Mind-Blowing Tattoo Designs That Appear 3-Dimensional

By: | Published: Oct 07, 2021

Tattoos can’t actually be three-dimensional, but talented tattoo artists can make a design that appears 3D. This means that it appears to be popping off the skin rather than laying flat like your typical two-dimensional tattoos. Some 3D-like tattoos appear to be photorealistic. Others appear like optical illusions painted onto your skin.

These pieces of artwork can decorate the skin, cover up scars, or even match prosthetic legs. Some of these tattoos require multiple visits to complete the art. These tats typically take up a large space on one’s body, such as creating an arm sleeve, a tat that spans one’s entire back, or a leg pant. If you decide to get one of these larger tattoos, prepare for hours of work as your tattoo artist works their magic. Without further ado, let’s peruse some of the most creative tattoos designs that appear 3D.

1. M.C. Escher-like Illusion Tat

This optical illusion tattoo makes it seem as if the individual has a hole in his leg, but that’s just the nature of the illusion.

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Photo credit: Paul O'Rourke

Geometric bends and line thickness variations to create perspective trick the viewer into thinking that the person is missing a portion of their leg – almost as if they had it pierced.

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2. Showing Off His Bionics

Enjoy the detailed work on this tattoo that pays homage to the gentleman’s actual prosthetic leg. The minute, detailed work of the tattoo shows the prosthetic limb’s workings as it’s exploding out from under the skin.

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Photo credit: blakerjames

With an underlying meaning that this is just a part of him, this artwork sends a message far beyond showing the painting abilities of the tattoo artist.

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3. Cubed 3-D Optical Illusion

A mixture of bright, vivid seemingly neon blue inks that appear lighted from LEDs and black and gray inks in a stacked parquet design form this 3-D piece that seems to cut open the individual for a view inside.

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Photo credit: jesse_rix

It reveals the person’s robot interior. A new tat to cover an old one, this cubed masterpiece shows how to update and cover an existing tat you’d like to erase or update.

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4. 3D Blocks Tattoo

Another cubed block tattoo, this piece blends modern art with optical illusion. The individual’s skin seems divided between the blocks and could fall off at any time.

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Photo credit: lav.pro

Like jigsaw puzzle pieces, they scatter across the individual’s arm, a testament to shading in gray and black. An arm sleeve like this requires a few days of work.

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5. The Bee in the Hive

You might at first mistake this for a patterned shirt because more than one of the pentagon shapes in this piece seems to stand up from the skin or sink into it.

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Photo credit: jesse_rix

This irregular pattern shifts as you look at it and the inks used with the shading method applied to it make it seem to move. Adding the bee to one of the honeycomb-like holes simply made the optical illusion more real.

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6. The Spaces Between

This tattoo creates the optical illusion that the individual’s fingertips float – disembodied from the remainder of his body. The tattoo uses an inordinate amount of jet black ink to create the appearance of space. Above the black, not one, but two fantastically detailed paintings appear on the individual’s wrists and lower arms.

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Photo credit: jakconnollyart

Using only blacks and grays, the shading on this work, along with the airbrush detail work creates the walking art. This type of work would take more than one visit and would create a great deal of pain for the person receiving the tattoo. Our hands and wrists have many nerve endings, so if this inspires you, talk to your tattoo artist to plan it out throughout many visits to decrease the pain.

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7. Embroidery Bird

If you love the look of embroidery and wish you could get your grandmother’s sampler on your arm or back, you can. Simply find a tattoo artist well-versed in embroidery tattoos. This type of work requires the artist to freehand the design.

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Photo credit: polo_tatts

It also requires a deft hand at tiny details because they must make many feathered strokes to create the layers that form the appearance of raised embroidery. Meet with the tattoo artist in advance to plan your colors. This piece uses more than 15 colors of ink and would require multiple appointments.

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8. Embroidery Flower Arrangement

Flowers make an amazing embroidery tattoo subject, too. The petals of this flower require precision and significant artistry. While you can use stencils to create some basic tattoos, that isn’t the case with this type of advanced work. The incredible detail and the shading and “brushstroke” work of a tattoo like this one requires both experience as a tattoo artist and as a sketch artist or painter.

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Photo credit: yomera1

This piece required a total of 12 hours and the artist divided that between two sessions. You could get something similar but divide it into more sessions than that to reduce the painfulness of sitting for a tattoo this size and complexity.

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9. An Homage to Stitch of “Lilo and Stitch” Fame

You’re not limited to flowers or nature. This fan of the animated film Lilo and Stitch wanted to represent the film with a 3D embroidery tattoo of Stitch. The embroidery tat adds to an existing tattoo of a small butterfly.

