Put your eyes to the ultimate perception test. These 3D tattoos aren’t just inspirational to look at, their also down right mind-wrenching.
When it comes to adding three dimensional life to the skin, it takes a seriously talented tattoo artist.
Sure, an incredible design is one thing, but to make it believable and appear vividly real is quite another story.
Just take a trip back to the times of Pop Art and you’ll uncover where this illusion all begins. While over time the style has evolved into Photorealism, most men simply call it 3D artwork today, and it’s a technique that is a a main feature in the the 50+ best tattoo ideas.
Regardless of its true definition, one thing is for certain: You won’t believe your eyes.
Take a glance at this round up of the top 80 best 3D tattoos for men, and challenge your depth perception.
You might be surprised to know that these designs aren’t just geometric shapes either! From skulls to gears, stars, and more there’s numerous ideas to be inspired by.
Look, it’s simple. If the 3D tattoo you just got inked makes it seem like there’s a massive hole in your arm, then it’s wildly successful. This is a complete masterpiece of technique (and the art isn’t bad either) as the tattooist has manipulated space, shade, line work and overall balance to create a killer 3D expression.
A well executed 3d realist piece, this wolf is a quality tattoo. Really enjoy the contrasts in pattern the artist achieves in shading to help the black and gray work coalesce into a clever sleeve tattoo
This 3d tattoo incorporates a mixture of Japanese style with enough realism to not look like a caricature. Mixing the shadow work between needles styles – sharp, crisp single black line, and fat, fuzzy, wide gauge needlework – helps create a nicely contrasted chest tattoo by giving the big cat a suitably fearsome expression.
The intensity of this ode to New York City is immediately evident. The amount of detail needed to make the city scape thrum is amazing, with clear, precise shading building a variety of complementary shapes within each skyscraper. Love how the artist has mixed art with technical wizadry – the negative space of NYC is simple, but effective – while shaping the city within the shadowed visage of a woman’s face is boss level bad ass. Even the barbed wire and bird shapes look lively when they could have been simpler, or ignored all together. This tattoo is the bee’s knees!
Such a cool manipulation of awkward sized space to form an eye catching image. The clarity of the gun in particular is noteworty for this hand tattoo. The artist has formed this work by ignoring the obvious possibility of white highlights, instead opting to cleverly manipulate negative space and shading patterns to form variations in the darkness. The technique on display here shows a keen eye, and very steady gun.
It looks like the cube piece has been added to an original work to form a combination head trip piece of body art. It may be one image, however the face one cube is forced over the top of the black hole at the upper left means it’s likely the dotwork tattoo was there first. It’s a cool geometric 3D image growing on the edge of the more interesting original work, however the block work doesn’t seem to do much other than be there.
“That’s all I can stands, ’cause I can’t stands no more!” Love it when 3D gets absurd. This is a well delivered bit of humor with Popeye extending outward and ready to light things up with his hammer fist. The tattooist has done well manipulating size and angle to create the linkage of tattoo and true fist.
This a classy 3D small tattoo etched with great technique. By implementing the diamond shapes border the artist has given the internal scene a nice, uniquely shaped barrier to operate within and make a quality landscape artwork. Deft use of black and gray shade create the ground and sky part of the image which contrasts the darker, differently shaped pattern aspects of sea and cliffs.
Enjoyable alternative line work style tattoo. The piece works because the artist has used a range of different shapes and direction within the line work to give shading opportunities and a cool sense of flow.
This is the epitome of 3D tattooing. It features a cool image (the skull) with an even cooler image inside it (the women) that correspond well to each other in the application of the artist’s chosen technique (let’s go with the term serial killer calligraphy paintbrush in black) This is art on skin, but could just as easily be part of a massive travelling showcase from your favorite contemporary museum.
This upper arm tattoo is a wonderful work contrasting shades, but with a cool geometric flavor. It also uses a pastiche of techniques that show off the artist’s wide array of talents. The black/gray contrast core element is evident, but the use of minute detail to reflect the flesh and tendon versus shape and shade opposing forces is where the real action is. The (multiple) circle precision, dotwork, fuzzy black, and ink splatter filler helps round out a technically brilliant and eye catching tattoo.
This mix of geometric and Greek styles form a tremendously balanced back tattoo. Love how the darkness of the pattern contrasts with pale marble style texture of the face over a large canvas. The glorious flow of beard into the bottom section of artwork makes exceptional filler, and the stark contrast with the negative space, fine geometry is flawless. The subject also rocks an epic Big Ben tattoo on his right arm, so he’s no stranger to quality body art.
The macro connection between spanners and skulls is lost here, but what’s not is the brilliant half sleeve tattoo created. The texture of the skull has been etched with peerless precision, looking as chrome as the spanners below. There’s a masterful amount of detail folded into the skull alone, but you could pull those spanners from the sleeve and get straight to work.
