Portrait tattoos are one of the most personal tattoos one can get.  Some people choose to get portraits done for various reasons like memorializing a deceased loved one, as a show of dedication to a significant other, etc..  Whatever the reason is, getting a portrait done right is of great importance.  The last thing somebody needs is an ugly portrait of their pretty girlfriend inked on their arm.  Unfortunately, these tats are also one of the most difficult to ink.

good portrait tattoo

A portrait tattoo done right can be a stunning work of art

Prep work is the most important thing.  In this case, the prep work, in addition to the usual sanitation and workstation preparation you should be doing before a session, will also include getting a very good idea of the clients expectations.  Figure out what features does the client find most striking about the person you are going to do a portait of.  Ask plenty of questions like “what do you feel about the eyes, the nose, the mouth, etc..”  This will give you an idea which areas to highlight more attention to.

The drawing that you will make for the client should be as detailed as possible.  This is not going to be a basic line drawing so you can fill in the rest later on skin.  The initial drawing should look very much like the final ink on skin.  This will allow the client to see in detail exactly how the portrait is going to look so there are no surprises when its done.

bad portrait tattoo

A portrait tattoo gone wrong

Workstation preparation before a session is of utmost importance and if you are a professional artist, this should be second nature to you already.  Have all your needles, inks and supplies laid out in a disinfected clean zone.  Ensure your equipment is properly sterilized and put in a working clean zone of your workspace.

After the transfer, keep the original photo supplied by the client in a visible spot.  The transfer will be the guide but the photo will be the inspiration.  In addition, it may make sense to mark certain areas of the transfer with short notation to show where to blend, highlight and shade in so you go into the session with a fairly detailed plan.

As with any tattoo, ensure your client is advised of proper tattoo aftercare instructions.  This would also be a good time to sell them some tattoo goo or other various after care products.   We did a continuation of this blog post with a tattoo tutorial on how to do a basic black and gray portrait tattoo.