In 1979, Ridley Scott's film Alien became incredibly popular, not just because of an interesting and innovative plot but also for the artistic and creative aliens. Unlike previous movies and alien depictions, these creatures were part mechanical and part biological. The aliens were designed by H. R. Giger and his style, termed biomechanical, became the inspiration for a new genre of tattoos.
Star Trek's Borgs are another example of the blending of man and machine. A human-like being with exposed wiring and circuitry are normal aspects of biomechanical art.
As the style became more in demand, tattoo artists like Guy Aitchinson and Aaron Cain adapted it to better suit the tattoo medium. Today, biomechanical tattoos usually feature areas of torn skin or removed flesh that 'exposes' the inner workings of machinery. They are typically done in black and grey, with white highlights, as these metallic, monochromatic schemes are usually associated with machinery. More recently, the style has evolved to sometimes include bright, unnatural colors for the wires and gears.
The best and most artistic biomechanical tattoos use an understanding of human anatomy to blend the natural body into the artificial machine components. Biomechanical tattoos often mimic the contours of muscles and bones, following the human musculoskeletal system. The point of these tattoos is to appear natural or even possible, to be believable and realistic. These tattoos are only successful when they appear to trick the eye, known as a trompe l'oeil in artistic terms.
The tattoos don't need to be actually plausible, but must appear so. Talented artists fuse the human figure, particularly muscles, tendons, and joints, with gears, wiring, and circuits. Because of this, placement is an essential component of even the best designs.
The biomechanical tattoo must be placed over the correct joints and muscles in order to look as believable as possible. Furthermore, the artist must be able to blend the tattoo into the normal, un-tattooed skin. If the biomechanical tattoo looks like a sticker or out of place then the entire effect is ruined, even if the actual tattoo is nicely executed.
People with biomechanical tattoos are from all walks of life. They might be engineers or mechanics who feel that their work is an integral part of themselves. For them, machines might be a part of their nature and they feel biomechanical tattoos are the ideal way to reveal this aspect of their personality. Conversely, fans of the Star Trek series or Alien movies might get a biomechanical tattoo simply to display their love of the artwork or characters and the impact those works have had upon their lives.
Others with biomechanical tattoos might only be interested in the tattoo genre as an artistic expression, finding it aesthetically pleasing, and have no 'deeper' meaning or motivation. Because biomechanical artwork is a relatively new tattoo style, there is no distinguished or restrictive group that gets these tattoos. They are popular in normal society, as well as within the more exclusive body modification community.
The most important aspect of biomechanical tattoos is making sure they are done well. The beauty and intrigue of these tattoos is entirely lost when the tattoo is unbelievable. The artwork needs to flow with the human body, becoming a part of the person. Anything that is out of place or distracting is going to detract from the overall successful outcome of the tattoo. Perhaps more than any other style of tattoo, biomechanical tattoos must appear as if they are a natural and innate part of the person. It is probably best to get biomechanical tattoos from artists who have shown previous success with the style and genre because it takes a lot of talent and skill to make a successful and credible biomechanical tattoo.