May 282012

Today I will explain the steps Dark Design Graphics takes to complete a personalized tattoo design for a customer. Before I start I ought to explain that, for me, designing tattoo’s is one of the most exciting services we offer. Researching, sketching and designing a tattoo allows for more creativity than a lot of graphic design work. This is because clients will often chose us based on the style of our previous creative drawings, sketches and tattoo designs. In this article I will use my most recent tattoo design as an example with a Time Lapse video of the creation process at the end of this article.

Skulls And Flowers How We Design A Tattoo Progress from Dark Design Graphics

Researching Your Project

After receiving the clients brief the first thing we do is start our research. Research involves finding all the reference images we will be using and getting inspiration and ideas from what we can find. For this project my best find during research where these free high quality skull reference images from MediaMilitia, to download these images just click on the skull below. For this particular tattoo design these skulls where a real blessing, my research also brought me a collection of flower images from various sources around the net.

Skull Reference Images from MediaMilitia

The aim during research is to make sure you know exactly what you are doing in your design, have all bases covered from reference images to layouts. Make sure you know what medium you will be using to create your design, style, size, materials etc. At the end of the day all of this can change during your project but the more prepared you are the easier it will be.

Creating A Concept

Once I have all the reference material I believe I need I sketch out concepts to get feedback from the client. When creating concepts for projects I often use varies types of mediums, or which ever medium enables me to come up with quick mock ups that can convey my ideas. But to design a tattoo I have found that rough sketches always win. A rough sketch allows you to create an image that helps the client identify  the layout of the tattoo design while also letting you make any requested changes easily. The client may not even like the concept asking you to redesign it completely, this should not be an issue as it is not often you get a clients idea down on paper straight away. But if you have spent a long time creating a concept the client does not like it will fall to you to start again.

Skulls And Flowers How We Design A Tattoo Concept Sketch from Dark Design Graphics

Fortunately for me, the first feedback I received from my client was extremely positive.

I love it! It’s gonna kick as big time ^_^
There’s not one thing to criticize, I can’t wait to see more of it.
As for the patterns on the skulls, I’ll let your creativity speak 😉

After a few more adjustments we later decided to abandon the patterns on the skulls and concentrate on the flowers and the skulls themselves.

Using A Lightbox To Design A Tattoo

A Lightbox is one of the designers most useful tools, I use the Lightbox in logo design, illustration, fine art and especially for creating the time lapse videos, but more about that later. If you live in the UK and are considering buying one check out lightboxuk I have found to be the best value for money so far. There are many different ways to use a Lightbox in Tattoo Design as seen in my Saint George Tattoo Design – Using A Lightbox but I will be explaining how I used it in this particular project.

Skull And Flowers Design A Tattoo Using A Lightbox

After placing a fresh sheet of paper over the sketch on top of the Lightbox, I can then start colouring up the design. Using a Lightbox means I do not have to worry about either rubbing out the pencil sketch, covering it up or finding the pencil has effected the colour of my work. It also means if I find need to start again I can just put a fresh peice of paper over the sketch. Using this method greatly speeds up your work and helps you to make really fast and precise adjustments with client feedback.

Putting It All Together

I was actually very fortunate to receive a client who knew exactly what he wanted and was able to write me a precise and detailed brief for this project. It is not often the case, especially in regards to tattoo designs. Tattoo designs should be unique to the person they are designed for. If the client does not like the design why would they have it permanently tattooed into their skin. There are many things to consider when getting a tattoo design as explained in a recent article what to consider when getting a tattoo and finding a professional artist who knows what he is doing is one of them.

Below is the time lapse video as mentioned earlier showing how I design a tattoo from beginning to end. Check out more Tattoo Designs from Dark Design Graphics on our Youtube channel. The music in this is created by Richard Stabler who kindly allows his music to be used for free, check out


Oh well, I’m at a loss of words before your design… Astonishing!
Honestly, I think it’s actually the best tattoo design I have seen in ages. And lucky me, it’s going on me! ^_^ The subtle play with colors is just pure class.
The best part in all that is that not once did I have to request for the slightest change. You just hit it right, right from the bat.

For more information about our professional tattoo design services take a look at our tattoo design page or contact me at to discuss your ideas and give us our next brief!

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  6 Responses to “Skulls And Flowers – How We Design A Tattoo”

  1. […] Take a look at the link to see how I create custom tattoo designs for my customers. This three skull tattoo design speed drawing was created using colouring pencils and a lightbox. To see how I use a lightbox in tattoo design check out Saint George Tattoo Design – Using A Lightbox […]

  2. ..i want this tattoo design sooo soooo bad.. .. :((

  3. Well i was looking forward to design some designs like this, now i get more options thankx

  4. How long did it take you to do this project from beginning to end? 🙂

    • Hi Natalia, I think it took about 15 to 20 hours over all, including the time it took me to research etc. I often have more than one project on the go, so sometimes it can be hard to tell, Hope this helps 🙂

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