3D tattoos, also known as realistic tattoos, are becoming increasingly popular. People are wanting tattoos that not only have meaning but depth and lifelike qualities as well. From optical illusions to realistic portraits and creepy effects, 3D tattoos can come in many styles. Black and white, color, saturated color, shading, and other styles all can be used to create an awesome 3D tattoo.
Tattoos, in general, have always been popular and currently, 15 percent of Americans have tattoos. About 40 percent of those ages between 26 and 40 have at least one tattoo with more women being tattooed than men. There are over twenty thousand tattoo parlors in the U.S., with one being added every day. Research shows that adults with tattoos are not only more sexually active than those without tattoos, but they are also more likely to engage in riskier behavior.
Our obsession with tattoos and their confidence-boosting powers is obvious and 3D tattoos are drawing in even more ink fans. Many tattoo artists are becoming experts in the trend and are creating unique, one of a kind pieces that blow our minds. Most likely, if you look up tattoo designs and skim through tattoo artists’ portfolios, much of what you’ll see will be 3D tattoos. The 3D craze isn’t likely to slow down. While a lot of tattoos end up getting removed by lasers, these 15 amazing 3D tattoos are here to stay.
15 Optical Illusion Tattoo
You might’ve seen this amazing tattoo on your Facebook or Instagram feed already. Apparently, after one of the All Star Ink Tattoos artists created it for “a lovely man from Cork,” the internet went crazy. Optical illusions are already fun on their own but to have one as a tattoo takes it to a whole new level. The artist was Paul O’Rourke and, according to the All Star Ink Tattoos site, the optical illusion tattoo was made on a Saturday just like any other before it became instantly famous on the internet. This type of design isn’t specific to O’Rourke and you’ll see another using a similar technique later on in the list.
14 3D Dolphin Head on Amputated Arm
Heine Braek, a Norwegian man who was injured in a freak accident, decided to get a dolphin tattoo to cover up his amputated arm. According to Braeck, “'When I was 13 I tried to take a shortcut across the top of a stationary train which started moving. I lost my balance and grabbed hold of the wire that powers the train and got fried. The first thing I saw after surgery was how much my arm was shaped like a dolphin's head.” He went to Bulgarian tattoo artist Valio Ska to fully transform his “tired stump” into a dolphin with a 3D tattoo. “My friends think it is awesome and I love it because I don't have to look at a tired old stump anymore.’” The tattoo took 3.5 hours to finish.
13 Face Coming Out of Arm
This tattoo was made by Cassie Stover. The tattoo artist is also a painter and went to school to study fine arts. In a Newsweek interview, Stover said "They are essentially tiny paintings," and "So with my painting background it made more sense for me to do 3-D. My art doesn't have a heavy black outline or that flat cartoon-like aspect of traditional tattoos.” This specific tattoo is a reproduction of a painting by artist Joshua Suda of a woman's face bursting through paper only, in this case, the face appears to be coming through the skin. Her paintings are in turn inspired by graffiti and tattoos.
12 Muscle and Sinew Tattoo
Yomico Moreno, a Venezuelan-born artist who was up until recently working out of Caracas, is known for his creepy realistic tattoos. His website warns visitors of the muscle tissue and biomechanic tattoos they’re about to see as they can be a little bloody and graphic. Moreno became interested in the art of tattooing at 14 years old and has been tattooing professionally since 2003. He picked realism as his favorite style “because it’s the most challenging.” His sinister tattoos are hyper-realistic and flinch-inducing. In addition to this tattoo, his portfolio includes a tattoo featuring a grotesque mouth on someone’s neck, and one of a shoulder being unzipped to reveal blood and muscle underneath.
Lotte van den Acker is the proud owner of this tattoo. The now 26-year-old was tattooed by her mother, Helma van der Weide. The tattoo is of a vintage 1970s Asahi Pentax 35mm SLR and when Lotte raises her arm over her eyes, it appears as if she’s taking a picture. The detail is amazing and the even the lens has a realistic glare on it. Tattoo artist Helma van der Weide is a self-employed artist located in Brunssom where she runs her own studio, Tattoo Helma. She’s very familiar with creating realistic tattoos though they’re usually portraits.
10 Stone on Skin
Pavel Angel is a famous tattoo artist mostly known for his signature stone on skin tattoos. He’s one of the very few tattoo artists specializing in stonework tattoos. The Russian tattooist has been deemed “the best realistic tattoo artist in the world” by some and has thousands of social media followers. He created Tattoo Studio Angel where he currently works. He currently lives in Moscow and works in his own Tattoo Studio Angel. He uses his stone on skin technique in most of the tattoos and they vary from biomechanic tattoos to ones portraying art akin to that from ancient ruins.
