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Getting A Vegan Tattoo

Getting A Vegan Tattoo

I had been talking about getting a tattoo for about four years. It took me a long time to commit to a specific design and placement of the tattoo. And to be honest I initially didn’t give much thought to my tattoo being vegan—the design or the ink. Four years ago I had just begun my venture into veganism so I never thought about vegan inks or realized how deeply committed to veganism I would be today.

Getting a vegan tattooIt’s hard to say exactly what triggered my decision to finally get a tattoo this August (2010). But if I had to narrow it down I would say that it was partly due to the fact that I was going through some emotional challenges—starting in late June/early July. I was feeling super stressed and a bit down and out both personally and professionally, so I decided to halt the spiral, pick myself up, and make some new rules for getting out of the funk. These were some of the goals I set for myself:

  • daily exercise
  • better food choices
  • go dancing more often
  • smoothie for breakfast everyday
  • wear my hair down more often
  • spend at least 10 minutes doing nothing everyday
  • start planning my next big trip
  • finally getting that tattoo I had been talking about

After a bit of research I narrowed it down to the tattoo I wanted—I was originally going back and forth between a memorial of horses that I had grown up with and a “vegan” tattoo. After some waning, reading this interview with vegan tattoo artist, Brad Stevens, getting some great feedaback from B.T. Wilson of Scapegoat Tattoo (a vegan owned shop — see his email to me, below), and some input from friends, I decided to go with something representative of my commitment to veganism. You can read about how and why I became vegan here.

I found two designs that I really loved, here and here. After learning more about the complications with white ink tattoos I chose to go with a black ink “V” from The Vegan Society logo. Then it was just a matter of finding a shop that I not only felt 100% comfortable with—I was a bit nervous—but also one that uses vegan ink.

Right around the same time that I had started the aforementioned ‘get out of the funk’ plan I was also planning a weekend trip to Chicago (one of my favorite cities) with my best travel buddy. I heard that getting a tattoo in Chicago is much cheaper than getting one in Boston, so while in Chicago I finally got that tattoo I had been talking about.

It was the last day of our Chicago adventure and the shop I originally chose was full up and wasn’t taking any walk-ins and my tattoo was too small for an appointment. But, we happened to be around the corner from The Chicago Tattooing and Piercing Company– we had just eaten at The Chicago Diner (YUM!). So I took a chance (read about my experience at the tattoo shop here). In short, it was awesome. And yes, they use vegan inks. Score!!

the chicago dinergetting a vegan tattoogetting a vegan tattoogetting a vegan tattoogetting a vegan tattooIt was over in about 10-15 minutes—so fast! And it didn’t hurt a bit…only a little few pinches.

getting a vegan tattooI even found some great all-vegan aftercare products thanks to Vegan Beauty Review. About a week before I got my tattoo I ordered the fresh ink healing wash and colorfast healing and conditioning balm from Stay True Organics. It’s great stuff—and I even received a personal email from Alison, the founder of Stay True Organics. She asked where I heard of the company and even followed up after I got my tattoo. Very cool.

getting a vegan tattoo

After all the build up I must say that I’m truly happy with my first tattoo. I’m happy with where and when I got it, the awesome friends who were with me when I got it done, and how it looks now all healed and beautiful. Oh, and I did want to mention that I found plenty of scary ‘tattoos aren’t vegan’ info on the ‘interwebs’ but I can tell you after the careful research that I did, it’s honestly not difficult to find shops that carry vegan inks. In fact, from what I understand it’s not common for tattoo shops to carry non-vegan inks these days. Here’s what B.T. Wilson of Scapegoat Tattoo had to say when I emailed him about vegan inks:

Hey Kristin,

So, the short answer is yes. Most tattoo inks are vegan. That is except black. Rarely, you might find bone black, but someone would have to go out of their way to get it. What you do need to look out for is shellac. And there is a very popular tattoo black called tallens that happens to contain shellac. When you ask about their pigments, you should really just find out what black they use.

Alternatives are Waverly, my favorite! Classic, Pelican, Eternal, Kuro sumi, and Dynamic. There are probably more, but those are the only ones I’ve checked. And out of these as I’ve said, Waverly is the best.

