Photorealism Tattoo Artists Bob Tyrrell, Tom Renshaw, and Mike Devries

Updated on March 17, 2020
Sue826 profile image

I'm a big fan of photorealism tattoo work and follow several tattoo artists and their work.

Photorealism on the Skin

Photorealism tattooing is creating tattoo work that looks just like a photograph: realistic. It’s amazing how much more advanced and complex tattoos are now compared to years ago. The styles have changed. Techniques have been expanded upon. The equipment is more sophisticated. Artists share ideas with each other.

The three tattoo artists I have featured in this article are favorites of mine. I have a few tattoo sites that I began a few years back.

I did an apprenticeship with a friend of mine that owned a shop in upstate New York, but it was never the art form for me. But having the brief experience of tattooing really made me appreciate the talents of these guys even more. To be able to catch a likeness in a portrait is a difficult challenge with just pencil and paper. But to achieve a likeness by injecting ink into holes in a person’s skin just seems an impossible task. These artists prove the impossible is possible.

Please take the time to leave a comment or take the poll. I'm curious to see what other people's opinions are of these talented artists.

1. Bob Tyrrell

You’d probably be surprised to learn that a talent as special as Bob Tyrrell didn’t even get his first tattoo until he was 29 years old. By the time he finished his apprenticeship, he was 34. Just think of all those years he could have been producing all these awesome tattoos. The man’s talent is truly special. His portraits are so lifelike whether he’s tattooing humans, animals, or demons. When he began his career, he was teamed up with another famous realism tattoo artist—Tom Renshaw. Renshaw is more well known for his wildlife scenes. The talent these two men possess is truly some of the top tattoo work you’ll ever see.

Some of Tyrrell’s work is color but the majority of the realism is done in black and grey work. Notice how he’s able to get a glistening light on wet areas like the mouth, teeth, and eyeballs.

Tattoos by Bob Tyrrell

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Ape Tattoo on HandKid with Mohawk
Ape Tattoo on Hand
Ape Tattoo on Hand
Kid with Mohawk
Kid with Mohawk

2. Tom Renshaw

Tom Renshaw has been tattooing for well over 20 years and I believe him to be one of the most talented tattoo artists living today.

Renshaw tattoos at Eternal Tattoos located in Clawson, Michigan. This man is so famous, he’s been able to focus his art on the style he enjoys the most. He does only black and gray photorealistic tattoos, no color. Many of his best clients are other artists.

His work has been in hundreds of magazines and he’s won over 400 awards. I think you’ll be able to see the similar talents between Renshaw and Tyrrell.

Tom Renshaw at Work

Tom Renshaw Tattoo Portraits

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Renshaw's Animal and Nature Tattoos

Click thumbnail to view full-size

3. Mike Devries

Unlike the other two artists I have listed above, Mike Devries is able to get a very realistic likeness of individuals using quite a bit of color. Perhaps his subjects are more animated than a truly realistic rendition, but I thought his ability to capture a likeness of a person or animal still classifies this work as photorealism.

Mike Devries Tattoo Portraits

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Pick an Artist

If you could get a tattoo from one of the three artists above - which one would you pick?

See results

© 2011 Sue826


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      My very first tattoo was the bottom gorilla picture, done by Tom Renshaw.It was done 20 years ago and it still looks as amazing today as it did then. I am also the guy in the video getting the portrait of my daughter. I feel very lucky and privileged to say, that Tom and I have became best of friends and I can't express enough as to what an amazing individual he is. I have over 100 hrs of his work now and was actually there just last weekend getting a portrait of one of my dogs. If I had to pick a second favorite artist it would be Bob Tyrel, whom I've also met several times, and he would list Tom as one of his mentors. You can't go wrong with a tattoo from either of these guys but I would have to give Tom the edge.

    • Sue826 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Albuquerque

      Mike Devries is one of the best - you're a lucky man

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have two color portraits from Mike Devries which are part of a 1/2 sleeve, he's an amazing talent. Looking forward to getting BobTyrrell to do a black & gray portrait/pinup. Also, I have an amazing black & gray portrait by Shane's absolutely perfect.

    • Sue826 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Albuquerque

      Yes, most people that are big fans of tattoos know these names - I'm hoping to introduce people that aren't fans to some of these works of art. Your friend is lucky to have received a tattoo from Tyrrell - what a talent that guy is.

    • thisspice profile image


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Great photos!!

    • profile image

      8 years ago

      The John Wayne one looks as realistic as a photo.

      And Catwoman looks like Marilyn Quayle.

    • Robikan profile image

      Robyn J Williams 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Mike Devries is one of my tattoo heroes. Amazing stuff. And a friend of mine got tattooed by Tyrrell -- the coolest zombie Jim Morrison I've ever seen. Great hub! Anyone who is a fan of art or tattoos should know these names!


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