The Original Black & Grey

Updated: Jun 20

Originating in Los Angeles prisons, before the term black and grey was used, it was referred to as "jailhouse" or "joint style" art. Prisoners would construct tattoo machines with only what was available, using limited materials such as pen ink and guitar strings for needles. In the late '70s and early '80s, it became known in tattoo parlours as black and grey.


Black and grey tattoos are created using black ink and a range of light shades. A mixture known as "grey-wash" allows the artist to produce various shades by diluting the ink. Using a technique of blending deep black tones into lighter, softer shades creates contrast and depth in the artwork. A respected skill in the industry.

One of the most iconic and influential Los Angeles-based artists, better known as Mr. Cartoon, is most known for his signature tattoo style and graffiti skills. Starting off young in the game, airbrushing his art onto lowrider cars before practicing the "Fineline" style of tattooing.


The most influential black and grey artwork came from Chicano roots, illustrating Mexican culture and religion. Celebrating and memorializing family members and loved ones through photo-realistic portraits. Cartoon, along side other LA based artists are respected and admired for what they have contributed to the culture.


Black and grey tattooing grew to become a desired art throughout the world. It has come a long way, and still continues to progress and impress.

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