Picture of Make any digital image into a tattoo on a photo
This is a quick and dirty way to superimpose just about any digital image so as to look like a tattoo on a photo. Aka- how to know that the tattoo you want to get won't look terrible in the spot you want to get it.

I've personally done this for years for both friends and myself as a means for "previewing" tattoo ideas. You'd be surprised at the number of people who had never even considered it! It can also be done as a prank: I am currently awaiting my mother's response to my emailed pictures of the "new tattoo" that I supposedly got this week.

It only takes a few minutes and is easily done by even the Photoshop novice!

*Image editing software such as Photoshop or Gimp (I used Photoshop 7.0)
*Have a digital camera or a photo of the subject you want to "tattoo"
*Image to be superimposed as a tattoo

Step 1: Gather the images

Picture of Gather the images
First, choose (or draw) the digital image that you wish to put on the picture. Higher quality images will obviously look more realistic. Something with a white background works best.

I chose a piece of artwork gleaned from Mark Haddon's art blog of a toilet monster, something I deemed suitably shocking- yet not entirely unbelievable- to my mother and father.

Next, take a picture of the body part you wish to "modify" in your image editor.

Step 2: Begin the process

Picture of Begin the process
3 copy.jpg
Open up the photo of your body part in Photoshop. I am still using version 7.0 because I'm far too cheap to buy CS2. Gimp would also work.

Pasting the image you want to become the tattoo will create its own layer- make sure that it's above and not below your background photo.

For the "blending option" select "Multiply" from the drop-down menu (Directly below the "Layers tab")

Starting to look pretty good already, eh?

Step 3: Tweaking the effect

Picture of Tweaking the effect
5 copy.jpg
Drag the tattoo (by using the "Move Tool," clicking, and dragging) to the desired location, and resize the tattoo to the dimensions you desire. If a box with edges which can be dragged isn't appearing, you need to enable "bounding edges" in the upper left while the move tool is being used.

I then used the eraser tool to remove some parts of the tattoo, around my real tattoos, the nipples, and parts that were going off the edge of my body.

Step 4: Final touches

Picture of Final touches
7 copy.jpg
Lower the opacity of the tattoo layer to somewhere around 78 percent, most tattoos don't look pure black.

I also chose to soften the edges of the tattoo by setting the eraser tools opacity to around 50% and gradually erasing away some of the outmost edges of the tattoo layer in several strokes.

Finally, I blurred the layer slightly by applying the "blur" filter in Filter > Blur > Blur

For this particular tattoo emulation, I stopped at this point. However, more curvy parts (such as arms, butts, or whatever) you could go even further by applying a distortion filter to selected parts of the tattoo layer in order to make it appear as though it curves over the bodies surface.

Save the file as a .jpg

Step 5: Utilization

Picture of Utilization
8 copy.jpg
Share the image with your friends and family or merely keep it for your own reference, the choice is yours.

If you are doing this as a prank (as I was in this particular instance) I recommend a smaller image size as the final product, as its less easily detected as a fraud. Email to prankee in the most nonchalant way you can manage.

Hope folks find this Instructable fun and useful! I recognize that this isn't the only way of doing this- so please feel free to post any suggestions in the comments!
1-40 of 74Next »
tazhdin5 days ago
RaselH made it!9 months ago


RaselH made it!9 months ago


1024 Web Solutions made it!10 months ago

I'm using CS6, do plan to update this ible? I can't find some of the tools you talk about...

yellowcatt1 year ago

With a bit more work for a really freshly done you could apply a 3D bump map to give the impression of slightly raised inflammation.

I think I am going to have to experiment with this.

