How to Do Portrait Tattoos


Tattooing is a permanent form of body art often done to memorialize a person or event, and in no way is this more true than with portrait tattoos. Portrait tattoos are as personal as you can get and will last longer than any physical memory. Though much of the art of doing a portrait tattoo is technique and experience, there are a few tips to keep in mind for a truly brilliant tattoo.

Things You'll Need

  • Tattoo gun
  • Sterilized needles
  • Tattoo ink
  • Gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Skin cleaning agent
  • Sketch and photograph
  • After-care ointment
  • Plastic wrap
  • Know your canvas. Your canvas is the person on which you will tattoo, and ultimately he is the person you must please. Whether it is a widower memorializing his long lost love or a woman grieving a lost child, the result must be the same: a beautiful portrait that makes her smile each time she sees it. Does your client want a black and gray or a full color portrait? Does he remember most the way her eyes sparkled? Does she remember how his cheeks pinkened when he smiled? Knowing these things, asking these questions, will make your portrait tattoo more than just a picture.

  • Draw a detailed sketch. Tattooing begins with art on paper and transforms into art on the body. After learning what your client is looking for, begin sketching ideas for the final tattoo. Consult with your client during the process to get a better idea of what she wants, and come up with a final drawing that agrees with your artistic sense and her request.

  • Organize your workspace. Place everything within easy reach. Depending on the individual portrait, you may need an assortment of needles, inks and basic supplies such as paper towels and your preferred ointment. Always make sure your workspace is clean and disinfected with all equipment sterilized before use. The more organized your workspace is, the less stressful your session will be, resulting in better portrait tattoos.

  • Have a photo on hand for reference. After numerous sketches and consultations with your client, there may be all sorts of conflicting images clouding your brain. The last thing you need is to go into a tattoo session -- especially doing a portrait tattoo -- with anything less than a determined outcome. Keep a photograph of the portrait study on hand to use as a reference throughout the session. Any pertinent notes on the client’s particular desires may also be handy.

  • Deliver care instructions. Not everyone walking into a tattoo parlor knows the proper way to care for a tattoo. Assume each client know nothing, and instruct properly on your personal recommendation for the next few hours. Your client should know when to take the plastic wrap off, what type of soap you recommend washing with, and the types of ointments and creams you recommend applying to keep the area moist as it heals. Let the client know about the importance of hydration and sunscreen to preserve the look of the tattoo for years to come. This will be especially important with portrait tattoos, as they are very detailed and often involved a lot of shading.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images Jupiterimages/ Images Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images Images Hemera Technologies/ Images
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