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What if you could get a piece of artwork on your entire back and make it seem like it’s been carved out of your skin?

Badass tattoos come in all shapes and sizes — and styles. And nothing is arguably more badass looking than the “holy crap that’s a tattoo” feel of realism tattoos.

What’re Realism Tattoos?

realism back tattoo
Photo from Bored Panda on Pinterest

Realism tattoo is a photorealistic image meant to look as convincing as it does on a photo, artwork, or even film. It’s incredibly detailed that you’d do a double take when you see one, just to figure out if this body art is momentary ink stuck to your skin.

How are Realism Tattoos Done?

Artists who focus on this style of tattooing use several techniques to capture that double take effect. One of the most popular one is 3D. So 3D is not another name for realism tattoo. An artist using it relies on its lifelike impression.

Like every tattoo, realistic tattoos begin with the drawing or stencil. The mapping of shadows on the photo are crucial to the process of creating this ink. Artists also focus on the outlines of shade, highlighting these lines as though it was a topographic map.

Any experienced artist also sets up the ink according to the ease in which these will be applied to the skin. In all, realism tattoos are done in an organized way because it demands painstaking detail as well as accuracy to get the “holy crap it’s a tattoo” impact.

And because every realistic tattoo needs intricacy, you’ll likely spend several hours getting tattooed. It’s similar to the detailed work on any neo traditional tattoo, and depending on the scale and subject, also calls for lengthy sessions with your tattoo artist.

Realism Tattoos Aren’t Just Portraits

tattoo of a beautiful woman
Photo from on Pinterest

You may think realistic tattoos are just about portraits of people; most tattoos in this style use faces of people — sometimes famous people, from Hollywood celebs to superstar athletes. But other subjects will work for realism tattoo.

Animal Faces

Gorilla Tattoo by Led Coult
Photo from on Pinterest

A portrait tattoo of your beloved pet would be a good tribute to an animal that has passed away. You could also choose to tattoo birds of prey, a fierce wolf or a tiger, or a massive gorilla.


shoulder tattoo of a landscape
Photo from Inked Magazine on Pinterest

Have a special place, do you? If that special place happens to be a forest, a beach, the mountains — you’ve got to get a photo realistic tattoo of that natural scenery. Pay homage to your happy place or just have something detailed to stare at when you’re bored.

Pop Culture

Joker tattoo
Photo from Creapills on Pinterest

Your options for realism tattoos using pop culture could be endless if you love every blockbuster or Oscar-worthy movies. If you’re not into movies, maybe you’re into manga, collectible toys, pop art, or whatever’s going on in social media.

The Skull

large skull tattoo
Photo from Next Luxury on Pinterest

Do you see why the skull is a tremendous motif? It can be done in any style, from abstract and black and grey to graffiti style and Japanese style tattoo. Depending on what kind of look you want or meaning you want to convey, your cranial tattoo could be gaunt and arty; medieval; asymmetrical and slightly inhuman.


tattoo of a man smoking
Photo from iNKPPL Tattoo Magazine on Pinterest

When it comes to music tattoos, the subject be an instrument you play (or aspire to play) or a musician you revere (who may still be walking among us or not). And there are numerous designs to think about, but you want to be sure about your pick. Because you don’t want to get a famous musician inked only to hate them after (maybe you were into Kanye West before he started getting all weird — too weird for your taste) and have the tattoo lasered off.

Religious Symbols

Arm tattoo of Jesus
Photo from Tattoo2Me Tatuagem on Pinterest

What’s your religion? What do you believe in? Religious symbols sometimes make for outstanding rib tattoos for men and women, especially if it’s depicting an entire tableau. You could also get a design focusing on religious items, like prayer beads, rosary, a cross — or try doing a version of John Wick’s back tattoo to fit the placement of your ink.

Other photo realistic tattoos to consider are nautical themes, popular works of art, from paintings to sculptures, elements of time, seascapes, landmarks and a string of others. When you’ve picked your subject, you’ll want to think about the inks your artist will use because some realism tattoos don’t always look fresh years later.

Do Realism Tattoos Age Well?

Tattoo of Keanu Reeves
Photo from iNKPPL Tattoo Magazine on Pinterest

Here’s the downside to some realism tattoos: they don’t age well. Like a Hollywood heavy who used to run the town but has now fallen on hard times and shunned by VIPs, old realistic tattoos fade over time. They lose they’re “holy crap it’s a tattoo” impact after years. This happens to tattoos that have less saturation and shading.

Gray portrait tattoos usually don’t look good when it’s been on you for a long while. Tattoos that have been exposed to too much sun also lose their lifelike impression. Skin regeneration is also a factor in aging realistic tattoos; the loss of skin elasticity affects the heavy detail work on your ink.

Think of the photo realistic tattoo on your arm or leg as a photograph that has been exposed to harsh elements.

So what do you do?

If you can get some color on your tattoo design, do it. Think of the placement of your tattoo; if you’re not the type to walk around without a shirt on outdoors, maybe get inked on your chest or back. And ask your tattoo artist about aftercare.

Realism tattoos, with the right motif and the artist, are badass. They make anyone look twice, eyeing every detail. But know you’re going to spend several hours getting it done. So choose your design well and work with your artist to come up with body art that’s going to be spellbinding for years to come.

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