Where do black and grey tattoo designs come from? You may know that it’s rooted in the art of jails and prisons. These tattoos are black and grey not because of some kind of aesthetic reason, but because of the necessity. Prisoners have been using safety pen as tattooing machine and burned paper as an ink: that’s why the only colors were black and different shades of gray. After getting out of the prison, the inmates popularized the art among their criminal friends.