Painting Tattoos

Painting tattoos on miniatures can end up looking painted on rather than inked in.  Here are some tricks to help you become an ink master.

From the 1st time I started painting models I realized that the most badass characters were bare chested and had a tattoo or two to show off.

It might not add to the stats, but you just know it’s better if it’s rocking the tats.

As if painting skin was not hard enough already, tattoos crank the difficulty up a notch.

The hard part with painting tattoos is making them look like tattoos and not just some freehand stuff laid on top of your model.

Here are ways to help you achieve this easily.

Off black

Tattoos are rarely truly black.

Except within the 24 hours when they’re done and the skin is still bloated with surplus ink (before the itching begins, for those familiar with the needle ) then it’s off black.

Over time, tattoos will take a blue-ish hue. This is more the obvious with old and cheap tattoos, like most of those typically seen on sailors and grandpas.

P3 Coal Black is really a weapon of choice here, although Skavenblight Dinge, Dark Reaper and Incubi Darkness are solid contenders.

Skavenblight Dinge is a lot more subtle and will blend in more, where P3 Coal Black will produce a cleaner outline.

No New School

New School tattoos are caracterized by their bold use of colors.

Don’t do that on your models.

This ties in with the point that you want something that looks like a tattoo, not like any freehand painted on top of skin, which is what these colored tattoos will look like, sadly.

Of course, this is for simplicity’s sake.  If you are having a hard time, stick with a black tattoo until you master the technique.


Painting anything freehand is already quite a difficult task when done on a rather flat surface. It’s that much harder to do on curved and bent areas like muscles and limbs.

Once again, this ties in with real tattoos, where placement of a design will play a huge part on the end product.

On minis, the chest and the shoulders are usually the easiest, as they offer a flat surface.

Whatever you paint there should fit without being distorted too much.

Unless doing simple lines (I’m a big fan of the bicep barbwire…) stick to flatter areas for an easier time.

Google Image

Tattoo Parlor galleries, Instagram, or Google Image, really.  Whichever you use, get a reference for whatever you’re gonna tattoo on your model.

This pretty much goes for any freehand, but the good part is that you can search for a tattoo version of whatever you’re doing.

By doing this, you can see how a real tattoo would be placed on someone and a flattering shape.  The reference also helps with placement in this regards.

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