Skip to main content
We no longer support Internet Explorer. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience. Find out more.

Learn how to use the Tattoo Art Brushes by The Artifex Forge

The Tattoo Art Brushes are the new collection by The Artifex Forge now available from the Affinity Store.

What are Tattoo Art Brushes by The Artifex Forge?

The Tattoo Art Brushes for Affinity Designer are a collection of tattoo ink outline, pattern and arrow vector brushes, paired with a range of gnarly textured raster brushes to create authentic tattoo art textures. Perfect for creating vintage tattoo style artwork for t-shirts, poster art, packaging and web graphics.

What’s included:

  • 21 Dashed outline vector brushes
  • 7 Standard outline vector brushes
  • 1 Anti-stretch outline vector brush—for very long strokes
  • 6 Short outline vector brushes
  • 6 Tapered vector brushes
  • 6 Arrow vector brushes
  • 6 Dot and Dash vector brushes
  • 10 Stipple shading scatter raster brushes (for use in Pixel Persona in Affinity Designer)
  • A quick reference PDF guide
  • Skull shapes to follow the tutorial below

Get the most out of your brushes

Jeremy from The Artifex Forge has put together a step-by-step guide on how to add inked outlines and stipple shading to an illustration using the Tattoo Art Brushes.


Before following the steps in this tutorial you need to load the Tattoo Art Brushes into Affinity Designer. Full instructions on how to do this are included with the product.

You will also need the basic skull shapes which are also included in the pack. It was made using Affinity Designer’s Shape Tool with a few minor adjustments.

The finished skull design has also been included in the pack for you to backwards engineer.

Part one—Outlines

Step one—adding vector brushes to strokes

In this section I’m going to explain how to use a brush to apply an ink outline to an existing path.

  • In Designer Persona duplicate the skull and jaw shapes by selecting them in the Layers Studio and accessing Edit and Duplicate. Move the duplicated shapes to a new layer and name the layer ‘Skull Outlines’.
  • Select these new shapes and recolour them so the fill is transparent and the stroke is 30C 42M 20Y 86K.
  • Open the Brushes Studio and select ‘Tattoo Art Brushes’ from the drop-down menu. With the ‘Skull Outlines’ layer still selected, click on the brush icon named ‘Tattoo long closed strokes’. This will apply the brush stroke to the outline of the shapes. Set the stroke width to 12pt.
Step two—closing the gaps

You’ll notice two gaps in each skull outline (circled). To remove them complete the following steps:

  • Select the node nearest the gap (the red node in figure B) using the Node Tool.
  • Look for the Node Actions menu at the top of the screen and click on the Break Curve button. This breaks the line, creating an open path with two end nodes.
  • Move the two end nodes using the Node Tool so that they overlap and create the illusion of a closed path.
  • Repeat the process and close the second gap.
Step three—adding more outlines

Using the techniques learned in steps 1 and 2 add outlines to the eyes, nose and tulip stem. You will not need to delete any gaps on the tulip stem as it is an open path. Use the same outline colours and stroke width that you used for the skull outline. Set the tulip stem stroke width to 15pt.

Place these new outlines on the Skull Outlines layer.

Step four—drawing freehand petals

In this section I’m going to explain how to draw freehand using the Vector Brush Tool. To do this you must first select the brush, the stroke colour and stroke width that you’d like to draw with. The great thing about vector brushes is that you can adjust these attributes after drawing too.

Set the stroke weight to 12pt and the stroke colour to 30C 42M 20Y 86K. Select the Vector Brush Tool and click on the ‘Tattoo long closed strokes’ brush in the Brushes Studio to select it.

Freehand trace roughly round the edges of the tulip to draw an outline. Don’t worry about getting it right first time as you can adjust the strokes as required. Smooth the lines out by removing or adjusting nodes using the Node Tool.

Draw the other petal outlines as shown.

Part two—texture shading

One of the great features of Affinity Designer is that it allows us to use vector and raster techniques in a single image. In this section I’m going to explain how to use the stipple shading raster brushes to add depth and texture to the skull.

