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Advice on painting Tattoos ?

Discussion in 'Painting Techniques' started by Chris K, Feb 9, 2011.

  1. Chris K New Member

    Dear Planeteers,

    I often see fantastic tattoos on figures,

    can anyone offer advice on how to render a tattoo on a figure, ideally both celtic type and more modern looking tattoos, I am hoping for advice on how to make them look natural, and any tips on painting the design.

    I am an ex soldier and I am the proud (and not so proud of a couple) owner of many tattoos , so I would like to place them on some of my figures.

    Thank you in advance for any advice / tips / tricks that any of you can provide
    Best Regards

  2. Einion Well-Known Member

    Excellent - use them as your colour references. Other than fanciful designs the most common fault in how tattoos are depicted on miniatures is in their colour (usually too blue).

    Practice off the figure first (especially if you're trying this in acrylics)! Good idea to do any tests or practice attempts at the final size too.

    Work directly from references; don't make it up as you're going along or try to work from memory.

    Painting onto a 3D surface can be tough and lightly pencilling in a few guidelines can really help keep the design from wandering. You can use regular pencil for this (as long as the graphite lines are then covered by paint) as well as coloured pencil if you happen to have any. Any remaining coloured pencil marks can be cleaned off with water or a little turps/spirits, depending on the type of pencil.

    gordy likes this.
  3. housecarl A Fixture

  4. gordy Well-Known Member

    Great question Chris.

    It would make a great article :)
  5. Chris K New Member

    Dear Einon , Carl and Gordy,

    Thanks for the replies , Einon you have offered some good advice and I will put the advice into practice very soon, Carl the decals look worth a shot for a figure I am working on now (The 90mm pegaso US marine) and the special paper for printers deffo looks worth adding to the armoury, and Gordy I fully agree that this subject would make a great article or SBS maybe some of our master level planeteers could be persuaded to give it a shot for us.

    Thanks again to all and Best Regards

  6. bwildfong Well-Known Member

    Hi Chris,

    To keep my tattoos from being too blue as Einion notes, I've had some success by mixing a basic flesh colour first (in oils I use Burnt Sienna + White) and then gradually adding a blue to it till I get a dull bluish tone. I've found it gives a slightly more subtle and in-scale look to them. Can't say as to what works with other ink colours however.

    Hope this is of some help.


  7. FigureLover A Fixture

    Hi Chris, not sure about Celtic tats, but modern ones are relatively easy depending on the design. I add black and dark blue to the basic flesh colour until I get the right hue, new tats are darker and old tats tend to look faded. Pencil sketch the design and then hand paint over this with your tat colour. As I have only done this on a large scale figure ( 1/5th scale) I then used an airbrush to add a misting of flesh again over the top to give it a deeper transparent look.
    Hope this helps

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  8. debrito A Fixture

    I have used this before as references


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  9. Einion Well-Known Member

    Chris, one thing to mention in terms of matching the colours to your own tats in case you don't know, it is possible to get an exact match. I think most of us have tried to match skintone mixtures to the back of our hand or the skin on the forearm and it's tough, tough enough that we tend to think it's impossible but it is very doable with enough practice.

    Generally unless a tattoo is very fresh and black looking it is bluish, but very dull, closer to neutral grey than to blue actually; so as a starting point try a mix of black and white (generally this will give you a dull blue) and add a small touch of dark brown, see how that looks and work from there. Also, most times we'll mix a colour like this and it'll look good on the palette but it's much too dark on the model so you might find you need to go quite a bit lighter than you initially think.

    Was also just about to mention what Ben referred to above, about spraying a light misting of the basic skin mix if the tat turns out looking too stark,. Obviously this is if you have an airbrush, but you can do much the same thing with subtle glazes (in oils or acrylic). Although the need to do this can be avoided if you an mix the colour just right to begin with.

  10. gordy Well-Known Member

    Beside the traditional inks there are natural variants (temporary) such as

    reddish brown in colour
    henna (Mehndi)


    quite black in colour
    South American tribes men and modern Genipa ( Jagua )


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