Tattoos are a complex form of art and as such come in many different styles and techniques.
Depending on what the client wants to have painted on their skin, there are endless stylistic possibilities to help them express their message better.
One of the most popular - and impressive- styles in modern-day tattoo art is realism. This particular technique is perfect for realising realistic photographic portraits, but it requires incredible training and not all artists are capable of doing it.
Today we’ll guide you through a spectacular journey to discover tattoo realism and why finding the right artist for it is essential…
What Is Realism? And How Did It Evolve Into A Tattoo Style?
Realism as an artistic style started developing in France at the end of the 19th century. Born as a counterpart to Romanticism, this movement focuses on giving an honest depiction of reality as it is, rather than how it is perceived. It evolved in a tattoo style in a rather natural way, as people enjoyed the thought of bringing their favourite picture along on their bodies.
From the very beginning, tattoos have played an important role in helping people express their feelings and beliefs in an artistic way. Some might decide to decorate their skin in a symbolic way, using suggestive subjects, while some others might prefer to get a realistic portrait of someone -or something- that they love.
There’s literally no limit as to what you want to see on your skin!
One of the most common examples of realistic tattoos are the ones that people get to honour or remember a member of their family: after all, this is the natural evolution of carrying a picture of your loved ones in your wallet!
But you don’t necessarily need a philosophical reason to get a piece in a style you enjoy: sometimes you simply find yourself more drawn to a certain style than to others.
Black And Grey Realism: All You Need To Know...
When talking about tattoo realism there are many things to take into consideration and many questions that a client might have before getting one.
Let’s begin by saying that although there are many different variations on the genre of realism -or photorealism-, when talking about it people usually think of black and grey realism.
Here’s everything you need to know before getting your realistic piece done…
#1 What Does A Realistic Tattoo Look Like?
As the name might suggest, a realistic piece aims at portraying reality as it is without any supernatural elements or symbols. This means that usually, a black and grey realistic tattoo looks like a 3D picture of the subject you have chosen for your piece.
But far from being an aseptic depiction of reality, a realistic tattoo can convey incredible emotions through the wise use of shadows and blending techniques.
Despite the lack of supernatural elements, a black and grey artwork can inspire a wide range of feelings, especially if the chosen subject is a family member that it’s no longer with you.
On the other hand, a poorly-executed realistic tattoo can be a form of embarrassment.
#2 Will It Last Like Other Styles?
When it comes to black and grey realistic artworks, many people might think that they are prone to age differently than other styles. And they are not wrong!
Let’s start by stating the obvious: all tattoo styles are realised differently. In the case of traditional old-school tattoos, you will find your design securely encased in a bold black outline.
While for a realistic piece, where the reality is depicted as it is -and no one has a bold outline in real life- this is not present. Realistic pieces are done through shading, highlighting and can appear much less “stable” than other styles.
The way in which your tattoo will age depends on many factors, starting from the tattoo artist and subject that you have chosen and ending with the aftercare.
Generally speaking a well-executed black and grey realistic piece will age just as gracefully as other styles.
#3 Does A Realistic Tattoo Hurt More?
Another common question that arises when getting a new tattoo done is how much will it hurt and if certain styles hurt more than others.
Tattoos, in general, tend to hurt. The pain that comes from getting new ink can range from an annoying stinging sensation to a debilitating pain that could even cause you to pass out.
While many tattoo enthusiasts think that pain is a fundamental part of the process, others would go to great lengths to avoid feeling anything.
If your realistic tattoo is going to hurt, and how much, depends on different factors. For example, pain varies depending on the area of the body you’re getting inked on and if it’s on scar tissue.
A tattoo could also hurt less or more depending on the hand of the artist. There’s no scientific way to determine if a realistic tattoo will hurt more or less than other styles, but let’s say that the lack of bold outline and colours can actually make this style one of the less painful to get! The process cream the artist uses can help calm the skin, reduce redness and keep the skin feeling flattered for longer, really helpful in heavy shading areas.
#4 How Long Does It Take To Get It Done?
Realistic tattoos heavily rely on portraying fine details and conveying emotions through painstakingly executed shadows. Being this detail-oriented, it’s no surprise that they might take longer than other styles to get done!
But again, it all depends on the size of the artwork, the subject, and the tattoo artist.
#5 How Much Does A Realistic Black And Grey Tattoo Cost?
Once again, the most correct answer to this is: ‘it depends’.
First, it depends on your tattoo artist: if they charge hourly rates or not, and, if so, how much it is. For larger pieces of work, most artists will charge a daily or half daily rate. For larger or more detailed pieces, several sittings may be needed.
Then, it depends on the subject. Smaller subjects take less time and, even if your tattoo artist is not charging you by the hour, it’s obviously going to cost much less than a full sleeve.
Discuss this with the tattoo artist you have chosen beforehand.
#6 Is Aftercare Any Different?
Aftercare is an essential part of getting any new ink done. Many tattoos age poorly because they haven’t been treated correctly and that’s a shame.
This is even more essential for realistic tattoos, which could potentially fade faster if it’s not treated right.
The right tattoo aftercare aims at healing and rejuvenating your skin after each session and in doing so ensures that each colour stays as vibrant as it first was when you left the tattoo studio.
Our range of aftercare products is rich in organic ingredients that have incredible healing and soothing effects on sensitive and tattooed skins.
Finding A Good Subject Idea For Your Realistic Tattoo…
An essential step to take before every new tattoo is choosing the right subject: if it’s said that nothing lasts forever, that surely doesn’t apply to tattoos!
If you want a realistic piece done, you have literally countless possibilities. Some of the most loved options are:
#1 Naturalistic Subjects
Naturalistic subjects such as flowers and landscapes are the perfect subject for a realistic black and grey tattoo. Wildlife and animals in action or in their natural habitat make amazing subjects as the amount of detail can be breathtaking.
#2 Loved Ones
Tattoos often hold a symbolic meaning to those who have them. Realistic tattoos of loved ones are extremely common as a form of commemoration but, also, as a way to just be able to show everyone how lovely and dear to you your family is.
Who doesn’t love their pets? Many of us even carry their pictures around to show them to all of our friends and coworkers. By getting a realistic portrait of your pets you will be able to keep their memory dear long after they have passed.
There’s no limit to what you can get as a realistic tattoo and to some, this means getting a piece that honours their passions. You can find realistic portraits of movie scenes, actors, objects, and religious subjects.
How To Prepare For Your Next Tattoo…
Preparation is the key. Find the right artist and start giving your skin some lovin’ with our products, that can be used to prepare your body for the new piece of ink. This is especially important if you have dry skin, or suffer from eczema or psoriasis which are not advisable to tattoo straight onto. Don’t forget to take a look at our range of aftercare products and make sure that your artwork heals correctly and stays vibrant as it heals.
Finding The Right Artist…
In a realistic tattoo, the artist is fundamental, as there’s nothing worse than having a botched piece of realism on your skin that can’t be easily fixed or covered up.
We work with some of the best artists out there, and our Tattoo Network boasts more than a few realist specialists...