Preparing to draw
  • Switch to Pixel Persona then create a new Pixel Layer beneath the Skull Outline layer. Name it ‘Skull Texture Shading’.
  • Select the Paint Brush Tool from the toolbar. Choose the ‘Tattoo Texture Brushes’ category from the Brushes Studio and then select the ‘TATTOO ART_STIPPLE 2’ brush. Set the colour to 20C 42M 20Y 86K in the Colour Studio.
  • To adjust the brush size change the width value in the Context Toolbar at top left corner of the screen. Alternatively, use the arrow keys to make the brush smaller or larger.
  • Trace around the edges of the skull shape with your mouse or graphics tablet. Don’t worry that the stippling spills over the edge of the skull—clipping will be explained later.
  • Create another Pixel Layer then draw another layer of texture as shown. Adding each new texture on a different layer gives you the flexibility to try out different combinations of tones and textures.
  • Create another Pixel Layer and set the drawing colour to white (0C 0M 0Y 0K). Draw to add highlights to the centre of the skull.
Clipping to a vector

Once you’re happy with your stipple shading it’s time to clip the pixel layers to the vector shapes. Clipping is a good alternative to erasing as it is non-destructive. To clip layers follow these steps:

  • Locate the jaw and skull outline shapes on the ‘Skull Outlines’ layer and duplicate them using Edit>Duplicate.
  • Move the duplicates to the top of the ‘Skull Texture Shading’ layer stack, above all shading pixel layers.
  • With both skull and jaw shapes selected (hit shift on your keyboard to select multiple layers) click on the Add icon in the Context Toolbar at the top of the screen, to merge these into a compound vector shape. Rename the vector shape ‘Clipping’.
  • Set the Stroke Style to ‘None’ in the Stroke Studio to remove the inked outline from the shape.
  • Finally drag the Pixel Layers into the centre of the ‘Clipping’ layer you create in the Layers Studio. You will see a blue line appear underneath the Clipping layer.
Adding texture shading to the tulip petals

Now it’s time to add shading and highlights to the tulip. To do this repeat the process described in the previous two sections but using 15C 79M 91Y 0K for the lighter red and 18C 82M 93Y 23K for the darker red. Then use a combined version of the red tulip shape, using Add and then clip the texture to that shape.

Part three—the tattoo details

The tattoo details add the finishing touch to the illustration. Use the techniques in part one to create them. I’ve added a few hints above to help you on your way.

You could also add some texture shading to the background to add a bit more depth as in the above image.

I’m sold, where can I get hold of these brushes?

The Tattoo Art Brushes by The Artifex Forge are now available to purchase on the Affinity Store.


About the maker

In Latin, Artifex means ‘a skilled artist, builder or maker of things’, combined with the idea of a forge as a melting pot for ideas and creation, we can start to understand what digital content creators The Artifex Forge are all about. Founded in 2014, The Artifex Forge are blazing a trail creating top quality brushes for Affinity Designer. The founder, Jeremy Child draws from his ten years’ experience in the design and illustration industry to create beautifully crafted digital tools based on traditional media. You can always be sure that their products are functional and original and designed with the busy designer or illustrator in mind.

Jeremy gets daily user requests for more content for Affinity, so watch this space for more Affinity Designer brushes…

The Artifex Forge’s Tattoo Art Brushes can be purchased in the Affinity store here. Alternatively, you can find more illustrative design resources from Artifex Forge on their website and store.

Artist relations

Charlotte is an illustrator and arts lecturer who is passionate about the creative industries and is now part of our artist relations team. Her interests include mid 20th century inspired design, comic books, board games, movie memorabilia, baking cakes, feminism and yoga. She shares her 1960’s home with her graphic designer husband and her toddler son who likes to hide her iPad. Get in touch with Charlotte if you have work you have made in Affinity apps to share with us, or tag your work with #madeinaffinity in the usual places.

Credits & Footnotes

All artwork in this article is copyright © of The Artifex Forge and used with permission.