3 tips for designing tattoos

Four women with tattooed backs

If you're a working illustrator then there's no reason why you shouldn't expand your remit to include tattoo design. But having an incredible design portfolio doesn't necessarily mean your work will translate well onto bodies. So before you jump straight in, you should take some time to consider the differences between illustration and tattoo art

To help you out, illustrator and tattoo aficionado Ollie Munden, aka Megamunden, shares three important lessons he's learned about tattoo design over the years.

01. Keep the tattoo design simple

Ollie Munden's tattoo colouring book

Munden's tattoo-themed colouring book has over 100 designs

"As with any brief, whether tattooing or illustrating, you need to design with the size and location of the area being covered in mind," says Munden. 

Another thing to consider is that tattoos blur over time, so it's important to make sure the line work has room to breathe and you're not trying to pack too much detail into a small space. "I've had quite a few people come to me with endless ideas that they want all compressed into one tattoo, which won't stand well," he says.

02. Respect tattoo tradition

Guitar art inspired by tattoos by Ollie Munden

One of two tattoo-inspired guitars Munden collaborated on with Jeff Nichols

After previously failing to understand why so many people had similar imagery on their tattoos, Munden has now learned to respect traditional tattoos. 

"I used to wonder how more contemporary illustrative and graphic work would look tattooed, but the more I've researched, drawn and learned, the more I've fallen in love with classic designs," he says. Munden has now added his own twists on the 'classics' and says he finally understands how they got their name.

03. Be bold with your tattoo designs

T-shirt design for Monday Mo Co

T-shirt design for motorcycle lifestyle brand Monday Mo Co

Whether you're illustrating or tattooing, the end result should be bold, striking and make a statement, says Munden. 

"At the end of the day, I want all my artwork to be a strong piece of design, so I've learned to try to strip back ideas into the bare essentials and always have a focused eye on the end result being bold, eye-catching and cool-looking," he explains.

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts magazine, the world's leading design magazine. Subscribe here.

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Trent is the editor of Tattoo Master magazine.