inks are packaged in crystal clear PET bottles which come with an anti-counterfeiting coating. Even the heat seals hold the Dynamic Color stamp of approval.
This ink is stated to be the most versatile for any kind of style by most artists. Many swear by it for any tattoos they have to do, choosing Dynamic Fire Red as their only red ink. However, the ink is often used for outlining work, which isn’t a common use of red inks.
The price of Dynamic Fire Red is around $08 per ounce on its official website. The product-to-price ratio comes to 1:8 making the price lower than most of its competitors.
Overall, this ink places last on the list, as the ink on average is great but has inconsistencies in manufacturing issues. People have complained about reactions, long healing periods, and some other issues occasionally.
How Can I Choose My Best Red Tattoo Ink?
As an artist, you need to choose the best red tattoo ink for your work. Unlike the other colors of tattoo inks out there, red is a very problematic color. It is known to be the most toxic color out of all tattoo inks. You’ll need to understand what to look for when you’re picking your red tattoo ink of choice.
I have provided a breakdown of the factors that you can use to judge a red ink. The factors are arranged in order of priority. You can prioritize certain factors over others in your case, but hopefully, this guide can guide you to choose the red ink that you need.
The factors you should watch out for are mentioned here.
As red inks are the most problematic tattoo inks and they pose the most health risk, safety should be your priority. The FDA doesn’t provide any official ratings for any tattoo inks but does cite safety violations and provide a non-toxic rating if the brand applied for it. You can also look for ISO certifications for manufacturing and QC control.
You should see how many fakes exist for any ink on the market. Check if the brand takes the effort to make its packaging unique, so you can tell it apart from forgery. You can have the keen eyes needed to tell the real from fake, but all it takes is one mistake to affect your career.
The shade of red matters greatly when you have to work with the ink. The shade will determine how you can apply it to your tattoos, and how it stacks up against all the other colors. Don’t just pick a shade for its vividness, brightness, or brilliance, because it can ruin the balance of colors you want.
Check what art styles the tattoo ink is known for. If it matches the art style that you specialize in, then all the better. Otherwise, you’ll want ink that’s good for general use. The more use cases you find for the tattoo ink, the more well suited it is for you.
The price of tattoo inks doesn’t seem to be such a big factor. But since you’ll be using them in large volumes, you need to check how the cost stacks up over time. Choose the ink based on how much use you can get for the price. If you see your clients prefer the ink, then simply incorporate the price into how much you’ll charge.
Flow and viscosity:
You’ll want tattoo inks that are low in viscosity and have good ink flow. When you’re working with tattoo inks, how well they flow will determine how the pigments will penetrate the skin. A thinner consistency tattoo ink will take fewer passes for covering the skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are red tattoo inks the most toxic tattoo inks?
Red tattoo inks are considered to be the most toxic because they contain it contains cadmium, mercury, or iron oxide. These metals or oxides can cause lung failure, metal fume fever, aches, poor brain function, anxiety, depression, and heart disease.
How to choose a safe red tattoo ink?
Choose a red tattoo ink that contains naphthol instead. You can check if the brand you chose has any safety ratings or ISO certifications. Also, check for any past citations from the FDA, or equivalent organizations from the brand’s country of origin.
How do I check if a red tattoo ink is safe to use for sensitive skin?
Aside from checking if the brand makes the ink for sensitive skin, you can do a patch test. 24 hours before tattooing, put a small amount of the ink near the skin you’re going to tattoo on. Any swelling, inflammation, and redness would indicate that you shouldn’t proceed with the ink.
Choosing a red tattoo ink is a tricky but essential activity if you’re a tattoo artist. And if you’re swamped with work and client meetings, you don’t have time to read through thousands of words worth of text. So, I’ve provided a TLDR here if you want to go over things quickly.
If you’re looking for safety, then choose StarBrite Colors Scarlet Red. It has a good shade and has tight control over its manufacturing standards so that you don’t have to worry about potential risks for your average clients.
If you or your client are looking for a cool shade of red that’ll be a game-changer, then go for World Famous Liberachi Red. The purplish hue that the ink has is unique among red inks and stands out in tattoos.
If you need red inks that are safe for super sensitive skin, pick from the Viking or Kuro Sumi inks. Their selection is made from organic materials, making the ink very friendly to the skin.
In case you’re curious about my personal favorite, then it has to be the Liberachi Red. The shade truly does work in every case that you can think of. It stands out but doesn’t ruin the balance of colors in your tattoos. The tattoo ink is also very safe, and they are very careful about their packaging.
Now that you know what inks to choose from, go and pick your own best red tattoo ink. Remember, the list here is a good guide, but you should try everything for yourself to make up your mind. An ink that didn’t work for others can always be great in your case.
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