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Designing Your Own Tattoos: Pixel Art Tips & Tricks

How to create your own tattoo artwork. Recommended software. Scaling down images. Pixel art basics.

Still not feeling confident enough to create your own? Commission another player to create a tattoo for you! How to post an ISO ad on the forum for tattoo and how to purchase it from another player. Also how to create tattoos for other players if you have a knack for art. (Maybe this paragraph could be its own subsection?)

De-mystifying Tattoos! sebeth204 November 2018  

Hey! I just made a tattoo to indicate my breeding herds and found it easier than I expected, so I wanted to share what I did to maybe help out some other people Just to clarify, this is just one way of making a tattoo - there might be easier ways to do this. This was just the moist intuitive and accessible to me as a Windows user. I think it's best for simple designs - think a solid symbol and/or some letters - not hand sketched creations. I did my best to explain, but feel free to ask questions or tell us about easier ways! 

Here's how mine came out, as modeled by my SEB Argent:


This image has been resized to fit in the page. Click to enlarge.

Software Recommended: Greenshot (free)

Software Required: Microsoft Paint 3D (free), Microsoft PowerPoint (paid)/Microsoft Office Online equivalent (free), 

1) Figure out what you want to do!
Let your creativity flow here. Think about what you're trying to show. I just wanted a "signature" mark for my breeding line that represented my stable name (Cheval Chartreux, as I'm focused on blue roans). Sketching ideas with pencil and paper helped me visualize my ideas without getting too invested. Keeping your design simple here will save you time later - think a simple symbol, or letters. I decided on a fleur de lis framed by 2 "C"s (the acronym for Cheval Chartreux). 

2) Use your favorite program to sketch the design digitally. Simplify your idea if needed.
Now, pick your favorite design and create it digitally. If you're sticking to symbols and letters, PowerPoint is super easy - just use clip art and text boxes to position everything as you like. Size doesn't matter much yet, but if you start with smaller images and font size the next step will be easier. Try make everything one single color. I placed a very simple fleur de lis, then added 2 text boxes (one reversed) and played with different fonts and spacing until I was happy. I made it dark navy - again, the whole blue thing  If you're having trouble, edit your design! Remember it will be tiny in the end, so mercilessly cut any tiny, small, or even some medium details. To get an idea of how small we're talking, open HAJ/HJ2 in your browser and zoom out in PowerPoint until it is as small as the star quarter mark tack item.

NOTE: If you want to freehand your design, go for it! This step just gives you a reference image - I'm terrible at pixel art, so I need all the help I can get lol.

3) Make a screenshot of your design and paste it into Paint 3D.
I use a free program called Greenshot for screenshots because you can customize how much of the page you capture at once. (If you're using the full screen screenshot, you'll need to crop it later.) If you don't have it already, download Microsoft Paint 3D for free (you MUST have 3D - regular Paint doesn't have a way to make the background transparent). Paste your screenshot and crop it using the 1:1 ratio option.

4) Resize the image and set up your canvas.
Go to the Canvas tab. In the menu on the right, turn on "Transparent canvas" (your image will still have a white background because it came in with the screenshot - we'll fix it in a minute). Make sure "Lock aspect ratio" and "Resize image with canvas" are both checked, then enter 25 pixels for both the height and width of the canvas. 

5) Make the background transparent.
Zoom waaaaaay in to take a look at your masterpiece. You'll notice a lot of fuzziness, and that your background is still white. We'll start with the latter issue. Go back to the "Brushes" tab, select the Eraser, and dial your thickness down to 1 pixel (remember - this baby's only 25 pixels wide). Erase the white background areas as best you can - you'll see the program background color show through as you go. I left some of the fuzzy parts in at this point. You will come back and clean up more later, so don't go too crazy. 

6) Clean up your image.
Okay, this is the trickiest part, but it won't take as long as you think. Use the eyedropper tool (next to the color selection box) to pick the color that's closest to what you want from your image. It's easiest to go with one color, but you can recolor things later if you want to mix it up. Use the Pixel Pen tool (again at 1 pixel thickness) to define your shape. Start with the pixels that are already darker than those around them, then slowly fill in other pixels to get closer to the right shape. For me, it took a lot of trial and error and zooming in and out to make the fleur de lis look mostly right. Be patient, try different things, and zoom in and out until you're happy. When it looks right, use the eraser tool to remove any extra pixels from your design. You should have only pixels of one color (your design) and blank pixels at the end of this process.

7) Save that puppy!
Save the design as a PNG file.

8) Upload and apply your tattoo! 
From the HAJ/HJ2 home page, go to the Tattoo Registry. If you haven't already, activate your free slot (or buy a new one). Upload your design, then rename the tattoo, and voila! You have a usable tattoo of your own!  Then you just need to add it to your horses via the Tack page.

Additional Software Recommendations