Tatoo. Multispectral Imaging

Last Sept I was giving a 3 weeks training on multispectral imaging for art examination at the Instituto Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural in Quito, Ecuador. While we were doing UV fluorescence photography, I noticed in the pitch dark room, my student was glowing in the dark. It turned out it was his tattoo.

training multispectral imaging ecuador

It was while I was giving the training on multispectral imaging in Quito, Ecuador, that I noticed the UV fluorescence glowing on my student’s right arm. And since we were all well equipped for imaging we wanted to give those tatoo a closer look.

tatoo multispectral imaging

Multispectral imaging of tattoo in Quito, Ecuador. Many thanks to my student, conservator and artist, to volunteer to this  test.


So, I was intrigued and I thought it worth to give his tattoo a multispectral imaging examination. It was out of curiosity, though, doing some little research I found out some applications of multispectral imaging for tattoo pigments identification

[1-7]. Knowing what pigments were used by the artist it is important in order to select the right procedure for their removal. This is an interesting overlapping of medicine and cultural heritage science. Both aim at identify pigments. Though, in this tattoo case, the task is the total deletion of the work of art rather than its conservation! I noticed the methods used in these papers didn’t employ some of the other imaging methods such as UVR (UV Reflected), UVF (UV Fluorescence) and IRF (infrared fluorescence) used for artistic pigments identification.

tatoo multispectral imaging infrared

The red flame glows under UV light. There are plenty of interesting things to note, even by this preliminary observation. Can be distinguished at least two red pigments. One is UV fluorescent and UV reflective. The other one doesn’t show UV fluorescence and absorb the UV even more than the black pigment.


tatoo multispectral imaging ultraviolet

The red pigment of the spiral on the right powerfully reflects IR, absorbs UV and doesn’t have UV fluorescence.



tatoo multispectral imaging ultraviolet fluorescence

The blue lines strongly reflect IR. The greenish-yellow pigment shows intense yellow fluorescence.


It turned out that my student, conservator and artist, designs his tattoo, a mix of Ecuadorian and worldwide cultural symbols. The Wandijas, those spirits that look so much as extraterrestrial visitors, talk with some dinosaurs, creatures Cristian is definitely fascinated by.



The Wandijas, spirits of Oceania, looking as space travelers, and dinosaurs, have a lot to talk about in the drawing of my Ecuadorian student and friend.

Hasta luego!

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One Comment

  1. carolina November 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    great post!

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