If you’re a fan of tattoos, most likely you’ve come across those viral-worthy, photorealistic designs that just blow your mind. From the fine details that seem perfect, to the shading that makes the ink jump out of the skin, these tattoos look like photographs.
You don’t have to wonder for too long about why hyper realism is a popular style of tattooing. With the intense attention to detail and accuracy of the image the tattoo is mimicking, a hyper realistic tattoo can certainly garner a lot of attention. Plus, for portraits, it’s arguable if there is a better style to follow than hyper realism or photorealism.
However, with great detail comes great responsibility.
Color and the impact it could have on the longevity of your tattoo, how long getting your tattoo is actually going to take (it’s definitely not a “one and done” type of tattoo session), and the high cost are just some of the important aspects to consider in making your choice.
Here are seven things you should know about hyper realistic tattoos before you book your first ink session:
1. Be Prepared For Multiple Long Appointments
There is no getting around it: You need to block out a chunk of time to get a hyper realistic tattoo, especially if you’re going for a full sleeve or another big design.
This is because of the tiny details that make a hyper realistic tattoo so impactful, which can’t be rushed.
The complexity of the tattoo design isn’t the only thing that impacts the length of the session. Things like the speed of your tattoo artist, the tattoo placement, your own pain tolerance, the colors you want in the design, and how long you can sit still for all needs to be taken into account when planning your tattoo.
Inked Mind recommends that a session only lasts three to five hours.
“Your adrenaline will get you through the first few hours and the pain you’ll experience. And yes, even hardened tattoo fanatics will experience pain. After that, your reserves are going to be tapped out and you will simply run out of the steam you’ll need to continue to withstand whatever pain you may be feeling. More pain also equals more flinching which is not a good thing when getting tattooed.”
Also, the longer the tattoo machine pierces your skin, the more you’ll bleed, and too much blood can hamper the tattoo artist’s visibility. One thing is for sure, you want your tattooer to have a clear view of exactly where they’re placing ink.
“…realism tattoos often take much longer than other less detail-oriented tattoos, so if you happen to be highly sensitive to pain, or are uncomfortable sitting or laying down for longer sessions, this may be something you want to take into consideration when contemplating a realism tattoo,”Chronic Ink Tattoo
So, be prepared to sit for a few long sessions for a hyper realistic tattoo, and don’t forget about the healing time in between.
2. How Long Is The Wait Between Sessions?
One of the keys to getting a tattoo you’ll love for years is to not rush the process. This is great advice for choosing a tattoo design, picking your artist, and especially waiting between tattoo sessions.
According to Authority Tattoo you should wait until your first section of tattooing has gone through the initial stages of healing before going back to the studio for the next batch of ink, which is around two to three weeks.
“If you choose to get another tattoo too soon, the chances of catching an infection may become higher. This is because your immune system will be overstretched and may not perform optimally.”
So, don’t rush it! Of course you’re going to want your tattoo to be complete as quickly as possible, but being too hasty can result in you not being able to sit through the inking comfortably.
Iron Ink Tattoo advises,
“Tattoo artists cannot continue with your piece if it becomes infected or irritated, so you also play a part in determining how long it will take.”
With that being said…
3. Get Ready For A Long Healing Process
It’s going to take a while until you can show off your hyper realistic tattoo in all its completed glory. The multiple sessions being needed plus the time you need to wait in between the inking appointments so that you can heal adds up to a long process.
While you shouldn’t rush your appointments so that you can give your body time to heal, there are a few ways to speed up your recovery time. It starts by preparing days before your first tattoo appointment.
There is a lot you can do to make sure everything goes well when you’re getting inked. Firstly, don’t go out drinking a couple of days before your appointment. Alcohol thins your blood, which can result in you bleeding more and hampering the artist’s visibility.
When you want to reach for wine or a beer, instead ramp up your water intake ー when you’re well hydrated, the quality of your skin improves.
Secondly, eat a big meal before your appointment. This will keep your blood sugar up which means less chance of you feeling faint. Also remember that getting a tattoo means putting your body through a trauma, so you need to nourish it in order to heal properly.
After your appointment, you may want to bandage up your tattoo after you take off the initial dressing in which you leave the tattoo studio. Healthline does not recommend this:
“Your tattoo needs to breathe, so once you remove the original bandage — usually it’ll be bandaged in clear plastic or surgical wrap by the artist — it’s best not to cover it. Wrapping it may result in extra moisture and a lack of oxygen, which can cause scabbing and slow healing.”
Any picking at the tattoo can reopen the wound, mess with the ink, and could result in an infection which will seriously delay the completion of your hyper realistic design.
Wash your tattoo two to three times a day with sterile water (make sure to wash your hands first before touching your fresh ink!) and use unscented lotion to speed up the healing process.
