Octopus Dreams #4 – Designing Octopus Tattoos

Sometimes I like to try out tattoo ideas directly on my skin. I usually do this by just doodling the design in black biro. This is how this picture started…

It was quite tricky to do since I chose a spot on my lower leg! I tried to brighten the eyes with some white gel pen, but as you can see, that didn’t really work. I did enjoy having an octopus on my leg for the day though! 🙂

So I thought I might make a better job of this on paper or via digital drawing. I tried digital drawing first.

Digital Octopus Tattoo Design

For this first design I wanted to make something symmetrical. So I began with a couple of circles to give me some rough guides for where I wanted parts of the shape…

Next I used the symmetry tool to draw the octopus. Using this tool I only had to draw half of it and the tool put the other half in for me and kept it symmetrycal.

Once I had a basic outline I added some other small details and removed my guide circles…

Then I added some shading. I used the pen tool to put in some darker and lighter tones and then used the blend tool to blend them together. This is exactly how I would do it with oil paint…

My final job here was to add some textural marks to the design…

Here is the final digital tattoo design…

Traditional Ink Octopus Tattoo Design

Here’s the process I went through to create a traditional ink drawing for a tattoo design. I began with the basic structure…

Then drew in an outline…

Next I inked my outline…

Then added some details…

Here is what the linework looked like once I was finished. (You might be able to see that I added some greyscale shadows in pencil on the design.)

Reviewing my work

Looking at the two designs I think each one has some strengths and weaknesses:

The digital design has:

  • Interesting textures especially on the octopus’ mantle.
  • Some webbing between the octopus’ arms which gives it a nice feel.
  • An overbearing outline which seems to me to be the wrong style for the final image.
  • A symmetrical shape which can be problematic in tattoos if the skin stretches in one direction more than another.

The tradition design has:

  • A well placed sense of the animal.
  • An interesting overall shape.
  • Textures and other design elements which work well together.
  • A lack of three dimensionality.

So having looked at both designs for a couple of days I decided to draw a new version which incorporates some aspects of one drawing and some of the other. Here is my final octopus tattoo design…

You can see I’ve based it on the traditional drawing, but added webbing, shadows, three-dimensional shading and some sand cloud and bubble effects.

Which one do you prefer?

Next week I’m going to be posting a study of a beautiful but sad Reuter’s photograph which I painted digitally.

7 thoughts on “Octopus Dreams #4 – Designing Octopus Tattoos

  1. I should have said “tattoo DESIGN artist”. You make a catalog of great designs and sell it to the guys who do the actual work. Lots of people go to get a tattoo with only an idea of what they want but no concrete design, then pick something out of a book.


  2. LOL – well I would have to learn to tattoo first! I think I would enjoy that kind of work except that I don’t really like touching strangers (bit of a big downside there) and any part which would be under a bikini or swimming trunks would be out!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I’m SO glad they seem to be looking into classing animals from cephalopoda as sentient! I don’t think they’re doing the same for lobsters at the moment though. I think MP’s have raised concerns about lobsters but in the end the committee looking into it are only looking at Cephalopoda (octopus, cuttlefish, squid and nautilus). I wonder if this move is a direct result of the media out at the moment which point to octopus intelligence and sentience, like “My Octopus teacher” film on Netflix, “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery and “Other Minds” by Peter Godfrey-Smith? I so wish I could be on that committee!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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