A tattoo artist inked an ultra-realistic thumbnail onto the stump of a man’s thumb after it was torn off to its knuckle in an accident.
Keri Hamilton claims her medical tattoos help people feel ‘whole’ again, but despite her 15 years of experience, this was the first time she’d attempted to recreate a human nail.
The 46-year-old studied her client’s other thumbnail as the basis for the shape and colours of the imitation tattoo, trying to copy the shades of pink, white and grey to create a realistic double.
She even had to draw in the skin ridges around the nail to create the optical illusion on the otherwise smooth, ‘squishy’ area made up of flesh from his thigh.
Photos show the thumbnail in a perfect arch on the man’s right hand – with only the shorter size of the digit giving it away as the tattoo when compared to the real one.
Keri claims the man, whose thumb was torn off when it was trapped in his trailer hitch, was excited about his new tattoo but expects him in again in the future to finish it permanently once she has assessed how the skin has healed.
Keri, who lives in Winnipeg, Canada, said: ‘That was my very first fingernail. I’d never done one before.
‘He said that he had gone to a lot of tattoo artists in the area and no one would touch him.
‘I said, “why not? I could do that. I work on scars and I specialise in that kind of stuff, so I could do that, why not?”. We did and luckily it turned out really well.
‘I was a tiny bit nervous but I was confident too. I knew I could do it. I was trying to make the skin ridges around the nail too. He had none of that.
‘I had to create that with some lighter colours and make it look like it is raised around the nail itself, which is cool. The whole thing was really cool.
‘It was kind of a freak accident. His trailer hitch pinched his thumb and ripped it off. I cringed when he told me. I was getting sick to my stomach.
‘There was quite a bit of it gone. I think a little bit more skin than the first knuckle towards the bottom.
‘They had taken tissue out of his thigh I think to fill it up more and make it a little bit longer. I think the last inch or so is very movable.
‘It’s still shorter than a regular thumb and much thicker now. It’s a regular diameter but the last inch of it is, for lack of a better word, squishy.
‘It doesn’t have a lot of substance to it. Fleshy is a good word for it. It was pretty tricky [to tattoo].
‘He was pretty excited when he saw the nail. He was happy, he still is.’
Keri, who is used to tattooing belly buttons or 3D areolas on breast cancer survivors, claimed the nail was a ‘new challenge’ and was fascinated by the colours needed to make the duplicate.
But despite the fresh challenge, overall the illusion only took her 90 minutes to complete.
Keri, who is originally from Washington, said: ‘[Medical tattoos} help people feel whole.
‘They’re missing a body part and if I can make it look like they have that back, it’s quite incredible the emotional response you get from people. It is quite healing.
‘I call them ‘healing tattoos’ because it is emotionally healing for a lot of people. It’s the most rewarding part of my job for sure.
‘[With this tattoo] I think it was just a matter of seeing all the different colours [in it]. White is not really white and pink is not really pink.
‘There’s a lot of grey, a lot of different colours involved in all of it. It was really fun. It was a good challenge. It was really fun to put all of that together.
‘It took me about an hour and a half once I measured the layout and dotted the outline on with a pen. I didn’t want to overdo it.
‘I wanted to go conservatively because I wasn’t sure how it was going to heal and if it was going to take, things like that.
‘I wasn’t sure how it would take on his scars because some of them were really soft and some of them were a bit harder.
‘I wanted to go kind of conservative the first time, and now I know how it heals I will go back in and finish it a little more aggressively.
‘I was looking at his other thumbnail for reference. We had one to go on. I was trying to replicate his other nail. I noticed all of his nails weren’t smooth, they weren’t manicured nicely.
‘I wanted to replicate that same sort of look – a little bit unmanicured. The whole top half of his thumb is this colour. It’s a lot darker than the other one just from the replacement.
‘He works with his hands. He works outside. The whole thing was kind of black underneath because he works with his hands, so I had to give it a good scrub.
‘That whole patch was a little bit discoloured, so I did what I could as far as colouring goes. I didn’t even put any colour on the ‘nail’.
‘I just went over it very lightly, and it still looks much darker than the other one. I will revisit that when he comes back in and see what else I can do to make it a little more realistic.’
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Tattoo artist inks a fingernail onto the stump of a man’s thumb