How to tattoo realistic animals

Tips and advice to make Realism in animals


In the realistic tattoo it seems that the possibilities are expanding more and more and many artists join this style by suggesting original designs.

Realism is complex and when it comes to achieving exact expressions and capturing all the details in tattoos, the task becomes more complicated.

People have always been strongly connected with nature and its species. And there are many clients who for different reasons choose realistic animal designs, either because they want to tattoo the portrait of their pets or because they would like to honour a particular species.

You have to be alert to the details of this type of tattoo. Each animal has a different characteristic and analyzing its anatomy is an important part of all the work.

That is why from 10 Masters we have decided to detail some tips that can be of great help when it comes to taking the machines and starting to tattoo.

Keep reading to know more.

Realistic animals: a challenge in tattoos

As we mentioned in the post Realistic tattoo: a demanding style, getting expressions captured in tattoos is one of the main challenges when approaching this style. And not only at the beginning, but also throughout your career as a tattoo artist.

Unlike humans, animals have features, bodies, and volumes very different from each other, and knowing how to draw them is essential.

In Realism, tattooing and drawing are related to each other. This is why having a good command of drawing, in any of its techniques and formats, is essential when approaching Realism and also in all styles.

On the other hand, as we said at the beginning, animal tattoos are not just a fad because they have been very close to our cultures for a long time. There are tattoo artists who specialize in making only realistic animals.

An example is the case of Xavi, which we mentioned in the article Xavi Animal: activism in tattoos. This artist is dedicated to tattooing animals, not just for pleasure, but he does it with great conviction in favor of a very noble cause: the preservation of animal life and the environment.

Great animal lovers are passionate, and many want to wear them on their skin for life. In addition, animals have different sacred meanings in many different cultures.

Lions are often associated with bravery, tigers with passion and strength, dogs with nobility and loyalty, cats with intelligence and curiosity, and elephants with tranquility and peace.

Tips when tattooing realistic animals

There is a lot to talk about, but we will mention some of the most important facts that you should know when tattooing realistic animals. The methodologies can change according to the preferences of each tattoo artist, but what no one can deny you is that with constant practice, you will achieve excellent effects.

When clients contact a tattoo artist, many tattoo artists use a photograph or reference image.

It needs to be a high-quality picture, though. Therefore, when the client sends you the image, ask for it and clarify that both the stencil and the tattoo depend on the quality of the image.

Some artists prefer several images and then choose the best one together with the client, but this will depend on each tattooist.

From the chosen image, we will make the stencil through image mapping, which consists of drawing the most outstanding lines and contours, as well as pointing out where the areas of lights, shadows, and the veining of the fur.

To achieve this, you can rely on digital tools such as Procreate or Photoshop, with which you will achieve a neater finish. To learn more, read our article Best tattoo design applications and find out the most suitable.

This type of tattoo is usually more focused on the animal's head, and many recommend adding the neck and bust. This is because some believe that in this way the expressions of the animal can be better highlighted.

On the other hand, you must bear in mind that large surfaces are needed to be able to cover them. Being tattoos with such a level of detail, the fur, the eyes, the tones, and the drawings on their skins have to be very noticeable and if you do it in a small space, this will be lost.

When tattooing, it is better to do it in several sessions. Splitting up the work will help for many reasons and one of them is that you need to work in layers, and it is important that the skin is healed.

Therefore, working in at least two sessions (we don’t recommend more) will allow you to better add the colors and ensure that they are as expected. Otherwise, you will spend too many hours working, and your client will suffer more.

In the article How to tattoo realistic portraits, we told you that in Realism, the eyes, and the expression in the gaze are the focal points. But when it comes to animals with open mouths, the focal point will be the mouth.

Then, the fur needs to be perfect, since it’s part of the essential characteristics of each animal, and we don’t want any disappointments.

Train yourself in Realism

The truth is that there is a lot of demand for this type of Realism, so you need to practice if you want to stand out.

Being self-taught has some benefits, but when it comes to solving specific problems, that’s a different story. Therefore, learning from experienced colleagues is a very healthy way to approach any style.

At 10 Masters, we believe that collective and joint growth is necessary for any tattooist. To promote that, we decided to make courses to provide you with some advice when dealing with Realism.

There are many points to develop in this style: the type of needles and voltages needed, the inks to use and how to apply thinners, how to achieve realistic animal fur, how to make shadows and when to apply whites, etc.

If you're interested in Realistic Tattooing, starting by learning to tattoo animals is a wise decision.

Not only does it present fewer challenges... it's in such high demand that it could help fill your schedule.

And the best part of all? You can learn it step by step and in detail from an expert with 13 years of experience. 👉 MasterClass: How to Tattoo Realistic Animals, with Coreh López.