There are a few other things you might want to pay attention to as well. A&D ointment can contain either lanolin or cod liver oil, sometimes both. Petroleum jelly can sometimes be filtered through bone char, razors shouldn’t have a gel strip and I think green soap is okay, but I use Dr. Bronners.

Check out our myspace blog just in case I’ve forgotten anything.

Good luck and don’t fret! The best advice I can give you is be patient and humble when asking a tattooer about what they use. Tattooers are notoriously closed lipped. Find a tattooer that you like and see if they’d be okay with getting some other inks and such. You will probably have to pay for it, since they will probably only use it on you, but don’t expect them to give it to you when they’re done.

Actually, I think that there might be a list of vegan tattooers online. There used to be a website called vegan ink. I have a few people in some sort of list also on our myspace page too.

Anyhow, I hope that helped!

Hope to see you in Portland someday!

Take care,

B.T. Wilson

I still can’t believe how awesome it is that B.T. took the time to write this thoughtful response. It seriously made me want to fly out to Portland just to get my tattoo at his shop. I had emailed about 5 shops and he was the only one to provide this much detail, among the few who responded at all! Thanks, B.T.!! I’m adding you to my awesome list.

getting a vegan tattooI’m also happy to report that I feel much better as well. The Chicago trip was exactly what I needed and I’ve been doing an okay job of keeping up with some of the other goals. I just moved to a new apartment so it’s time to reassess and adjust a few things. But I’m in a much happier place than I was just a few weeks ago.

This post was originally published on a different blog of mine in September 2010.


  1. Akiko Blacksmith


    I have to tell you a quick little story. I have wanted a tattoo much longer than I’ve been a vegan (since 2009). The two things that kept me from getting one all these years were: (1)What kind of tattoo do I want? (2)How much does it hurt? LOL!

    I have loved the vegan “V” symbol for a very long time and even chose to use it as my avatar on Twitter and Facebook, but when I saw your vegan tattoo that was it! You inspired me right then and there. I realized when I saw your tattoo that I needed to wear a permanent, visible symbol of veganism on my body to match the commitment to veganism that I have in my heart.

    So, thank you for inspiring me and others as you embark upon your vegan journey. I wish you safe, happy travels and lots of yummy vegan food.

    P.S. Oh, and the tattoo didn’t hurt quite as much as I thought it would. :)

    P.S.S. If your travels bring you to Las Vegas, let’s do lunch or dinner!

    Sending you lots of vegan love,

    Veggie eating tree hugger (aka Akiko)

    • Hi Akiko,

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m so happy for you and glad that you love your tattoo!

      I’d love to do dinner or lunch when I get to Las Vegas. I’ve never been there and am definitely looking forward to it. I’m not sure yet when I’ll be headed out that way but I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.

      Vegan Love xo <3

  2. Hey Kristin

    What a great article and what a cute little tattoo!

    Congrats !

    Not enough people know about vegan tattoo inks, yet. I’ve written about this topic, too. Your pictures are gorgeous.

    Thanks for sharing ! Greetings from Berlin.

    • Hi Dee! Thanks so much! :) and wow, your article is awesome, so informative!! I’ll have to let you know when I make my way to Berlin. It will happen! Hopefully sooner rather than later. What’s the vegan scene like out your way? :)

  3. I am going to get my vegan tattoo soon. Going to have “The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”

    Just trying to find somewhere to buy vegan black ink.

  4. Osric

    Great story! Thanks for sharing it. You mention that getting a tattoo is cheaper in Chicago than Boston – did you ever find a Boston tattoo shop that uses vegan inks? I’ve called around but they were all able to find out pretty quickly that their inks weren’t vegan. Was your tattoo artist vegan too? :)

    • Hi! Thanks! :) Once I made the decision to get it done in Chicago I stopped looking at places in Boston. I did call around but didn’t get many responses regarding vegan ink. If there’s a place you’d like to get yours done I’d recommend purchasing the ink on your own and then asking if you can bring it in. I’m sure there are a few places that would be cool with it. Maybe just ask ahead of time. I don’t think my tattoo artist was vegan. Haha.. that would have been a fun coincidence, but I never asked. :)

  5. Oh awesome! When I found this post I didn’t realize it was going to contain my products! :) AND it’s so nice to put a face to a couple Stay True customers!

