Skip to main content

Portrait Tattoo Ideas

I have thirteen tattoos. I think they're all pretty cool (and definitely don't qualify as "bad-quality").

Che Guevara Portrait Tattoo

Che Guevara Portrait Tattoo

A good deal of portraits are tattooed as a memorial to a loved one who has passed (animals included). Getting the tattoo tends to be an emotional process for some so it's important that the tattoo artist be courteous, sensitive, and respectful. If you've ever watched the show "Miami Ink" on TLC, you'll be familiar with renowned tattoo artist Kat von D who specializes in portrait tattoos. Customers seek her out when they want a reproduction of an idol or loved one tattooed on their skin. An expert in her field, Kat has done hundreds of portrait tattoos.

Portrait tattoos are complex. The level of detail that goes into a portrait requires an expert understanding of shading, blending, and other artistic techniques. Of course, the artist will need a photograph to base the design on, and there will likely be some edits to the design to get it just right.

How to Choose the Right Artist for a Portrait Tattoo

Portrait tattoos require a high degree of skill that not every artist has and a talent in drawing that not every artist is capable of. As with any body modification, do your research ahead of time. If you know someone who has a portrait tattoo that you admire, ask them which artist or shop they went to. If you are choosing a tattoo artist out of the blue, ask to see examples of their portrait work beforehand. Most seasoned tattooists have put together a portfolio displaying samples of work they have done. The best portfolios will have a picture of the finished tattoo alongside a copy of the original photograph. You want to make sure that the completed tat is realistic and that it actually looks like the person it's supposed to resemble.

How Big Does a Portrait Tattoo Have to Be?

Keep in mind that there is a minimum size requirement for portrait tattoos. The absolute smallest an artist will be able to do is about 3" by 3", and that's pushing it. The smaller the tattoo, the less detail you will be able to get. Typical size ranges from 4" by 6" and larger, which should fit nicely on an adult shoulder.

More Portrait Tattoo Ideas

Portrait Tattoo Pictures & Designs

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


Jeff Foster on December 17, 2012:

Ryan Dearringer does amazing work. His portrait work is top-notch and impeccable. When I get my portrait tattoo done, I intend to go to Ryan, no matter how long the wait may be. I've been doing research for 9mos plus, and his work appears to be above all the others. He's right, you should do your homework. When you do, you'll find the same thing that I did. Just check Ryan's website, the work is incredible. And no, I don't work for him, nor am I being paid by him. Although I would take a discount haha. I'm kidding. Best of luck to you all...

m4nhtats on October 22, 2011:

I agree with Ryan Dearringer opinions on portraits, I am a tattoo artist in Vietnam, if he could hope to contact me and let's talk about tattoo art hinh.hay posts mail me at email address: - glad you and everyone to send me mail to our shared passion for art

ody on September 08, 2010:

kat tattoos are awsome. I wish she can get the one i want done

Louie on September 03, 2010:

Scroll to Continue

Read More from Tatring

Theres one that looks funky the one with the baby and the lady, but the rest look cool

Alexis on September 01, 2010:

I think Jason Gallo's work is badass!

Ryan Dearringer on June 26, 2010:

Let me clarify what I meant two years ago in reference to what I commented. I don't think I necessarily said it the right way. All of the above portraits are decent. A couple are awesome... Che and Eminem in particular were done excellent. I was making the comment in reference to the article, and the first couple portraits... as for all the portraits on the page, they were not all on here at the time of the comment, so therefore, I needed to amend what I said. I am not an uppity artist, Just commenting on how difficult portraits are, and emphasizing the importance of finding the right guy for the job, and the fact that portraits, unlike any other form of tattoo, give little to no room for flaws . happy tattooing.

m on June 22, 2010:

im definintely getting eminem's initials in a really small font on my body.. hes got me through a lot ..

yuvi on June 20, 2010:

hey ryan i must say good needling skill. dude i am a tattoo artist in india made few portraits with 7 magnum please suggest me a good needles for only portraits..... i would be greatfull to u.

Stan on July 11, 2009:

I don't know what Ryan was looking at but all these portraits are awesome work...I've seen some of your work Ryan and I wouldnt say they are as good as these...

d on November 26, 2008:

oh my gode i love who ever done johnny depp i am in love with him .. i have his name tATTOOED on my wrist i wwanted a portrait but i was scared it wouldn't look good.... but it looks great .. i love it

Arnie on July 23, 2008:

The Che Guevarra portrait was beautifully done!

Brian on November 25, 2007:

What's Up with the dog havin' a semi stiffy?

Kevin on November 19, 2007:

Ryan, I was just searching the web, looking for different artists to do a portrait for me. I was looking at your sight, I would like to say nice work!!!!looks awsome....Im from minnesota but travel to Indianapolis 2 times a week for work, I may have to stop in some night and check your place out, like you said portraits are very difficult, and Im just searching the web looking for the right person to do my tattoo...keep up the great work.

Ryan Dearringer on July 09, 2007:

I am a tattoo artist in Indianapolis, Indiana and I take great pride in my portrait work. I speak firsthand and from an artist standpoint when I say that portraits are among the most difficult of tattoos, and next to myself, I only know of about ten artists of roughly 200 in the city of Indianapolis who do good portrait work... many try and fail miserably. almost all the portraits on this page are lacking from an artist standpoint. Some may look ok to an untrained eye, but never accept anything short of excellence when it comes to portrait tattoos. Do your homework and find a good artist. You will thank yourself.

Related Articles