Tattooed skin – putting a human under a Foldscope?

I received a call out of the blue from a good friend of mine. He was driving up from Los Angeles to the bay area, because, apparently, one of his favorite tattoo artists was secretly working out of a parlor in San Jose for only 1 week! My friend was tipped off by some cryptic remark that this artist had made on instagram referring to this particular shop in San Jose. Apparently the artist, Koji Ichimaru, has such a huge following that he was booked solid within an hour of posting this tiny hint.


As was to be expected, the tattoo itself was amazing in detail and playful take on a classic design–a Dia de los Muertos candy skull wearing a samurai helmet. This made me wonder what pigmented skin would look like at a macroscopic level. Adapting a technique I learned from Manu, I was actually able to image the surface of my friend’s skin! Not only that, but I could pan across the entirety of the tattoo.


The video itself makes a great guessing game for anyone watching it without context… the first guess  I usually hear is “insect”. What struck me was the depth of pigmentation in the skin to the point that we cant immediately recognize it close up.

For now I’ll leave the exact technique I used a mystery (to be revealed in a future post, and hint, it does not involve shoving an entire human under a Foldscope), but I hope someone can take a guess and figure it out!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Manu Prakash says:

    Beautiful post. Putting a human under a foldscope is the first thing we all should do.

    For others trying to solve this mystery of how; I will leave a hint here: read the post on how to turn your foldscope into a reflected light mode here:

    In fact, microchips and humans have something in common 🙂

    Now – do I need to get a tattoo myself to image it. I would like to use a volunteer instead 🙂


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