Tattoos are one of the most ancient fashions known to mankind. The word tattoo is said to derive from a Tahitian word ‘Tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’, and the known history of tattooing dates back over 5000 years.
It is thought that the first tattoos were brought to Europe in the 18th century by French sailors returning from voyages to Polynesia. At first they were exclusively worn by men, though in the late 20th century they become popular with both men and women of all ages and backgrounds.
Up until today very few fundamentals of tattooing have changed. A tattoo is created by inserting coloured inks or dyes beneath the surface of the skin. But recently a new trend for 3D tattooing is increasingly popular. 3D designs appear to be leaping off of the skin, though they are in reality a trick of the eye or optical illusion.
In 3D tattoos, traditional tattoo designs such as flowers, faces or oriental characters are out. The new trend in tattoos is 3D art. Perhaps inspired by advances in multimedia and virtual reality, hip 3D tattoo designs include robotic body parts, reptiles or insects crawling over the skin or lizard scales, anatomically correct animals, ‘opened’ flesh to reveal a body organ, robotic body parts or a surreal internal landscape. 3D tattoo designs are wild!
3D tattoos are performed by highly skilled artists. So, many of these designs actually done in 2D and then the illusion of relief, or 3D, is achieved with the use of shading, just in the same way as perspective has been created in painting since the renaissance. This is the easy way.
Recently however tattoo art has been raised quite literally to another level. A new technique involves the part of the tattoo being physically raised to create a relief within the skin. Hyaluronic acid is injected underneath the skin where the tattoo is being made to create this effect. Contours in the skin augment the 3D effect by raising the level of the skin above the usual level of the skin by a fraction. The difference is only 2 millimetres but combined with clever 2D shading, the effect is greatly maximised.
Tattoo artists who can work with hyaluronic acid are thin on the ground as it is a technique requiring in depth training and experience. More than ever you need to make sure you are in the hands of a tattoo artist who knows what they are doing.
It should be stated as well that there are drawbacks to working with hyaluronic acid. Like other skin injections such as Botox, it will start to deplete over time, meaning that the skin will smooth over time and the 3D effect will disappear leaving a much flatter tattoo. Typically the effects of the acid last anywhere between six to twelve months.
If you are considering a 3D tattoo research your design well and talk to a professional. Check their portfolio and if you are thinking of having hyaluronic acid injections talk this through with the tattoo artist. Tattoo specialists Tribalbodyart Ltd say that the sign of a true professional is someone who explains the pros and cons of any tattoo they intend to perform.