Cosplay tattoos are tricky to pull off. There are several techniques to making them, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. Having real tattoos makes cosplays that show skin more difficult than others. Other times, no makeup experience leaves a cosplayer feeling flustered while they try to imitate a design. While you can easily use lidocaine ointment to remove the pain of tattoos, actually following through with a fan tattoo is something that takes a lot of thought. We gathered a few techniques common in the cosplay world that work best.
1) Stenciled Tattoos
Stencil tattoos are perfect for smaller, precise tattoos. They have clean lines that are consistent with manga, anime, and cartoons, and they can be combined with airbrushes to create a professional-looking gradient effect. When you need the tattoo to be perfect, this is the best way to go. Plus, you can make the stencil long ahead of time and not worry about getting the design perfect on the day of the con. I recommend using some tattoo ointment to moisturize your skin beforehand–it works perfectly for applying other types of art to your skin! If you need more details about making stencil tattoos, check out this article.
2) Drawn-on Tattoos
Drawn on tattoos tend to look less sleek or professional, but there are certain times where it’s better to use them. Designs with intricate details or thin, curling lines are best left to pens and pencils rather than stencils and airbrushes. Combined with markers and some makeup, they can easily resemble real tattoos. Unfortunately, they are not as consistent as stenciled tattoos. If you make a habit of helping others with their cosplay body art, look into purchasing a specialized tattoo chair so that they don’t fidget while you work.
3) Body Paint
When a character has an outlandish skin color or large, body-covering tattoos, then body paint is your go-to technique. You can pull off straight lines even though you’re painting free hand, since the brushes and paints are much thicker than regular ink. Depending on the type of paint you get, it can be an expensive way of cosplaying, consequently making this inaccessible for budget cosplayers. But it’s worth it to splurge, if you have the money. More expensive specialty body paints are important to get, since they allow your skin to breath during the long conventions where you’ll be surrounded by people.
Heavier paints not made for skin will suffocate you—literally—and leave you with a headache for the rest of the day after removal. With body paint in particular, be sure to make sure your skin is compatible with it before the day of the con—allergic reactions suck, plus having a full-body reaction at a huge convention probably isn’t your idea of pleasant.
4) Real Tattoos
Believe it or not, many cosplayers go to cons with their real tattoos showing—even if those tattoos don’t match their cosplay! If you have real tattoos, use them to your advantage. Build your own unique interpretation of your cosplay character, therefore taking your cosplay to a new level. If you want to get a tattoo at or before a con, consider using tattoo numbing cream to ease your recovery or tattoo session.
Pulling off cosplay tattoos is difficult but satisfying work. Many cosplayers opt to skip out on tattoos or cover them with clothes and accessories, so wearing a realistic-looking tattoo shows others your effort. Plus, experimenting with different looks and makeup for your skin is part of the fun! Making stencils and making fake tattoos go down with the essential skills for a master cosplayer. If you want to cosplay a tattooed character, learn the ropes and start cosplaying with the best of them!
If you still need ideas or inspiration, feel free to browse through the gallery below and on Pinterest. Maybe you also will find some inspiration in other tattoo designs like the Roman Numeral Tattoos or White Ink Tattoos.