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The World’s Most Artful Tattoo Designs

Some see skin as the ultimate canvas, a blank slate begging to be decorated. There is a robust visual history to the art of the tattoo, and here we’ve compiled a gallery of beautiful and unique designs.

Tattooist Ron Ackers at work, Bristol, Great Britain, 1950s.The Amsterdam Tattoo Museum, Amsterdam

Here you’ll find people who turned their arms into whales; their faces into maps of their life stories; their backs into battle scenes; their scalps into plates of eggs and bacon (Okay, so maybe they’re not all beautiful).

Some of these are by contemporary visionaries in the world of skin art, such as Amsterdam Tattoo Museum founder Henk Schiffmacher, who’s inked the likes of Kurt Cobain and Anthony Kiedis. Others are famous tattooists from history, like Cindy Ray, Australian pin-up girl of the 1960s, whose memoir Story of a Tattooed Girl shocked in a time before body art went mainstream. For those opposed to permanent ink, there’s also the work of Tattly, pioneer of “designy” temporary tattoos. Keep checking back for new additions, as we’ll be updating the gallery regularly!CD