9 Vine of Ivy
This tattoo was created by Lippo Tattoo, an Italian tattooist (and studio of the same name) known for his realistic 3D tattoos. His tattoos have depth and his use of shading make them look like they are ready to come to life at any moment. At Lippo Tattoo, one of the most used techniques is one where the skin appears to be peeling or cracked, revealing something interesting(like the sky, blood, etc) underneath. An interesting fact about Lippo is that a few years ago he let his then 3 and a half-year-old son give him a tattoo. In an interview, he said the tattoo makes him feel like he’ll always have his son with him.
8 Realistic Eye
This is just one of many realistic tattoos by tattoo artist Niki Norberg who works at the Wicked Tattoo studio. The shading techniques used and the glare in the pupil make this tattoo look amazingly true to life. Norberg, who started his career making tattoos in 2001, prefers to work with realism and is known for creating detailed tattoos. He’s created several other 3D eye tattoos as well and each tattoo is amazingly detailed and realistic. They’re also all in gray and black and utilize his shading technique. While it’s not clear who the tattoo belongs to, we can definitely tell it’s located on someone’s (presumably male) muscular arm.
7 Fox Coming Out of Tattoo
John Barrett’s tattoos tend to be on the colorful side and a lot of them portray a face(usually that of an animal’s) popping out from something. In this case, it is a colorful tattoo and an animal does appear to be protruding from a design, but the details on the fox make it appear more lifelike and less cartoonish than some of his other work. Barrett has been a tattoo artist only since 2010 and is already one of the most talented and most popular tattooists out there. He works at Searchlight Tattoo in Georgia and most of his tattoos include characters or a theme of fantasy.
6 Back Biomech Corset
While Sebastian Zmijewski is willing to cater to any type of client and their needs, he’s mostly known for his soft black and gray works. He’s also really good at doing cover up tattoos, though, and he has a whole section debuting befores and afters on his site. The Polish tattoo artist does not copy other designs and the website for the studio he works at, Bloody Art Tattoo, states “We believe that a tattoo is something personal and should be unique and because[of that], we do not have catalogs of ready designs.” The biomechanics corset tattoo is shown on model and artist Milena Zmijewska.
5 Masked Face
According to Dmitriy Samohin, the tattoo artist responsible for this tattoo, this piece was made using Intenze Ink and a Dragonfly machine. His Facebook fans love this tattoo; the picture he shared has almost 14,000 and over 2,500 shares. Samohin, who is from Ukraine, is known as one of the best realistic tattoo artists in the world. He has won awards like the National Tattoo Associations “Artist’s Choice Realistic Tattoo Award” and “People’s Choice Realistic Tattoo Award.” The self-taught tattoo artist got into tattooing after, during his time in the army, he started reading a tattoo magazine.
4 Gorilla Tattoo
Mike De Vries, the author of Let’s Be Realistic, is one of the top realistic tattoo artists out there. He’s especially great at creating animal tattoos that are colorful, glossy and textured, and lifelike and he’s known for his “color realism.” The Californian got his first tattoo at the age of 16 and fell in love with the craft from there. Always wanting to step his game up, De Vries takes classes at the Art Institute to study color theory and contrast among other techniques. He claimed in one interview that he also paints and often times his painting influences his tattoos. He mostly does portraits, but he’s constantly learning and trying new things.
3 Creepy Doll Face
What makes this scary tattoo so interesting is how far back the disturbing eyes seem to go in the skin. This tattoo is one of Randy Engelhard’s most popular and well-known and if you search “creepy doll face tattoo” you’ll see tons of social media shares of the image. Engelhard owns Heaven of Colors, a studio in Zwickau, Germany. He became a color portraiture about 8 years ago and does a lot of film and animation character tattoos. He prefers to work with color and does mainly realistic tattoos though he enjoys mixing his style with fantasy as well.
2 Flying Rocket
Using a similar illusion as the first tattoo, this optical illusion tattoo is made so that it appears the rocket is actually flying. Marc Nutley, the tattoo artist who created this tattoo, has made similar ones using spaceships and aliens. Nutley has been tattooing since 2009 and has won ten awards for four different styles. He works on oriental, realistic, are work, and portrait tattoos. While he researched for months on how to create the type of illusion he used in this tattoo, he said in an interview for Skin Deep “They are designed on the fly on the day of the appointment.” He said he wanted this and the other illusion tattoos to have a “1950s B-movie feel to them.”
1 3D Vortex Cube
Balazs Bercsenyi is another tattoo artist that works mainly in black and white. He has more than a few optical illusion tattoos in his portfolio and seems to really enjoy playing with lines. The Hungarian tattooist is based in Budapest but has brought his talent all over as he travels around the world quite often. He is adept in many different styles. A lot of his work is made with intricate details and lines and he plays around a lot with his shading. Of his work, he has said “My aim is to continuously develop myself and my skills. I am tireless about my job and enjoy meeting every client who comes to me with trust to re-create their vision and dream. Every day is a great challenge.” This vortex cube, like most of the work in his portfolio, is unique and one of a kind.