First attempts at this:

zuhal forever.jpgzuhal forever colour.jpgjrcandyskull.jpg
JonniLee2 years ago
I love it ... This is prank I'd love to pull on my boyfriend but I suck at this. Anyone out there willing to help?
SGT. Desert3 years ago
dude seriously i mean seriously this is cool ( i almost got kiiked out of my house by my wife )
body tattooed vs2.png
SGT. Desert3 years ago
dude seriously i mean seriously this is cool ( i almost got kiiked out of my house by my wife )
body tattooed vs2.png
SGT. Desert3 years ago
dude seriously i mean seriously this is cool ( i almost got kiiked out of my house by my wife )
body tattooed vs2.png
SGT. Desert3 years ago
dude seriously i mean seriously this is cool ( i almost got kiiked out of my house by my wife )
body tattooed vs2.png
SGT. Desert3 years ago
dude seriously i mean seriously this is cool ( i almost got kiiked out of my house by my wife )
body tattooed vs2.png
SGT. Desert3 years ago
cool can u use paint.net
gl0rious3 years ago
dude, this is awesome.
Nice Instructable! I had fun doing this and it hardly takes a minute!
Awesome choice in picture to use :p
Thanks! :) It's one of my sketches.
I added a little red to make it look "fresh". I have a mild obsession for jackalopes so it was probably expected by my friends to get a "tattoo" of one.

Time to sit back and enjoy the chaos.
HOW DID YOU DO THE RED ?! sorry im not a photoshop user looks good though :)
just download paint.NET. it is free and works well enough for this.
bpickerill4 years ago
Wow! Thanks for sharing! I have to try this when I get my laptop back because I have the same program as you!
wkhan34 years ago
hiiiiiiiiiiiii mm- should be on the bottom right of your screen, on the layers window / tab. There's
Any chance you'll post your mum's response? This is really useful, i think i'll do this to a pic of my girlfriend's back and tell her what happened when she got drunk, heheheh. Thanks mate!
Sure! I actually was surprised when she didn't call me until around a week later. She told me that she was so surprised, that she was taking some time to "get used to it."

When my mother found out it was an April Fools joke, she decided to show it to all of her co-workers, while telling them how much she loved and got some chuckles as they awkwardly tried to find nice things to say about it. After all, who is going to make fun of a co-worker's kid?
Your mom obviously has your same sense of humor... lol
Top mum...good sense of humor!

Good 'ible' mate.
Jollyshi4 years ago
For a more realistic prank, consider adding red to emphasize the freshness of the tattoo? :3 I'm sure that's a little advanced and requires a little more artistic skill, but could really stump some people. Then again, I suppose it may be too much effort for a quickie prank. XD
chicopluma4 years ago
april's fool huge win
CrazySheep5 years ago
Ha! ^^ I've done this before, the results were almost ruefull!! XD
If you don't want to buy photoshop, there's a programe called PainttoolSAI. It's free and it has the 'multiply' and 'opasity' settings, but it's not as complicated as photoshop.
Thanks for the PainttoolSAI suggestion. Any suggestions for Macs?
Gimp is open source and has most of the features of photoshop. He mentions it in the instructable. I've used it. It's pretty cool.
jimdkc pdub774 years ago
GIMP works OK on Macs... Even better is Pixelmator which sells for just $59.
gare84214 years ago
Hello. Great prank! I pulled this one on my parents a few years ago. I have a tip. Before dropping the black and white image over the photo make this one realistic adjustment.

1. Create a new layer over the image
2. fill with a very dark grayish-blue
3. change layer transparency type to "screen"
4. Use opacity to adjust the amount of blue.

This adds realism since the when light reflects off the black ink, it is filtered by the pigments in our skin giving it a slightly bluish hue.
Oh one more step before copy/pasting into the photo.

5. Flatten your art work.
pdub774 years ago
This is cool and useful for both fun and actually peeping a perspective tat. More people should try this. . . http://ugliesttattoos.failblog.org/
I just posted the link to them!
This is a great instructable. I actually wish I'd thought of this when I got the tattoo on my arm, as it ended up a lot larger than I expected and I've always regretted that, just a little. It's a great tat, but ... Anyway thanks. Also the image is hilarious. Is the question mark tattoo real?
Love this!! I'm a loser when it comes to Photoshop but your instructions were very clear! If I can do this, pretty much anyone who can use a computer could! Except for maybe my dad.
a grain of alt. (author)  SearingFlesh557 years ago
I'm glad you found it helpful and easy to follow! Thank you!
1-40 of 74Next »