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  • Writer's pictureJoe Riley

The Best Tattoos - Flow

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

This is the next installation into exploring what makes the difference between a good tattoo and a great tattoo. Understanding the tattoo design process and how it relates to the body is an important foundation for any custom tattoo artist.

Flow is the underlying structure of the body. Understanding proper flow means to know the muscle structures and how they move and work together in order to design a tattoo that works with the body and not against the body.

A tattoo that has the correct placement and flow will enhance the tattoo as well as the client's body. When a tattoo has the correct flow it will move with the person wearing it and add that "Wow!" factor.

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This full sleeve tattoo utilizes negative space to create the perfect flow with this clients arm. The top of the sleeve swirls around with her shoulder cap and moves the attention forward to the face of the grim reaper skull. As you follow it down you can see how the flow follows her triceps muscles and follows the direction of her forearm. The negative space flow also creates a unifying element in her full sleeve to make it one cohesive piece instead of a jumbled mess of random tattoos placed everywhere. We used some dark imagery but were able to keep a feminine look with this tattoo.

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Here is another great example how we used the proper placement and flow in this half sleeve skull tattoo. The client wanted a skull with daisies. The placement of the daisy flower at the top of the should is proportioned perfectly with the roundness of her shoulder cap. The skull is properly aligned to move with the triceps muscle and is reinforced with some negative space. The flower on the right of the design was placed keeping in mind the curvature created by the bicep muscle. Every element of this design was carefully planned out for the client, keeping in mind the exact proportions of her arm in order to fit perfectly and move with her body.

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On such a large scale piece as this Phoenix tattoo, we chose to come up with a concept sketch first, so we had an idea of what we were going to do. From that point, the tattoo was freehand drawn on the skin to match every curve of the clients body. The wings were a cool element to play with and shape to her underlying muscle structure. The bottom wing follows her thigh muscles and the flow is also reinforced with the negative space and smoke effect. As it rises up her body, the wing and body of the phoenix curve with her buttocks, and the top wing matches the flow of her ribs and onto her back. The ability to freehand this tattoo gave us the perfect opportunity to match each element of the tattoo directly to the proportions of her body. It is especially important when designing large scale tattoos for women to use the female body aesthetics when creating the perfect design.

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This tattoo is another classic example of how we were able to follow her natural underlying flow and accentuate her hip/thigh with this snake and flower tattoo. The roundness of the peony flower was placed at the roundest part of her hip. Snake tattoos by themselves can create a lot of flow, but coupled with the flower we used the shape and direction of the snakes body to fit with the flow of her body. The negative space designs we incorporated were an added bonus to the flow of this tattoo. This tattoo will always work perfectly with her and move with her body.

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This tattoo was a great study of the anatomy of the muscle structures of an upper arm half sleeve. We researched and reference actual human anatomy so we could get the muscles placed correctly. We did this tattoo freehand so we could match up each muscle to the clients actual muscles. The added element of the skin rips creates even more flow and also adds more depth to the piece, adding strong contrast in value as well as texture.

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Biomechanical tattoos are heavily dependent on flow. Every element of this tattoo was done freehand on the skin. We were able to use each set of shapes in this piece to follow the underlying flow of his arm. Each element of this sleeve tattoo was designed specifically for each shape created by his arm. From the small round orb on the wrist bone, following the line of the forearm, elbow, inner biceps, triceps and shoulder cap. We were also able to create depth by popping out the shapes that were more prominent on his arm and add deeper shapes and structures to the areas of his arm that recede. Proper planning of large scale tattooing is what makes this full biomech sleeve create the illusion of depth and movement.

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Here is another example of a biomechanical tattoo that relies heavily on flow. The repetitive shapes used in this lower forearm sleeve follow the exact muscle structure of the clients arm. The purpose of this design was to create a tattoo that moves with the client and accentuates his arm. Using proper contrast allowed us to create deeper areas in this biomechanical tattoo, so that the bigger, more forward elements pop forward and become more eye catching.

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This sleeve tattoo presented a major challenge because there is actually 3 different cover ups in this piece. The cover up areas created very rigid areas we had to follow that went against her natural flow. We were able to compensate these areas with the direction and movement of the trees. We also payed close attention to the direction of the clouds and were able to follow the flow of her arm with those elements as well. The high contrast colors used in this sleeve also helps move the viewers eye in a certain direction that works with the shape of her arm. And it is topped of by a round shaped galaxy at the top (one of the cover up areas) to finish it off and bring some unifying colors through the full sleeve.

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This Japanese style koi fish tattoo captures the perfect flow of the clients calf. The direction and placement of the koi fish creates the opportunity to tie this piece together perfectly. The angle and direction of the bottom flower strengthens the overall flow of this tattoo. The negative space elements and Japanese style waves reinforce the flow and direction. A lot of thought and planning went into this tattoo to make sure that with so many elements involved, nothing gets lost and the most important elements of the tattoo stand out first, and allows the viewer to follow the design and discover more details throughout.

These are a few examples of the level of expertise we put into designing your custom tattoos. Because Inner Visions is a full custom tattoo shop we take great pride in educating ourselves on a constant basis so that we can provide you with the best tattoos in Las Vegas. You can follow this link for your Free Consultation and get in contact with one of our tattoo artists to help you create your next tattoo masterpiece!

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