Top 155 Best Realism Tattoo Ideas [2021 Inspiration Guide]
Realism tattooing is the fashionable new force for body art’s future.
Realistic tattoo keeps getting more insane by the hour, and ink aficionados can reap incredibly aesthetic rewards from replicating 3D graphics on their skin.
For those looking to get bona fide 21st century ink, realistic tattoo offers lifelike reproduction of portraiture, spot on landscapes, or eye-catching reproductions.
Realism tattoos unlock serious potential, showing that ink is for everyone now. Beautiful realism tattoo designs are finally hitting the world of fine art. Here’ll you’ll find 103 of the best examples to help you choose your next tattoo using black and gray and color realism.
1. Innovative Black and Gray Realism Tattoos
2. Realistic Chest Tattoo Ideas
Realism tattoos are popular for the chest as they provide a large, consistent surface of skin allowing for larger pieces. Large sections of scripture and literature go well on the chest and can be accompanied by other images as well.
These examples show that a range of designs coming close to full scale portrait tattoo or iconography – you can get full length or width with chest realism. The Classical style pieces offer the sense of eye-catching scope and scale, and tremendously detailed shading platform of black and grayscale ink.
3. Under the Sea Realism
The capacity to show a full realized underwater scene in color or black and gray make the realism tattooing skills of each tattoo artist stand out. Each example above is detailed brilliantly, particularly in the use of space and bright blue color/grayscale to provide the necessary underwater perspective needed to stand out powerfully.
While there are a variety of concepts being incorporated into these tattoos, they are done with impressive commitment to exacting detail, whether it’s the jagged teeth of a Great White Shark or the shadows of fish circling at different depths.
4. Realism Skull Custom Tattoo Designs
I’m a bona fide skull tattoo enthusiast and appreciate their use in tattoos across every style of application. Some of the best designs on display here incorporate the realistic sense that the bones depicted are just sitting there, having just been dug up, revealed, uncovered or arranged.
It’s important for a tattooist applying realism style – in subtle color or black and gray- to do a precise job getting into the nooks and crannies of each skull depression, eye or nasal cavity. The empty eye sockets, and gaps between bit of bone need are expressed with clarity and a clear sense of depth. As these examples demonstrate, providing other images or shadow to further shape and fill the skull image is important to finishing off these unnerving designs and making them a near perfect tattoo.
5. Time Tattoo Designs
“Anything lost can be found again, except for time wasted.” A bad tattoo is time wasted, and with realistic tattoo a lot of money too. These timepiece realistic designs do an excellent job at working between large flowing, photographic expressions in the hourglasses, versus more contained, intricate detail fed into the ink of the clocks, cogs, and wheels.
My favorite of these designs is the busted clock sleeve, which starts with metal and cogs, then turns abstract yet keeps realistic at the same time by incorporating an anatomical heart into the subject matter. It’s certainly weird, but in photographic detail, creating unforgettable realism tattoo.
6. Musical Realism Tattoo Ideas
I love the white ink and negative space elements that add to the photorealism of each music inspired custom tattoo. The smoke billowing around the sax player’s head, authentic depiction of the Les Paul signature on the guitar head, and the balanced curling strings of the sideways etched violin tattoos are all fantastic elements.
But you can’t come closer to a perfect tattoo than the photorealism reproduction Paul Simonon of The Clash famously destroying his bass guitar. Simonon only did this once dusring his career at the side of stage, but a photograph of the event became the iconic cover to their “London Calling” album.
7. Realism Tattoos About the Past
These period pieces in black and gray are timeless for tattoo collectors. The photorealism artistry has definitely come a long way from old tattoo done in American traditional tattoo flash picked from the wall of a back street tattoo shop.
Realism tattoo artists are masterfully skilled in mimicking old photos and transforming them into ink work using small, thin, yet visible brush strokes. The extra fine lines of the bike wheels and the footwear of the gentleman are amazing quality, and hallmarks of new tattoo ideas.
These tattoos replicate grand studio photography of the past in fine detail. The linework and black ink works tremendously to replicate various aspects of each design, such as the London Street sign or the penny farthing bicycles on the move.
8. Pop Culture Photorealism
As one of the most famous people in the world, Michael Jordan can be recognized from afar, which is a good trait for photorealism tattooing. The subject must be recognizable right away, otherwise the work is not successful in achieving its aims. These tattoos show his Airness in full flight, both in color and black and gray. Soak in how they use different elements to achieve the same realistic result. It’s amazing work from a master tattoo artist.
