Humans have been tattooing themselves for thousands of years. In fact, Europe’s oldest natural mummy, Ötzi, which is approximately 5,200 years old, has tattoos. How tattoos work is that a needle punctures the skin and ink is injected into the second layer, called the dermis. Usually, if something is in the dermis, white blood cells clear it from the body, but pigment particles are too big for white blood cells to consume, meaning the ink just stays in place.
Over the past several decades, tattoo artistry has really evolved and there are people who have some truly amazing works of art decorating their skin. We scoured the internet, and these are 10 of our favorites.
10. Ryu’s “Shoryuken!”
One of the cleverest uses of a body part in a tattoo is this one of Ryu from the Street Fighter video game franchise. The design intertwines the tattoo and the man’s hand to make it look like Ryu is performing one of his classic moves, an uppercut. Now, while this tattoo may have been a great idea at first, we’re wondering how long it would be before he got tired of yelling “Shoryuken!” while pretending to do an uppercut over and over again.
Just kidding, that would never get old, and we all know it.
9. Stitched Hand
The old adage that size doesn’t matter, it’s how you use it, couldn’t apply better than it does to this tattoo. It’s the smallest on the list, but it’s also one of the most effective. By using color and shading incredibly well, this tattoo makes it look like the person’s hand has been poorly sewn onto the arm. If that wasn’t gruesome enough, the bone bump looks like it is exposed. This is a definite must for anyone who is obsessed with the 1991 film Body Parts or Frankenstein.
Getting a tattoo takes an extraordinary amount of trust, or an incredible lack of foresight. After all, you’re paying someone to permanently write or draw something on you. And how many times have you seen pictures of bad tattoos on the internet? So clearly, things don’t always go perfectly when it comes to inking tattoos.
If giving someone that type of trust is too much for you, you could get something simple and foolproof, like this clever “Andy” tattoo. The tattoo is, of course, a reference to Toy Story. If you haven’t seen any of the Toy Story movies, you probably should. But if you haven’t, the human boy character, Andy, writes his name in marker on the bottom of the feet of his toys. The big downside to this tattoo is that it looks like a lot of pain and a big waste of money to get a tattoo that people will only see when your bare feet are propped up. While we know that, we still think the tattoo is pretty clever.
This relatively small tattoo looks like it would have been quite painful because it appears that the skin has been twisted and torn, which left a ghoulish scar on the man’s body. But it’s actually just an illusion created by using pink ink and shadowing. So while it may look like the most painful one on our list, in reality, there was much less work done on this tattoo compared to many other tattoos both above and below.
The one way that humans are alike is that we are all different from each other. Now, people can do one of two things with what makes them different. They can try to hide their differences and try to fit in, or they can embrace what makes them different and use it creatively. Someone who chose the creative route was Heine Braeck from Sarpsborg, Norway.
Braeck lost his arm when he was 13 while trying to take a shortcut by climbing on top of a stationary train. The train started moving and he lost his balance. When he fell, he grabbed a live wire and it burned his arm so badly that it needed to be amputated. On his shoulder, he takes advantage of the stump where his arm used to be and had Bulgarian tattoo artist Valio Ska ink a very realistic dolphin bust that utilizes the shape of his shoulder. While this is no substitute for an arm, it’s a great example of turning a tragedy into something artistic.
Definitely one of the coolest trends in tattooing is 3D artwork. Of course, skin is more or less a flat canvas and carving actual hunks into that canvas is definitely not recommended. But by using techniques like shading, tattoo artists can create the perception of depth or make it look like objects are jumping off the skin. In case you’re wondering, 3D tattoos take much more time to complete, are more expensive, and many tattoo shops have long waiting lists for people wanting them.
One of the most impressive 3D tattoos is the one pictured here, which looks like South American ruins have been carved into the man’s arm. Not only does it look three dimensional, but it also gives the impression that his arm is made out of rock. Maybe the Thing from the Fantastic Four will get this when they decide to reboot the franchise as a more adult version.
4. Puzzle Pieces
Another great example of 3D tattooing is this leg tattoo that makes it look like the woman is missing pieces of her leg. Of course, it is all an illusion, but with that amount of detail and shading that dark, we would have to imagine that getting this kind of tattoo would have taken a few, long sessions which would have been pretty painful. It sure does look impressive though.
And let’s be honest, it’s also a little off-putting. The optical illusion is just so strong that it looks like this woman’s leg truly is hollow.
3. Hand with Reflecting Sphere
While tattoos have become much more socially acceptable over the past 30 years, tattoos on the face and the head are generally still taboo and most tattoo artists actually don’t recommend getting one unless you are deep into tattoo culture. But all that being said, this head tattoo is amazing. This is actually a replica of Hand with Reflecting Sphere lithograph by famed Dutch artist M.C. Escher, probably best known for his lithograph, Relativity, or as Stewie from Family Guy calls it, Crazy Stairs.
If you’ve never seen the back of Simon Whistler, our TopTenz.net’s YouTube presenter’s head, this is what he has tattooed there.
No, just kidding, but maybe if he gets enough likes, he’ll consider it, though we’re kind of hoping he ultimately goes with Agent 47’s barcode from the Hitman video game and movie franchise.
If skin is the tattoo artist’s canvas, then the biggest open space to create something awesome is the back. This person used his whole back in this amazing 3D picture of a man standing on a ledge ready to jump. It is incredibly life-like and we don’t even want to imagine how many hours were spent getting punctured with an electric needle to do this.
This tattoo was done by Den Yakovlev, a tattoo artist based in Moscow, Russia and he is known for his realism and use of 3D techniques. And as for the metaphorical meaning behind the tattoo, we’re not exactly sure what it is. But if you have any suggestions, we’d love to read them in the comments section below.
At first, this tattoo almost looks too good to be real. But it is quite real and it is the work of a tattoo artist from Wisconsin named Dan Hazelton. The style is called “tear out” and it actually looks like the skin is shredding, and beneath the skin is a Spider-Man suit. Now, if you think about it, the tattoo is slightly absurd because why would anyone have a Spider-Man suit under his or skin? But if you forget all that and look at it as a metaphor and at the sheer artistry of the tattoo, it is still pretty…amazing.