4. To Color, Or Not To Color?
Hyper realism tattoos can be done in black and grey or color.
With black and grey ink, the tattooer can just focus their attention on the details and shading of the design, whereas with color, the artist needs to pay careful attention to this extra element, too. Also, your tattoo sessions can become longer, as color tattoos often need multiple layers to get that desired effect.
There’s no denying it: Adding color to a hyper realistic tattoo can take the design to a whole new level of realism, but you’ve got to decide whether it’s worth it.
It’s not just the extra attention and skill needed by the artist and the increased time you’ve got to spend in the studio to worry about. Colors in tattoos often tend to fade faster than black ink.
Tattooist Adam Villani told Bustle that the best tattoo palettes are black or greyscale if you want your tattoo to last the test of time,
“You can never go wrong with black and greyscale tattoos. Black ink lasts better than any color ever will […] Bright and vibrant colors look great at first, but tend to fade the quickest.”
Luckily, there are ways to take care of your tattoo to make sure the healing process goes well and that you protect it from the damage of time and the sun.
Dermatologist Naissan O. Wesley explained to Allure that during the tattoo healing process, it is best to avoid swimming, smoking, and tight clothing and to, obviously, lather on the sunscreen,
“Sun protection is a vital component in keeping tattoos looking their best. Sun damage leads to poorer skin quality ー less dense collagen, wrinkling, mottled pigmentation ー and also results in tattoo color fading more quickly.”
It’s not only colors that tend to fade fast, but fine lines, too.
5. Bold Will Hold, Fine Lines Won’t
A tattoo becomes hyper realistic when the small details are paid special attention to, like the glimmer in an eye in a portrait tattoo or the sun reflecting in water in a nature themed tattoo. Like color, small details, light shading, and fine lines tend to fade quicker than traditional black tattoo lines.
One of the reasons for this is that less ink is needed in these details, so the body is able to break it down quicker.
For more about mini fine line tattoos, click here.
6. Don’t Skimp On The Price
What do you expect from a 99c burger? Not much, right? Maybe some meat, a smidge of sauce, and a pickle. It might do the job by filling up that hunger hole in your stomach, but it most likely won’t inspire awe.
Now, what do you expect from a $40 burger? Chances are, you’re expecting some top-quality ingredients and your eyes to go wide from the taste followed by “Mmmmm”.
When it comes to tattooing, it’s not some sandwich you’re going to forget about in a day, you’re going to be living with it for years or you’re going to be spending a lot of money removing it with laser tattoo removal. So, don’t skimp on the price, especially if you’re going with a hyper realistic style.
The fine lines and details need a seasoned tattoo artist that is well-versed in this style of tattooing.
So, for a hyper realistic tattoo, you’re looking at paying well into the thousands (the size of the tattoo will also have an impact on the final price). The extreme skill and effort that this type of tattoo takes comes with a hefty price tag.
Is it worth it?
Well, that all depends on you.
If you really want a hyper realistic tattoo, then of course the price is worth it.
7. Do Your Research And Plan Your Sessions
This is a good rule of thumb for any type of tattoo you’re getting, but especially if you’re planning a hyper realistic tattoo.
Don’t just go for the tattoo studio down the street (unless there is an artist there that happens to specialize in hyper realism). Do your research and check out portfolios.
Unfortunately, as Painful Pleasures, a tattoo and piercing equipment supply store, points out, social media posts don’t always show the full and honest picture,
“Unfortunately, many hyper realistic tattoos you see on social media or in digital portfolios are Photoshopped. A lot of tattooers edit their photos to bump contrast, sharpen details, change colour, and remove redness. For these reasons, the blacks and whites in a photographed tattoo online, especially when fresh, rarely look like that in person.”
Yes, you should still check out portfolios, but also reach out to people who have had hyper realistic tattoos done and ask them about their experience and what their ink looks like now. They may be able to recommend the artist they went to or tell you things they wish they had done before getting inked.
When you’ve chosen your artist, sit down with them and create a plan for your tattoo. Discuss how long you’re prepared to sit for in one session, and they’ll recommend what they would change about your design to get the best possible outcome. Be open to their suggestions – they are professionals after all!
There’s no question: Hyper realism is definitely a style that makes for an eye-catching tattoo when done well. If a hyper realistic tattoo appeals to you, give it a lot of thought and do your research before you book your appointment.
You’ll be in for multiple sessions, the price tag will probably be higher than other tattoo styles, and the fine lines and details most tattooees love about this style aren’t guaranteed to hold.
However, this is your body, and if hyper realism is the way you want to go, go for it!
For more important considerations to take into account before you get a tattoo, click here.