The tattooist of this piece could have laid down the excellent hexagonal spirals – one after another – in this half sleeve tattoo and called it a day, happy with a beautiful combination of geometric tattoo, negative space, and line pattern together in an awesomely eye catching piece of body art. Nope. The artist has opted to take it up another level, threading a simple, fat-fuzzy line of continuous corkscrewing black ink in to change the focus of the image and give it balance. It’s a ballsy move that some would think screws up the image, but I feel it gives it more character and a contrasting anchor that plays well off the tile.
One of the fastest growing tattoo genres is that of bio-mechanical tattoo. This piece is a heavy black and gray style image that does well to create the perspective from inside a timepiece, with clear emphasis on the interplay between cogs, gears and levers against that of the process of the human eye. It’s an ambitious tattoo that works, but could benefit from the addition of more white ink highlights and a ‘chilling out’ of the heavier thunder elements around the eye.
A series of classical images that work well off one another and form an impressive full sleeve tattoo. The imagery is clearly top quality, but what makes the piece stand out further is the deft attention to detail in complementary shade work linking the focal points. The mix of fat, fuzzy black and negative space melds effortlessly behind the Greek style imagery to fill out and focus the main content.
Using white ink highlights can often be the difference between a good tattoo and the very best. This timepiece body art exemplifies this theory as the subtle but stylish additions of small white ink flourishes along cogs, hands, and outer band create a greater level of detail through the entirety if the image.
This inner bicep tattoo hasn’t tried to get too clever and bite off too much image for the available space. The artist has opted to take a cross section of this warrior’s visage rather than an entire head shot. The results makes compelling art that balances the pocked, overworked solid iron of the helm against skin creases, scars, stress, and the most realistic blue eyes you’ll find on skin.
Bio-mechanical meets 3D abstract in a seriously bad ass leg tattoo. You could be forgiven for thinking that the tattoo is in fact the latest Skynet technology (or something equally Terminatorish) There are no flaws here: the chrome is slick, red flesh, tendon, and laid bare skin pulled apart with textbook accuracy. But the key element in the piece is the spring, slightly more vivid, more active, waiting to boing forth from the tattoo and out into reality. This is top class tattooing.
This is original – A 3D tattoo that looks like a real imprint onto the ground. Love it! Being able to put such a degree of depth into this tattoo makes you wonder what kind of paw print it is and how heavy was it to make the ground crack like that. It’s like a plaster of Paris, but with way more complex color and detail.
Look, some people would freak out completely over this tattoo, but it most definitely is not real. There’s a decent degree of realism, but compared to some other 3D pieces the hole and spider don’t seem to work well together as a cohesive tattoo.
This brilliant skull tattoo looks like when you set fire to an x-ray. Smoke curls from this image, while the white skull highlights look like an old school negative. You would be hard pressed to find a leg tattoo etched with is much skill and flair as this one.
Damn, the Droogs are out. This full back tattoo looks like it’s been lifted straight from “Now, a major motion picture from…”. style cover of a Clockwork Orange. It subconsciously brings back discomfort from the book and (especially) the film. But putting all of that aside, this a brilliantly realized piece of tattoo art. The depth, use of shade, shadow, and ready identification with the source material work to make this a stunning piece of body art. It feels like you’re crammed into a dingy alley with four dudes hellbent on breaking you into small pieces for no other reason than that they can.
Clever use of thin, single needle black line enables this skull to look like it’s ensconced within…fangs? flesh? Not sure what it is, but the effects of the piece are detailed with skill, and the black and gray shading technique on show is also well done.
This 3D tribal tattoo is great. The tattooist is able to make it look like he took on the subject’s skin with a chisel and hammer rather than needle, gun, and ink. The deft use of thick black lines to create depth in the imprint is a real highlight, and there’s good, spare use of shading to emphasize the artwork’s depth.
Such a beautiful half sleeve tattoo mixing realism with new wave, and the traditional shading elements of blackwork tattoo. The artist succeeds with this piece mainly because they have an expert knowledge of how to use lighting effects in body art. It’s similar to a photographer knowing where to place people or objects. Manipulating light effects can effects every element of the tattoo – shape, scale, shading, color, and overall feel.
Sweet. This body art incorporates the ripped skin/sketch style with a bible quote text to set up a bad ass chest tattoo. Adding the brief, ripped lines amidst the small flourishes of welling blood makes the star look like it’s been literally carved out to reveal words below.
Having seen plenty enough of the real Australian Redback spider i can safely say this is a brilliant realist reflection of the cranky little fellow. The artist has obviously seen one or two as well – they’ve done an excellent job showing off the creatures features – especially the red stripe on its’ back. The tattoo is also brilliant at making it seem like the spider is ready to leap off the subject’s skin.
