Top 10 Optical Illusion Tattoos

I don’t know about you guys, but I love top ten lists. When Vurdlak asked me if i could do one, I was really excited and a little surprised to see that there are only two top-tens on the site already. Well, rest assured that if you like posts like this, I’ll be happy to contribute plenty of them to the site -in fact, if you have any ideas for lists you’d like to see, feel free to leave your ideas in the comments here and if Vurdlak and I both like them, you just might see them in an upcoming post!

As for this first top ten list, I thought tattoos would make a great topic -after all, you have to really love an illusion to get one tattooed on you. This first tattoo is my personal favorite because it’s such a classic illusion subject –multiple meaning one. These work really well as arm  tattoos because you never know if someone will view it while your arm is raised or not, making it the ideal location for such a piece. This specific design was done by David Page. On the left, you have a queen, but when you flip her upside down, you have a king.

illusion tattooNext, the skull illusion tattoo involves one of my favorite types of illusions. What’s so great about skull illusions?  Let’s face it, they’re just so cool! It’s also a great idea for a tattoo since skulls are one of the most classic tattoo designs, but this interpretation brings the concept from cliche to chic.

skull illusion woman

Here’s another excellent skull illusion tattoo, this one involving two clowns holding hands while drinking. The tattoo, by Kate Hoogland, just might contain the most romantic skull illusion I have ever seen.

On the right, we have a brilliant rendition of M.C. Escher’s Drawing Hands illusion. The piece, done by Cheryl Volling, has some absolutely stunning shading, giving it the life-like appearance of the original Escher drawing.

skull tattoo and escher's hands

This ambigram tattoo is great in that it incorporates some of the most important aspects of philosophy into an ambigram. It’s also particularly nice in that it is easy to read and doesn’t look strange from either direction, which is one of the hardest aspects in making an ambigram.

ambigram tattoo

This saint/sinner ambigram is also easy to read, but rather than focusing on the arts and sciences, it focuses on religion. I think it really seems to denote the true duality of man.

saint sinner ambigram

Here’s another cool religious optical illusion, albeit in a a totally different style. If you don’t see the illusion, just back up a few more inches and then you’ll see that the image comes together to make the face and beard of Jesus.

On the right is another Escher tattoo, this one is on Flickr user’s alan.maia profile and features fish transforming into birds (and vice-versa) artwork. Maybe it’s just me, but I really love how worried that last fish in the tattoo looks.

jesus and escher illusions

We’ve featured a few of Del-Prete’s illusions before, but this impossible object tattooed on Flickr user bonstance and seen in the book Masters of Deception is still new.

Here’s a great tattoo with a double meaning. Is it a face or a cartoonish man playing saxophone?

Bonus: While it’s little anamorphic, this one might not technically be an illusion. Even so, the details are amazing enough to make it looks completely realistic.

Now, before I sign off, I thought I’d ask you guys about your own tattoos. After all, if you’re a regular reader of, you just might be the type of person who’s willing to get an illusion tattoo. So, do any of you have illusion tattoos? And if you do, do you have any links to the pictures online? I know I’m not the only one who’d love to see them.

Also, I’m a big fan of giving credit where it’s due, so if you know who did any of the tattoos that aren’t labeled, please leave their names in the comments. Thanks guys!

109 Replies to “Top 10 Optical Illusion Tattoos”

    1. Andrew , obviously , you have no ink . While I am not a spiderman fan , that is an amazing piece of ink . I would love to know who the artist is . It’s not an illusion but , it is great skin art

    2. Agreed. That last one is awesome. Anyone who knows anything about tatoos would admire that work.

    3. Your so dumb. tattoos are cool, and if someone wants an amazing ink like that spiderman one, than they obviously arent gonna get it removed. Theyre prob not stupid stuck-up-their-own-church christians. -_-

    4. wth? christians get tattoos all the time, it’s not a sin.. i’m sorry if you ever thought someone was stuck up. yeah there are stupid stuck up UGH christians, but not all of us are like that. it’s just as stuck up to think so.

    5. I agree, I dont really like body art and too many piercings all though i am only of a young age (early teens) so many may not agree with me lol ;D

    6. Love the ink. And for those arguing about it being a sin and quoting Leviticus 19:28, please stop taking scripture out of context. If you know your bible, you know Jesus came to free us from the rules, otherwise you would be sinning by trimming your bread or the hair at the sides of your head (Lev 19:27). Although I would still recommend against selling your daughter into prostitution (Lev 19:29)

    7. For the individuals who think tattoos are a sin because they think it says so in Lev 19:28(esp. Justin from Nov 6), Do you also believe you should kill gays(Lev 20:13)? How about those that have affairs(Lev 20:10)?Make sure you keep your wife in check or this could happen, Deuteronomy 25:11-12. How about those that curse God(Lev 24:14-16)? How about eating ham(Lev 11:7-8)? How bout those rebellious children(Exodus 21:17)? Just in case someone wants some good laws from the new testament for those that say theres a new covenant. Mark 10:11-12 says you shouldn’t get remarried or your an adulterer, and we know what God says we do to them. And women in church? 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Please educate yourself before you speak for all christians. Thanks.