9. Nautical Themed Tattoo Ideas
There are no Sailor Jerry flash tattoos here. These realism tattoo designs take traditional nautical body art and dispense with the simple heavy line and flat color concepts abruptly. Each of these ideas uses precise, realistic elements to augment the anchors, ship rigging tossed in the storm, crashing seas, or boat in a bottle concepts to deliver premier tattoos. It’s real art tht just happens to use the skin as canvas.
10. Natural Scenery Tattoos
It’s cool to look at various natural design ideas – a sun dappled forest, water droplets, or shipwreck – and see the execution when transferred onto skin as real as any photograph, digital render, or video footage,
My favorite of these nature pieces is the black and gray image of water coursing along a leaf. It’s one of those instances where you feel the urge to extend your hand and wait for the cold dew to drop into your palm. The illusion of the droplets of water falling off the leaf has enough texture and depth to look and feel real. The leaf, too, has plenty of exquisite detail which the tattooist has added. The linework, shading and contrast along the are very impressive demonstrations of realism tattooing.
11. Religious Themed Realist Tattoo Art
These realist tattoo examples wouldn’t look out of place as sculptures or paintings in a Catholic Church, or as angels guarding the dead in a wealthy part of the cemetery. The care each artist puts into the small parts of these religious tattoos is what sets them apart. A hint of shadow here, the patina of aged hanging art there, the use of negative space and black ink to display light and shadow.
12. Realist Eye Tattoo Designs
I’ve got poor eyesight and need to roll into the optometrist every so often to get my peepers checked via x-rays and all that fancy stuff. Some of these tattoos look more real than my own eye images – it’s damn impressive. Those tattoos pale into significance alongside the ranging pupil of a dragon, or the cold-eyed arrogance of a massive snake. Eye tattoos are mesmerizing when done with such clarity and skill.
13. Back Tattoo Ideas
The back is a huge human canvas for the artist to work on. With realism tattoo design the ink work process is expensive and tedious, requiring commitment and patience rivalling any great meditation.
But it’s all worth it in the end, all those hours in the chair and intricate details provide the essence of realism, whether it’s an old fella creased by age smoking a pipe, or a 1930s businessman taking the long five amongst early 20th century skyscrapers.
14. Realism Sleeve Tattoo Designs
With great popularity comes great responsibility…to be a bad ass tattoo. Sleeves are the go-to design in for people wanting their permanent art to be interesting alterations. These examples show skill, personality, and even weirdness – from the biomechanical mash up of human machine, to the motor enthusiast, or the dude that enjoys a heart eating vamp etched into their skin.
15. Birds of Prey
There are so many fine lines and details these artists add to make each bird tattoo so believable and realistic. The illusion of feather texture with the shades of gray, black or graduated color tones for depth is skillfully done. Then the eyes sweep you away – they look so alive and expressive –ready to narrow their gaze and swoop towards you with swift certainty.
16. Realistic Vehicle Themed Tattoos Ideas
17. Animal Realism Tattoos
If the challenge is to showcase a powerful prowling animal, a slithering sliding snake, or weird kind of reptile, fashioned similarly to their natural environment, then the tattoo artists in these examples have had definite success. Hyper realism at its finest from the color palette, to the hair and fur details, the rustling coiling scales, or the extraordinary menacing yellow eyes, or childlike visage.
18. Smaller Realism Style Tattoo Design
Small doesn’t mean less difficult, time consuming, or ultimately less awesome. I love this wild collection of photo realistic images which show that in contemporary tattoo an idea can be executed to such a degree of realism that you can’t quite tell whether the tag is a photo or body art without the gallery to reference. I guess that’s the point.
19. War Themed Realism Tattoo Ideas
Realism Tattoos FAQs
What are realism tattoos?
Realism (or photorealism style) tattoos are designs meant to look as convincing as a photographed image.
Realism body art often features natural landscapes and scenery, animals, and portraits of people done to almost a photographical likeness. Even more mundane items such as furniture or movie posters are concepts for reproduction.
Realism differs from other more expansive styles – such as New Wave or Dark Surrealism – primarily because the key to the design is transferring a real image onto the skin as accurately as possible.
How much are realistic tattoos?
The average rate for an experienced professional tattooist at a notable tattoo parlor is around $150 per hour. You’re unlikely to choose a talented beginner or apprentice for realism or portrait tattoo work, even if they might eventually be superstars one day.
The rate for realism tattooing specialists and top end tattoo artists begins at $400-500 an hour, which is where the clarity of the artwork is more important than the price.
