Step-by-step: Cre­ate a re­al­is­tic, com­plex tat­too

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Break elab­o­rate de­signs down into parts, and use re­peat­ing el­e­ments (like the geo­met­ric shapes here) to make it look co­he­sive. Get an idea of where each part goes be­fore­hand by sketch­ing out the tat­too on the por­trait first. The tat­too doesn’t have to be per­fectly clean, since real tat­toos are done by hand.

Place your flat de­sign where you want, then Trans­form>Dis­tort its lay­ers to match the per­spec­tive. For sim­pler curved sur­faces (say, across a calf), Trans­form> Warp might do. For greater con­trol, I use Liquify. Click Ad­vanced Mode and Show Back­drop with the set­tings shown, so you can see the back­ground while liquify­ing.

For this sub­tler, aged tat­too look, I have a layer in Over­lay mode and oth­ers in Soft Light and Mul­ti­ply. I al­ter the Opac­ity to blend with the skin and use Gaus­sian Blur, be­cause an old tat­too will lose its crisp­ness. For a new tat­too, se­lect Blend­ing Op­tions and add Soft Glow set to Mul­ti­ply for a red out­line of ir­ri­tated skin.

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