Exercise: A tattoo

A friend has asked you to design a tattoo for them based on the word Mum. He would also like you to make it into a greeting card that he can send his mother. (What a good idea for Mother’s Day).


When I started my research, I found a few articles about the history of tattoos. I read some of them and then found this video. There is all information about the history of tattoos. And it is really cool. So I will leave it here.

Also, in the end of the video it is said that if you are uncertain what tattoo to get you can never go wrong with “MOM”.


History of tattoo is no less than 6000 years. The oldest tattoos were found during the excavation of the Egyptian pyramids in Giza.

0blog1-01-01Mummies are about four thousand years old, but the pictures on the dry skin are still clearly visible.

Tattoos are made by applying a special  color pigment under the skin. The first tattoo was probably made accidentally when untreated wound was rubbed with dirty hands stained in ash or coal. And as soon as the wound healed, the picture remained below the skin.

The history of  tattoos is a very broad topic. The art of tattooing has evolved independently in different parts of  the world. Therefore, it was hard to define where to start my work. For the convenience I decided to divided my research into three blocks:

  • Ritual tattoos
  • Criminal tattoos
  • And modern tattoos



Almost all tattoos in the antiquity were ritual. Every tattoo of that time was a sign and  had a significant meaning. And the tattoing process was a ritual itself.


Yantra tattooing is a form of tattooing that originated from ancient Cambodia. Today it is practiced in Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. It consists of sacred geometrical, animal and deity designs accompanied by Pali phrases that offer power, protection, fortune, charisma and other benefits for the bearer.




The art of  mehndi  has been practiced for over  5000 years in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East.


Tā moko


Tā moko is the permanent body and face marking by Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.







Russian prisons have a unique and intricate history of prison tattoos, each with their own unique meaning.


 A dagger through the neck indicates that a criminal has murdered someone in prison and is available to hire for further hits.


The eight-pointed stars on this inmate’s shoulders indicate that he’s a criminal “authority”


A snake around the neck is a sign of drug addiction.


The skull and crossbones on the prisoner’s shoulders indicate that he’s serving a life sentence


Tattoos were done in a primitive and painful way. Scorched rubber mixed with urine was used for pigment.

If  tattoos of the prisoner do not correspond to his status, he will be asked to remove the tattoos under the threat of death with a shard of glass or brick.



Identification of inmates in Nazi concentration camps was performed mostly with identification numbers tattooed on the skin.

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Here are some of the most popular American criminal tattoos:



Teardrop is one of the most common criminal tattoos. The most widely accepted meaning of the teardrop is the wearer has killed someone.

Three dots


The three dots tattoo is a common prison tattoo that represents “mi vida loca,” or “my crazy life.” It’s not associated with any particular gang, but with the gang lifestyle itself. This tattoo is typically found on the hands or around the eyes.

Five dots


This tattoo can be found internationally, among both American and European inmates. The five dots, sometimes known as the quincunx, represents time done in prison.

The Cobweb


Cobwebs typically represent a lengthy term in prison.

Tattoos were also popular among members of different  criminal gangs. Here are some of them:

Hells Angels


Hell Angels is one of the most famous bikers’ club in the world, police calls it an organized criminal gang.



SUR 13

Sureños ( southerners in Spanish ) is a street gang in South California.



Norteños are gangs of North California.


MS 13

The MS 13 is a symbol of the Mara Salvatrucha gang from El Salvador.



In Japan the decoration of the body with tattoos originally was a privilege of emperors, later it became  a decorative art. However, over  the time the art of a tattoo became a symbol of the criminal world.






The Numbers Gang  is a prison gang with one of the most fearsome reputations in South Africa.



999 9999





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The history of  tattoos is a very broad topic. The art of tattooing has evolved independently in different parts of  the world. Therefore, my research was a little bit chaotic.

However I want to sum up that tattoo is an international art which evolves no matter what.  Nowadays tattoos are more popular than ever before. And the main purpouse of a tattoos is a self-expression.

When I’m done with  my research I can finally start working on my tattoo.

I started with another research. I was looking for tattoos with word  МОМ. There is a ton of them and they all look very similar too each other. Below you can see some of them.



I began to think what I associated with word Mom. And I figured out it was hearts and flowers too. If in the task I needed to just make a card for Mom then I could easily go with flowers and hearts. But I also needed to come up with an idea of a tattoo for a guy. So I decided to look for an alternative idea and I found it!




It is possible to use Superman logo and draw flying Mom in the logo. Something like that.



And a tattoo should be in style of  Marvel comics.


I couldn’t decide and still was looking for other ideas. When I was looking at the Superman logo I realised that the form of  is remarkably similar to a diamond.  So I developed it into a full-fledged idea.







It is possible to make a diamond tattoo and write on a card “To my brilliant Mom”. It turns out really well. Not to mention the fact that a from of a diamond  is associated with Superman logo, so we can modify our inscription as “To my brilliant Supermom”.




Another idea aside the Supermom theme. We can make a diamond tattoo in a form of a heart and write on a card “to my brilliant Mom”. This tattoo well corresponds with a card and it is unisexual. Not to mention the fact that geometrical line art tattoos  are very popular. I like that idea, it is simple. But it took me a while to come up with it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of these tattoos already.


They are not dedicated to Mom, but I wanted to make something original and unique.


I had an idea to make a tattoo like that.


It means that you will love your Mom forever from birth to death. Then I decided that is too depressing and sad. You should not get this tattoo if you want to make your Mom happy. It is better to avoid reminders about death.


I continued looking for good ideas. And finally I realised that it’s better to make a tattoo which my friends and I like than something ingenious and original .

In the beginning I decided to make an original tattoo without banal flowers and hearts, but in the end I came to the conclusion that heart was the most suitable symbol for Mom.  I took a heart and a word Mom as a basу for my tattoo.  I tried to make it stylish and ingenious. I like geometrical tattoos and  decided to make my tattoo this way.



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My tatoo

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During work process I realised how the card should look like.

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I think it looks nice.

While my research I found some other tattoos which are  great presents for Mother’s Day.

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Categories: exercises, Illustration