Green Eyes, Blue Iris

I’ve seen more than enough eye tattoos to make me wish the new surgery that may one day be able to give us more functioning eyes to tattoo was available for humans (currently only tested on tadpoles)… As much as I love the effect we’ve achieved on my eyes and wouldn’t change it, as I’ve always tried for a mix of “extreme yet subtle” with my mods, seeing amazing examples like Rasta Fabian‘s bright green eye tattoos make me very jealous. It’s also a good example of how important it is to take into consideration the iris, because the interplay between the new surrounding color and the iris will define a lot of the end effect. It should come as no surprise that this was done by Howie (, the most experienced eyeball tattooist this side of Arrakis.


As always, don’t miss the eyeball tattoo FAQ, and if you’re interested in more info, check out the video interview from just before my eyes were re-done in October.

Eyeball Tattoo Interview, Five Years Later

Before Howie ( finished my eye tattoos back in October 2012, a bit over five years after doing the first set of eye tattoos on July 1, 2007 of which mine was one of them along with Pauly Unstoppable and the late Josh Rahn, we did a quick off-the-cuff interview that I think is actually very much worth watching. That first procedure (inspired in part by Rachel’s “jeweleye” corneal implant procedure [video]) was of course the genesis of the eyeball tattoo movement — without that first step, the entire eyeball tattoo concept likely would not exist. I think this video turned out extremely well, probably because we’d just finished writing the first version of the eyeball tattoo FAQ the day before and it was fresh on our mind. Follow the links in this post for lots more information by the way.

Here’s the link to the YouTube video, feel free to share it!

Orange and Red Ink Eyeball Tattoos

Leaving aside for a moment the safety debate about red tattoo ink, especially in the eyes, reddish eyeball tattoos perhaps push social boundaries even farther than fully black eyes. I’ve noticed that when people see my eyeball tattoos, they almost never recognize them as tattoos, usually assuming it’s some sort of birth defect. As such, I’ve noticed a certain awkwardness in people’s comments, because we’re socially programmed not to look at people’s “deformities”, and even complimenting someone on them is generally frowned upon. I have to admit that it’s sort of funny thinking about what must be going through people’s heads when they see red, orange, or pink eyeball tattoos — it has to be some variant on “oh my god, what horrible injury or infection is this poor bastard suffering from!?!”

Here’s the latest example thereof, Chris’s orange eyeball tattoo done by Pinhead Mark out of Fat Mermaid Tattoo Company in Fort Lauderdale, FL.


Of course when it comes to this theme, the definitive example is Mary Jo’s red eye tattoo, shown here with her partner Jefferson Saint, who has black eye tattoos — I’d wager that black eyes register as special effects scleral contact lenses in most people’s minds. Until eyeball tattoos have a higher public profile, I think people won’t accurately recognize what they’re seeing… which really makes these much more fun!


Eye tattoos by Rafael Leão Dias

One of my favorite thing about eye tattoos is that in many cases, they look different from day to day and from photo to photo. This is in part because of the way the ink is suspended over a nearly white backing and under a transparent “laminate” (unlike a “normal” tattoo, which is mixed into almost opaque tissue underneath a later of genetics-tinted translucent skin), and in part because the pigment particles are floating between these two layers, not locked in place, and slowly move around due to a variety of factors (for example, gravity, pressure from eyelids, or rubbing from fingers). For example, click this photo of Rattoo’s over-the-top blue eyeballs (done by Brazil’s Rafael Leão Dias of Dhar-Shan Body Art Tattoo & Piercing) to see a collage of fifteen different photos of his eyes over the last month or two. I should also mention that the tongue split he’s showing off was done not long ago (I think a few weeks in this photo) by Rafael.


Rafael by the way is arguably the most prolific eyeball tattoo artist in Brazil, if not in South America as a whole, and has done quite a few interesting people and well-known body modification microstars — for example, Rodrigo Musquito (first line of photos below, with the full-face skull tattoo), pro MMA fighter Danver Santos (second line of photos below), and mega-modded-couple Victor Peralta and Ana Diabolick (who you may notice flanking Danver in the final photo). Danver fights with Team Nogueira, under heavyweight Minotauro Nogueira, and when I chatted with him about the eye tattoos about a month ago, he told me that his black eyeball tattoos were driving crowds completely crazy and had fans clamoring for photos! They do look amazing, but my only worry is that eye tattoos can be damaged by pressure and I’m not sure eye tattoos are entirely compatible with MMA — time will tell. Click the photos below to see them at full size.

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Black Dahlia Smile Brands

Cut in half and thus first believed to be a store mannequin when discovered, the body of Elizabeth Short, better known as The Black Dahlia, was found in a truly horrific state. Quoting from Wikipedia,

Short’s severely mutilated body was severed at the waist and completely drained of blood. Her face had been slashed from the corners of her mouth toward her ears, creating an effect called the Glasgow smile. Short also had multiple cuts on her thigh and breasts, where entire portions of flesh had been removed.

I mention this before posting a picture of Kenny Wagner’s new brands, done by Jeremy Pauley of Modern Relic Modifications, so you don’t jump to the conclusion that he’s a Joker (as in Batman‘s nemesis) superfan. Kenny tells me that he’s been long fascinated by the look of an expanded smile with “a darker twist to it” and after coming across images of the Dahlia cuts in horror movies the idea became set in his mind. The horror twist works especially well due to his black eyeball tattoos (the left done by Jeremy who did the brands, and the right by Chance Davis) — although he does admit it gets a little annoying having to constantly hear about Heath Ledger (“…but I’m quite polite most of the time, or sometimes even act like I’ve never even seen the movie!”).

