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Unleash your wild side with realistic animal tattoos


Animal tattoos have been a popular choice for many tattoo lovers throughout the years. From stylised designs to highly realistic renditions, animal tattoos express a love and connection with nature. But what is it about realistic animal tattoos that make them so special?

If you're struggling for tattoo inspiration or want to know the best techniques and tattoo equipment to achieve a realistic animal tattoo, then keep reading!

How to recognise the realistic tattoo style

Realism tattoos are a type of tattoo style that uses shading and lots of detail work to create an image or scene that appears to be almost photo-like in its realism. These works of art often feature images of animals, landscapes, people, and other objects created with an incredible level of detail.

The lines used for these tattoos are thin, giving the image a lifelike appearance. These tattoos can be crafted in black and grey, or full colour, depending on the artist's preference and the desired effect of the tattoo.


Lion tattoo and mirror


Pros of a realistic tattoo

Realistic tattoos are popular for a reason, these tattoos show off an incredible level of artistry and skill. The level of detail used in the artwork allows for an array of intricate designs. Often times, realistic tattoos will feature a 3D effect that makes them stand out from other styles. If you're looking for a bold statement piece or something truly eye-catching, then realistic animal tattoos are definitely worth considering.

Cons of a realistic tattoo

Realistic tattoos take a long time to complete and require an immense amount of detail work, so they tend to be more expensive than other tattoo styles. If you're looking for something that won't break the bank but still looks great, then you may want to consider another type of tattoo style. Additionally, some people find the level of detail used in realistic tattoos to be too much, making them look cluttered and messy.

What are the main techniques needed to create a realistic animal tattoo?

When it comes to creating a realistic animal tattoo, the tattoo artist needs to have an eye for detail and make good use of reference photos.

Colour realism

Black and grey or colour realism are popular techniques used to create realistic animal tattoos. Both involve creating shading, highlights, and shadows with the tattoo machine, that give the tattoo a lifelike appearance. Be sure to use a high-quality grey wash set to create smooth shading effects, or if you're going for a full-colour piece, pick out hues that complement and contrast with one another to create a realistic palette. Shop our tattoo ink collection here.

Lining and shading

The use of light, medium and heavy linework will also help bring the tattoo to life. Light lines should be used for outlining while medium and dark lines will help accentuate features like fur or feathers. Additionally, stippling is another great technique to use to create a realistic animal tattoo. This involves using small dots of varying sizes and shades to create textures and other gradients for the tattoo.

Size and placement

The size and placement of the tattoo is also an important factor. When selecting the placement for your perfect piece, choose an area that provides enough space to fit in all the amazing details that will bring the design to life.


Snake tattoo


What are the most common animal tattoo designs?

The most popular animal tattoo designs are often of wild animals like lions, tigers, and snakes or mythical creatures such as dragons and unicorns. These can make a powerful statement when done in a realistic style.

Lion or tiger tattoos

Lion and tiger tattoos are some of the most popular animal tattoos worldwide. They often symbolise strength, courage, and leadership. In addition, they can represent a guardian spirit or protector, providing guidance and protection in times of need.

Shop Tiger Orange tattoo ink from Radiant Colors.

Snake tattoos

Snakes are another animal that show up in tattoo designs time and time again, A snake tattoo can carry a variety of meanings, but it's most often associated with transformation and rebirth since snakes regularly shed their skin. For example, a snake tattoo that winds up an arm could symbolise a journey of personal growth while looking pretty cool.

Cats and dog tattoos

Cats and dogs are some of the most beloved animals on the planet, so it's no surprise that they often appear in tattoos. Realistically crafted portraits of pets are particularly popular and provide a meaningful and personal way to keep a pet close even after they pass away. Otherwise, a dog tattoo might represent loyalty and friendship, while a cat tattoo may symbolise independence and mystery.


Tattooed man and dog


Spirit animal tattoos

Your spirit animal is the creature that best reflects who you are and what you stand for. A tattoo of your spirit animal is an awesome way to express your personality and honour the power of nature.

Whether it’s a fish tattoo, a bear, or a majestic elephant tattoo, each animal has its own unique message. For example, fox tattoos might represent intelligence or craftiness, while horse tattoos can symbolise freedom and power. Just take a moment to think about what you want to get out of your tattoo and find the perfect creature that resonates with you!

The best animal tattoos unleash the wild

Realistic animal tattoos are a great way to express your love of nature and your favourite animals while also adding some amazing body art to your skin! The right artist will have an eye for detail and use their creativity to bring the tattoo design to life. With enough practice and patience, you’ll end up with a beautiful piece that looks like it was pulled straight out of the wild.

If you are looking to create some stunning colour realism, take a look at the ink sets we have available.

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  • Sarah Crookes