If you’re looking to get a realism piece. Research your artist on Instagram or in store before committing to making a tattoo parlor appointment. Be aware of what you’re likely to pay before tattoo artist fires up their machine and gets to work on your first tattoo. Also take note: in the US its customary to tip 15-20% of the price for the work, so don’t forget!
Do realism tattoos age well?
When getting inked, the future must be considered since it is a permanent skin modification. Yes, the vital word is permanent.
In realism style of tattooing, the classic black and gray tattoos ages better than the ones done in color. Outlining in black makes a big difference. Placement of the ink work may affect the longevity of the tattoo but in general, muted tones of black and gray lasts longer.
There are tattoo artists who specializes in colored realism tattoo argue that, saturation plays a major role and a determining factor whether the execution is good enough so that the artwork will stick in the skin longer. So, layering is also important to add more details and to grind more ink into the skin as much as it can take, and the amount of ink that should be transferred into the skin. Ink should penetrate the third to fourth layer of the skin.
Who are the highest profile realism tattoo artists?
Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy, who has inked the skin of noted tattoo enthusiast Rihanna, Lebron James, and Cara Delevingne, among others, says getting a tattoo can be simplified in two easy steps. One, choose a concept. Then, second, look for an artist who can best execute your tattoo.
In his tattoo shop alone, Bang Bang has a roster of artists who can specialize in realism styled tattoos whether in black and gray or in full color. His shop rate starts at $400 to $500 per hour, or they charge per day depending on the number of hours needed to execute the tattoo.
The time taken to complete each design depends on the size, style, placement and pain tolerance of the customer. The quality of skin can also affect the length of the session – IE sunburnt skin or scarring.
There are other notable tattoo artists in the field of realism who are worth investing, however my personal favorite is Los Angeles ink slinger and Kiwi expat Steve Butcher. Butcher is famous for his Michael Jordan pieces, and more recently etched Lonzo Ball’s Black Excellence portraiture sleeve.
Did you enjoy this foray into the realistic tattoo style? Click on the links below for more cool tattoo art galleries:
Top 29 Best Watches Under $500 For Men
With cellphones so ubiquitous, your watch choice can be less about telling time and more about personal style. However, a watch is not ‘just’ a watch. For example, the vast majority are made for right-handed people, but a select few cater to the lefties among us. There is a wide range in functionality and size.
The wristwatch is also one of the few socially acceptable accessories for men, so why not have a small selection? If you’re not cashing a CEO’s paycheck just yet, here are the top 28 most handsome watches for men that retail for under $500.
Got a bigger budget? Then check out our guide to the best men’s watches under $1000 instead.
Top 29 Best Watches Under $500 For Men
1. Tommy Hilfiger Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
If you like the feel of a pliable, non-metal band but aren’t comfortable with genuine leather, this watch comes equipped with a handsome synthetic band. At 46mm in diameter, this watch is perfect for men of smaller stature, as it will not overpower your hand or make it look like you’re wearing your father’s watch. With bold Arabic numerals, a stainless steel case, and classic styling, this watch is an outstanding choice for an everyday watch and the man on a budget.
2. Nordgreen Pioneer – Black Dial
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Not everyone has an endless amount of cash to drop on a luxury timepiece. If you’re money-conscious but want something high-end, then why not consider the Nordgreen Pioneer.
An inspired take on a classic Chronograph, Nordgreen celebrates the Danish with what they call a timepiece “that captures the sustainable future.” Available in various dial colors from blue, black, and white. There’s even the choice of three case colors – gunmetal, silver, and rose gold. A perfect addition to the collection of any watch enthusiast.
3. Fossil Grant Brown Leather WatchCheck Price
This lovely offering by Fossil features slim Roman numeral hour markers and delicate cut-out hands. The casing is stainless steel and is water-resistant to 165 feet, making it a great dive watch. The band is made of supple, soft calfskin leather and uses a buckle closure.
Of course, this timepiece also comes with the generous 11-year warranty and it’s own fun tin. This watch oozes class and is great for nearly every occasion in your life.
4. Citizen Sport Stainless Steel Men’s Watch With Brown Leather Band
If you don’t want to deal with changing out a battery in a digital watch, this watch is powered by either natural or indoor lighting. The mineral crystal face and stainless steel case make this watch water-resistant to 330 feet, making it a great choice for swimmers and snorkelers.
Handsome and utilitarian, this is a great watch for everyday wear. It’s one of the best watches for men who are always on the go.
5. Fossil Men’s Machine Chronograph Silicone Watch
This watch was designed with the active man in mind. The knurled silicone band stands up to sweat and oils without issue, and the timepiece itself is water-resistant to 165 feet.