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Photo credit: dudalozanotattoo

By integrating the two pieces, the second tattoo artist made it seem that the butterfly landed on Stitch’s nose. 3D tattoos work effectively to integrate other older tats or to cover unwanted ink. The brushwork on this Stitch shows how to achieve that.

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10. 3-D Butterfly Visits a Shoulder

The tattoo artist who created this should hang this work of art in a museum because this piece genuinely appears to have a butterfly simply sitting on the person’s shoulder.

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Photo credit: imgur.com

Incredible shading makes the butterfly seem real enough to touch. One wing rises into the air and the butterfly seems to ready itself for takeoff.

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11. Someone Let the Cat Out of the Bag

Similar to the butterfly, this amazing cat tattoo leaps off of the skin. It also combines color, brushstroke work, and shading to achieve the 3D feline.

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Photo credit: amazingmicrotattoos

The browns and tans of the fur blend seamlessly with black and gray for shading. Prepare for a multi-hour session for this type of tattoo because, although it is small, the work required takes many hours.

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12. A Human Care Tag

The individual with this tattoo must have wanted to specify care instructions. This 3D tattoo creates a send-up of a clothing care tag that seems to stand out from the individual’s body.

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Photo credit: tattoo.joan

Other options for this type of tattoo include a “Made in [country of your birth]” or a price tag. Barcodes for random items are also common tattoos and some even scan under a store’s price checker.

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13. Taking the Leap

You rarely see a poignant tattoo, but this artist painted a picture of a man preparing to take a leap of faith on an individual’s back. This massive 3D artwork uses basic blacks, blues, and grays, but its shading creates the illusion of being able to walk into the scene.

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Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk

A piece like this requires a sketch artist or painter who also has copious talent as a tattoo artist and would require multiple days of sessions.

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14. A Face in the Window

Another 3D artwork that happens to be painted on the skin, this woman peering through a window, requires an immense amount of black ink.

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Photo credit: benthomasart

Prepare for multiple days of pain when getting a tattoo this size. Although it appears similar to a black and white painting, it requires many shades of ink. For this work of art is incredibly impressive to be a mere tattoo, and it takes up the entirety of this man’s chest.

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15. Escher-like Optical Illusion Tattoo

Another M.C. Escher-like piece, this artwork seems to poke a hole through the individual’s upper back. This tattoo is incredibly dynamic, with so much to look at. The perspective requires many lines in gradually smaller thicknesses that also appear rounded.

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Photo credit: moroztattoo

The technique needs a lot of practice on paper before doing it on the skin. This piece doubles as an actual optical illusion. If you stare at this tattoo for a few minutes or more, it will seem to move.

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16. The Wormhole on Your Arm

This incredibly detailed tattoo takes on the appearance of a wormhole. The arm appears to be pooling in on itself, creating the ultimate void.

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Photo credit: gunnarfoley

It combines perspective and shading, but only uses black and gray. Stare at the black center of this tat to seemingly fall inside.

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17. Shouldering the Illusion

Escher-inspired works prove popular as optical illusion tattoos. Similar to the prior two, this one uses perspective and shading as well.

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Photo credit: fabio.sciascia.tattoo

This tattoo spans the shoulders and upper chest, making it more than twice the size of the others. Despite only using black and gray, this would take multiple sessions due to its size and complexity.

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18. What Are You Made Of?

Another creative art piece, this seemingly broken glass, lets you peer inside the individual’s body to see the sinewy muscle beneath. The shattered glass takes on a spider web look while a small one-inch portion at the center has broken out entirely to show the reddish-brown of the muscle (actually another piece of the tattoo).

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Photo credit: nicomariani_tattoo

Consisting entirely of brown and black, you can’t call this tattoo colorful, but it certainly qualifies as creative. Better yet, this creative piece is actually a clever scar cover-up.

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19. Into The Deep

Combining fluorescent inks, massive sleeve artwork, 3D art, and a scuba diving theme, this tattoo or one like that would require multiple, hours-long sessions. It features both white inks for the sky above the water and gradual transitions to the darkest ocean depths of blue-black and black.

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Photo credit: tattoo_master_supply

Its bright blue center uses fluorescent materials and the tattoo wraps around the arm on all sides. The diver shown prepares to enter an underwater cave. This level of detail would require an experienced artist or painter who has years of tattoo experience as well, since it only uses freehand technique.

