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Create a custom celtic tattoo in Photoshop

01. Pick your inspiration

Designing a tattoo always begins with a premise, so the first thing I do is sift through some Celtic mythology to get my mind going. I consider designs based on The Morrigan and Cú Chulainn, but it's the Four Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann that seems most fit for body art.

02. Do your research

The four treasures are magical items carried by an ancient, god-like race from Irish mythology known as the Tuatha Dé Danann. Arriving from the North in dark clouds, they conquered the Fir Bolg (another mythological Irish race) and ruled Ireland until the arrival of the Milesians from the Iberian Peninsula. From each city of origin, the Tuatha Dé Danann brought a magical item.

From Falias came the Lia Fáil (meaning Stone of Destiny), from Gorias came the undefeatable Spear of Lugh, from Findias the Tuatha Dé Danann brought the Sword of Nuadu, and the Cauldron of Dagda was brought from Murias.

Each of the treasures had mystical powers, and they're still known throughout the world today as an important part of Irish mythology.

03. Brainstorm your ideas

celtic tattoo

Now that I know what I want the tattoo to be of, it's time to brainstorm. Here I've sketched out several possible designs, focusing on ways I can arrange the four items into one cohesive image. Because they're different shapes and sizes, the challenge is to make it feel cohesive

04. Add detail to your design

celtic tattoo 2

With the basic layout figured out, I focus on designing each of the four treasures in the position I'll be using for the final image. Researching ancient Celtic weapons, cauldrons and the actual Lia Fáil (located on the Hill of Tara in Ireland) will give the treasures a more authentic feel.

05. Experiment with values for depth and definition

celtic tattoo 3

Once the composition of the tattoo and the treasures is finalised, it's simply a matter of putting it all together. I use classic Celtic knot designs in the cauldron to reinforce the Irish theme, and some light values to keep each object from vanishing into each other.

Words: Tony Foti (opens in new tab)

Tony is a US freelance illustrator who contributes to D&D, and Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings lines. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX (opens in new tab) magazine issue 100

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