The patterned bezel and quality craftsmanship of the black dial is excellent, as is to be expected from a Fossil watch. It even comes in the iconic and collectible tin!
6. Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Watch
This men’s watch features Japanese quartz movement that charges itself indoors or out when exposed to light, making it a great choice for those who don’t want to change out the battery too often. The stitched canvas strap is soft against your skin and will wick away moisture, while the mineral crystal face stands up to the rigors of your everyday life.
Water-resistant to 330 feet, this dive watch is a classic and simple design you’ll be proud of for years to come.
7. Invicta Pro Diver Chronograph Men’s Watch
Another gorgeous offering by Invicta, this watch features a bold design with a slightly nautical feel to it. It will look at home whether you’re wearing a business suit or are going for a dive of less than 660 feet. This piece is also covered by a one-year warranty as a matter of course. The luminosity feature and magnified date window make it a great choice if you work or play in low light.
If you want something that looks like a Tag Heuer but without the luxury watch brand price tag, this is a good option!
8. Casio Edifice Multi-Function Men’s Watch
This watch has three sub-dials for 12 hour, 60 minute and 60-second displays, in addition to the standard time. It also features a fold-over, push-down clasp on the stainless strap, keeping it secure throughout your activities. If you’re looking for a classy timepiece that shrieks sophistication, this is a great choice.
9. Fossil Machine Three Hand Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
This quality watch is a chameleon piece. It looks at home as a dress watch riding below the cuff of your best suit, and it also looks great paired with jeans and a t-shirt. Backed by Fossil’s 11-year warranty as a matter of course and beautifully crafted, this smoke-colored piece is guaranteed to become the go-to accessory for nearly every occasion.
10. MVMT Watches Black Face Men’s Watch
If you like the look of a simple watch, this minimalist offering from MVMT is right up your alley. With just a plain black face, tick marks to denote the hours and a single date window, there is nothing overdone or extravagant about this design. The is understated and suited to the simple design. It’s definitely a classy, low-key piece for the budget-conscious.
11. Timex Weekender Watch
If you’re looking for a fun watch to pair with casual outfits, this is a great option. The band is blue and yellow woven nylon, and the face features both civilian and military timekeeping. An Indiglo night light is also included. This watch is water-resistant to 99 feet, meaning it can withstand splashes of water or exposure to rain but you won’t want to submerge it.
12. PUMA Ultrasize Black Sport Men’s Watch
Boasting a 50mm diameter, this piece is perfect for the large-framed man or one who likes to wear his accessories oversized. A true fashion statement, this sports watch comes in eight different colors schemes to match your favorite hues.
Do be aware, however, that the dial knob is configure for left-handed men!
13. Timex Easy Reader Men’s Watch
Another dress watch designed with the older gentleman in mind, this watch features a white dial with generously sized numerals that do not appear comical to the casual observer.
It’s also an excellent choice if you take your contacts out at night and still want to be able to check the time. With classic lines and a simple white face, the watch would not be out of place at any casual gathering. It comes with Timex’s one-year warranty at no additional charge.
14. Fossil Nate Men’s Chronograph Watch
For men who like a more gritty, industrial feel to their accessories, this Fossil watch is right on point. The bezel is gear-edged and the face is utilitarian black and gray. Water-resistant to 165 feet, this watch is a great choice if you like your adornments to be understated yet add visual interest.
It’s definitely a stand-out piece, for those who would take notice!
15. Timex Expedition Field Chronograph Men’s Watch
Featuring an indigo night light, tachymeter, a date window and a buckle closure, this watch is perfect for men who like to work or play outdoors. It is also water-resistant to 330 feet, making it a great choice for snorkeling or swimming.
You won’t want to wear it for diving, however. With classic, black styling and a genuine crystal face, this is a timepiece that will stand the test of time in both form and function.
16. Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
This Seiko automatic watch has all the bells and whistles you need, but presents it all in a plain and strikingly attractive manner. It features a date window in either English or Spanish, sword-shaped hands, a sweeping second hand and a mineral dial window. This is a great option for the man on the go. The canvas strap can be removed and hand-washed if sweat or other odors become an issue.
This watch is not water-resistant, so you’ll only want to wear it when you won’t be popping by the pool for a swim!
17. Invicta Pro Diver Collection Silver-Tone Men’s Watch
For those who prefer an all-metal timepiece, the stainless steel Invicta fits the bill nicely. It has a similar aesthetic to a Tag Heuer watch, but at a more affordable price. Equipped with a unilateral bezel and removable links, the band can be customized to fit your wrist perfectly. The face is flame fusion crystal and features a magnifier to highlight the date window.