Mixing geometric fundamentals with animal realism can make outstanding contrasts in 3D tattoos. This piece is excellent, with the simple red working off the heavily detailed black and gray owl to build an eye catching artwork. The highlight of this piece are the talons and the finger-like feathers that do such a great job of making the bird look in motion and about to pounce.
This is a killer 3D abstract tattoo. Love how the planets and asteroids look like they’re popping off the subject’s skin. The awesome thing here though is the unbelievable color scheme running riot through the entire piece, backed by very zappy electric flourishes.
Look, tattoos are uncomfortable, and sometimes really painful. But making your tattoo look like it’s going to continue to be painful forever is next level. Having the nails cast a shadow is a nice touch adding an extra layer of realism to the piece, while making them looked punched in without going too far over the top is savvy.
Now, this bio-mechanical half sleeve is a well executed 3D tattoo. The artist been able to expose the machine under the skin with a multi detailed pattern technique – the blue gray shade work and piped metal tubing are awesome – and then created an eye type blue metal shoulder highlight.
A knight in blue back armor is much better than one that shines. This fellow is bad ass. The tattooist uses classical gray and black shading techniques to emphasize this killer’s gauntlets and helmet with a range of shapes. The scalloped finger work helps build a front for the heavy black shading behind to be an effective filler.
The feathers of this raven are epic. Really enjoy how each phase interlocks then moves down the arm for the next group. Only dramwa with this tattoo is that I’m not a huge fan of the bird’s head placement. It could’ve looked even more bad ass if it was preening or in attack mode. Up against the wings like this the bird just looks scared of the rain.
This is an exceptional new wave 3D tattoo. It opts for abstract elements in combination with traditional black and gray shading and portraiture to form an impressively detailed full back tattoo. The artist has incorporated a canny sense of scale to create this piece over such a large area through emphasis on negative space alternate fill techniques. Love the incorporation of the labrum piercing to take emphasis away from the large scale of the woman’s lips.
Wow. This stone carved etching tattoo is brilliantly detailed. Being able to incorporate a large 3D effect that pops off the skin is difficult for body art of this size, but through depth effects on the edge and central images, the tattooist has been able to pull this off. If they took this tattoo to the nearest stone mason they’d find alternate employment immediately.
Another cool bio-mechanical piece, this one is unique in that it inks the leg and foot (the ankle ball is one of the least comfortable places to get tagged, it feels like the needles carving directly onto bone) I like how the ripped skin effect is minimal – the artist has favored metal work emphasis inside the area exposed.
This is another mind bending 3D tattoo. Love how the arrow on the right looks poised above the skin it’s tattooed on and is ready to be loosed. While the skin pouch is effective and shows a good deal of skill, in the context of the tattoo it looks a bit freaky – thicker line work could strengthen this part of the body art.
This looks gross, and awesome. The flayed effect is nasty but brilliantly effective in bringing the bloody slashing to a focal point, while the degradation of skin and flesh from bald head down to withered and bare skull is a wicked application of technique.
A nice neo traditional tattoo combining roses with pocket watch. It’s a well drawn, cleverly balanced tattoo that could’ve benefited from going further into new wave style with brighter, more vivid blue rose and pink highlights, or an offsetting color within the clock mechanism.
A muted, yet engrossing 3D tattoo. The artist’s framing of the candlelight is spooky, while the wick itself looks like you could reach out and snuff out the flame. The melted wax hanging down off the hand is a cool technique as well to get the waxy flow spreading past the image bottom.
Okay, so this game of chess might be a little too high stakes if the Reaper and Bobby Fischer are at the end of things. As a tattoo though it goes hard. The clarity in the cheap glass chess set is just as greasy and warped as the real thing. The king piece is amazing and dominates the salt and pepper board from the near end. The skull shares ink with the child’s face by being cleverly turned aside to create a cool angle with which the artist can work to achieve the sketchy balance the piece is looking for.
What an epic 3D leg tattoo. There are a variety of techniques the artist has used to make this a standout, but focusing the bright colors on puzzle parts and giving them the illusion of movement and extra thickness id boss level. The facial puzzle in particular gets an epic upgrade via this method.
The fill effect to give some of the crosses an old TV ‘snow’ look is difficult and painstaking – like taking regular dot work off medication then letting it do whatever it feels like. This snow aids the geometric cross construction the artwork is built on. The placement if ink on the chest of this subject’s body type could be considered risky, but the work is compact enough that it shouldn’t be a problem if the surface area changes shape.
Pretty cool 3D realism mash up of the DNA Helix. The embedded ladder is uncomfortable looking enough to be an unqualified success. The chaste dark green color, with just a touch of white gives the inner forearm piece a unique perspective when compared to fancier helix shown on television, internet, and in text books.
