Arch Angel by Javier Antunez

Tattoo realism reimagined with Tattooed Theory’s Javier Antunez

TurboSquid 3D Modeling, Artists, Customers, Featured Artists, Guest Artists, Sightings

3D models are commonplace tools in most industries that deal in digital, but how useful can 3D be when screens are removed from the mix entirely? We recently became aware of a very singular use case for TurboSquid’s 3D catalog: tattoos. We sat down with Javier Antunez, owner and popular realist artist at Tattooed Theory to hear more about his unique work combining body art and 3D modeling.

Arch Angel by Tattooed Theory’s Javier Antunez

TurboSquid: Thanks for speaking with us, Javier. You’re at the forefront of your field where you combine digital and tattoo art. How long have you been a tattoo artist and when did you start using 3D?
Javier Antunez: No, thank you for giving me this opportunity! I have been tattooing now for about 12 years, beginning in 2007. I started incorporating 3D designing into my tattoo work about 2 years ago. It all stems from trying to generate original references with unique lighting and contrast qualities that have not yet been tattooed.

TS: What problems does working with 3D solve for someone with your profession?
JA: Simply put: originality! In the world of tattooing, especially in realism, the issue we come across is finding unique references that have not been tattooed yet is simply improbable! If it’s on the internet it’s probably already been tattooed. Creating your own references can be very inefficient time-wise, but utilizing 3D programs, and a bit of know-how, references can be generated in a flash!

Vortex by Tattooed Theory’s Javier Antunez

TS: What kind of outreach do you do in the tattoo community to show tattooers the wonders of 3D programs?
JA: At the moment, mostly social media, but I have plans to start organizing live, hands-on seminars and free, online tutorials. My plan is to offer myself to each level of the tattoo industry from offering references to folks on the client level, and to teach fellow tattoo artist all the need-to-knows about 3D modeling so they can generate their own unique tattoo work on the fly!

TS: What does the creative process look like for you, and how does TurboSquid fit in to that work flow?
JA: The process is fairly simple…ish, haha!

  • Step 1- first I sit down with my client and figure out what they have in mind and how I can bring my creativity into the mix.
  • Step 2- Once the idea is decided, I come up with a rough sketch to insure my client likes my direction, and then we jump straight to the 3D-ing!  Although I could create every base mesh from scratch, typically that requires a lot of time, and time unfortunately is not a luxury we have always available… that’s where TurboSquid comes in! TurboSquid makes it easy to find fantastic models that are fully ready to integrate or at least gives a great place to begin!
  • Step 3- Once I find the models that fit perfectly with the tattoo we are going to create, I begin putting it all together in Zbrush. Once it’s sculpted up, I give it a quick pass through Keyshot, and it’s then ready to become permanent!

Silence by Tattooed Theory’s Javier Antunez

TS: Do you have any favorite 3D modelers whose work you revisit for new inspiration?
JA: Oh, that is such a tough question, almost like asking an artist what their favorite color is, haha! In Zbrush one of my favorites is Luke Starkie, the way he creates these life-like monsters is truly an inspiration. In life sculpting, that honor has to definitely go to an artist named Emil Melmoth. Not only is he an amazing human, but his art speaks volumes!

TS: The time a project takes to tattoo is dependent on the size and complexity of the piece, but how long does it usually take you to create and finalize a design with your clients?
JA: To truly explain that, I gotta give a bit of “before and after 3D-ing”. Before I learned Zbrush and started to incorporate 3D rendering into my designs it was a struggle! As a tattoo artist specializing in realism, when I would come up with a concept, the next step was to find the best references. More often than not it was a nightmare to try to find the best references that were not commonly tattooed already. I would go to the extent of buying props like artificial flowers, skeletons, skulls, clocks, and all sorts of nicknacks to take photos of. Then I invested loads of cash into cameras, lenses, and studio lighting just to try to capture the perfect reference for the tattoo. This process would take hours if not days to complete, often times backing up my workflow. But now with programs like Zbrush, and a library of amazing models, it’s a flash to put these designs together, it now takes a fraction of the time to create the perfect reference for each tattoo!

Arqui by Tattooed Theory’s Javier Antunez

TS: You’re a very popular artist in the tattoo world. Your website says the wait time for a piece by you is approximately one year! What part of your process do you consider to have contributed the most to this success?
JA: I can’t truly say it was one thing like a magic bullet, it’s a multitude of bullets, ha! Persistence, never giving up on myself even when I wanted to give up the most. Creativity, trying to be as unique as possible with my designs to stand out from the mold. Quality, giving my absolute most to each tattoo I created, no matter how big or how small. And lastly, time, not everything happens overnight, goals take dedication, perseverance and above all time to achieve. With each piece I created I slowly got better, slowly got more efficient, slowly began to become successful and slowly began to find myself in the sea of people.

TS: What would you say is coming up next for the intersection of digital and tattoo art? Where’s the next innovation?
JA: I believe in my heart of hearts that 3D designing is going to become the next big thing to hit the tattoo industry! It’s only a matter of time before more tattoo artist start to integrate 3D digital art into their tattoo work.

Hermit by Tattooed Theory’s Javier Antunez

TS: Would you like to say anything else about your business/ artwork/ projects for the readers?
JA: To all the 3D modelers sharing your work with us, THANK YOU so much! Although I’m not the client you would have expected, I am more than grateful for all the amazing work you have all created! To any future clients, thank you so much for reading my story, and I look forward to creating your story as well! And to all tattoo artist’s wanting to learn 3D, never stop learning, because once we feel we have learned all we need to learn, that’s when we find we never learned at all! There is a wealth of knowledge out there, be a sponge, absorb as much of it as possible and break the mold!

TS: Where can people contact you if they want to follow your work or have you create a piece for them?
JA: I can be found on Instagram under @javi_tattooedtheory, or on my website

Thank you, for that peek into your world, Javier!  If you’re a TurboSquid customer who is interested in being featured in our customer spotlight series, you can reach our team by emailing me, the team’s Brand Engagement Specialist, at