How to Add Realistic Tattoos to Your Body

Tattoos are always fascinating but I don’t think I will ever get one done for many reasons especially here in Asia.

Anyway, thank goodness we have Photoshop. This is the closest thing to working with the real thing.

So here’s a 6m 53s quick tutorial from Blue Lightning TV showing you how to add realistic body tattoos as a quick & fun PS project.

The Tattoo design used in the tutorial is provided for your practice.

Tattoo design:


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Skill level:  Intermediate


  • Selection & Quick Mask / Layer mask
  • Gaussian Blur
  • Magic Wand
  • Clipping mask
  • Ctrl+T  Transform
  • Channels & Alpha selection – Step 8
  • Blend mode (Soft Light)
  • Hue / Saturation Adjustment


  • Displacement Map (Filter / Distort / Displace)


Summarised for the busy person

  1. Make a selection of arm area. Press “Q” for Quick Mask to see your selection. Save the selection with Select / Save selection. Ctrl + D to turn off the “marching ants”.
  2. Ctrl+J to make a copy of the layer for a Displacement Map (1:38). Displacement maps work best when they are slightly blurred. Apply Gaussian Blur with Filter / Blur / Gaussian Blur. 3 pixels was used for the tutorial image but you will have to adjust it depending on your image size. File / Save As  to save the file on your desktop in PSD format. The Blurred layer can be deleted since the Displacement Map file has been saved.
  3. Open the Tattoo design (2:25). Use the Magic wand to select the tattoo to cut it out from the white background. With the tattoo selected, Ctrl+J to copy it to it’s own layer.
  4. Press “V” for Move tool (3:03). Drag it into the tab with the body image
  5. Ctrl+T to Transform the image (3:13) to fit the arm. Resize & Rotate & Position it.
  6. Apply Gaussian Blur to the tattoo to better blend with the skin with Filter / Blur / Gaussian Blur / 1 pixel.
  7. Use the Displacement Map (3:58) to conform the shape of the tattoo to the contours of the arm. Go to Filter / Distort/ Displace. Use Horizontal & Vertical scale of 10, Stretch to Fit & Repeat Edge Pixels. OK to accept & choose the Displacement Map file.
  8. Hide the tattoo extending beyond the arms (4.35). Ctrl+Click on the thumbnail of the tattoo to select the tattoo. Open Channels panel. Go to Alpha 1, Press Ctrl+Shift+Alt to delete the selection outside the arm.
  9. Go back to Layers panel & click on the Layer Mask icon to make a layer mask of the selection.
  10. To blend the tattoo onto the skin (5:08), change the Blend Mode to Soft Light.
  11. Make a composite snapshot with Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E.
  12. Make a copy of it.
  13. Copy the Tattoo layer mask to the top layer (5:30). Go to layer mask, Alt & hold and drag a copy to the top layer.
  14. Click on the thumbnail of the top layer to make it active. Create a Hue / Saturation adjustment & clip it to affect just the layer beneath it. Reduce the Saturation to -30, Lightness to -40. This will be different for other images. Experiment with the settings including Hue if you want to change the color.
  15. There is even a font for your to try for further practice.


As always, if you find this useful & helpful, do click Like and let me have your feedback in the comments.

Feel free to share if it will help others. Sharing is caring. 😉


2 comments on “How to Add Realistic Tattoos to Your Body

  1. Pingback: How to Add Realistic Tattoos to Your Body | newbietechaid

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