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Published: 01.09.2013. Category: Tribal Dragon Tattoo

Follow this step by step Adobe Illustrator tutorial to create a vector illustration inspired by the classic tattoo art of Sailor Jerry. A dagger through the heart is a classic tattoo symbol with both religious meanings and associations with betrayal or hurt through love. Before getting started, have some fun browsing images of vintage or classic sailor tattoos and sketch out a design concept with pencil and paper to gain a feel for the kinds of shapes we’ll need to construct digitially.
Click and and drag a curve on the artboard while holding Shift, then turn on Smart Guides (CMD+U) and continue a second path from the open end point. Align the end point with the original using those Smart Guides, once again holding Shift to keep the proportions straight.
Use the Direct Selection Tool to alter the bezier handles of this third path to form a more natural heart shape.
Draw a selection around all the paths then Copy (CMD+C) and Paste in Front (CMD+F) a duplicate. Select all the paths that form the heart shape and hit CMD+J (or select Join from the right click menu) to join all the separate paths into one continuous shape. Use the Convert Anchor Point tool from the Pen tool menu to add bezier handles to the old corner points to round off the lower portion of the dagger blade. Make sure both the rectangle and the heart are aligned using the vertical option from the Align menu. Draw a curly path using the Spiral tool roughly where the cross guard will appear at the top of the dagger. Copy, paste and reflect a copy of the spiral and position it on the opposite side of the dagger blade. Use the Pen tool to continue the two open points between the two spirals, then add an additional line across the upper edge.
Add a couple of decorative circles before drawing a rounded rectangles with maximum corner radius to represent the start of the grip. Hold Alt and Shift then click and drag a duplicate of the rounded rectangle until it aligns to the upper edge of the original. Horizontally scale the 4th shape down very slightly while holding the Alt key, then select the next shape and press CMD+D.
Use the Direct Selection tool to select and delete points of each circle to leave two quarter-circle shapes. Use the Scissors tool again to make clips along the blade rectangle outline where the shapes overlap. Repeat the process on the lower point of the heart, removing it to give the impression that the blade is piercing through the heart. Draw a small circle on the artboard under the dagger blade and drag the top most point upwards with the Direct Selection tool. Copy and rotate a couple of duplicates of the teardrop shapes to form a few stylised drips of blood. Draw a straight path across the heart using the Pen tool, then add a point to the centre and drag out bezier handles to form a smooth curve.
Continue the open end point with the Pen tool to draw the end of the banner, folding it neatly behind the heart. Use the Scissors tool to clip and remove portions of the heart outline to finish off the wrapping banner effect.
Draw a selection around all the paths that make up the design and increase their stroke weight to around 4pt. Open up my Vector Bumper Pack of Grungy Textures & Brushes and draw a selection around some of the overspray splatters using the Lasso tool. In the working document create a new layer and lock the linework so it can’t be selected. Temporarily ungroup the shapes and use the Lasso tool to draw around any texture shapes that extend beyond the edges of the original linework. Copy one of the subtle textures into the workspace on its own layer and scale it to size to add a few extra speckles of texture across the design. Make sure the other layers are locked, then use the Lasso tool to capture and delete any texture outside of the main artwork. The texture additions both add to the vintage feel of the design and relate well to the shading techniques used by tattooists. Access All Areas members gain instant access to 100s of premium design resources & source files. Our dagger and heart design will use clean black linework and perfectly formed shapes combined with vector textures to add an element of shading and appreciate the style of traditional tattoo art. Amongst other designs this style of tattoo was popular with sailors and is an icon of prominent tattooist Sailor Jerry.
Don’t hold Shift this time, but make sure the point aligns with the original arc shape. Go to Object > Transform > Reflect and select the vertical axis, then align them to form the opposite side of the heart. Add an extra point halfway along the lower edge using the Pen tool, then move this point downwards with the Direct Selection tool.

Give the blade rectangle an extra click to make it the key object then hit the vertical align option from the Align menu. Repeatedly press CMD+D to repeat this transformation and produce a series of aligned shapes.
The shortcut will need to be pressed incrementally more to scale the shapes down in size towards the end. Use the Convert Anchor point tool to remove the bezier curves to form a pointed teardrop shape. Hit Delete just the once to remove them (Pressing Delete twice will remove the rest of the points associated with that shape too). Try to find overspray shapes that would be a particularly good fit for certain areas of the design, such as under the banner. While we’re basing this particular design on tattoo art, the style can be used to create any kind of vintage themed illustration. Deleting stuff just leads to regret when you need to re-position something after the paths are gone.
Even I and I have no Idea how to use this tool, I understood your explanation and you made it look so simple. The first lesson I will be uploading is going to teach all that want to learn, "how to draw tattoo art", step by step. Start off by making a circle for the head of the skull, and then add the outlined shape of the open jaw like so.
You will now start drawing out the right cheek bone structure like so, and then draw the top part of the gum line. It's now time to color in the eyes, draw out and color in the nose, and then slowly draw the shape of the tribal like wings. Add some definition detailing to the screaming mouth, and then draw in the lower row of teeth. That style usually includes a number of nautical designs including anchors, compasses, stars, and ships, to name just a few of the most common.
The illustration we’ll be creating in this tutorial takes inspiration from these classic tattoo styles but has a much more precise appearance thanks to Illustrators accurate vector tools. Scale and rotate the texture into position somewhere over the design so the sprays scatter inwards. I have so many different designs that I submitted over time as tattoos, and so far they have all been liked. Next, draw in the shape of the screaming jaw like so and then draw in the eye sockets like you see here. Once that is all done you can begin drawing the teeth like so, and add some detailing around the top of the jaw, and on the base of the wings. Once that is done add detailing to the wings, and then add a fang to the left side of the top row of teeth like so. Once that is done you can color in the void of the mouth, and then start erasing all the lines and shapes you drew in step one.
The reason we recall these images when we think of American traditional tattoos and tattoo art is for two distinct reasons.
I’m sure there are some artists that disliked some of the tattoo art that is on the site, and that is totally fine because everybody has a right to their own opinion. Before leaving this step you will have to add some detailing to the forehead, eyes, and cheek. The first is because those are the symbols used by early tattoo artists who were often themselves sailors. The second is because in American culture, tattooing has historically been a heritage art; a tradition passed down from a teacher to a student. I personally think that the drawing came out awesome, and I can also totally see this design on the body of both male and female. A female version of this tattoo would only look good if it were small, and the male version of the tattoo would look good medium to large on a shoulder or calf. As for the complexity level of replicating what I have created, believe it or not, but it’s not going to be that difficult. I know how much a lot of the members on Dragoart love skulls and tattoo designs, and because of this fact I wanted to make sure that everyone was able to tackle this lesson with little difficulty. The sailors that were with Cook were fascinated by this art form and brought it back with him to Europe. I think you will have fun learning "how to draw tattoo art", and when you are done you can look over your work, and maybe add some of your own personal touches to make it even more screaming. Essentially, sailors sought to tattoo themselves with images that had meaning to them, as opposed to the traditional designs of the natives from who they had learned the practice. As the sailors had learned from tattoo artists in primitive cultures, they would later teach their own apprentices.
The style of tattooing used by these sailors is referred to as British Naval or British Traditional style. They were characterized by very simple, somewhat crude designs and revolved largely around their lives as sailors, but would occasionally include elements of their personal lives.It was during the civil war that American traditional tattoos really began to stand out as their own distinct style.