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20. Spidey Sense

Spiderman’s costume peeks out from beneath this individual’s skin, seeming to rip through it. Both the illusion of the tearing skin and the intricate design of the Spiderman suit makes this tattoo stand out as a 3D design.

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Photo credit: Are-Ob1

The dedication it took to create this tattoo proves amazing on the part of the tattooer and the tattooed. This type and size of tat would take many work sessions divided between multiple days, perhaps weeks.

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21. Anyone Want A Lollipop?

This is breathtaking pop art that happens to reside on a person’s skin instead of a canvas. Who doesn’t love lollipops? Seems like the recipient of the tattoo loved them so much that they got one permanently inked to their body.

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Photo credit: ink_in_body

The real hand grasping the drawn lollipop truly puts this incredible tattoo into perspective. Work this detailed requires many sessions and begins with just an outline, which the artist painstakingly fills in.

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22. A Fish Out of Water

This individual approached his tattoo artist about turning the need for a potentially disfiguring amputation into artwork. Left with only the shoulder bone of one arm, he had his tattoo artist transform it into a dolphin.

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Photo credit: imgur.com

The 3D artwork on top of the unique shape makes this go beyond typical 3D body art. From the perfect placement of this tattoo to the incredible design, this art truly comes to life.

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23. Breaking Out or Breaking Apart?

You won’t find cartoon or humor in this 3D art, which depicts a human figure erupting from the individual’s limb. As the body extricates itself from the skin, the head dissolves, as do the shoulders. It is as if, in breaking free, the person also broke apart.

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Photo credit: alessandro_capozzi

Regardless of your interpretation of the piece, if you want something similar, this type of tattoo requires an artist with good freehand skills and perspective technique with shading. With a combination of black, grey, and white inks that takes up a little room, you could probably get something the same size in one day with a multiple-hour session.

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24. Honey on A Skull Tattoo

Combining a honeycomb, skull, bee, and honey, this multi-layered, 3D artwork spans the space from shoulder to the elbow. The golden honeycombs appear to be glowing through excellent work with color and shading as honey drips down the skull.

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Photo credit: o_kharin

The tattoo artist completed it in two marathon sessions on back-to-back days. The artist included a black background for the tat, making it seem framed on the individual’s arm. What a spectacular illusion design.

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25. Pink Floyd-Jimmy Hendrix 1967-68 Tour

When you only listen to legends, why not pay an homage to them on your forearm? This Pink Floyd and Jimmy Hendrix piece combines 3D artwork of The Wall and Hendrix with his afro done in raised 3D.

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Photo credit: juniorgomes1

The two artists toured together in 1967 and 1968, making it fitting for both groups to share a spot together on this individual’s forearm.

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26. Needle Tattoo

Perhaps you want a 3D tattoo, but you want a small tat that you can easily hide. Consider this sewing needle that seemingly slices through the arm.

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Photo credit: JonBoy

Its simplicity takes careful effort to recreate. This unique design may be perfect for those who love sewing or needle-point and would consider a needle to be their tool of choice.

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27. You Hooked Me

A heart-shaped set of fishing hooks produce a brand on the individual. You can see its shadow beneath, the fishing hooks appear raised, as if it actually pierced through this individual’s skin.

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Photo credit: grandepaolo_ink

Like the sewing needle tattoo, the artwork seems simple but requires imagination and a deft hand at creating realistic shadowing.

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28. The Tattered Maps

This might qualify as the most intricate 3D tattoo ever. It spans three areas of the body, beginning on the individual’s shoulder, going onto the back, and continuing onto the lower arm. It layers two maps on top of one another with pieces of the top map torn away from the lower one.

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Photo credit: kueez.com

The compass on the upper map pierces the second map. The colors pop, especially the honey-colored gold of the lower map. This epic creation would require one of the most experienced and talented artists available, as well as weeks to complete.

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29. Birds in Flight

Birds in flight seemingly tear open the individual’s skin to reveal the blue sky with another bird in flight beneath it.

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Photo credit: 3dtattoo

The 3D pieces of this piece consist of all the portions of the skin that appear to tear off of the individual. This makes for quite the intricate 3D tattoo design.

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30. Two 3D Tattoos Merged as One

The tattoo artist combined embroidery techniques and 3D art to create this intriguing tattoo. It looks like an iron-on patch of Homer Simpson yelling “Woo-hoo!” as he reaches for a beer. Homer’s hand touches the cap of a Duff beer, his favorite.

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Photo credit: dudalozanotattoo

The Duff cap comprises the second tat. It’s separate from the embroidery-styled one and blended to sit on top of it. If you look carefully, you can see that the cap covers the tip of the original tattoo, and the artist has turned a portion of the grey outline into the shading of the Duff cap.

