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Tattoo Techniques: Achieving Glowing Color in Tattoos 3 Minutes to Better Tattooing

Achieving Glowing Color in Tattoos | 3 Minutes to Better Tattooing

In this episode of “3 Minutes to Better Tattooing” we get into color temperature and complimentary color palettes to help you intensify you designs and create a bright glowing effect.


This episode was made possible thanks to:



Interview by By Jake Meeks —

Writing By Daniel Pushcarich —

Topics: Color Harmony, Colored Tattoo, Tattoo Inks, Complimentary Colors, Tattoo Tricks, Tattoo Color Theory


Find A Complementary Palette of Tattoo Inks

“The real trick here is using a very bright color and its complement in a muted version to create a harmonious effect.”

- Jake Meeks

To create a glowing bright color effect in tattoo design, it’s beneficial to use a simple complementary color palette. This technique involves using one bright color paired with its muted complement, allowing the bright color to stand out and draw attention to specific areas of the design. 

lightning mushroom tattoo by jake meeks

For example, using intense blues and greens in the underside of the mushroom with muted oranges and dark understated or desaturated reds in the cap can create a striking contrast.

A key thing to remember is that if everything is bright then nothing is bright, so in order to make a “glowing” effect you have to create an environment in which the bright color has an opportunity to stand out.

Color Shifting From Warm to Cool in the Tattoo

“You could stick with a single blue and dark burnt orange, and lighten those with white, but to me that results in a much less interesting tattoo. I like for the Color to shift temperature as it moves from dark to light.”

- Jake Meeks


Jake's Complimentary color palette


Start by selecting complementary colors from the color wheel, such as blues and oranges, greens and reds, or purples and yellows. For the bright color, use intense high chroma shades that transition from dark to light, while the complement should be a range of desaturated tones. 


Warm to cool color shift tattoo inks


Another trick you can do is adjust the temperature of the colors as they lighten or darken, such as using a warmer dark blue that shifts to a cooler light green. This adds sophistication to the piece and creates a more interesting composition that might hold attention more than just making a lighter tone by adding white.


Creating Contrast and Keeping Intense “Glow” In The Tattoo Design

“If I had [also] used really intense oranges, reds, and yellows on the top side of the cap, then everything would be super bright, noisy, loud, and as a result nothing would really read as being bright”

- Jake Meeks

This approach ensures that the bright color stands out AGAINST the muted colors, creating a balanced and visually appealing design. By avoiding overly intense colors on both sides of the palette, the design avoids becoming too noisy and ensures that the bright elements truly pop and “glow”. 


alternative color palette


This technique can be applied to various color combinations, always maintaining one bright and one muted complement to achieve the desired glowing effect. 

Also, If you work digitally you could always try multiple combinations of color easily. So conversely, you could try reversing the two colors, using the opposite intense bright color for the star of the composition while still maintaining the desaturated look for the darker tones.


reversed color palette



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The Fireside Tattoo Network is home to the Fireside podcast, Fireside Technique video series and our Fireside Weekly blog.

The Fireside Tattoo podcast is hosted by veteran tattooer Jake Meeks, check out our episodes where we discuss, argue and wax philosophical, from tips for all levels of artists to trends in the tattoo world. Many guest artists have sat down for interviews and in-depth conversations and many more are planned…check back often!

Our Fireside Tattoo Overview video series offers informative, short, and detailed videos geared towards helping artists understand the science and nuances of tattoos and make more informed decisions to improve their work. We often take some of our more technical topics from our Fireside podcast and film an in-depth, narrated, time-lapse video showing exactly how Jake or our featured artists handle certain issues.

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