    8. People in that era were tattooing and cutting themselves *for the dead*, hoping to appease angry gods (little g) to find solace for the deceased. It has nothing to do with tattoos for adornment.

    9. Thank you JP
      BTW I’m Catholic and I’ll have to make sure but I’ve never heard Leviticus spoken of in our
      Mass (service), so I don’t think it’s in our bible and were just as much Christians as the rest of you

  1. the fish/bird one and the spiderman ones would HURT!!! that is way too much ink and needle for me… ouch

    1. Try to draw it better. Ambigrams are incredibly challenging to make legible, and this “philosophy” one is extremely well constructed.

  2. Very cool tatoo/illusions. I really dig the mobius wheels and the spiderman ones in particular.

  3. I would not mark my body for any reason no matter how “cool” it looks. You have to live with it forever and you get old, it looks awlful

    1. Ah the old “what if you don’t like it when you’re old and wrinkly” argument against getting tattoos. I have a full back piece and I am not the least bit worried about what it looks like when I get old, because no one else is going to see it. When I’m old and wrinkly I’m not going to be wearing tank tops, or showing skin, I’m going to be an old lady wearing respectable old lady clothes :)

    2. @ HPANAMIO: Unlike you, I think most people who get tattoos like that sort of have this philosophy on life:

      “Life is not a journey to the grave with the
      intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body,but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming — WOW– What a Ride!” -Bill Mckenna

    3. than y r u looking at them this type of art usually only attracts people interested in art or ink not criticis

  4. I just LOVE those illusions in the tattoos! Gonna have my brother-in-law do one for me at his shop and will send it in.

  5. I’d like to see some cloud illusions. My kids and I always look for cloud fomations that remind us of objects, animals, people etc.
    We also like snow illusions – when snow melts it will leave behind large pillars. We saw one that looked like 3 men and a bear above them. I’ll try and send in the picture.
    Thanks for the cool illusions they’re always a favorite of mine!

  6. I love the illusion stuff the Spiderman coming out the chest has been a favorite of mine for awhile.. As a Tattooist I appreciate this type of love.. glad I got to see this.

  7. Some constructive criticism.. ..I’m not sure this is what Vurdlak had in mind.. this post doesn’t have the ‘feel’ of a top 10 & is quite different from Vurdlak’s top 10 posts..

    ..hope this helps..

  8. Interesting to look at, but on one’s body? That’s either a total commitment to an art form or they’re completely insane.

    1. While it’s true that these tats show quite a dedication to illusions, I’m still not sold on them being real. Looks like a decent job done with photoshop if you ask me…

  9. What’s below Arts&Science? The red line? Is it a removed tatoo or some special tatoo color?

    1. it looks like a branding…basically they shape iron and burn you with it. it’s another less popular form of body modification.

  10. Its not Kate, its Megan Hoogland.(The two clowns holding hand)
    She has done a ambigram tattoo on my left leg.
    One way it says “What doesnt kill me”, the other way it says “Makes me stronger”.

  11. Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I to find It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to offer one thing again and help others like you aided me.

  12. It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m happy that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I love these! I don’t find the last one creepy at all. My brother has two tatoos where the skin looks ripped (like the last one here) and one has dragon scales where the skin is ripped and angel feathers for the other and it looks so lifelike! I have a celtic butterfly with pleanty of knotwork myself. I think you can appreciate these much more if you have ink yourself. My favorite are the words ones. Especially the “saint & sinner” one!

  14. [img][/img]

    I hope you can see this. This is my colored “Angels and Demons” ambigram tattoo. I have six, this is my favorite.

  15. [img][/img]

    grim reaper peeking through a zipper.


    2. No, being a judgemental “holier than thou” prick makes someone a loser. Tattoos are just another way people show their individuality….which is a BEAUTIFUL amazing gift from God. So keep your negative shitty comments to yourself…you might do well to get that stick out of your ass while you are at it….might be why you are so grouchy…

  16. These are all really cool tattoos. I personally have no ink, but that is not to say that I don’t appreciate the amazing artwork! I think the ambigrams are especially neat.

    Comments like “tattoos are for losers” (Tim) are so rude & unnecessary. You don’t like them? Great; don’t get one! I have decided that they are not for me, but I don’t go out of my way to be against them. Boo!

    Also, as for the argument that tattoos are a bad idea because they will look bad when you are old & wrinkly: as my husband says (he has ink), wrinkles will look bad whether they have a design on them or not.

    More to the point, this is just to showcase some great work by talented artists. Quit hatin’!

    1. Well said Lush. “Also, as for the argument that tattoos are a bad idea because they will look bad when you are old & wrinkly: as my husband says (he has ink), wrinkles will look bad whether they have a design on them or not.”

      I hadn’t personally planned to get tattoos but I had a friend who was an apprentice and I let her use me as her guinea pig. I don’t regret it. I’m glad I didn’t get tattoos when I was 18 or 19 though… I was 38 when I got my first.

