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Question about Shading ("Woodcut" style)


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I'm interested in getting some tattoos based on Medieval/Renaissance woodcuts and engravings. When doing some research, however, I ran into a question about tattoos in this style. Basically, when I see examples of tattoos based on woodcuts/engravings, it always seems like the only thing inked are the actual lines, and that the negative space is just the bare skin. I'm wondering if it would be possible to shade that bare skin light grey, so that the entire image is set off more from the skin?

It seems like this would be possible -- but at the same time, since I can't really find any examples of it being done this way, I'm wondering if there's some reason it would be a bad idea.

Here's an example of the kind of image I'm interested in:


So I'm wondering if it would be possible to shade the negative space grey, rather than just inking the lines? And if so, is there a particular reason why woodcut/engraving tattoos don't usually seem to do this?

Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about:




I hope my question makes sense. Thanks so much for any advice you can provide!

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you mean grey shade like this?


it's my tattoo based off the mc escher dragon...without the shading my dragon would definately loose the 3-d optical illusion

shading could give some depth but also risk making the image/tattoo look muddy

i would guess that many just leave these woodcut/illustrative style tattoos as simple lines to make the style more readable on skin. shading out the negative will change the 'look' of the tattoo examples you posted.

btw Saint Sebastiano tattoo would be really cool...

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Thanks for the reply! Not really -- I guess I mean having all the negative space the same color light grey. In other words, if you printed out that image grey scale, cut out the outline, and then put it on your skin, all the negative space would be light grey/white from the piece of paper. So the image as a whole would be distinct from the skin around it.

Maybe this is not possible or would look stupid. I obviously am new to all of this!

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Sorry I'm not being clear! I guess I mean, pretending that the two rectangles are my arm, is it possible to have it more like the image on the right than the one on the left?


In essence, a solid grey (as opposed to the gradient shading in your above image) in the negative space within the boundaries of the image.

BTW I love your dragon!

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Hm, do you mean you wouldn't want any of your original skin tone in the tattoo? Not sure this would look good TBH.

But your image examples are rather extreme as they really only use lines. If you look at Susanne Koenig's stuff for instance, you can see that she uses different lines, dots as well as shading which makes it looking much more interesting IMO.


Also, Morg Armeni's tattoos seem woodwork inspired to me and they are filled with colour and are very cool:


Maybe one of these are closer to what you're looking for?

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i suppose you could but I think good use of negative space will make the tattoo look better

here are some examples of that illustrative style using gradient and stipple shading from a local bud Casper (dude who runs blackworkers IG):






ps i think you should just get a tat of your sweet lego-person mspaint sketch lol !

pps look up Gustav Dore (if you haven't heard of him already) for some inspiration in the artistic style you are asking

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