Applying a realistic tattoo in Photoshop

Hello everybody! In today’s tutorial I’m going to show you how to apply a colorful tattoo to any picture and make it look realistic. So lets get started.

First you need a model photo (or a photo of yourself) and a tattoo design. I’m using a stock photo from a paid stock site and the Tribal II Brush Set by Obsidian Dawn You can download the brush set here: .

Open your image in Photoshop and duplicate the background layer.

First I’m going to lighten the photo a little bit using a Curves Adjustment Layer.

With my image choosing Lighter from the Curves Presets was pretty much everything I needed to do in order to brighten up the model. In your case the settings may vary depending on the photo you’re working with, just play around with the values until you get the desired effect.

Now add a second adjustment layer, this time Brightness/Contrast with the following settings:

And again your settings may vary depending on the image.

As you can see, after adding the Brightness/Contrast layer some parts of the image become too bright. This problem can be fixed easily by using the adjustment layer’s mask. I used a big soft brush with 50% opacity and simply painted over those areas to mask them off.

Load the Tribal II Brushes into Photoshop. Choose the one you like and set the foreground color to the color you want to use for the tattoo. Now click once on a new layer to stamp the tattoo.

Use the Transform Tool to resize and position the tattoo where you want it to be.

Add a layer mask and paint over the unwanted parts of the tattoo to hide them.

I have also used the Warp Tool to further adjust the shape of the tattoo.

Change the blending mode of that layer to Overlay and reduce the opacity to 80%

Now duplicate the layer. Change the blending mode to Vivid Light and set the opacity to 84%. Select a round soft brush from the tools panel and set the brush opacity to 20%. Click on the layer’s mask and paint with black color over the parts of her arm that are highlighted by the light.

Duplicate this layer and set the blending mode of the duplicated layer to Color Burn. Reduce the opacity to 56% and, as in the previous step, click on the layer’s mask and paint over the highlighted parts with black color.

Group the three tattoo layers together and name the group ‘Tattoo’. Reduce the opacity of the group to 65%. Now add a mask to the group. Select soft round brush with 15-20% opacity and gently paint over some parts of the tattoo. On the image below I highlighted those parts with blue color to make it easier for you to get the idea.

Play around with the brush opacity as you paint in order to get more natural look.

You can stop here if you are satisfied with the result but to me the image needs some more tweaks.

I added a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer on top of all other layers and applied these settings:

Then inverted the layer mask (Ctrl+I Windows/Command+I Mac) as I wanted only the tattoo to be affected not the whole image. Then using soft brush with 20% opacity I painted with white over the areas that I wanted the Hue/Saturation layer to show trough.

Finally I used Dodge and Burn Tools to tweak the shadows and highlights. I did that on a new layer set to Overly blending mode and filled with 50% grey, and range set to Midtones and exposure of 8% for both Dodge and Burn tools.

And as a last step I added another layer on top of all other layers filled with 50% grey but this time set the blending mode to Soft Light. On that layer I used Dodge and Burn tools to touch up the whole image. I used the same settings as in the previous step and set the opacity to 60%. Here is my final result:

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial.

One Response

  1. […] Applying a realistic tattoo in Photoshop […]