How to Design a Tattoo in Photoshop

By Elizabeth Chaplin

Adobe Photoshop is a popular graphics program that has a number of useful features. Whether you are just starting or you are well-versed in Photoshop, you can use the program to design your next tattoo. Tattoos have become less taboo and more of a trend in recent years. However, one thing that remains the same about getting inked is the ability to design your own meaningful tattoo. Tattoo artists print the design on a special transfer paper, then transfer it to the client's skin. This makes any tattoo designed in Photoshop easy to get permanently drawn onto your skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Drawing tablet

Step 1

Decide on the where the tattoo will go. Keep the curves of the body in mind; arms and legs have a curve, while the back and shoulder areas are relatively flat. This will give you an idea of how large the design should be.

Step 2

Open Photoshop, go to the "File" menu and click "New." Set the resolution to at least 200 dots per inch (dpi). This will ensure a clean printout. Make the document the approximate size of the area that is being tattooed. Hit "OK."

Step 3

Select the "Paintbrush" tool. Click on the brushes palette drop-down at the top of the screen and choose a hard, round brush. This is perfect for the straight, smooth lines of a tattoo.

Step 4

Draw the design using the drawing tablet. Drawing tablets make digital artwork look more natural, since it is similar to drawing with traditional materials. Do not draw thick lines too closely together. Over time, tattoos bleed. Lines that are drawn close together tend to bleed into each other, leaving a smudgy mess.

Step 5

Try adding different elements by utilizing Photoshop layers. Press the "Create a New Layer" in the layers palette and draw on it. Any drawing on its own layer will not affect the other layers. If you dislike a design element on a layer, highlight the layer and hit the "Trash can" button to remove it. Also use layers to fill in color; make a new layer behind the outlines.

Step 6

Select the "Eraser" tool and choose a hard, round brush from the brushes palette. Use the eraser to touch up the edges of the tattoo to make them smooth. The edges do not have to be perfect; just let the tattoo artist know that you want the edges completely smooth.

Step 7

Choose the "Text" tool and click anywhere on the design to position the cursor. Select a font and font size from the text toolbar at the top of the screen. Choose a font that is interesting and speaks to the theme and mood of your design. Avoid overly basic fonts like "Times New Roman" and "Arial." There are two main types of tattoo fonts; block and fine. Block fonts are thicker and easier for the tattoo artist to work with, while fine fonts are similar to calligraphy.

Step 8

Print the final result and bring it to a trusted tattoo artist. Make sure the shop has artists who specialize in custom tattoos.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do research on tattoo artists and designs before designing your own tattoo. Go to sites like or