500 Tattoo Designs

book cover

Henry Ferguson's book 500 Tattoo Designs has line drawings of tat designs plus information about tattoos.

About the Author

Henry Ferguson is the former editor of Body Art magazine, a British tattoo journal that ran from 1991 until 1996. BMEzine, an extensive tattoo and body modification site, says that "Body Art is considered by many to be one of the highest quality body art and modification periodicals ever." With co-author Lynn Proctor, Ferguson also wrote The Art of the Tattoo, a well-respected compendium of tattoo photographs, historical information, and cultural lore. One Amazon.com reviewer called The Art of the Tattoo "all you need to know about tattoos from the beginning until the end."

500 Tattoo Designs, One Book

According to the book flap, 500 Tattoo Designs is meant to be an "inspiration and guide" to choosing a tattoo design. The book is divided into eight sections:

  • Birds
  • Insects
  • Sea Life
  • Animals
  • Mythical Beings
  • Flowers and Foliage
  • Cultures
  • Symbols

About the Designs

flash artwork

Based on the work that appeared in Body Art magazine and The Art of the Tattoo, one might expect original and intricate designs, or at least classic tattoo art. In fact, the designs are simple line drawings. Some are colored, some black and white. One online reviewer compared it to a child's coloring book. Several reviewers felt that the quality of the art was lower than what you would expect from a good tattoo artist.

On the other hand, there is an abundance of different animals, birds, symbols, and other images. The book might be useful as a starting point for a tattoo design, as a source of inspiration for someone who wasn't sure what sort of tattoo to choose. Beginning with 500 Tattoo Designs, one could select an animal or a tattoo pattern and then seek out a more original design.

Beginning Artists

The book might also be useful for beginning tattoo artists. Some of the designs are relatively complicated, but others are simple outlines that could be filled with color. The beginning artist might appreciate these easily-reproduced patterns.

However, since many of the designs lack the classic lines of Sailor Jerry-era tattoos, the intricate beauty of Japanese designs, or the flair of New Skool, the beginning artist may want to use the book as a guideline but create his/her own art.

Additional Information and Resources

500 Tattoo Designs has a brief introduction with a description of what to expect at the tattoo shop. There's a short section on health and safety, information on how much pain to expect (plus a "pain index" rating different parts of the body), and a comment on choosing the tattoo and the location wisely. A paragraph on color is brief but does caution that color works better in some tattoos than others.

Other Uses

Although not all tattoo enthusiasts will find what they want in this guide, other artists have appropriated the book for their own work. The designs can be used as stencils or graphic design elements. One artist uses them as guides for mosaics.

Ferguson's Medical Correspondence

multiple piercings

Ferguson is considered an expert on body art. He's even been published in the British Medical Journal. He relates a personal experience as a man with multiple piercings needing emergency medical care. The nurses were afraid of him, thinking that his appearance meant he must have AIDS. He goes on to detail current piercing practices and clear up some myths. For example, Ferguson says it's not true that Prince Albert wore a ring so he could tie his genitalia down, lest it make an unsightly bulge in his pants.

Apparently, most of the names we now use for piercings were invented in the 1970's by a piercer and jewelry maker. But some piercing traditions go far back in time. Ferguson mentions references to nipple piercing in writings from the Victoria era, as well as the long tradition in many cultures of piercing ears, noses, and lips. Ferguson doesn't mention tattoos in this article, but similar information on inking can be found in The Art of the Tattoo.

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