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Tips & Tricks

How To Add A Realistic Tattoo To a Person With Photoshop

By Kishore Sawh on June 21st 2014


I think the concept of using skin as a canvas is curious. I don’t have any tattoos, and in a day where it seems everyone and their mother has one, or four, I’m the odd man out, and I like that. Tattoos were somewhat of a rebellious experiment that stuck, and is, as such, culturally ingrained. The Tā moko of the Māori is cultural, and like beanies, sort of represent a bit of bohemian flare, with a dash of rebellious cool. Clearly, I’ve considered getting one, though I think now to be different, you don’t.

[REWIND: Learn How To Remove Anything From A Photo Using Photoshop]

But I think most people in the west have pondered what it would be like to get one. Some may have considered to the point of actively searching for just the right one; something meaningful perhaps? Or maybe just something interesting or beautiful. Either way, you never quite know what you’re going to end up with until it’s done. I suspect, that’s half the joy. Now, however, using Photoshop, you can get a pretty damn good idea, and Phlearn’s Aaron Nace offers his hand, and a chair, and talks you through it. Pain free.


The process is deceptive in that it can get quite intricate, but the fundamentals are actually easy to repeat. Aaron’s method is choice for a few reasons; it takes texture and light into proper consideration, and explains just how simple it is to take any image or design from a photo, and digitally stain your skin. The use of blending mode sliders to meticulously refine the image is an eye opener for many, and the touch of coloration also has huge impact, and they both help make the tattoo melt seamlessly into flesh.
 Here’s a quick example:


The difficulty for me came in when deciding to wrap tattoos around or set it to the curves of a body, but with some warping and vectoring, you really can achieve something surprising. It’s absolutely perfect for freaking out the family, and I guess you could use it as a preview to see if you like the design of one you’re considering for real. Get tatted up!

For more Photoshop tutorials by Phlearn, check out PHOTOSHOP 101 AND PHOTOSHOP 201 BY PHLEARN in the SLR Lounge store!

Source: Phlearn

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Will have to try

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  2. Santiago Montelongo

    How is that “mousepad” Aaron is using called? It looks really helpful when it comes to selecting.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Santiago, hi there. I’m assuming you’re referring to Aaron’s tablet. I believe he is using an Intuos Pro small, or could be the previous line of high end Intuos. They really are astonishingly helpful. I’ve done a review on the one I use, Intuos Pen and Touch, which you can search for or use the link below. I will be posting a review of the Intuos Pro Large shortly. Cheers

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  3. Tyler Friesen

    Awesome as always. Aaron is definitely one of the easiest to follow and is actually enjoyable for photoshop tutorials. Thank-you!

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  4. Greg Faulkner

    Cool tutorial

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  5. Anthony Thurston

    Very interesting…

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I picture you saying this slowly…as you stroke your goatee like Pai Mei. Just a thought

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  6. Spencer Bunting

    Aaron never ceases to amaze me with his tutorials.

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