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Realism Tattooing Long Beach, California, Bixby Knolls

Using a 2D art medium such as tattooing and turning it into a compelling 3D image is no simple task. Perfecting the skills for a realism tattoo takes years of dedicated practice. The artist will take their learned techniques from paper and apply similar principles to your skin, replicating stunningly accurate photographs of the real thing. Whether it be a person, animal or flowers like in the case of the roses in this thigh tattoo.

One of the beautiful things about tattooing as an art is that you are not limited to one style. You and your artist can get creative by combining work together to create your own uniquely custom piece.

This creative freedom is shown in the way this heavily detailed line work mandala has been incorporated into the design next to the realistic roses. Tying into the roses with black shading and highlights that make the mandala pop as if it too were a 3D image. 

When considering a realism tattoo, you will want to consider what goes into creating the visual and what options you have (you’re the one sitting through the tattooing after all!)

Realism vs. Linework

As represented in the rose mandala tattoo photographed in this article, we have realism against line work in the same piece. The use of the blacks and whites pull the two pieces together, complimenting each other.

Line work tattoos are any tattoo that uses lines to depict the image. This can even be abstracted curls and swirling lines that trace the outline for our eyes to recognize what is being presented to us. When desired, the use of a bright color, or a highlight against the darker solid lines create the illusion of depth on your 2D line work.

Realism tattoos do not have any lines. They are completely created out of tastefully placed shading to represent the contour of edges and curves, while accentuating through the lighter shades.


A realist piece such as these roses are tattooed to some degree as a freehand. A tattoo like this would not benefit from your typical stencil. 

Realistic features are presented with the use of shading to create dimension through shadows and highlights. Just as a 3-dimensional person or object would be. Classically this would be achieved with black, shades of grey and white – but, this style has evolved into work that is as individual as the people creating them. Making use of all colors, sometimes without hardly any black.

What Can You Get Tattooed?

There is no limit on what you can get with a realism tattoo – the trick is finding the right artist for the job. 

As mentioned your tattoo can be black and white or full color. Honoring loved ones with portraits or memorable celebrities, wild animals or the family pet, flowers dripping with morning dew, and even food that could make you hungry.

Choosing an Artist

When browsing for an artist, you must keep the style of your design in mind. Some artists will work only in one style out of preference. If you are looking to incorporate realism, line work, black and white or color, you will need to find a well-rounded artist who can see your vision. Especially when looking for a realism tattoo, you will want an artist with a reputable portfolio that reflects technique that you are looking for. 


The new and popularizing style of realism has few limitations. Get creative with how you can work styles and colors together to create convincing and original imagery. Combine photos of people and items, real or fictional.

It is undoubtedly worth the consultations and the wait time to get your perfect piece.

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