I'd like to design a tattoo but I can't draw.
August 31, 2007 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Recommendations for a downloadable program that can aid me in designing a tattoo. Something like MS Paint but not utterly useless. For the life of me I can't find one. Please and thank you.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could download a 30-day demo of Adobe Illustrator.
posted by pfafflin at 10:15 AM on August 31, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, for the record I have no experience with anything computer design related.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 10:19 AM on August 31, 2007

For a good but free graphics editor on the Windows platform, I'm a big fan of Paint.Net

It's more of a graphics editor though, not really an illustration program.

For a drawing program, try the free and open-source Inkscape
posted by lockle at 10:23 AM on August 31, 2007

Bring out the Gimp.
posted by iamabot at 10:29 AM on August 31, 2007

Somebody's always got to mention The GIMP.
posted by box at 10:29 AM on August 31, 2007

Heehee. See what I mean?
posted by box at 10:30 AM on August 31, 2007

posted by dance at 10:31 AM on August 31, 2007

3rding Paint.net
posted by Industrial PhD at 10:33 AM on August 31, 2007

Definitely use inkscape; you're going to be scaling the tattoo size up and down as you work with it, and this is a much better process with vector graphics than with bitmaps (as are produced by paint.net and the gimp).

Inkscape has a nice pressure sensitive calligraphy mode too, if you've got a cheap wacom tablet kicking around.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:34 AM on August 31, 2007

Agree with jenkinsEar, Inkscape -- if nothing else, for the smoothing modes as you say you can't draw.
posted by anaelith at 10:47 AM on August 31, 2007

If you haven't really got any experience with computer design, it will be difficult to fina a program that's less 'useless' than Paint for tihs sort of thing. The more useful they get, the more difficult they are to use.

I do have two suggestions, though; for something a bit more freehand, but much better than Paint (and free!), try openCanvas. If you are looking for something with more bells and whistles, and the potential for vector work and whatnot, try the open source alternative to Photoshop, try the GIMP. I swear by both over PS and Paint, so you should ideally find some quality there.
posted by magacid at 10:50 AM on August 31, 2007

Response by poster: Well I wouldn't say I have no experience with computer design. I do use autocad for drawing architectural building plans. I'll rephrase that to say I have no experience with the graphical stuff. I'm trying out the GIMP right now. Seems pretty easy to use without any tutorial.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 10:56 AM on August 31, 2007

Response by poster: Unfortunately I have to leave work early and go golfing right now so I will check back later. Thanks everyone.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 11:00 AM on August 31, 2007

Best answer: I'm going to go completely contrarian here and suggest...pencil and paper. Really.

None of the applications mentioned are going to "help" you design a tattoo. In fact, since you admit you "have no experience with anything computer design related", I would submit that using any art/design application would probably hinder you more than help you design the tat.

My serious suggestion is you start with pencil on paper. You will be able to get your ideas down quickly and, most importanly, purely. Without the application influencing what direction the art goes.

Sketch out your design. Work out the details. Once you have the idea down, you could have the sketches scanned and then use the scan as the basis for further polishing in an app like Illustrator.

This is how I start all of my illustrations.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:32 AM on August 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

paint.net is a pretty decent app, though for doing a tatoo design, maybe a vector illustration program such as inkscape would work better.
posted by jjb at 11:33 AM on August 31, 2007

Why not just sketch it out and take it to the tattoo artist? Most decent ones are able to freehand a tattoo based on various different elements.

If you disagree, then I'll suggest Gimp or Inkscape.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:52 PM on August 31, 2007

seconding sketching it out on paper and taking it to your tattoo artist. They are artists, after all.
posted by boreddusty at 1:04 PM on August 31, 2007

Another vote for Paint.NET, which we just made available for 5000 employees in the company I work for.

Don't get me wrong...I'm a big fan of Gimp, but until they solve the interface problems Paint.NET is far superior.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:17 PM on August 31, 2007

I'm sorry if this is a bit of a derail, but I'd to throw in my 2ยข about designing a tattoo.

Working with a tattoo artist is basically akin to commissioning a piece of artwork that would hang in a gallery. Except, in this case, the gallery is your body. There are two routes you can go:

1. If you are an artist yourself then you would create the piece using your preferred medium (a pen/paper, computer, etc.) and then seek out an artist that can mimic your piece to make it fit within the constraints of tattoo work...skin tone, location, size, line thicknesses, color restrictions, etc.

2. If you are NOT an artist, then you would seek out a tattoo artist whose work and style you consistently like (ignoring CONTENT and focusing on STYLE). Go look at books, online galleries, tattoo mags. Meet with the artist and bring him your ideas, and/or pen/paper sketches if you got 'em. It's his job to work with your ideas and come up with something that works for you. But you also gotta bend a little too.

The piece won't be exactly what you envisioned in your head. But you have to TRUST your artist. And you trust him because you've seen his work. And just know that sometimes other people (even strangers) see you better (or positive qualities in you) than you see yourself. Trust that too.

And also remember that you are buying ART. If you picked up a replica of DaVinci's last supper, you wouldn't constantly be staring at it going "man, it really bugs me how Jesus' arms are this way. I really wish it was more like so..." And anything you put on your skin, if it's artistic, is going to be a positive addition as opposed to a blank canvas (which is also beautiful in its simplicity).

All that said, if you are wanting to design a tattoo for the sake of doing it, or for fun, or whatever else, by all means...have a blast and use whatever medium seems easy and fun to you.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:46 PM on August 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

Learning to use a computer to draw stuff is a BIG DEAL.
Lots of people never really do it--they sketch on paper, scan, and color-in, fix-up on computer. And even that is a pretty big deal too.

If you want the design done before you get all wrinkly, follow the non-computer suggestions above.
posted by hexatron at 6:34 PM on August 31, 2007

Inkscape is good. Or if you have the money you could hire an artist to draw the exact tattoo you're after. Typically this can range from $50 to $200 depending on the artist. If it's going to be on your skin for a long time, and you want something unique and amazing that matches what you have in your head, this would definately be my suggestion :)
posted by katala at 11:01 PM on August 31, 2007

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