Kuro Sumi tattoo ink is internationally known as one of the best tattoo ink brands for outlining and grey wash. The outlining ink they produce goes in easy, heals wonderfully and stays a true black color. Where did this mysterious yet famous brand come from? Our company has been a Kuro Sumi distributor for 5 years now and from my dealings with the brand and the companies behind it, it has been in my best interest to know what’s been going on with Kuro Sumi. I figured it would be an interesting history to tell from the distributor’s perspective.
Back in 2006, my partner Newton was sourcing new tattoo ink and came into contact with Technical Tattoo Supply. We established a friendly working relationship and were introduced to the brand, Kuro Sumi. The samples we used in the shop and gave to our customers came back with flying results. We were amazed and the pricing was great. This was when a 24 oz bottle of Kuro Sumi Outlining retailed for $19.99! We carried Kuro Sumi ever since and the Outlining and Grey wash has always been a best seller. We would order cases and cases and never worry about it not being able to sell.
Kuro Sumi is a vegan tattoo ink that has its origins in Japan. There has been speculation that it is a proprietary blend handed down from generations of Japanese tattoo artists. The carbon black pigment that is used in Kuro Sumi Outlining and Grey Wash ink is derived from the burning of plant material derived from a plant that is found in Japan. The resulting ashes from burning the plant are added to a suspension to create the ink. The exact process and percentage of ingredients is a guarded secret. So, despite the CI numbers and ingredients being listed on the bottle, it is unlikely someone will be able to duplicate the ink.
Technical Tattoo was one of the companies that had rights to distribute Kuro Sumi when it was first introduced to the American market and for many years following. The brand was imported via Ting Sin Sho Trading Co and distributed to wholesalers and retailers by Technical Tattoo Supply. It was during this time that Kuro Sumi expanded to its own line of color inks in addition to their bread and butter outlining and shading inks. They also expanded into creating many different blends of grey wash that included tints of Cherry, Bronze and Red. This addition of tinted grey wash is widely regarded as industry firsts.
Due to the brands success and unique bottle design, Kuro Sumi was one of the first tattoo ink brands to be copied en masse by China counterfeiters. From 2008 to 2010, listings of fake Kuro Sumi ink sets were all over Ebay, China tattoo supply sites, Amazon, etc.. Public awareness to counterfeit Kuro Sumi products came about when an article appeared in Intense! Ink Magazine written by Dave Muller titled “FAKE KURO SUMI INK”. This article, in conjunction with many online articles attempted to teach consumers how to identify fakes by looking at the CI numbers, bottle neck, lot numbers and labels. Another great follow up article to identifying fakes was featured in www.the-illustrated-man.blogspot.ca titled Ink Spots #1: How to Spot Fake Kuro Sumi. After an initial effort by Ebay and Amazon to get rid of counterfeit listings that boldly stated they were “authentic” Kuro Sumi ink. The counterfeiters resorted to keeping the same bottle designs, taking off the stickers and renaming the ink Kurjitsu Sumi or some other variation to get rid of their stock. I have it on good authority that Kuro Sumi will be implementing new safeguards to protect their brand, I do not believe I am in a position to divulge their new tactic to combat counterfeiters but the public will find out soon!
The brand continued to be distributed by Technical Tattoo Supply until late 2011. During this time there appeared to be some changes in the sales structure of the company. It was also during this time that we experienced a long blackout of supply for Kuro Sumi. To be honest, we were on the verge of eliminating the brand from our inventory completely at one point. We rediscovered Kuro Sumi in 2012 complete with a fantastic looking new website and distributor order system. We were contacted by an old friend that we met at Technical Tattoo who informed us that Kuro Sumi is alive and well. We were overjoyed to hear this and recommenced carrying this brand at once. Other changes to the brand include the production of the ink being moved from Japan to the USA. All the proprietary recipes have remained the same so you are still getting the same quality product, only now, it’s made in the USA!
If you are looking for Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, buy them here!