I was told many many moons ago about a method of painting fairly decent looking faded tattoos on a miniature that didn't require a vast amount of freehand, or any painting skill at all really, I never tried it out because, well mainly because I love my freehand and never needed to, but with GCT's silvermoon trade syndicate release they all have a lot of Yakuza-style tattoos on them, and there were many comments from bereaved gamers worried that they would never be able to replicate the designs, I thought I'd give it a go and see if it's helpful, in fact the shoulder tattoos on my Joker gang were done using it, and it looks good enough to be worth a tutorial/review so here we are-
Cheating at tattoos,
This should give an impression of a faded, old tattoo, not a lovely fresh one, if you want a good tutorial for normal tattoos I like (love) the one on the GCT studios page HERE. if you aren't quite that accomplished and don't mind the faded look, try this very fast technique out-
A model with the skin at a level you are fairly happy with, a selection of watercolour pencils (dark blue, turquoise or green work best for the outlines) and matt varnish. (The model in this case is a clay golem, and because it was for a tutorial I didn't bother with mould lines etc, so yes it looks rough, in fact it is a bit too muscled for tattoos but it's what I had to hand...) and a design to copy- here I'm attempting a Koi carp.
Sharpen the watercolour pencil you chose for the outline to a very fine point, and quickly sketch out the basic design on the model, it needs to be fairly faint at this stage, though you may need to press on a bit to leave a mark based on the material of the mini and the quality of pencil you are using.
You can add colour to the tattoo using more watercolour pencils, or just leave it the plain outline colour, go over the outline more firmly at this point to make it stand out more.
Use the Matt varnish and a small brush, paint along the lines of the tattoo, you can also use it to blend colours together as I did here with the purple and blue on the fins- this layer serves two purposes, firstly it blends the edges into flesh, giving it that nice faded tattoo look, secondly it seals the whole tattoo onto the model so it doesn't rub off.
Finish the skin off completely at this point, highlighting around the tattoo, maybe giving the whole area a thin wash of the skin base colour and voila- the tattoo is done, I timed up to this point and the tattoo has taken me 6 minutes so far, including photography, so if you want fast tattoos this is a very good technique!
I already had the model primed up, and the pencils to hand, and bargain hunt hadn't finished yet, so I thought I'd add a dragon to his other shoulder and back, plus a few extra monochrome tattoos on his arms, in total this all took about 15-20 minutes, which wasn't too much to commit to trying a new technique. He looks alright, and will probably become a playtest proxy for bushido 40mm models in the future:) (though i will have to have a go at those mould lines...)
I still prefer the old freehand way, but to achieve this level with a brush would have taken a lot longer, so I think the first advantage of this technique is speed, it's very fast indeed. The second advantage is pencils are much easier to control, so drawing the outline is very easy for those who don't feel confident enough to paint freehand. The downsides are- it doesn't suit heavily muscled models (like this guy), and it can appear a bit grainy (especially with my grainy photos..) plus even with a very, very sharp pencil you'll never achieve the detail possible with a super fine brush.
Watercolour pencils aren't that expensive, less than a pound each, so if you want to try tattoos this way it's not that costly if you mess it up, plus right up to the stage where you varnish the model you can always just wipe it off:)
hope someone finds this useful!