In 1870 Martin Hildebrandt, a German-American tattoo artist who’d made his living tattooing members of both the Confederate and Union armies during the civil war, opened the first known tattoo parlor in New York City, NY. The soldiers tattooed in the Civil War often had patriotic or military images tattooed on them, as well as graphic representations of their love for the women they left behind.
Religious tattoos of crosses, praying hands, rosaries, and other religious iconography were also common. Reproductions of famous fine art works depicting religious scenes also existed, but were far less common–often seen only on circus performers whose tattoos were their trade.
These themes built the basis for tattoo culture in America and formed the cornerstone of American traditional tattoos.After the invention of the tattoo machine, tattoo culture in America expanded rapidly. The Spanish-American War was on and some estimates say that at the time over 80% of enlisted men were tattooed. This presented an opportunity for less-skilled tattoo artists to get into the business, but this of course created a new problem.
To solve this problem, flash sheets were created to provide unskilled artists a base to work from. Flash tattoo artists often created designs that were common to a specific locality, but as demand grew a small handful of artists became prominent distributors of these flash sheets, which were available via mail order catalog, leading to a homogenized style. Just as Captain Cook’s naval voyage introduced him and his crew to the tattoo cultures of the South Pacific, during the turn of the 20th century Japan had become a popular port frequented by American sailors. The artwork itself conveys a sense of tradition, heritage, and importance while the themes used in American Traditional tattoos are still highly relevant today.
Modern American Traditional tattoo art keeps the same visual style as classic American Traditional, but incorporates a broader scope of themes and design elements.Many modern or custom American Traditional tattoos are more personalized, but maintain the use of the traditional style and design. These tattoos often employ more cultural references including musical, theatrical, and literary.
That being stated, many American traditional tattoos have meanings that are steeped in tradition and often blended with or borrowed from other cultures. Hearkening back to the seafaring roots of the style, an anchor represents a tether or something that steadies the ship to keep it from drifting. It is common to see anchors accompanied by the name of a loved one or by a slogan or motto by which the wearer lives their life.
The anchor represents security.Nautical Star TattoosThe nautical star, a five-pointed, two-toned star, has largely become purely aesthetic.
In sailing, if a ship can see both the port and starboard lights of another boat, it means they are on a collision course and the ship must give way.
The ship typically represents the wearer, while the water on which it sails represents life. Waters may be depicted as smooth or stormy and the scene is often accompanied by rockers spelling out some core belief of the wearer.
This is a metaphor for how the wearer feels their course in life has been, or how they’d like it to be. Read more about the meaning of the rose and other flower tattoos on our Flower Tattoos Meanings page.Traditional Swallow TattoosThe swallow tattoo actually derives from the British sailing tattoo tradition. The swallow tattoo suggests that the wearer will always return to, or be loyal to, their friends and family. It also has a connection to turn of the century street fighting in England and Scotland when worn on the back of the hand.To further the symbolism of the swallow tattoo for sailors, it was also believed that a sailor who died at sea would have his soul carried home (or to heaven) by these birds. In both instances the traditional swallow tattoo symbolizes a safe return from a journey.Traditional Dagger or Knife TattooThe image of the knife or dagger is one that appears in many cultures.
The traditional dagger tattoo was common among soldiers in the Army and Marines from WWII on. For them it not only symbolized death, but life–as well as the tool by which they lived. A dagger paired with a heart often refers to the wearer having experienced a broken heart or lost love. The meaning of these tattoos is generally derived from the two individual elements, the dagger and the animal.
Most often the skull tattoo will represent death, but it can also represent the idea that we all die, or that life is short. However, the traditional skull tattoo has also been known to signify triumph and rebellion. This is especially true in Mexican culture and in the religious beliefs held by Kabbalists, Hindus, and Christians.
It can also be used to represent someone who has survived hard times. A traditional wolf tattoo that features a dagger through the head of the wolf can mean that the wearer has overcome hardship or hard times, as well as a vow to never be defeated by personal struggles.

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