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31. Tattoo in Progress

This unique piece isn’t yet finished, but the artist took a progress shot. The modern art flower will extend down the arm and you can see the faint outlines of the tattoo’s future as your eyes move down the individual’s arm.

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Photo credit: jesse_rix

The center starburst uses a deep blue while the larger flower consists of bronze and brass. Black center points contribute to the depth of the tattoo. The future outline in purple and red shows the next portions to get colored in.

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32. Inner Demon

Not for the faint of heart, if you want to seem as if you have a demon leaping from your skin, this white tattoo provides the ideal subject matter. White ink became all the rage a few years ago and many artists challenged themselves to find creative ways to use the new medium.

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Photo credit: kueez.com

This demon tattoo mixes a terrifying subject matter with breathtaking artwork. The shading uses deep reds rather than blacks to create the illusion of the demon burning and stretching the individual’s skin. Layers of shading cause the head to appear to raise up off of the skin.

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33. The Human Genome

This amazing art sleeve stretches from shoulder to the inside of the hand, wrapping a DNA strand around the arm.

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Photo credit: jakconnollyart

Within each of the twists of the strand, the artist tattooed a different smaller artwork, including an eye and honeycomb.

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34. The Universe in You

Combining cutouts, the Milky Way in the background, tribal emblems, and more colors of ink than seem possible in a single tat, this chest piece wows.

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Photo credit: jesse_rix

A tat this size and intricacy would require days and multiple sessions. This individual will be wearing modern art on his chest forever.

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35. Inside Out

This 3D art seems to tear open skin to reveal a prosthetic limb or robot leg. The tears on the skin seem to lift up and away from the leg while the bright yellow spring on the prosthetic seems to depress for a footfall.

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Photo credit: brunohrltattoo

The incredible detail required 12 hours of work divided into two sessions. The outcome however was worth the time as this magnificent tattoo is eye-catching as it appears 3-dimensional.

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36. Skeletal Escape

What if your skeleton wanted to crawl out of you? Of course, it would simply unzip your arm to crawl out. The zipper in this and the skeletal hand seem to rise up from the skin.

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This work combines white inks with grays and blacks and some of the most amazing perspective sketching ever. To get this result, you need a sketch artist or painter with significant tattoo skills.

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37. 3D Rose Tattoo

A delicate pink rose rises from the top of the hand, seemingly growing out of it. The meticulous detail and shading of this tattoo make it stunning to look at.

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Photo credit: adriancier

The artist blended the tattoo’s colors with the individual’s skin to create the illusion of the flower growing through the skin.

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38. Never Forget Your Pen

Ignore the blue inked neck tattoo and instead focus on the tat above the man’s ear. You don’t see it? The pen tucked behind his ear isn’t real. That’s the tat. This artist combined painstaking stroke work and shadowing with shading.

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Photo credit: collegehumor.com

The artists must’ve been tattooing behind the individual’s ear, probably with it held down folded so it wouldn’t get in the way. Once unfolded, the pen seems to tuck behind the ear. You’d need to find an immensely talented artist to get a tattoo such as this.

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39. Full Chest and Arms Art

Look carefully at this intricate modern artwork to pick up on the nuances. At first glance, it seems the work consists of a chest piece, but it really continues down the abdomen. The artist treated the skin beneath the chest nipples with an airbrush technique that makes it look like stone.

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Photo credit: jesse_rix

One side is grayish-white, while the other takes on a bronze color. The outline alone required eight hours. The all-seeing eye surrounded by pentagons breaking free from their skin forces you to stare and contemplate.

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40. Into the Unknown

This tiny 3D artwork wouldn’t take long to create. As a conversation starter, the artist didn’t reveal what the final product would be. You might see it as an unfinished rainbow since it only has a few colors.

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Photo credit: playground_tat2

Others see it as the top of a padlock, while others see a worm crawling from one hole in the ground to the next. It definitely sparks conversation and looks cool, so it is featured here.

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41. Full Body Vampire Work

We leave you with what must have taken the better part of a year to create. It consists of an artwork that begins at the shoulders and reaches to the belly button. It spans from one side of the body to the other and covers both arms in full sleeves.

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Photo credit: dannylepore

As a hissing vampire looks at his lady love, a hand reaches through the skin above him and tears it open to reveal an internal eye. Various abstract graphics surround the figures, each with its own small symbol embedded, such as a screw or a set of teeth. This insane tattoo is incredible art for those who love the horror theme.

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