As the art of tattoo becomes more and more popular amongst people of all ages and backgrounds, it is increasingly difficult to come up with original designs, but for those who want the ultimate in mind-blowing tattoo designs, a new and daring trend is beginning to make its mark on the tattooing world – 3D tattoos.

Having a tattoo inked somewhere on your body is a type of body modification, and whilst not as invasive as having a face lift or boob job, you are still making a cosmetic change to your body in a permanent way—once you have had a tattoo done, you are stuck with it for life unless you wish to go through the pain and expense of having laser treatment to remove the tattoo.


But although for some people the art of tattoo is considered to be on a par with piercings and is seen as a form of body mutilation, most of us are comfortable with tattooing, and these days, even respectable members of the community are quite likely to have a small and discreet tattoo.


So with the art of tattoo very much a socially acceptable form of body modification, it is hard for those who wish to push the envelope to come up with new and off-the-wall ways of changing their body to impress (and sometimes shock) others.

They might try new and outrageous tattoo designs, but ultimately this is not going to be exciting enough. The next step is to try something a little different and take the art of tattoo to the next level—from 2D tattoo designs to 3D tattoo designs.


How are 3D tattoo designs created?

Rather like optical illusion paintings and artwork, it is possible to give the illusion of three dimensional properties to a line and shade drawing, but it does require a great deal of skill on the part of the artist, and tattoo artwork is no different in that respect.

3d potrait girl

As such, any regular 2D tattoo drawn skillfully enough by an experienced tattoo artist can be given 3D qualities, although this is very much dependent on the tattoo design used.

But the 3D tattoos gaining popularity amongst those seeking to take tattooing to the next level are much more than a skillfully drawn design giving the viewer an illusion of three dimensions. Real 3D tattoos are actually created in three dimensions and the tattoo design is raised above the normal level of the skin.


How is this done?

To create a 3D tattoo, the tattoo artists inks a design on the skin, preferably one that will be greatly enhanced in three dimensions, and injects a very small amount of sugar solution (hyaluronic acid) beneath the skin where the tattoo has been drawn.

The sugar injection can be applied in specific areas to subtly enhance certain parts of the tattoo. This creates a uniquely contoured 3D tattoo design whereby parts of the tattoo are raised approximately two millimeters above the normal level of skin.


What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring sugar complex molecule. It is found in the connective tissues within the body, including skin and cartilage, and its primary purpose is to absorb and bind water molecules.

This sponge effect gives your face and body tissues an attractive plump appearance, and it is one of the reasons why hyaluronic acid is commonly used as dermal filler for cosmetic enhancement procedures.

Over time, hyaluronic acid levels become naturally depleted, which is why many people choose to have hyaluronic acid dermal filler procedures carried out.

The hyaluronic acid is injected into the dermis, the innermost layer of skin, in the areas of the face or body where deep folds of flesh or wrinkles have begun to develop. This procedure increases the levels of hyaluronic acid and creates volume and a more youthful appearance.


What is the procedure for injecting hyaluronic acid into the dermis?

Because hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the body, you will not need to be allergy tested, but the treatment area must be cleaned with an alcohol based cleanser prior to the injections. The process is not painless, so a topical anesthetic cream or local anesthetic can be used to numb the area and reduce discomfort.


Is this procedure the same for 3D tattoo injections?

Injecting hyaluronic acid for the purpose of creating a three dimensional effect in a tattoo design is no different to having hyaluronic acid injected into your skin as a cosmetic dermal filler treatment.

The end result is the same—some parts of your skin are plumped up—although the results of a dermal filler procedure are supposed to be a lot subtler.


Are there any after effects from injecting hyaluronic acid under the skin?

You might experience some stinging from the actual hyaluronic acid injections. It is also possible that you will notice bruising in the local area, plus scabs at the site of the actual injections. However, scabs and local bruising will normally disappear after a few days and you will be left with a new 3D tattoo.


Is the 3D effect gained by injecting hyaluronic acid under a tattoo permanent?

Over time, the body will eventually metabolizes the hyaluronic acid and the raised effect will slowly disappear, leaving you with a regular tattoo on your body. You can expect the 3D effect gained from injecting hyaluronic acid under the skin to last between six and twelve months, although this will vary between individuals.


Which parts of the body are suitable for 3D tattoo designs?

Normal tattoos can be inked on any part of the body. Anywhere you have skin is suitable for a tattoo design, although you might draw the line at having a tattoo design inked on your genitals because of the excruciating pain you would almost certainly have to endure during the procedure.

