STEP-BY-STEP 3D Modeling for a Tattoo Sleeve with Javier Antunez | Painful Pleasures Community

STEP-BY-STEP 3D Modeling for a Tattoo Sleeve with Javier Antunez

Learn how to use 3D Modeling to perfect your tattoo design. Here's pro artist Javier Antunez's step-by-step process.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: November 2, 2023

Today’s piece I’d like to share is one of the more challenging pieces I had to create with 3D modeling! At this time when I created this piece, AI wasn’t really around. And honestly when it comes to concepts this specific, creating it by hand (even if they’re digital hands) is definitely the way to go!


My client, Eric, an awesome and talented human from New Jersey, chose me to create his sleeve. The sleeve tells the story of the hubris and end of a general who lost his way. It’s a reminder to us all to always keep pushing forward and to not succumb to the nectars of life that only wish to bring our downfall.

The visuals were as follows: a chariot representing death being led by two hounds that each represent the opposites of one another while devouring the remains of those they have befallen. Simple right?! The easiest way to begin anything and everything is with a good ol’ fashioned sketch!

This was the sketch I created with 3D Modeling. Once we were both pleased with the initial concept, I started with finding the assets.


I use four programs in my main rotation for designing pieces with 3D Modeling:

  1. Daz 3D Studio — This program is fantastic for finding assets like figures or structures. It’s also great at posing and doing a good chunk of the heavy lifting.
  2. ZBrush — I use this program to get into the nitty-gritty of the design process, where I begin to pull and destroy to create anew!
  3. Keyshot — Once I’m happy with what I created in ZBrush, I send it over to Keyshot where I then fully render out the stills.
  4. Photoshop — This is where I slap together all the renders and finalize the full design.

In Daz 3D Studio, I found assets for almost all the imagery I needed, from the hounds to the chariot.

  1. Hound asset:
  2. Bones asset:
  3. Chariot asset:

Once my assets were posed, I sent them over to ZBrush where I began to pull, move and sculpt them into what I had envisioned in my sketch.


In ZBrush, Dynamesh is a powerful tool that helps you regain topology when things begin to get stretched too far. It’s similar to adding more clay to a sculpture.

Once I was happy with the pose, I sent it over to Keyshot. In Keyshot, I then lit the scene to give it contrast and sharp edges. I had to keep in mind that this needs to be a tattoo that lasts forever. Consequently, I ensured there are plenty of highlights and dark shadows.

Once all the renders were complete, I then composited them all in Photoshop, where I then got ready for the tattoo itself!

Photoshop composite of tattoo sleeve design

After about five VERY long sittings (about eight or ten hours each) the piece was complete! While tattooing, I used Fusion Ink, FK Irons, Tattoo Armour, and SkinTheory Tattoo Glide (my own creation!)

Final tattoo sleeve


My preferred Needle configurations for this tattoo were mostly 7 round shaders, 5 mags, 13 curved mags, and 27 curved mags. I prefer the regular gauge (i.e. the non-bugpins) as I feel like they saturate better—but then again, that may change tomorrow.

I hope seeing this sparks up an interest in tackling your own designs in a unique way!

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