Hyper Realistic tattoo

Tattoo art has come a long way since its beginning. Though there is still a timeless beauty to the classic tattoo art styles, modern advances in equipment and techniques along with new creative minds rapidly emerging on the scene have paved the way for many fascinating new tattoo art styles. Though many of these styles have been seen in the art world for quite some time, they are still fairly new when taken in the context of the 12,000-year-old history of tattoos. The style we’d like to showcase today is realism.

When looking at the totality of tattooing’s sorted past, tattoo realism, also called photorealism or hyperrealism, is a fairly recent addition to the expansive world of tattoos styling. Realistic tattoos are inspired by the Realism Art Movement which was launched in France in the 1850s.

Hyper Realistic tattoo
Hyper Realistic tattoo
Hyper Realistic tattoo


Tattooing has been around for thousands of years. Throughout its existence particular canons emerged that are still equally important and applicable till this day. 

Realistic or photo-realism tattoos are inspired by the Realism Art Movement which began in France in the 1850s after the 1848 revolution.

The goal of Realism was to combat the tendencies of the Romantic period, which had dominated French literature and art since the late 1800’s. Realists rejected the idea of Romanticism which focussed on exaggerated emotionalism and drama. The Realistic period instead was aimed on concentrating on common objects and ordinary people and situations, utilizing truth and accuracy and portraying it artistically.

Realistic tattoos most commonly depict portraits or landscapes that mimic the fine detail of a photograph. Artists and tattoo collectors tend to prefer doing these pieces in black and grey, as it can be really difficult to capture the colors of a photograph and the tones of black and grey provide significant depth to a tattoo. The style is also called photo-realism and not all tattoo artists are able to master this style.

Hyper Realistic tattoo

What are the basic types of realism tattoos?

The popularity of the realistic arts grew with the introduction of photography — which created a desire for people to produce representations which look “objectively real.” Despite only having been around since the 1850s has grown so popular it quickly transformed into a modern classic.

The two basic styles of realism tattoo art are black and grey realism and color realism. Black and grey just like the name suggests, only utilizes black and grey ink, creating effects akin to a black and white photo. Black and grey is by far the easier of the two styles to master. By eliminating color, the artist is able to focus their full attention on details and shading.

Full-color realism, on the other hand, adds a whole extra element to the equation. Not only do full-color realism tattoos require an extreme level of concentration and skill, but they can also be quite time-consuming. Often requiring multiple detailed layers to achieve the final results. When done well, however, the final product can look real enough to reach out and grab!


The Trouble with Realism

Realistic tattoo keeps getting more insane by the hour, and ink aficionados can reap incredibly aesthetic rewards from replicating 3D graphics on their skin.

With many arguing that the use of several degrees of lighter shading and lack of defined outlines employed in realistic tattoos created a finished product that fades quickly and doesn’t stand the test of time. The true answer to this question, however, isn’t so black and white as many other factors besides the style of tattoo come into play when we talk about tattoo longevity.

Hyper Realistic tattooThere are specific techniques that make a realism tattoo look true to life, but these same traits make them susceptible to fading. Realistic-looking tattoos are created with minimal line work and a lot of gradual shading to create the desired life-likeness and achieve the effects of light and shade. If in such work a minimal amount of black ink is used, the tattoo will be prone to faster fading—more so than a tattoo with a solid amount of black in it. Light shading and less saturation equals more fading.

Small details and light shading will often fade quicker than dark black lines or ultra-saturated colour work, there are measures both you and your tattoo artist can take to help the finished product look good for longer. First, it’s important to find an artist who specializes in this style and has extensive practice properly applying the ink for realistic tattoos. Another factor that comes into play is the quality of the ink pigments being used, as lower quality inks will fade quicker regardless of tattoo style. Finally, how you care for your tattoo both while it’s healing and over the long term is crucial. Be sure to protect your tattoo from the sun as harsh UV rays can quickly degrade even the most meticulously applied ink.

Ink is spread too thinly or low quality Inks used.

Traditionally, tattoos were made to last a lifetime. This meant using a high quality ink and applying it in a way that would last. The introduced complexity and need for whisper thin shading means that ink is spread too thinly and will therefore naturally fade over time. We also commonly see low-quality inks used which are prone to fading, especially if they are being used sparsely for this kind of shading. If in doubt, ask your tattoo artist about the quality of inks being used.

Sufficient aftercare is not given to these tattoos.