    If you come across any tattoo shops that you really love (in addition to Scapegoat) that use vegan inks, feel free to drop me a line as I’m compiling a database of vegan shops/artists for my site as a resource to people looking to get tattooed with vegan ink.

    Have a great day!
    Stay True Organics

  6. Kim

    Hi! I had read your blog when I found it on Kickstater, and I came across it again while researching vegan tattoos. I have been wanting a tattoo for more than 10 years. Now that I am vegan, I am going to be careful about the ink–but one of my other major concerns is toxicity. I have been reading that many inks are toxic and contain heavy metals and other ingredients that are not approved by the FDA for use in cosmetics. I was wondering if you had learned about this at all in your research and what your thoughts are on this?

  7. Shelby

    Hi Kristin!
    I found this blog post by accident, but wanted to stress my love for Brian at Scapegoat Tattoo. He is one of the coolest, nicest, and most patient dudes, and is also an incredibly talented artist. He did my favorite tattoo! I would recommend a trip to Portland anyway, but especially to get inked with Brian. He’s usually booked about 4-6 months in advance (a good sign!)
    An added plus: Scapegoat Tattoo is located in Portland’s ‘Vegan Mini Mall’ along with a vegan bakery, convenience store, and clothing store.

    • Kristin

      Hi Shelby,

      Thanks so much for the kind note. I was *just* in Portland last week and got a piece done by Aron Dubois, who works at Scapegoat. It’s my commemorate road trip tattoo and I absolutely love it! ( I also had a chance to meet Brian and chatted for a minute about my trip and how much I appreciate his help three years ago, when I got this first “vegan V” tattoo.

      My parents visited me while I was in Portland and my mom actually got her first tattoo ever, in their shop, from Cody. We now have matching “vegan V” wrist art. :) Hehe!

      Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment. I hope you’ll continue to follow along my journey. I’m almost done! Woo! :)

  8. I’m a vegan tattoo artist, and it’s good to hear more and more people are learning about the vegan tattoo process! It’s not just the ink, but other items used in the process that can contain animal products, so it’s important to do some research; I have all the details for what to be on the lookout for on my website if anyone needs a reference: I also have instructions on what to bring your artist to make it easy for them and for peace of mind that your tattoo is vegan inside and out! I also sell the only vegan tattoo stencil paper available for anyone interested (also on my site). Cute tattoo, love the story!


    • Kristin

      Thanks so much, Ashley! :) Where are you based?

  9. I’m currently tattooing at Atomic Tattoo in Austin, Texas – however I do travel and do guest spots from time to time :)

  10. Hello Kristin!
    Could you please show your tattoo more close?
    I really like how it looks like but i dont like the similar pictures on unternet, so I would really love to see exactly yours tattoo more close :)

    • Kristin

      Hi Valery! Here is a photo of my tattoo alongside my mom’s matching tattoo that she got just last year. I think it’s the best shot I have of it. :)

  11. Lyn

    Hi Kristen!

    I’m trying to search for a vegan tattoo parlor near the Boston area. Do you know, or have any tips on searching for one? Thanks!

    • Kristin

      Hi Lyn! I only know of one shop in the country that considers itself vegan, and that’s Scapegoat in Portland, OR. But I’m sure there are a number of places that use vegan inks. I’d suggest looking for an artist who’s work you really like and want to get, and contact them about the brands of ink that they use. This will ensure you’ll get the quality art you want while also opting for vegan inks. I’ve never gotten a tattoo in Boston so I don’t have any suggestions on shops, unfortunately. But, like I said, definitely find your artist first and then work from there. Or, that’s what I’d do. :) Best of luck!!

  12. Hello Kristin,

    Thanks for sharing your tattoo adventure. I recently got the word vegan tattoo on my wrist. It was done at Scapegoat in Portland by Allyson. I could not been happier with the result and where I got it. Oh’ this one was my first one as well. If you’re around Chicago let’s meet up for grubs and take pictures of our tats.


    • Kristin

      Hi Stephen!

      Awesome!! Yeah, I live in Chicago now so feel fee to send over an email when you’d like to make plans (kristinATwtfveganfoodDOTcom).:)

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