Design Tools

Russ Abbott & Color Theory

Russ Abbott & Color Theory

Most of you know Russ Abbott as the accomplished tattooer who pushes all the boundaries: from founding Tattoo Smart to creating 3D models. But long before these innovations, Russ cut his teeth as an entrepreneur in solving one major problem: helping tattoo artists understand color theory. 

Early in his career, Russ began speaking and teaching about the foundations of color theory. His seminar, originally named “The Tattooist’s Palette” was well-attended by hundreds of fellow artists, and Russ quickly realized he needed a tangible way to communicate these complex topics to the masses. (psst! This seminar is now available for FREE!)

In 2014, Russ launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring to life the Abbott Color Wheel (ACW), an interactive info-graphic that organized Eternal Ink’s entire tattoo ink gamut on a traditional color wheel.


Each pigment was precisely measured and carefully arranged by hue, value, and saturation. By viewing the ACW through its attached masks, artists could quickly visualize a range of color schemes to use in any project.



With backers from all over the world, the campaign was wildly successful and raised over $37,000! The Abbott Color Wheel was produced and distributed to tattooers, helping artists incorporate smart color theory decisions into their designs. Russ became known as the go-to tattooer for all things color theory and was even tapped by Guy Aitchison to write the Color Theory Chapter in Reinventing The Tattoo

From those early days, Russ’s thoughts and tools have permeated the entire tattoo industry! And now, other artists are taking this information and creating their own content to better educate their audiences. That Tattoo Show recently shared A Complete Guide to Colour Theory for Tattooists on YouTube, using Russ’s principles and designs. Paul and Chris are great guys, and we appreciate them crediting Russ and Tattoo Smart for the information provided within the tutorial. So, check out the video, give ‘em a like and subscribe!

If you’re curious to learn more, Tattoo Smart currently offers several Color Tools to help you get started on your journey:

  1. Russ’s Color Theory Seminar (FREE!) We were so encouraged by this resurgence in interest in learning color theory and have decided to place Russ’s entire Color Theory Seminar available on Tattoo Smart for FREE! Be sure to grab your copy and start learning how to make better informed color choices. 

  1. Color Theory for Tattooists eBook (FREE!) The 20 page primer on color theory, packed with info you can immediately apply to your color tattoo work. Available in both English and Spanish.

  1. The Digital Abbott Color Wheel: Digital Kit Just as good as the original hard copy, only a digital file. This kit is extremely versatile and compatible with Adobe Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, and (of course) Procreate. The ACW Digital Kit also includes a video of Russ’s Color Theory Seminar. 

  1. The Abbot Color Wheel Digital Poster This digital download includes a PDF poster of the Abbott Color Wheel, along with a smaller .jpg image that can be useful as a digital version to select Eternal Ink colors for use in Adobe Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, and Procreate. The digital poster also includes a video of Russ's Color Theory Seminar.

Reading next