Surrealism tattoo

Tattoo styles 6 min read Last updated on August 10, 2020

Surrealistic tattoos are unusual, hyperrealistic, and paradoxical images with abstract subjects. Surrealism in tattoos is a continuation and manifestation of surrealism.

The style takes its roots in France in the 1920s. At the heart of this trend is the idea that our subconsciousness, if not the foundation, is a huge and underestimated part of man. The true surrealist draws creative inspiration from his or her subconsciousness (dreams, changed states of consciousness). Followers of Salvador Dali created their works by using unusual color combinations and inventing fantastic images.

Even then, surrealistic art was divided into two categories. Some artists drew arbitrary, abstract forms. Others preferred to depict accurate, realistic drawings, but their subjects remained as originating from the subconsciousness. That is, in the second category clarity of forms and lines prevail, embodying an illusory and phantasmagoric image.

The same classification is also characteristic of the surrealistic style of tattooing. Each artist chooses his or her own method of depicting his or her idea. Surrealism in a tattoo allows for freedom from stereotypes and norms. These tattoos are said to reflect a "sick fantasy". The mind games on your body.

Main Features

  • The main distinguishing feature is the use of unusual, non-standard forms and exaggerated allusions.
  • “Compatibility of the incompatible”— a paradox that reaches absurdity by way of optical illusions.
  • Complexity. Usually, if the tattoo is complicated, they do not look like the usual stylized sketches, which are usually the work of beginners. Therefore, surrealistic tattoos are best done by experienced masters with superb artistic taste.
  • Hyperbolized images contrary to realism and primitivism.
  • Fine details. The idea of the image is depicted by the interplay of many little details.
  • Surrealism assumes bright, saturated tones and flashes of colors. However, black and white images can look also be made to look unreal due to the play of light and shadow.
  • Such tattoos occupy a lot of space, so they are usually inked on the back, chest, legs, or arms.

Popular themes

The main task of the surrealistic image on the body is to communicate the triumph of irrationality. Therefore, artists use unusual images associated with mysticism, eroticism, and magic. In other words, the image does not address the mind of the viewer, but appeals directly to his feelings and emotions.

The elements of these tattoos can be very different. For example, it can be done in geometrical figures through which perspectives and visuals can be twisted. Unusual images resulting from the imagination of the author are also popular. Mythical creatures, flowers, and various strange objects are popular.

Popular tattoos in this style:

  • Elves, dwarves, and other fabled characters
  • Stylized birds and flowers
  • Vivid abstractions, patterns, and ornaments
  • Objects and images made to appear as though they are spreading or floating.

Sketches with paintings by the best surrealist artists (Salvador Dali, René Magritte, Joan Miro, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, and others) are in great demand.


It is believed that surrealistic tattoos do not have any canonical meaning because each drawing is a fruit of the imagination and a manifestation of the client’s or artist’s subconscious. Therefore, it is up to the owner of the tattoo to decide on whether or not his or her tattoo will have a deeper meaning.

Examples of Surrealism Sleeves