Ooh, now this is the body art to warm the cockles of a sea dog’s heart. This side tattoo looks like an early photograph of an East India Company frigate, crisp and clean for the most part but with the sense it’s a little too dark and overexposed. You want to flip the photo over to get more of a description. The artist has shown the knack for getting the big tub to look under sail and flowing with the wind and current.
This vortex tattoo goes big on risk by eschewing a simple black and white effect in favour of of black and hues of bright green. While the technique is the same as with white ink or neg space, the degree of difficulty is ratcheted up by having to get the brightness just right across the whole ink.
This a cool custom sleeve tattoo. The subject has taken classical styling then attached a sepia tinged framework that gives the piece an entirely different look. Rather than sculpture, marble, and decadence this tattoo is rustic and workmanlike, like it’s been sanded out of wood then treated with oil. The god upon the shoulder looks like he’s about to walk off in a huff because he looks so disappointed.
Okay, so this is very creepy. Well done to the artist of this 3D tattoo because it feels like the entire piece needs an exorcism, and the rest of us should maybe sleep with a night light on.
Skin Jenga crossed with Tetris. This is an awesome 3D take on hexagonal geometric work. The artist shows off next level understanding of depth and space to turn the ink into the construction site for a part finished mosaic. The clever line work and offsetting colors go a long way to keeping this puzzle on track.
Fantastic 3D geometry applying a masterful combination of line work, flat shadow, fuzz, and dot work across the entirety of the arm sleeve. By changing up how each element is deployed in a given area the artist has been able to come up with very intensive, interesting pattern combinations throughout.
An ancient stone Aztec epic. This could be the entrance to a cave from one of Indiana Jones’ treasure maps. It looks like the tattoo has been tapped out on the subject’s skin with chisel and hammer, starting from nearly black detail then working back to the dark mahogany color. Stone work tattoos don’t get better than this one.
A frighteningly trippy take on an Eye of Providence tattoo. It took a while to see that there is just one tattoo and not three murderous owls. He looks a bit like the Chancellor from an animated Disney movie who sells out to the bad guy – snappily attired and completely judgemental. The 3D blocks underpinning this tattoo’s weirdness are etched precisely, but cleverly replaced at points by realistic depictions of feather and wing. The captured Eye itself is probably the weakest element, as the dot work (while a brilliant technique) lacks the strength and malevolence that stern lines and fill colors could create.
Five of the best looking skulls. All on one tattoo. The Terminator II type slickness to the silver effect is what makes these skulls so eye catching. There’s no magical part to the tattoo, but great understanding of how to get image flow, scale, and smart color effects to do all the work. As designed, the nearest skelly has all the bells and whistles – pimped out chrome, a full set of teeth, smooth gleaming head – but the others are also extremely well etched.
How much do 3D tattoos cost?
3D tattoos are on the expensive end of the pricing spectrum. You don’t want such a difficult, technically precise tattoo left in the hands of an apprentice or less skilled artist. The per hour price for 3D tattooing starts at approximately $200 and averages about $250 – $300 per hour. The big guns charge up to $500 per hour for 3D work, but with that pricing comes a tacit guarantee that your ink will be well worth the price.
For a tattoo of this kind it’s best to check out your potential artist’s prior 3D work to ensure you’re comfortable before proceeding with a booking and deposit. You can check their gallery of work online, via social media, or through an in-studio visit. There will be a folder of their best ink work available for you to look at, and the booking manager or artist themselves can handle any questions you may have.
Can you get a 3D tattoo?
3D tattoos are becoming a hugely influential genre in tattooing due to the brilliant look you can achieve with a quality idea, and a tattooist with the artistry to see it come alive.
3D tattoos are leading the new wave because they can influence the depiction of every style and build on tradition with new interpretations.
You can get a 3D tattoo practically anywhere on the body, provided there’s space to achieve the look and effect you want. The place and space you choose may affect how the tattoo looks, so if you’re unsure about it in any way then consult with an expert.
How are 3D tattoos done?
In a word: skills. There are no shortcuts.
A successful 3D tattoo is achieved by making the artwork look like it’s a part of your body or as if its hovering over the top of it by magic. 2D images – the time-honored tradition of tattoos – are a flat image, 3D is the next level extra layer.
Tattooists well versed in creating 3D pieces are highly skilled as artists and technicians – they can create your 3D work by the application of line work, shading, color, and space manipulation to literally add that extra dimension needed to make it come alive.
They will also have the intrinsic understanding of how to prepare your stencil/outline pre-tattoo to set up best for a rewarding experience, and use their equipment – needles, ink, tattoo gun – in a variety of different ways to get the best application.