Home » Tattoos » Realism Tattoos: A Complete Guide With 85 Images

Realism Tattoos: A Complete Guide With 85 Images

The artistic movement of realism in the mid-19th century gave birth to realistic tattoos. Realism was born out of people’s desire to create images that resemble a photograph or a real 3D object. A realistic tattoo looks so realistic that the image often seems to jump straight from the flesh.

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

Making a tattoo of realism requires a lot of patience and an exceptional level of talent on the part of the tattoo artist to obtain the precise overlay and the level of detail required to produce an exceptional piece.

Realism Tattoos
Realism Tattoos

History of Realism Tattoos

Conceptual art without passion and archaic seemed to have made a visible divergence around 500 before our era with creations that imitate proportions and realistic elements. It was around this time that we started to see voluminous images that were rendered in human forms. During the High Renaissance period of the 1500s, a beautiful movement was emerging – that of realism in art.

Read also: Top Most 2020 Lavender Tattoos Searched On Net

Masters like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, and Rembrandt paved the way for their contemporaries to push the limits by illustrating life as close as possible to real life. They would use techniques such as perspective, measuring facial features, and Camera Obscura.

In the 18th century, artists such as Millet and Courbet pushed the envelope even further by borrowing the techniques of the old masters and adopting new philosophies to create representations of authentic life.

It was not until the invention of the camera that the realistic approach took on a whole new level. Realism tattoo artists are influenced by all of these tides in the history of the realism art form.

Also, read more: Traditional Tattoos: A Complete Guide With 85 Images

Does it hurt more to get a realism tattoo?

A realistic tattoo is much more detail-oriented than a traditional tattoo. Therefore, it may take longer. However, the pain you feel depends on where you want your tattoo to be drawn on your body and the artist who applies it.

Certain parts of the body, such as the ribs, are relatively more sensitive than other parts of the body. You will have to take into account that some artists naturally have a heavier hand.

If you are very sensitive to pain or feel uncomfortable sitting in one place for a long time, you should think about it more before you decide to get a tattoo. Talk to your artist, who will advise you on the estimated time it will take depending on the design you have chosen.

Read more about: Realistic Tattoos are timeless work of art

Techniques to Create Realism Tattoos

The age of YouTube has helped many realism tattoo enthusiasts who are passionate about learning and honing their skills. However, many artists of realism like to keep their skills secret.

Shadow mapping can be one of the main methods of creating a realistic tattoo. This technique consists in delimiting the zones of shade and the reflections using contour lines; resembling a topographic map. The artist also normally has the photographic plugged into the work area as he prepares to create his masterpiece.

The inks are normally configured as a color wheel. The shades used for mixing are normally held together for color matching and ease of placement on the skin.

Realism tattooers have their own special techniques and styles, but one thing remains constant; a lot of planning needs to be done in advance. A tattoo artist simply does not steal it. Creating a masterpiece of realism 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. Discover artists specializing in realistic tattoos. Just because an artist does large traditional tattoos doesn’t mean they can do a realistic tattoo. Try to be very specific and thorough when doing your research.

Once you have your recommendations, be sure to check out their portfolios. Talk with the artist about your tattoo choice and find out if he is comfortable with inking. Well done, a realistic tattoo is an exceptional job.

Do Realism Tattoos Have Contours?

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

Types of Realism Tattoos

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

Black and gray realism

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

Color realism

As the name suggests, realism in color adds the element of color. Creating a color piece requires a lot of time and a high level of focus. Most often, the artist needs several layers in order to obtain the desired end result.

Realism tattoo artists and their styles

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

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

All of these artists mentioned have already established their names and skills, so 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 changed and they deserve to be noted. The artists based there, especially the resident artists of Studio by Sol, have revolutionized the realistic tattoo style and given it a different approach.

Whether they choose to reproduce a work of art, a beautiful botanical creation or a photorealistic portrait, you cannot miss the definitive influence of watercolor.

Korean artists such as Sol, Saegeem, Heemee and Youyeon storm the world of realistic tattooing with their delicate works of ethereal realism. They reproduced fruits, gems, portraits and even planes with the discovery of a new way to subtly mix styles when drawing realistic tattoos.

This technique helps limit problems such as aging watercolor. Many of them apply a thin black outline which attenuates the spread of pigments over time.

Design Ideas for Realism Tattoos

When trying to inspire yourself for a realistic tattoo, the choices are endless. Experienced realism can turn almost anything that can be captured on film into a perfect tattoo. There are, however, subjects that tend to be widely chosen and used in the world of realistic tattooing.


One of the most common and popular realism style designs is portraits. Many customers want their loved ones to be immortalized on their skin, while others choose their favorite celebrities, their portraits or their pets.

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


The next in line for popular realism tattoo applications is nature. It ranges from landscapes to flowers and animals. A flower is a simple subject option for someone interested in a realistic tattoo and is not ready to take up space on their body for a large-scale project.

For those who wish to experience a masterpiece on a large scale, a landscape would be a good choice to try.

Macabre themes

Those who love gore and macabre themes have found new love in realism tattoos. You can get 3D effects on realism tattoos, therefore, get effects like torn flesh, oozing blood and anything scary. For those looking to create a crawling skin effect, a realistic tattoo is the way to go.

Worldly inspiration

Most tattoo artists will admit being inspired by the things around them in the world at large. The artists are inspired by everyday events and things. Paintings with shadows, people, architecture and engineering.

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

Our suggestions:

Neo-Traditional Tattoos: A Complete Guide With 85 Images

The tattoo in fashion: history and curiosities

ELIXIR: effective, clean, vegan, beautiful

Heleena on cultural appropriation in tattooing