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The Best Colors for a Color Realism Tattoo

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What is a Color Realism Tattoo?

Color realism is arguably one of the premier and timeless tattoo styles that exists today. With a wide scope of possibilities, color realism allows you to essentially get a photograph printed on your skin! A talented artist can make colors pop in ways that make your color realism tattoo more dramatic than the original image! Whether you want a realistic portrait of your favorite person or a detailed wildlife scene, color realism is the style for you.

Using a series of tattooing techniques including layering, shading, and stencils, artists can create dramatically realistic pictures on skin. Layering allows the artist to avoid harsh, dark outlines that don’t exist in reality while shading and gradients allow the artist to create 3D images. Printed stencils allow for a picture perfect guide to the fine details of a realistic piece.

There is an endless assortment of people and things you can get inked in color realism, but not all ideas end with a good final product. Some colors and techniques don’t work as well with certain designs and skin tones. Let’s explore some of the best colors you can get for color realism before looking at some popular ideas within the realm of color realism with the aim to inspire your next tattoo.

Undertones and Colors:

When deciding on the coloration for your color realism tattoo, consider this; your skin tone essentially serves as a filter to which the colors in your tattoo will be seen under. Often called your undertone, the color of your skin and veins can complement or contradict the colors of your tattoo. Three common undertones exist including:

Cool Undertone:

A cool undertone refers to individuals with a bluish or reddish skin tone with blue veins underneath. The color yellow tends to blend in with the skin tone, especially as it fades, making yellow a hard color to work into a piece on this undertone. However, cool undertone individuals have success with most other colors! Your typical reds, greens, blacks, and blues tend to work very well for cool undertone skin.

Warm Undertone:

Warm undertone skin displays as a peachy, golden color with green veins underneath. Dark, rich colors tend to work better for warm undertone individuals including colors like greens, purples, reds and blues. The key is that these colors must be dark and rich. The pastel varieties of these colors tend to be overpowered by the dark, warm filter. These lighter colors, when they begin to fade, will become increasingly less visible.

Neutral Undertone:

Neutral undertones tend to fall in between warm and cold with a vein color that is best described as blue-green. Generally, this comes across as an olive complexion. Neutral undertone skin tends to have the most flexibility of the three undertones for selecting tattoo color. Almost any color you choose can pop off the skin!

With any of these undertones, consult your artist for their knowledge regarding how colors play off of your specific undertone. Artists have seen what colors work and don’t work for certain skin tones and are more than happy to help guide you towards the best selections for you and your tattoo.

Where to Look for Color Realism Inspiration:

As previously mentioned, color realism tattoos can cover almost anything. In that sense, picking the subject for your color realism tattoo may be overwhelming. Here are some places to look for inspiration for your new tattoo.


Pinterest is one of the premier social medias to look for tattoo inspiration. A quick search for “color realism tattoos” in the search bar will present a multitude of mind blowing tattoos. You can see what subjects tend to work and what colors pop the best. Also, if you find yourself drawn to a particular piece, you can likely find the artist who designed and inked it. This brings us to the second point to look for inspiration:

Artists’ Profiles:

These days, tattoo artists post some of their work on different websites including Instagram, Pinterest, and usually their studio’s website. This allows you to get to know an artist’s style before making any selections. What’s more, artists specialize in certain styles, so you can get specific with your artist search and find an individual who performs breathtaking color realism of wildlife scenes, if that is the subject you want. Other artists may excel at capturing likeness in a face making them a great choice for a color realism portrait.

Contact First Class Tattoo Today!

Contact the premier tattoo artists of New York City today to start your journey towards a unique, mind blowing color realism tattoo! Our knowledgeable artists can answer any question you have: will this subject work? Do these colors work well with my undertone? How should the perspective of the piece be and where does the light come from? These questions and more can be answered at First Class Tattoo, the one stop shop for your next amazing tattoo!

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