Bold new ink: 4 tattoo design tips from Giulio Rossi

Cecily Kellogg

You might not think a successful corporate logo and a mind-blowing tattoo have much in common — but from a design perspective, they cover much of the same territory.

We recently had the chance to talk with Giulio Rossi, a digital illustrator and 99designer living and working in L’Aquila, Italy. His expertise as a graphic designer gives him a unique understanding of the elements essential to the creation of bold memorable tattoo art. If you’ve been dreaming of the perfect tattoo, you don’t want to miss his tattoo design tips.


Designer Giulio Rossi

Tip 1: Take time to find your vision

For those planning to get a new tattoo, Giulio cautions that choosing an image to represent you takes time and research. You can draw inspiration from anywhere, including spirituality, mythology, tribal art, fine art, music, science fiction and fantasy, to name a few.

Giulio stressed that choosing the artist with whom you’ll be working requires equal care. Find someone who’s skilled at the style of art you want and who understands your vision for the tattoo. “You don’t need to hurry,” he says.

Choosing both the right design and the right artist are essential, and Giulio notes, “you’ll have your tattoo until the day you die so you don’t want to have any regrets about it.”


Remember Guilio’s winning tattoo design for Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) contest?

Tip 2: Get it right with digital design

Recent advances in design technology have allowed for the creation of highly detailed images, and tattoo art is no exception. Giulio notes that software like Photoshop not only allows for greater detail in his images but also streamlines the process of revision.

Changing an element in the design no longer means recreating the entire image from scratch. “Doing it digitally, it’s easier to improve,” he says. And when time equals money, that’s a huge advantage.


Giulio’s work is a popular choice among 99designs staff. Find 99er Floyd’s tattoo design here.

Tip 3: Design for the human canvas

When creating a tattoo, Giulio always keeps in mind how the design will appear on skin. He advises clients to work closely with their tattoo artist to determine the degree of detail, color depth and shading that will work best when the image is translated from a digital format to a human canvas.

“It’s important to visualize plausible results,” Giulio says. He always advises against design elements that won’t translate well to skin. It seems that the old tattoo adage remains true — if it’s bold, it’ll hold.


99er Monica will be showing off a Giulio Rossi original soon!

Tip 4: Gather inspiration

We know how important inspiration is to the design process, so we wanted to find out what inspires Giulio himself. He told us he has several favorite tattoo artists, and has “so much respect and admiration for what they’re able to create.” One such influence is Volko Merschky of the Buena Vista Tattoo Club in Würzburg, Germany.

We also asked Giulio if he has a favorite tattoo that he designed. He says, “For its international exposure and visibility I’ve got to say the one made for the Justin Vernon contest at 99designs.” His sentimental favorite, however, is the first one he made for his best friend — “when I was younger and unknown!”

From artists you admire to designs you just can’t stop staring at, share your inspiration. It will help your designer ink a tattoo design you’ll love forever.

Do you have a tattoo? We’d love to hear what inspired your design!

The author

Cecily Kellogg
Cecily Kellogg

Cecily Kellogg became an accidental designer when she worked at a short-handed non-profit and although she now prefers designing with words, the lessons she learned from doing graphic design make her work in content development more well-rounded. She writes about the intersection of family, technology, and social media for Babble Tech and runs her own web content business. She is also known for her raw tone and humor on various social media platforms including her own blog, Uppercase Woman. Cecily lives in the Philadelphia area, is happily married, is mom to a fierce and amazing daughter, and has occasionally been called a bad ass.

Related articles

The amazing stylistic history of comic books

The amazing stylistic history of comic books

In a time when audiences were racing in droves to catch the latest talkie and hand-drawn animation was just finding its legs, a new medium brought kids (and adults, let’s be honest) back to reading. Comic books began as a dime-store novelty, and since then, they have gone through countless transformations, artistic explorations, public excises,…

The surreal and stylized illustrations of Kuziola

The surreal and stylized illustrations of Kuziola

Andrzej Kuziola is a full-time, self-taught artist who joined 99designs to explore new creative challenges and experiences. We first discovered him when he was nominated—and then won—our first 99awards competition this year with his stunning illustration for a fantasy novel. Born in Poland and now residing in the United Kingdom, Kuziola began his career as a dentist…

Is this the year of illustration?

Is this the year of illustration?

Illustration dates back long before the invention of writing. We are talking cave painting—Lascaux and Altamira to be precise. With at least 40,000 years of history, it seems clear that human beings (irrespective of culture or background) have a deep and abiding connection with the illustrated image. While writing was often a tool for the elite, for…

Current Design Contests

Designers, check out these contests so you can start building your career.