Realism Tattoos

The realism art movement of the mid-19th century is what gave birth to realism tattoos. Realism came to be as a result of people’s desire to create images that look similar to a photograph or a real-life 3D object. A realism tattoo looks so lifelike that the image often appears to be jumping right off the flesh. 

Realism tattoos have opened the door to a vast playground for tattoo collectors around the world. The nature of realism tattoos has made it possible to represent different designs, styles and concepts within the same genre. As long as something can be seen with the naked eye, the artist can recreate a masterpiece from it.

Getting a realism tattoo done requires a lot of patience and an exceptional level of talent from the tattoo artist for them to achieve the precise layering and level of detail required to produce an outstanding piece.

History of Realism Tattoos

Passionless and archaic conceptual art seemed to have made a visible divergence around 500 BCE to creations that imitate realistic proportions and elements. It’s during this time that we started to see bulky images that were rendered into human forms. By the High Renaissance period of the 1500s, a beautiful movement was coming to be—one of realism within art. 

Masters like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian and Rembrandt set the stage for their contemporaries to push the boundaries in illustrating life as closely as they could to real life. They would use techniques such as perspective, measuring facial features and Camera Obscura. 

By the 18th century, artists such as Millet and Courbet pushed the envelope even further by borrowing the Old Masters’ techniques and embracing new philosophies to create depictions of authentic life. 

It wasn’t until the invention of the camera that the realistic approach took off to a whole new level. Realism tattoo artists are influenced by all these tides in the history of the realism art form. 

Does It Hurt More to Get a Realism Tattoo?

A realism tattoo is much more detail-oriented than a traditional tattoo. Therefore, it may take longer to get done. The pain you feel, however, is dependent on the specific location on your body you intend to have your tattoo drawn and the artist applying it. 

Certain parts of the body, such as the ribs, are relatively more sensitive than other body parts. You’ll have to put into consideration that some artists just naturally have a heavier hand. 

If you’re highly sensitive to pain or you get easily uncomfortable sitting in one spot for a long period of time, you should give it more thought before you decide to get a realism tattoo done. Speak to your artist, who will advise you on the estimated duration of time that he/she will take depending on your chosen design. 

Techniques to Create Realism Tattoos

The age of YouTube has helped many realism tattoo enthusiasts who have the passion to learn and sharpen their skills. Many realism artists, however, like to keep their skills under wraps. 

Mapping of shadows may perhaps be one of the main methods of creating a realism tattoo. This technique involves outlining areas of shade and highlights using contour lines; resembling a topographic map. The artist also normally has the photographic source tapped to the working area as they prepare to create their masterpiece. 

Inks are normally set up like a color wheel. The tints that are used for mixing are normally kept together for color matching and ease in placement on the skin. 

Realism tattoo artists have their own special techniques and styles, but one thing remains constant; a lot of planning has to be done beforehand. A tattoo artist simply does not wing it. Creating a realism masterpiece requires a lot of technical training and natural skill. 

How Do You Find the Right Realism Tattoo Artist?

Prepare, prepare, prepare! Getting a realism tattoo artist requires a lot of research and planning. Find out about artists who specialize in realism tattoos. Just because an artist does great traditional tattoos, does not mean that they are capable of doing a realism tattoo. Try to be very specific and thorough as you do your research. 

Once you have your recommendations, make sure to check out their portfolios. Discuss with the artist on your tattoo choice and find out if he or she is comfortable with inking it. Done right, a realism tattoo is an exceptional piece of work. 

Do Realism Tattoos Have Outlines?

Traditional tattoos use stark black outlines, however, realism tattoos utilize gradual shading and layering to create 3D effects that are synonymous with realism designs. The fact that there are no clearly defined outlines adds on to the feeling that you can reach out and grab the person or object depicted in the realism tattoo artwork. 

Types of Realism Tattoos

There are two main types of realism tattoos; black and grey realism and color realism. 

Black and Grey Realism

Black and grey realism tattoos only use black and grey ink. The effect created on the skin mimics that of a black and white photo. The black and grey style is relatively easier to master than the full-color style. The artist is able to focus entirely on details and shading without adding color to factor in. 

Full-Color Realism

As the name suggests, full-color realism adds the element of color. Creating a full-color piece requires a lot of time and a high level of concentration. More often than not, the artist requires multiple layers in order to get the final desired result. 

Realism Tattoo Artists and Their Styles

There are various styles of realism tattooing and different artists tend to have their own individual preferences. Chris Rigoni, a spectacular realism tattoo artist, has a combination of styles. He uses illustrative, pop art, abstract and realistic forms to create pieces that are very unique to him. 

There are artists such as Fred Thomas, Freddy Negrete Ralk Nonnweiler, Inal Bersekov and Chuey Quintanar who exclusively stick to black and grey realism. Artists such as Antonina Troshina, Phil Garcia, Steve Butcher, Liz Venom and Dave Corden are widely known for their impressive saturated color realism tattoos. 

All of these artists mentioned have already established their names and skill sets, therefore, they can specialize and have the luxury of choosing to accept or decline projects based on their own personal creative goals. 

Tattoo artists in Seoul, Korea, have really evolved and they are worth noting. The artists based there, specifically the Studio by Sol resident artists, have revolutionized the realism tattoo style and given it a different take. 

Whether they choose to reproduce a fine art piece, a lovely botanical creation or a photorealist portrait, you can’t miss the definite watercolor influence. 

Korean artists such as Sol, Saegeem, Heemee and Youyeon are taking the realism tattoo-world by storm with their delicate works of ethereal realism. They have reproduced fruits, gems, portraits and even airplanes with the discovery of a new way subtly blending styles when drawing realistic tattoos. 

This technique helps to curb out issues such as aging from watercolor. Many of them apply a thin black outline that mitigates the spreading of pigments over time. 

Design Ideas for Realism Tattoos

When trying to get inspiration for a realism tattoo, the choices are endless. An experienced realism artist can turn practically anything that can be captured on film to a perfect tattoo. There are, however, subjects that tend to be widely picked and used in the realism tattoo world. 


Portraits are one of the most common and popular realism-style designs. Many customers want their loved ones immortalized on their skins, while others choose their favorite celebrities, portraits of themselves or their pets. 

There are many realism tattoo artists who specialize solely in realistic portraits because they are the most requested realism tattoo design in the tattoo industry.  


Next in line for popular realism tattoo requests is nature. This ranges from landscapes to flowers and animals. A flower is a simple subject option for someone interested in a realism tattoo and isn’t ready to invest the space on their body for a large scale project. 

For those who are willing to experiment with a large scale masterpiece, a landscape would be a good choice to try. 

Macabre Themes

Those who are into gore and the macabre themes have found a new love in realism tattoos. You can achieve 3D effects on realism tattoos, therefore, achieving effects such as torn flesh, oozing blood and all things spooky. For those looking to create a skin-crawling effect, a realism tattoo is the way to go. 

Worldly Inspiration

Most tattoo artists will admit to being inspired by things around them in the world at large. Artists get inspiration from everyday events and things. From paintings to shadows, people, architecture and engineering. 

The beauty of realism is that one can bring all beautiful and emotionally stimulating things together and represent it on a moving canvas that is the body. The possibilities in terms of design are endless. With realism tattoos, you can get inspiration just by looking outside.

Best Realism Tattoos