  17. Brands are made for cattle. They don’t even use brands anymore on cattle, they use ear tags. So all you cattle wannabes get yourself some ear tags.

  18. I love the memento mori. The first (lady looking in mirror/skull) looks like a tattoo-design version of “All Is Vanity” by C. Allan Gilbert. I like their stylistic take on it.

  19. Great tattoos, great illusions. I love the skulls. They’re real works of art. Kudos to the artists…whoever they are.

  20. wOW, some of those are amazing and you’re right the spiderman one is pretty creepy. I’m too scared to get a tattoo because I’m worried I might not want it in the future and have to pay a lot of money to remove it.

  21. fuk all da haters on here if yo a#! dnt wanna tat thats good for you go sit da fuk down somewhere and mine ya binness! d-_-b

  22. nice! i may talk 2 my own inkslinger & see about getting the art& science/philosophy 1. been about 5mos since my last ink; got that ink fever, u know?

  23. The Spider-Man one is amazing but I think that’s a little too much pain for me to endure. I would totally get it if I had the guts though but I might get something on a smaller scale as a representation of this one. Great Job! Loved The Ambigrams :)

  24. Dude who said tattoos are for losers: your a loser for looking at an entire page of tattoo pictures just so you can comment that.

  25. Lol you didn’t see nothing (that wheel is tragic), there is a guy called Dima or Misha, he don’t have his studio, he is traveling around world and making great illusion tattoos.

  26. Your first tattoo should be credited to Rex Whistler, whose amazing book OHO pairs his double illustrations with matching poems by his brother.
    The tattoo you show is actually not of a King and Queen, but of “the Mayor of Standon Ceremony” and his wife. [img][/img]

  27. This goes back to the Nov 6,2011 comment by Justin who says it’s a sin to get tattoos and quotes Leviticus 19:28. So Justin, just like all fanatics, you pick and choose which verses to quote to suit your needs. Look at Leviticus 19:27, the one BEFORE your higher than thou reference. Leviticus 19:27 “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. I’ll be Justin gets a haircut and shaves. What a hypocrite.

    1. Thank you! Besides.. Both those rules were written in the old covenant. And we’re under the new covenant.

  28. James – I disagree, but I respect your right to your opinion.

    Meow Meow – Those words are ambigrams that can be read upright or upside-down. You can try creating one of your own over at
    FlipScript ambigram tattoos

    Sarah Lee – The artist for the Art & Science / Philosophy ambigram is John Langdon. Google his name for more of his designs.

  29. These are truly wonderful. Not only are the artists talented but the people who stay still long enough to have them done have my respect. I would love one (I am well over 50) but am too chicken. It took me till I was 50 just to get my ears pierced. lol. The Spider-man one is sensational and is akin to the illusion body painting but with pain. Obviously everyone who gets ink does it for a reason. Not anyone’s concern why. Live and let live so long as it hurts no-one else in any way. Don’t be so narrow minded you lot.

  30. Love the Science Philosophy ambigram. Here’s my ambigram.
    ‘ The World Is Mine ‘[img][/img]

  31. To any of the people that say “what about when u get old, then the ink will be a mistake” that is most definately not the case! Cuz later in my life when I am old, sore, tired, fighting to walk, and fighting to not pee my pants before i finish shuffling into the restroom, the LAST thought in my mind is gonna be” Dang I wish i hadn’t got all this ink and artwork that reminds me of the good times”

  32. I love the two skull designs!

    As far as the ambigram tattoos do, I think you create those saying whatever you want at

    And no, I don’t believe that the bible says that getting a tattoo is a sin

  33. Thanks for your explanation on the saints & sinners tatoo my son got it today & when he showed it to me I hurt his feelings by saying it was so plain it looked elementary /// However now that you explained it I now get it So thank you very much . Now do you want to help me ask my son to forgive me.??? After all I am just a MOM lol l

  34. Hi there! This article couldn’t be written any better!
    Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!

    He constantly kept preaching about this. I will send this
    post to him. Fairly certain he’s going to have a good read.
    Thanks for sharing!

  35. I think the people comparing tattoos to sins should really take a long look at themselves. I’m a Catholic recently inked and I did it in honor of a deceased relative to signify that live goes on even after death. People who turn away from God choose to through their own wrongdoings not by drawing artwork on their bodies. Its a symbol of admiration and love for something not defiance and animosity. And btw all of your reasons quoted from the Bible are from the first testoment also taken from the Jewish Tanakh (not discriminating against jewish people, that would make me a sinner) it is ashame some people don’t fully understand what their paving before they preach it.

  36. The biggest difference in my book between tattoed people and people without, are that tattoed people will not judge the one without…..

  37. hey i notice on the spiderman tat, the hole on the top looks like an open eye lid.
    also there is a real life illusion in my hometown. there is a church that is built and positioned in such a way when you are coming down the road from the through-way across the hill below, the church when lit up at night looks like a Christ type figure with outstretched robed arms and hair parted in the middle with a beard.

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