If there's something that never goes out of fashion in the world of design, it's tattoo art. Designers simply love getting inked up with awesome tattoos, and tattoo artists are forever pushing the boundaries of what can be done.
Right now, though, we're obsessed with watercolour tattoo art, in which artists recreate the unique look of watercolour paintings in tattoo form. It might look easy but it takes an enormous amount of skill to convincingly ink a replica of the distinctive colour washes and paint splatters that you'll find in a watercolour painting; here are some amazing examples by the world's leading practitioners.
01. Find Your Smile
Russell Van Schaick runs Find Your Smile, a tattoo parlour in Orlando, Florida. He specialises in colourful watercolour tattoos depicting subjects from popular culture, sci-fi and gaming worlds. As well as Zelda, his Instagram page features beautiful inked versions of everyone from Disney characters to Pokémon.
Describing himself as an "abstract watercolour tattoo artist", Van Schaick's tattooing journey began in Minnesota before he took the leap down to the sun-filled land of Florida. Although he says he's still learning, with stunningly vibrant works of body art with lines that flow and colours that bleed into one another so effortlessly, it's clear he's nailing it so far.
02. Skinny Chabo
Skinny Chabo works at Blitzstich Tattoo in Frankfurt, Germany. His striking designs often combine watercolour effects with stronger outlines, or balanced against geometric designs.
03. June Jung
June Jung was one of the early adopters of the watercolour tattoo art trend, and has gone on to gain a worldwide reputation for her work. She starts out with realistic-looking designs and adds watercolour effects around them. June appeared in an episode of The Art of Ink, talking about her inspirations and approach. Watch it below.
04. Joanne Baker
Joanne Baker is a tattoo artist at Semper in Edinburgh, UK. She specialises in animal-based watercolour tattoo designs, and her Instagram account includes majestic crows, delicate seahorses and an angry looking seagull (someone has to love them). She also shares her initial sketches, which are works of art in themselves. This rainbow-hued jellyfish design took two days to complete.
This sprawling floral work is a good example of G.NO's signature style. She also specialises in delicate, miniature tattoos and work that looks botanically accurate. G.NO is at Tattoo People in Toronto.
Carballo has her fingers in many pies; from make-up artistry and tattooing to painting and illustrating. There really is nothing creative she can't master. The Argentinian artist has a penchant for whimsical, pastel coloured watercolour skin art, and we adore the "rough around the edges" sketchy line-work, which is reminiscent of mid-century fashion illustrations.
07. Rodrigo Tas
Tattooist and graphic artist Tas draws on any surface he's presented with. He's tried his hand at everything, including teaching, and is a qualified graphic designer – but since he discovered the pull of the tattoo machine he's never looked back.
Tas' designs blend his eye for graphic qualities and design with his experience with illustration, motion design and art history. The São Paulo-based artist takes up surprise guest slots all over the country.
Alejandra Idarraga is a Colombian tattoo artist based in Miami, working at Tattoology Lounge. As well as being a tattoo artist, she also creates murals and sculptures. Idarraga's tattoo work ranges from intricate, geometric designs to vibrant watercolour tattoo art, complete with paint splashes and drips.
09. Lianne Moule
Lianne is a versatile artist who works across a variety of media, but her speciality is watercolour tattoos imbued with breathtakingly realistic sunlight effects.
Driven by a love of nature and bright colours, she creates her work by first making a watercolour study to use as a reference that she then painstakingly recreates in tattoo form, making sure to include hard-to-imitate spills, splashes and drips by way of a signature. You can find her at Immortal Ink in Chelmsford, UK.
10. Victor Octaviano
Hailing from Brazil, tattoo artist and self-taught illustrator Victor Octaviano has been exploring the possibilities of creating a watercolour look in tattoo form for a while now. He loves the challenge of conveying the look and texture of watercolour paintings in his tattoo work, mixing up sharp, energetic brush strokes with gloriously liquid washes, splatters and stains.
11. Ivana Tattoo Art
Currently living and working in Los Angeles, Ivana is a multi award-winning tattoo artist who's in demand at tattoo conventions worldwide. She describes her work as innovative, sophisticated, and eclectic; a mixture of multiple genres combining funky, bright colours and abstract elements with street style and high art. We love the expressive splashes of colour in this playful image of a Japanese doll.
12. Dêner Silva
If you've wondered about the sort of work that goes into creating a watercolor tattoo, this video from Brazilian tattoo artist Dêner Silva should cast a little light on the process. It shows him creating a distinctive Cheshire Cat tattoo, starting from a reference work that he turns into a line art transfer, and then painstakingly inking the design. Impressive job!
It's not easy to get an appointment with Ondrash. A versatile artist and tattoo artist with a background in fashion design and conceptual art, he likes to give every client his full attention and so only takes one booking a day at his studio in Znojmo in the Czech Republic, taking time to understand what his client is after and create a reference painting. Only then does he go to work with the needle to create a tattoo as individual as each customer.