“From microscope to skin: the use of stem cell images to design bio inspired tattoos” presented by Sad, Paiva and Almeida


Session Title:

  • Performance (Papers)

Presentation Title:

  • From microscope to skin: the use of stem cell images to design bio inspired tattoos




  • Here we present the development of a new project: biotattoos, e. g., biologically inspired tattoos created as randomly generated images with visual patterns inspired by neural stem cell cultures. We used microscopy techniques to capture neural stem cells images in a magnification from 200x to 400x and which are used as starting point in the process of creation of abstract tattoos. The process can be summarized as follows:

    1. cells are cultured in vitro;
    2. images of the cultured cells are taken;
    3. the visual patterns of the cell cultures taken in
    4. are analyzed and translated into a digital sketch to be used as a tattoo design; and
    5. the sketch of phase (iii) is transferred to skin as a randomic based tattoo art.

    Due to the fact that bio tattoos are abstract tattoos based on autonomous systems it is possible to say that the focus here is not only the end resulted on skin, but the entire process of creation. Although the method to insert the ink in the skin is the same, bio tattoos differ from most common tattoos in which the entire process of creating what will be tattooed on the customer is governed by his choice and not by the tattooer. This process (most common tattoos) is closer to the development of a craft or of some editorial piece design, in which the professional follows certain standards in order to sell his product. In the case of bio tattoos, the user (canvas/tattoo user) acts as a collaborator. He does not choose what will be tattooed on him. It is not about buying a pre‑determined or chosen image that will be transferred to your skin, but be opened to what is proposed by the tattoo artist in his creative process. The artist acts by transforming and translating the images in each step of the process (cells translated into pictures, photos translated into drawings, drawings translated into paintings that are translated into tattoos) until transfer to the body, which in its turn will be in constant change until their utter    destruction. In this process of creation, due to its dynamic, the whole project is open to interference of random, however, due to the role of the artist, we can speak here of controlled random as it is planned as a process variable. In other words, the process itself generates opportunities and outcomes which are not intended by the artist, making possible the inclusion of unplanned variables that end up being incorporated into the process by the artist. Despite these interferences, the potential of the process of creation of biotattoos is in the fact that the whole process, although opened to contamination and interference, be planned, designed and governed by the tattoo artist, who acts as a conductor of contaminants variables. The main purpose here is to introduce a concept of tattoo image based on microscopic visualizations and discuss the impact of visualization technologies during the creative process.

PDF Document: