Just like a well-done tattoo, the documentary Color Outside the Lines tells an important story through fine details and bold style. Internationally renowned tattoo artist and City of Ink parlor owner Miya Bailey and filmmaker Artemus Jenkins teamed up over the past three years to create the Kickstarter-financed film, which spotlights Black tattoo artists throughout the country who share their personal trials, obstacles and successes in a predominantly white industry. Recently, Complex Magazine and City of Ink hosted a private screening of Color Outside the Lines in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, much to the delight of Tri-state tatt lovers. A bevy of beautiful, brown people of all ages and sizes, including the team at Bailey’s City of Ink in Georgia and twin punk fashionistas Coco & Breezy, had eagerly turned up for the event.


From the fresh cinematography to the colorful tattoo artist characters, the Color Outside the Lines hits its mark in many a scene, including Bailey’s recounting his path to stardom on a trip home to the South and the no holds barred conversation had with each character. While mainly race and identity serve as a shared talking points, discussions on family, community, gender, class and much more ultimately round the documentary out, allowing for even the most anti-tattoo viewer to actually find themselves relating to those who dwell in the ink industry. At one point, a female artist interestingly touches on the nuanced differences in the ways men tattoo customers in comparison to women, yet not much else was spoken about the matter.


Pioneers such as the first African-American tattoo artist Jacci Gresham and celebrity favorite Zulu contribute to the dialog by voicing difficulties they faced decades ago when first entering the white-only tattoo scene. Then, these are the wildly talented, game changing contemporary artists like Tuki Carter who understand where they came from, yet still strive to push the boundaries of tattooing Black skin. Those viewers who have long wished to get a tattoo, yet have had second thoughts due to the color of their skin, will definitely be reassured because the documentary also addresses the who, what, why, where, and how questions about tattooing Black skin of all shades and the proper techniques, as well as the various illustration and drawings developed with darker skin in mind.

Beauty may be skin deep, but a tattoo is forever. Color Outside the Lines reminds us to challenge the mundane, embrace uncertainty and continuously strive for one’s dreams.

Check out City of Ink’s website to find out where the documentary will be screened next.