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Tattoo Design: “Be Kind”

“Be Kind” tattoo design to compliment a Wolves with Ribbons design


User “P-o-n-i” of Tumblr stumbled upon my viral Wolves with Ribbons series and quickly fell in love with the “Have Courage” piece. They sent me a message asking for permission to use it as a tattoo design, and also asked if I was open for commissions for another tattoo design: They wanted another piece of a deer featuring the words “Be Kind” to pair with the Have Courage piece.

The client told me this when explaining the quote and animal choice:

“Have courage and be kind” is my favourite quote from Cinderella and I feel like it is a good message to live by and that I try to follow. I’ve always thought of Deer as gentle animals and wolves as brave and noble, and my favourite song just so happens to be called “The Deer and the Wolf.”

I took the client’s motivation to heart and realized this would be a very special design for them. I was careful to review references of deer and involve them in every step of the process to ensure that such an important design was something they would be happy with forever.


I browsed creative commons photos of deer and spent a bit of time practicing as warm-ups for the piece. While I’m open to drawing any kind of animal or mythical creature, I actually haven’t drawn many deer in my life. I felt it important to familiarize myself with them beyond using one reference for one drawing.

The client also provided me with a photo of a deer to use as a reference when it came to color and marking choices.

Tattoo requirements

Having had a tattoo done myself, I knew that skilled tattoo artists can work with any photo or design given to them and make recommendations to their clients accordingly. I focused on creating the design in the same style and method as my Wolves designs to meet the client’s expectations.

I also sent the client additional files, such as flat color and without the ribbon, to provide to their tattoo artist if needed.


I provided the client with three concepts to choose from for the design. I instructed that any design could be modified, for example moving a leg or ear in another direction.

The first design was drawn to “mirror” the Have Courage wolf piece, as the client mentioned getting both tattoos done together. The other two pieces were other poses I imagined or borrowed from Creative Commons references that I felt suit the theme well.

Chosen Concept

The client was thrilled with all three concepts. They settled on the first concept as they agreed that mirroring the Have Courage design would work well.

Art Process

With the deer pose approved, the next step was to define where and how the ribbon would be placed. I played around with various ideas until I shared this work-in-progress with the client.

In this WIP preview, I had also cleaned up the concept and improved the placement of the antlers. It was still in a sketch phase, allowing for any adjustments if needed.

The client was happy with the ribbon placement, understanding that closer care with the lettering would be taken in the final.

Final Result

Having taken the client’s color preferences into account, I wrapped up work with digitally inking the image and adding in flat colors and shading as was done in the rest of my Wolves with Ribbons series. I added special lighting and gradients for the final piece, but as mentioned earlier I also provided the client with flat and ribbon-less images for use with their tattoo artist as well.

A deer with a ribbon on which is written "Be Kind"

As the client was planning on having the Have Courage wolf tattooed as well, I provided them with a recent recolor of the piece I had done when prepping prints for an upcoming event. I felt the original colors didn’t read as well, and the new version may translate better as a tattoo.

A wolf with a ribbon on which is written "Have Courage"

The client appreciated how the whole project came out:

Its beautiful, thank you so much! I cant wait to show this to my sister, I’ve been telling her about your artwork. You are so awesome! You’ve been an absolute pleasure to work with!

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