Gallery of engraving style tattoos that can be filtered by subject, body part and size.read more
Engraving tattoos simulate the lines and textures of carvings, as if the skin were made of wood, metal or stone. These are also sometimes called “etching” or “woodcut” tattoos, depending on the artist’s inspiration and source material.
Engravings are some of the oldest forms of human communication and art, with examples dating back to the Stone Age. Egg shell, bone and rock carvings were present in prehistoric communities around the world.
Woodblock stamps have historical significance in many trades, especially in the printing of texts and textiles. Tattooing also benefitted from the use of carved wooden molds and blocks. Some of the earliest tattoo stencils (tools that transfer designs to the skin as a guideline for tattooers) were made with woodblocks in Asian and Middle Eastern communities.
Engraving and etching, as art forms in the west, exploded during the Middle Ages. With the invention of the printing press, there was a growing demand for mass-produced imagery, as well. Metal and wooden stamps with standardized designs allowed for cheap image reproduction at a high volume. Printing in this fashion was popular until the invention of photography in the 20th century.
In the simplest terms, tattoos mimicking hand carvings tend to have thick and distinct linework with a two-dimensional perspective. Tattoos mimicking machine engravings and etchings may have thinner lines and more complex hatching / cross-hatching (techniques that create the illusion of depth, shading and texture using just lines).
Engraving tattoos are not to be confused with “skin carving,” which is another term for scarification. The latter is a more invasive body modification where the top layers of skin are peeled away from the body to create a design with scar tissue.