The same applies to 3D tattoos—you can have a 3D tattoo inked on any part of your body. From your chest or arm, to your face or inner thigh—there are no boundaries you cannot cross with a 3D tattoo.


What types of tattoo designs can be enhanced with the 3D effect?

Is it easy to find a tattoo artist who will do a 3D tattoo?

3D tattoos are not very common, which means you will struggle to find a tattoo artist willing to attempt a three-dimensional tattoo design. There are a few tattoo artists who specialize in 3D tattoos, but due to the nature of the process, most tattoo artists steer well clear of this type of tattoo work.


Does a 3D tattoo look cool?

Like most things, whether you consider a 3D tattoo to be attractive is probably a matter of personal taste and judgment.

If you take a look on the Internet, you will probably come across lots of photos of extremely cool looking 3D tattoos, but although they might look great on somebody else, you have to ask yourself whether it is worth going to such extreme levels in order to enjoy a unique and “different” piece of tattoo artwork on your body.

tattoo 3d great 3d tat

Are 3D tattoos safe?

Although hyaluronic acid is a natural substance and is used in a wide range of medical applications, it is questionable as to whether the use of hyaluronic acid for the creation of 3D tattoos is a good idea.

The effects of hyaluronic acid might not be permanent, but if the tattoo artist who injects the hyaluronic acid does not follow strict hygiene protocols, there is a danger that the injection will introduce an infection to your body and you could end up with all kinds of complications as the result of your 3D tattoo.


Are there other ways to end up with a 3D tattoo?

You do not need to inject hyaluronic acid under your skin to gain a three-dimensional tattoo—there are other ways to achieve the same 3D tattoo effect. Some people end up with a 3D tattoo purely by accident.

A 3D effect in a tattoo is sometimes seen when an inexperienced tattoo artist who has no real idea what he is doing uses too much ink when drawing the tattoo. The excessive amount of ink used puffs up beneath the skin, creating a raised effect similar to that seen with 3D tattoos.

Some unfortunate souls sometimes have a bad reaction to the ink used in their tattoo, and also end up with a puffed up skin effect at the site of their tattoo. However, in both cases, the raised and bumpy skin effect is not particularly cool in any way; it just looks a bit silly.


What are sub dermal implants and can they be used to create 3D tattoos?

Another way of creating a 3D tattoo is to take the process of injecting hyaluronic acid under the skin one step further and use sub dermal implants instead. Sub dermal implants are used for cosmetic and non-cosmetic purposes, and an example of a non-cosmetic sub dermal implant would be a contraceptive device placed under the skin on a woman’s upper arm.

sub dermal implants tattoo

When sub dermal implants are used for cosmetic purposes, beads and similar objects are surgically placed under the skin to create a three-dimensional effect in the desired area.


Sub dermal implants are considered to be a rather extreme form of body modification and proponents of the procedure use it to create all kinds of weird and wonderful effects on the human body. For example, men can have beads or rods surgically implanted under the skin of their penis to enhance sexual stimulation for both partners.

Sub dermal implants are a fairly recent innovation, but because it is able to create a very similar raised effect to the use of hyaluronic acid as a dermal filler, sub dermal implants have also been used for the purpose of making 3D tattoos.

But unlike the use of hyaluronic acid to raise a tattoo a couple of millimeters up from the surface of the body, sub dermal fillers can be used to achieve a far greater three dimensional effect.


There is no limit to the size of the sub dermal implant and as long as the incision can be stitched back up to avoid infection setting in, in theory it would be possible to create all kinds of 3D tattoos at various points on the body.

However, unless the procedure is carried out by a licensed medical professional and performed in a sterile environment, you are at risk of all kinds of infections and other nasty complications.


Can I create a 3D tattoo by injecting myself with hyaluronic acid?

No doubt there will some crazy individuals who decide that injecting hyaluronic acid under their skin is a cool and totally awesome idea.

However, unless you are a trained medical professional who is skilled in the art of injecting substances into the right level of the epidermis, who also has access to sterile needles and a safe hyaluronic acid solution, self injecting hyaluronic acid in order to create a funky 3D tattoo is extremely stupid.

At best you will end up with a lumpy tattoo you will have to live with for up to a year, but at worst you could end up with a major infection such as hepatitis.

Thanks to developments in health and safety procedures, having a new tattoo inked on your body is perfectly safe these days, but as soon as you take this one step further and modify a regular tattoo design into a three dimensional one, it becomes a whole new ball game.

A 3D tattoo might not be permanent when it has been created using hyaluronic acid, but you can still end up with visible scars if the procedure is not done correctly.