Use a Tattoo Font to Add a Realistic Tattoo to a Photo in Photoshop

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

A tattoo font is the easiest way to create a stylish tattoo in no time. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to add a realistic tattoo in Photoshop using a tattoo font. We’re going to add some text effects to the font, warp it, and apply photo effects of texture and shine. The process is fast and can be used for all skin colors.

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube Channel:

Use a Tattoo Font to Add a Realistic Tattoo to a Photo in Photoshop

Step 1

Open your photo (I used this one). Use the Type Tool (T) to add the text of the tattoo. Change the font to a tattoo font (for example RockSands), center the text, and resize it. The text should be wider than the area you’re putting it on.

You can find more tattoo fonts at the end of this tutorial.

tattoo font text

Step 2

With text selected, click Create Warped Text. Pick the style that fits the shape and perspective of the body part you’re working on.

warp text

Step 3

Let’s accentuate the perspective some more. When the letters turn away from us, they get tighter. Select the text and open the Character panel. Select the first three letters and reduce their width to 75%. Lower the distance between them by 10.

change letters distance

Select the first two letters and make the effect even stronger.

make text tighter

Finally, select the first letter and add an even more dramatic change to it.

warp text realistically

Adjust the other side the same way, keeping in mind that here the angle isn’t that sharp.

how to warp text without rasterizing

Step 4

Reposition and rescale the text if necessary with the Free Transform Tool (Control-T). Right-click and select Rasterize Type.

scale the text

Step 5

Duplicate (Control-J) the background layer and drag it to the top. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen and strengthen the texture with it. Go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate, then Image > Adjustments > Levels. Deepen the contrast by dragging the left and white markers towards the center.  Don’t go too far—we need the texture of the skin.

sharpen skin texture
increase contrast

Step 6

Copy this image and save it as a separate file. Name it Map.

create displace map

Step 7

Hide this layer and go back to the text layer. Go to Filter > Distort > Displace. Click OK and select the Map file. After the distortion is applied, decide if it’s too strong or too weak. If needed, undo and repeat, this time adjusting the values accordingly.

use displace filter
displacement texture

Step 8

Group the text (Control-G). Add a Layer Mask to the group. Paint with black to remove the parts that go outside of the body.

add layer mask
clean up the edge

Step 9

Duplicate the background layer and drag it over the group. Sharpen it with the Smart Sharpen filter. Hold Alt and click the line between the layers to clip it to the group below.

add skin texture
clip the layer

Step 10

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment to make the tattoo dark blue. Change its Blend Mode to Darken.

add hue saturation adjustment
colorize the skin

Step 11

Show the upper layer and clip it as well. Change its Blend Mode to Screen. Double-click this layer. In the Blend If section, hold Alt and drag the upper black marker to the right. This way, you’ll remove the effect from the shadowed part of the skin. Hold Alt to split the marker for a more gradual effect. Lower the Opacity for a more realistic shine.

remove dark effect
add shine to skin
create relistic shine tattoo

Step 12

Double-click the text (not the group!) to access its Layer Style panel. Add a Drop Shadow to simulate some gentle blowout.

add blowout to tattoo
tattoo blowout effect

Step 13

If you want to make this effect more visible, you can also add an Outer Glow. Adjust its intensity with Opacity, Size, and Noise.

add glow to text
photoshop text effects

Step 14

If you want to add this photo effect to darker skin, apply the same process. In most cases it will look all right, but sometimes you’ll have to adjust the color of the tattoo or the opacity of the blowout.

dark skin tattoo

Tattoo Fonts

Do you need a tattoo font for your project? Check out these propositions:

inuTattoo Script

inuTattoo Script

Incognito Tattoo Font

Incognito Tattoo Font

Milestone Script

Milestone Script

American Traditional Tattoo Font

American Traditional Tattoo Font

Flathead Typeface

Flathead Typeface

Good Job!

Now you know how to use a tattoo font to add a realistic tattoo to a photo in Photoshop. If you want to check out more tattoo fonts or learn more about tattoo design, try these tutorials:

tattoo text design photoshop

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