It’s also water-resistant to 660 feet. If you’re looking for a gorgeous watch that stands up to an active lifestyle, this is an excellent choice.
18. Seiko Men’s Adventure-Solar Classic Casual Watch
This Seiko watch derives its power from either natural or indoor light and can withstand water depths of up to 330 feet. The supple brown leather strap and timeless brushed steel give this piece an attractive look, and the alarm chronograph is easy to set.
If you’re looking for a watch that can serve as a backup for your wake-up call while traveling, stand up to the elements and look awesome, this casual wrist watch is a winner.
19. Nautica Men’s Stainless Steel Watch with Blue Resin Band
Featuring a plethora of options and a smart, snappy style, this a great casual watch with a eye-catching blue dial. The hardy resin band is adjustable, and the face is protected by a mineral window. Whether for work or play, this bold blue design is handsome and substantial on the wrist. It comes with Nautica’s five-year warranty at no additional charge.
20. Citizen Sport Men’s Stainless Steel Watch with Black Leather Band
The black, red and white face of this piece eschews the traditional two-tone color scheme so often employed in other watches, and the contrasting stitching on the band adds creative flair. It comes backed by Citizen’s five-year warranty and will compliment any casual outfit.
21. Alessi Tic15 Analog Display Analog Quartz Black Men’s Watch
Another not-quite-round offering on our list, the curved square casing of this piece gives it instant visual appeal. Sleek and clean, this unfussy design will be a compliment to almost any occasion. It has quartz movement and is water-resistant to 99 feet, making it a great choice for everyday wear.
22. Invicta 1517 I Force Collection Watch
Another on our list designed for left-handed men, this watch is something special. Water-resistant to 330 feet and featuring oversize stenciled numbers and a sub dial, this watch is great for any casual outfit. The cloth band is extremely durable and stands up to dirt, sweat and grime.
If you lead an active lifestyle, this watch will be right at home in your collection.
23. TRIWA Blue Steel Nevil Canvas Watch
This watch comes in a whopping 14 color variations, all of them beautiful. You may decide to add more than one to your collection!
Designed in Sweden, this watch features Japanese quartz movement, a stainless steel casing and a strap made from Tärnsjö organic leather. TRIWA, which stands for Transforming the Industry of Watches, believes in the artistry of fine jewelry and it shows in their product.
24. Victorinox Swiss Army Alliance Watch
Another fine dress watch from the makers of the Swiss Army knife, this watch is emblazoned with the internally recognized cross and shield emblem. It has no sub-dials, tachymeter or other add-ons to detract from its simple and appealing style.
This watch will be at home with all but the most formal of outfits and carries a two-year warranty.
25. Ingersoll Automatic Stainless Steel Bull Run Watch
Again, Ingersoll remakes the classics and brings them into the present day. With a highly polished stainless steel casing, two sub-dials, a date aperture and arrow-shaped hands, this quartz watch is beautiful.
The band features contrasting stitching on the fine-grain leather, adding depth and detail to the workmanship. This watch will compliment any casual occasion and can be relied upon for years to come.
26. Tissot Quickster Chronograph Black Leather Men’s Watch
Made with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and Swiss automatic movement, this watch is a smart and utilitarian choice. If you’re looking for a solid Swiss watch that isn’t flashy, this is an excellent option. It’s also guaranteed for two years.
27. Seiko Sport Solar Men’s Beige Watch
Are you getting tired of squinting down at your watch or holding it closer and closer to your face? Don’t worry, we all get a bit nearsighted with age, especially over the age of 40.
If you’re not quite ready for reading glasses or a comically huge watch, this is a great choice from Seiko. The numerals, indices and luminous hands stand out in stark white against a black background, and the numerals are generous in size. It’s a perfect casual watch for the older gentleman.
28. Seiko Men’s 5 Watch Blue Canvas Band
This simple and affordable watch has a clean, crisp aesthetic to it and doesn’t bog down its design with a ton of bells and whistles. It’s time and date, end of.
If you want a watch for casual wear, this Seiko is a shoo-in. The band is forgiving and comfortable against your wrist, and it’s blue color will likely compliment your existing wardrobe. The price is also extremely affordable.
29. Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Stainless Steel Watch With Brown Leather Band
Featuring the Hilfiger logo at the three o’clock position, this wrist watch is a statement piece. It is a bright, shiny stainless steel work of art that you’ll be proud to wear at all but the most stuffy of workplaces. The calfskin leather band uses a buckle closure and the date window is beside the logo at three o’clock.
If you’re a fan of Tommy clothing, cologne or luggage, you can complete your look with this stunning accessory.