Rich Harris talks signature styles, color theory, and creative yet cohesive designs

Looking for three words to describe Rich Harris’ tattoos? How about, big, bright, and badass? Harris is a UK-based tattooer who believes in bold designs, both in size and color palette. He’s not afraid to shy away from vibrant hues and is recognized for taking a reference photo to the next level with precisely layered design elements. This approach for creating dynamic tattoos makes Harris’ work undeniably unique and is why he’s currently booking appointments in cities around the globe. However, becoming a tattoo artist wasn’t always in the cards for Harris and it’s hard to believe that he’s only been in the game for seven years. That’s right, at the age of 33, Harris made the move to become a professional tattooer and in that time, he’s achieved what many artists work a lifetime for. Take a look at our interview with the talented tattooer and find out how Harris developed his signature style.

When did you first pursue a career in tattooing?

It was 2012 and I was 33 when I decided to become a tattoo artist. I’d tried so many career paths and I was at the stage where I just wanted to be happy. I think having a drawing background from an early age gave me the confidence that I could do it.

How would you describe your signature style and how have you developed it over time? It currently has a mix of realism, graphic, thick line work, vibrant colors, and a touch of abstract or avant garde. I just put in whatever I enjoy or inspires me the most at the time. I guess it’s developed from all the influences I’ve surrounded myself with over the years: artists I follow on social media, artists I get work from, artists I collaborate with, and general everyday life, travel, and the people I meet. It's something that comes slowly over time, but if I learn anything new, I’ll put it into action the next day by experimenting with new colors, themes, and being confident with designs.

Color theory plays a pivotal role in your tattooing. If you could create your own ink line, what kind of shades would it include?

I already have a palette that I currently use. It includes a primary red, blue, and yellow along with an olive, pink, yellow ochre, brown, green, cool mint, and grey. I’m currently trying to stick to this palette and just mix to get the different colors that I need. This also helps with conventions so I don’t have to take a full set of colors.

As someone who mixes different tattoo styles, what is your advice for creating a tattoo with diverse elements, but that has flow as a unified and cohesive design? Firstly, I would suggest putting in many hours with the design, not just the night before. You need a few weeks so you can fine-tune and even do several versions. All this work is never wasted, as it'll come in handy for future projects. I’ve found that the more hours you put in, the better your designs get. I always use an actual body part picture to work on top of as a layer, this way you can create better flow and get a feel for the size of the imagery. The piece has to look good and be clear from afar, so I’d suggest constantly checking that part. If you ever get stuck, have several go-tos ready to help you out of your rut. For example, a folder of other artist's work that inspire you or even look through your old work and pick out a killer design you were happy with. Recycling past ideas into new projects is a good thing. Finally, get advice or critiques from your colleagues or friends, as someone even without a creative background can come up with an amazing idea or addition.

If you were forced to choose, would you rather only tattoo in cool tones or warm tones?

Warm tones. I’m not a fan of the cold, after cleaning windows for 14 years in the UK, I think I’m done with my British winters.