Realism tattoos are a rather new and exciting tattooing style. This tattoo style can be broken down into two separate categories: color realism and black and gray realism.
The style of realism tattooing has completely revolutionized the tattoo industry and the limits of tattooing. The main reason this style is so new and amazing is because of the changes in technology and availability of the equipment and artists becoming more involved in creating art in their tattoos. Things such as pre-made inks and needles, and tattoo machines made it possible for anyone to tattoo. This led to many people evolving how tattoos were being done. In the 60s, inks and needles were very hard to come by in different arrangements and colors, so most things were handmade, which doubled the amount of work it takes to create a tattoo. Today, more focus is put into creating an optical illusion with bright colors or solid black and very soft grey. Artists such as Nikko Hurtado have revolutionized the style of realism, particularly in the color realism category.
Color realism tattoos have only been around for about 20 years, mainly because of innovations in techniques, and new technologies available. With the availability of a wide range of pre-mixed colors of ink from brands such as Fusion, Eternal, and Star Bright, realism tattoos are much easier to achieve. The reason why the availability of color makes it easier is that a huge part of executing a color realism tattoo is matching the color needed in that specific area. These top brands help take out a lot of guesswork when identifying colors.
Black and grey realism use a very balanced palette of dark, medium, and light tones of black to achieve very convincing optical illusions and separate major subject matter. Many artists, such as Bob Terelle and Freddie Nagreti, choose to not mix in white ink to achieve a smooth blend, but rather a blend of several tones of black. These artists instead use white ink not for mixing with black but to create pure white highlights, such as in areas like the eyes of a loved one's portrait. White is usually lined in with a 7- or a 4-round liner for smaller areas, and for bigger areas, a flat row of needles called a mag would be used with 5 to 11 needles. Each artist has their own way of creating these amazing works of art. Pistol Pete uses a common technique for his realism that requires the exact photo at scale. This is important so that as few transfers of the design are made as possible, so as few details as possible are lost. Prints from professional photography centers can provide great stencil and reference material.
Realism tattoos take much more time than any other style because of the large amount of detail that goes into making one look absolutely real. Because of this, it is important to figure out what your budget is, and communicate with your artist to come up with a plan that may include several sessions to accomplish it.