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Early tattoo designs tended to not be very artistically advanced and appeared more like decals. There were designs that were just "stuck on" to the body. As tattooists gained more artistic training over the years and the myriad art styles of fine art were explored, tattooing became more complex in composition, shading and color. With modern tattooing, just about anything that can be drawn can be translated into a tattoo.
One type of skin illusion that goes in and out like its own little tattoo trend is the "break-thru" tattoo. With these designs, people want something to look like it's breaking out of the skin, or that the skin is being ripped away to reveal something else underneath. They can range from the abstract to precise, from comical to anatomical.
Breaking out - The most common variation on this style is where something is depicted as breaking out of the person's body, having ripped the skin open to do so. Sometimes these designs incorporate a bloody or gory appearance but most often they don't so as not to distract from the emerging art. The skin is often shown splitting open and curling back to reveal whatever is trying to get out. Not infrequently, whatever is breaking out of the skin layer is something with sharp claws or talons: big game cats, clawed insects, demons or monsters, etc.
Outside Rip - These designs feature something that appears to be on the outside of the body but is ripping or tearing the skin, either in an attempt to get inside or from "holding on." The most common of these is the big game cat (tiger, panther) on the upper arm which appears to be climbing up, leaving gouges or scratches in the skin from its claws.
Cracked open - Sometimes the skin opening is more like a cracked shell than torn skin, as though a chunk or piece has broken and fallen off, showing something inside. This is a popular postmodern variation, especially with bio-mechanical (ala HR Geiger), anatomical (muscles/bones) or cyborg-like components revealed.
Check out this complex tattoo which shows a man's skin ripping away to reveal the Spiderman suit underneath.
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