Aftercare is arguably the most important part of the tattoo process, ensuring that what the tattoo artist brought to life on the skin heals without becoming infected and lasts a long time. After a tattoo, the skin has become irritated and needs to heal and be kept sanitary in the same way as any other irritation to the skin would have to be. Not following the correct aftercare procedures, or not being given sufficient information is another reason why we have seen these tattoos go wrong in cases brought to us.

Skin can stretch and sag.

Skin is the largest organ in our body. It is living and moving just like the rest of our bodies, meaning that it is prone to stretching and sagging over time. A lot of the cases of disfigured tattoos brought to us are because the skin has naturally moved, stretched or sagged as the customers body has over time. Although there is no real way to prevent this natural process, you can reduce the effects this has on tattoos by considering getting realistic tattoos in places that are less prone to stretching or sagging in coming years.

So we thought we’d shed some light on the situation and put together in the cases we’ve seen. These are for you to consider before booking your next tattoo, so you can make a more informed choice before spending your hard earned cash on your next ink session.

What ideas can you make in realism style?

In the case of tattoos, the results can often appear so lifelike that they tend to jump right off the flesh. Realism tattoos require extreme patience and exceptional talent on the part of the tattoo artist in order to achieve the amount of detail and layering necessary to provide a truly breathtaking work of art.

Hyper Realistic tattoo

When it comes to picking an image for a photorealistic tattoo, the sky is the limit! Pretty much anything that can be seen or captured on film can be turned into the perfect tattoo by an experienced artist.

Hyper Realistic tattooThat being said, there are a few subjects that tend to be the most popular choices for realism tattoos. One of the most common and popular standbys are portraits. These can vary from portraits of loved ones to celebrities or even pets. Many realism tattoo artists specialize entirely on realistic portraits, making them the bread and butter of the realism tattoo industry.

Another eye-catching subject for realism tattoo is nature. This can range from incredibly detailed flowers or animals to vast landscapes. Smaller subjects like flowers can be a nice option for someone wanting a piece of realism without devoting the space for a large-scale project. A landscape, on the other hand, can be a beautiful option for a large-format tattoo.

Fans or gore and the macabre have also developed a love for realism tattoo. The 3D effects that can be achieved with realism lend themselves well to torn flesh and all things spooky, perfect for making someone’s skin crawl if that’s the effect you’re going for!

But the possibilities don’t end there. When it comes to realism tattoo, the inspiration is all around you!

Realism tattoo artists are masterfully skilled in mimicking old photos and transforming them into ink work using small, thin, yet visible brush strokes. The extra fine lines of the bike wheels and the footwear of the gentleman are amazing quality, and hallmarks of new tattoo ideas.

How to choose a realism tattoo artist

Hyper Realistic tattooLet’s be realistic: being tasked to create a significant likeness from a faded snapshot or group photo is a less than ideal situation for your tattoo artist. Of course they want to give you an accurate representation of your loved one, but someone should consider taking a different approach to creating a memorable representation by translating the image into a slightly different style that will preserve some level of likeness while saving the finished tattoo from turning into a shipwreck with time—with the competent suggestion of your tattoo artist.

Of course, if you’re considering a new portrait—or any other style tattoo—we recommend that you thoroughly research any potential artists and their portfolios.

Unfortunately, many hyper realistic tattoos you see on social media or in digital portfolios are Photoshopped. A lot of tattooers edit their photos to bump contrast, sharpen details, change colour, and remove redness. For these reasons, the blacks and whites in a photographed tattoo online, especially when fresh, rarely look like that in person.

The decision of picking the right artist for your realism tattoo should not be taken lightly. When going for realism, experience is really important. Look through portfolios until you find someone whose style is a perfect match for what you envision.

As a client, it’s important that you research tattoo artists, set up consultations, and speak to the artist about their process. Ask questions when you’re unsure, like “How do you make sure this tattoo heals to look as good in the long term?” Look for healed photos in the artists’ portfolios and don’t always believe that spending more money on a tattoo means it’s going to be better than one that costs less.

When in doubt, simplify the design. Go for something you know will heal well, or set realistic expectations about what your tattoo will look like in the future. If you’re okay with a tattoo that looks incredible for the initial photograph and heals decently, but not necessarily the same as it looked when it was fresh, then by all means —find an artist that loves to go crazy with tiny details.

Many of the best realism artists typically work in smaller areas, preferring multiple sittings and capping the length of the tattoo session. They also take the piece as a whole into consideration and strategize how to incorporate all the necessary details without adding time (and unnecessary skin trauma) to the procedure without reason.

Even for people who don’t like or are actively against tattooing, photo-realistic tattoos still command respect.

Whereas anyone can tattoo with some basic training, photo-realistic tattoos can only be done by bone fide artists.