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Pauly’s Kids

Last time I posted Diego it was just for fun, so let me include some info this time. Diego had his nostrils pierced in the normal small gauge way — they weren’t dermal punched — but after seeing Pauly Unstoppable (who has inspired more people to stretch their nostrils than anyone out there — I’d argue he is the progenitor of this look in modern times) and then being further inspired by the giant nostril plugs of the Apatani people decided he wanted to stretch his as well. Since then he’s reached 24mm (1″), which is currently quite loose so it’ll be larger soon, with a goal of 30mm or perhaps larger. I just love this picture of him!


As you can see he also has his eyeballs tattooed as well, and he was just telling me about a secret project he’s considering, so I’m looking forward to seeing him evolve as the future unfolds!

Edit: It’s been pointed out that Pat Tidwell’s large stretched nostril piercings predated Pauly’s, although they didn’t have the same insane level of media penetration that Pauly’s had. I asked Pauly about who inspired him, and he told me,

“My first exposure of nostril stretching was from the Apatani tribe and a tribe in New Guinea where the males stretch there nostrils and septum very large. It wasn’t till after I found BME and saw Pat Tidwell’s nostrils that I understood that I could also stretch my nostrils. I would say it was a bit of both for me. I had wanted to do it since seeing the tribes in India but at the time didn’t think I could do it till I saw other Westerners on BME that had them done.”

Healing Facial Scars

I think most people know of the Maori tradition of facial tattooing or Moko, but I suspect most people see this tradition as being about tattooing (as in using needles to poke a design using ink into the skin). At its roots though it’s more likely an extension of their tradition of wood carving — similar patterns are chiseled into their homes, furniture, and boats. Mokos appear to have began by applying this wood art to the human body, literally chiseling or carving designs into the face, using similar tools for similar results. Some time after this practice began, ink was the added to the scars, making them more visible, and in time the tradition slowly moved away from scarification-based methods to tattooing-based ones. Some early photos show the three dimensional nature of Mokos created using the ink-rubbing scarification technique, although by the time Western anthropologists began documenting the practice it was already falling out of fashion.

Anyway, I was reminded of that history when I saw this skin peel done by John Durante (of Seattle-based jewelry company Evolve), which you can see here both fresh and well into healing. I really like the way he has used a sort of “reverse negative space” by cutting out a simple shape, but leaving a circle of skin in the middle untouched. As to why these facial scars inset rather than raising (as most scars do), it’s possible that it’s some evolution that makes facial injuries less likely to disfigure, it could be due to there being less subcutaneous fat, or it could be due to the vascular nature, but I don’t really have a good explanation as to why the majority of facial scars are “innies” rather than “outies”. If there are any medically aware readers that want to save me some googling, I’m like a Ferengi… all ears.


You don’t have to move far off the face for the scarred skin to start being more likely to raise than stay inset. Here’s another good example of a scar showing fresh versus healing, a throat piece done by Brendan Russell of Tribal Urge in Newcastle, NSW, Australia. The sharp-eyed will notice that this isn’t just a skin removal scar by the way — it’s also an ink rubbing done with white ink, which has the interesting side-effect of making the age of the scar difficult to eyeball.


White Ink Eyeball Tattoo Update

Pinhead in Florida (find him at Fat Mermaid in Fort Lauderdale) has done some more work on Dizzy’s white ink eyeball tattoo — something that I admit I didn’t initially think would work, but as you can see, wow, it works great and it makes him look like some sort of anime character. The look it produces is completely unreal — in Dizzy it looks cartoonish, especially with the other eye being bright blue, but I can imagine in someone else that it would make them look like an android, pushing them into the uncanny valley.



Mega-Conch Removal Reversal

Those with very long memories may recognize the ear in this photo, because it was featured on ModBlog in the 2008 interview with Howie/LunaCobra (click here to see it then). Initially the customer wanted one of the most radical conch removals, creating a hole that encompassed not just the inner conch (primarily the cymba, the upper half), but the outer (a good chunk of the triangular fossa and the anterior crus of the antihelix or “rook ridge”) as well. Howie expertly accomplished this, and it healed nicely and the customer seemed happy with it for years. But as with many procedures — as you’ve seen with the deluge of tattoo removals and lobe stretching reversals — tastes change, and the customer decided to have the procedure partially reversed to build a more normal (and more structurally stable) ear.

As regular readers know, when it comes to body modification reversals, there are few people more capable than Samppa von Cyborg ( I’ve seen conch closures in the past (here’s one by Quentin), but this is definitely the biggest to date, and anything bigger might not be possible. I’d say this ear is at the edges of what can safely by rebuilt short of growing new tissue (possible, but out of the reach of the bodmod community for now), and Samppa has very successfully put it back together. Reversing some procedures isn’t too hard — lobe stretching reversals tend to be universally successful — but when you start talking about procedures built around amputating tissue, it gets harder and harder. I hope that modified people, especially young people, take a very hard look at the fact that more and more and more procedures are starting to be reversed, and spend more time considering whether they really want to jump into procedures that are difficult to reverse — as I’ve commented before, the potential permanence is one of my big worries about eyeball tattoos.

Either way, nice work in these photos by both Howie ( on the initial ear, and later Samppa ( on the reconstruction.