What You Need To Know About Getting An AR Tattoo

There are a few important things to keep in mind when getting your first AR-powered tattoo.

We’ve seen a lot of cool ways augmented reality (AR) technology has been used to bring the world around us to life with digital content. What’s especially cool about AR is that you can use any image to launch an experience. 

I recently made the decision of getting a new tattoo and decided to use the Eyejack app to bring my ink to life with a cool AR animation accompanied by old-timey jazz music. Sufficeth to say the results were fantastic.

Getting the tattoo took a little planning with my tattoo artist and with the artist who created the image and animation. I wanted to share my experience with you so you can prepare for the steps needed to wow your friends at parties.

Getting the tattoo is pretty much like any other tattoo session, but there are some things to keep in mind:

Obviously, your first step is to find an image you like. Something you’ll feel good about having permanently etched on your body for the rest of your life. Back in 2020, I discovered the AR work of Pixelpuncha on Instagram and became obsessed with his Thunderkitty Hellcat image and animation. I knew I wanted to have that tattooed at some point alongside the animation.

Before we jump further, I thought it would be cool to get to know Pixelpuncha and learn more about his artwork and how he got into AR technology.

“Back in 2016, Sutu approached me and asked if I’d like to be involved in an AR book project he was putting together called ‘Prosthetic Reality’,” said Pixelpuncha. “The book would use a new app that he and Lukasz Karluk had created called Eyejack, and included 45 artists and animators from all around the world.”

The original Thunderkitty Hellcat image. / Credit: Pixelpuncha

“Firstly I was a big fan of Sutu’s work and secondly the whole concept of augmented reality just ignited my imagination, so I jumped at the chance. Since then we have created augmented reality experiences for Disney, Jägermeister, Bic, and several other household names.”

Now, back to your next-gen tattoo.

In order for an AR-powered tattoo to look right, you need to make sure the digital animation will work properly with the physical tattoo. What you don’t want is an overly complex tattoo as the marker as it could make tracking more difficult. You should keep it semi-small but not too small. For my Thunderkitty Hellcat tattoo, it’s just a tad larger than a golf ball. This allows for just enough details to make the tattoo look awesome while still working effectively as a marker. 

“One thing to be wary about with AR is you don’t want the trigger image to be distorted too much, so flatter the better. If it wraps and distorts too much around your arm the tracking for the AR will be off,” advised Pixelpuncha.

To ensure I got the details and size right, I had several conversations with my tattoo artist and showed her how the AR content looked when launched. From there, she created several sizes of the stencil used to transfer the tattoo image to my skin and placed them on my arm to see what size worked best; the image needed to remain as flat as possible on my arm without losing details. We then used Eyejack to scan each of them. 

I asked Pixelpuncha how he comes up with the designs he creates. He tells me, “That’s top secret! But it’s mostly down to a steady diet of cartoons and video games. I also love the wow factor of AR revealing something that you can’t see initially. So thinking about that is usually where I start.”

There is definitely a wow factor with having an AR-powered tattoo. I posted a video of my tattoo on Twitter and since then it has garnered over 138K views. It’s even made its way onto Reddit with comments like “neat bar trick.”

The tattoo also unlocks this excellent little jazzy tune, which becomes a big talking point for people who see it and hear it. The best part is when people dance.

Pixelpuncha. / Credit: Pixelpuncha

One thing to keep in mind when getting an AR tattoo is to make sure the animation matches up perfectly with the tattoo or at least covers it. This might sound nitpicky, but in my opinion, this little detail can make or break the experience. 

Try to avoid an AR effect that exposes the tattoo marker underneath. For example, let’s say you had an image of a robot running as a tattoo. Ideally, the AR effect, when activated, would layer over the entirety of the physical tattoo. You can also choose an animation designed to enhance your physical tattoo, such as this one here

When it comes down to choosing an image, Pixelpuncha, who doesn’t have any tattoos of his own, said, “I’d suggest getting something unique that you really love that works well as an image in its own right, then you can really blow peoples pants off when they see the AR bring it all to life.”

Credit: Bobby Carlton

When I talked with my tattoo artist, she suggested I remove the green background from the original image, which meant I needed to work with Pixelpuncha to get the AR animation without the green background. It wasn’t a hard step, but you may want to keep that on your radar when thinking of your own.

My final step after getting my tattoo ($125) was to work with Pixelpuncha on the license fee ($350) to have the animation on the Eyejack app. I did that through email and once the transaction was completed, Pixelpuncha set up everything for me and then sent me the QR code. All I had to do was scan the code with my phone and that was it. 

I’ve been very happy with how people react to Thunderkitty Hellcat when they see it in person, and yes, it’s a great bar trick! If you’d like to work with Pixelpuncha on your own AR-powered tattoo, you can reach out to him here

Image Credit: Bobby Carlton

About the Scout

Bobby Carlton

Hello, my name is Bobby Carlton. When I'm not exploring the world of immersive technology, I'm writing rock songs about lost love. I'd also like to mention that I can do 25 push-ups in a row.

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