It used to be, if you wanted to showcase a tattoo in a photograph without actually having a permanent tattoo inked on, you had to rely on the cheap quality of temporary tattoos or sit for an ungodly amount of time while an artist drew a realistic tattoo onto your skin with washable inks. Digital photography has turned both of those into methods of the past. If the subject of your photo shoot needs to have a tattoo, you can add it long after the photographs have been taken. And, if you know the right steps, creating a fake tattoo in Photoshop is actually a remarkably simple process.
To get started, open the photograph, and make a copy. I would recommend making a copy of your original works before making any changes to them in photograph. That way, if you make a mistake… well, you see where I’m going with this. To make a copy, just go to “Save as…” under the “File” menu, and give the file a new name. Putting ‘Tattoo’ in the title will help you distinguish it from the original later.
Now, open up a new file in Photoshop. Keep your photo open as well. The size you need your canvas to be will depend on the size of the area you want to cover on the photo. I like to measure by drawing the ‘Rectangular Marquee Tool’ around the area on the photograph where I want the tattoo to go. Then, I copy the selection before I open my new file. The dimensions will automatically populate as the same size of the area you copied.
This new file is where you will draw your tattoo design. It doesn’t have to be exactly the right size, though for quality purposes it is better to make it a little bigger than the area you want to cover on the photograph than smaller. Don’t draw directly onto the background. Add a new layer to the file by using the keyboard shortcut ‘Ctrl+J’. Now, go ahead and create your design. When you are done, get rid of the background by unselecting the image of the eye next to ‘Background’ in the ‘Layers’ toolbar. The area around your tattoo design should now appear as white and gray checked, which is a transparent background.
To transfer your tattoo to your photograph, draw a rectangle around the tattoo you created with the ‘Rectangular Marquee Tool’, click ‘Ctrl+C’ to copy the selection, click over into your photograph window, draw a rectangle in the area on the photo where you want the tattoo to appear, hit ‘Ctrl+P’ to paste the tattoo. The tattoo should now appear in roughly the spot where you want it on your photograph. Click on the ‘Move Tool’, drag the tattoo to its exact location and resize it to the fit you want with the handles on the box around the image. Make sure you have the tattoo where you want it, then go to the ‘Layers’ toolbar, right click on one of the layers and when the menu pops up, choose ‘Flatten Image’. Your tattoo is now locked in place on the image.