The secrets behind Ed Sheeran‘s vast array of tattoos can be revealed by the man who knows them best – the tattoo artist who inked him.
Kevin Paul, 45, has created at least 40 of the 60 tattoos on the Shape of You singer’s body including the famous lion across his chest.
He revealed all of Ed’s tattoos have special personal meaning to the £300 million hitmaker and are connected to his friends, family, career achievements and memories.
Kevin tattooed Ed, 32, at his studio in Derby, Ed’s Suffolk mansion or his London home and in hotel rooms around the world while the star was on tour.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, he said: ‘Sometimes he’d travel to me but usually we’d go round to his house, put on a boxset and order Nando’s, and do a bit of tattooing. It was all very chilled.
‘Every one is personal to him, it’s his personal story.
‘They may look random but every one has deep and personal meaning and they suit him.’
Tattoo artist Kevin Paul pictured working on another creation on the arm of Ed Sheeran
Father-of-four Kevin Paul has inked a number of celebs including Rihanna, Harry Styles, N-Dubz frontman Dappy and James Arthur. He met Ed Sheeran in 2012.
Dad-of-four Kevin – who has also inked Rihanna, Harry Styles, N-Dubz frontman Dappy and James Arthur – met Ed in 2012 when they were introduced by hip hop duo Rizzle Kicks. They became close friends with Kevin even visiting Ed’s Suffolk mansion for Christmas.
Recalling their long friendship, Kevin said: ‘We just hit it off and have been friends ever since. Ed once said to me, ‘Being a pop star, you take drugs, drink or get tattoos, so I got tattoos.’
‘With his new tattoos, I’m not surprised at all. He’s always been vocal to me about settling down and having kids with his wife. He’s a family man – that’s why he had his Suffolk house built in the first place.
‘Everything that Ed has had done is a bit odd to most people. A lot of people mock his tattoos, especially on his front, but what they don’t realise is that Damien Hirst himself has designed quite a few of them. He’s had a few on his upper back designed by him too.’
Kevin says the pair were very close for years before they drifted apart in 2019.
‘Me and Ed were tight, and I knew a lot about him and his family. I’d go around to his place on Boxing Day and he would buy my kids presents.
‘We both had busy careers and would sometimes go a year and a half where we didn’t speak then he’d say come down and it’d be like we were best mates again.’If I saw him at some celebrity event I’d go up and say hi to him and ask how his kids are, how his missus is, that sort of thing. I look back on our friendship with fond memories and I’m proud of his tattoos.’
Here he lifts the lid on the story behind some of the pop megastar’s most famous inkings:
This got by far the most attention. He had this idea of having three lions tattooed on his chest because he’d just sold out three nights at Wembley Stadium in 2015. We ended up getting it down to having this one big lion in the centre of his chest. He has this 7ft long painting in his hall of Africa that somebody sent him. He really loves Africa, it’s one of his favourite places so I said we could do it in the style of an African painting. I drew it up and the next morning I started it. We did about six hours that day then he said to me don’t tell anybody about it. The day after he put a photo of it on Instagram and my phone just blew up. The attention that tattoo got was incredible.
I did a version of the Van Gough painting depicting a village and swirling stars above in yellows and blues around his arm because it was his dad’s favourite painting. He came to my studio in Derby to have it done. He didn’t flinch.
He has these four picture frames on his back – two have prints of his kids’ footprints in and two are empty. He comes from a large Catholic family and always wanted a big family so I think it suggests he wants more kids. He always loved kids. I remember when I used to go round before he had kids he would phone his mum who would fetch his old toys for my kids to play with. He would buy my kids lego and he would sit and play with them.
This was a tribute for his gran who died of cancer. He is so close to all his family. He also wrote a song called Supermarket Flowers about his gran, and has a tattoo in tribute on his belly.
His nickname at school was Teddy and he is still close friends with a lot of people from school. Even with everything that’s happened in his career he tries to stay the same guy he was when he is at school
The jigsaw tattoo was something he and everybody close to him had as a sign of their friendship. He even got the record label bosses to have it. No one was getting away. I remember one of the big bosses at Warner Brothers wouldn’t have one. He said he would only get one if Ed sold 1,000,000 records and as soon as he did Ed asked me to go and do it
Rolling stones lips
He got the Rolling Stones lips done because Sir Mick Jagger is his icon and in 2015 he got to join the band on stage in Kansas City and hung out with them afterwards. It was just a really proud achievement for him. I did it at his house in London.
That same year he won his first Grammy award for Thinking Out Loud so got a tattoo of the trophy. We did it in this little pop up studio I used to have in Harley Street in London.
It was meant to be for Corteney Cox’s partner (Snow Patrol musician Johnny McDaid) who is a close pal of Ed’s, Johnny wanted this phoenix on his arm so I was talking to him about how we could do this and Ed loved the idea and said I want to do that. It was the day after Boxing Day 2017 when I did that. I went to his mansion with my kids.
I did Pingu tattoos on Ed and Harry Styles. Ed phoned me up and said I’ve got some ideas, I want to get some tattoos this Sunday. My mate Harry wants some too and he sent me his number. They’d got drunk the week before and were talking about how Pingu was their favourite cartoon and they had this idea to both do it.
His friend had a similar one and he liked having matching tattoos with people he was close to. It’s meant to represent great wisdom and fortune.
Mother and child portrait
At first glance it just looks like a squiggly line but it’s a copy of Henri Matisse’s line drawing of a mother and baby. It was the first thing I did on Ed and it was for his mum as it’s her favourite painting. A couple of years later he bought her the painting.
He had Red tattooed on him from when he opened Taylor Swift’s Red tour in 2013. It was a really big moment in his career. He wanted tattoos from every tour he did and I went on every tour he had until 2018.
The ketchup tattoo was done in Ohio on his US tour in 2012, purely because Ed missed it while he was out there. We then worked with Heinz on a limited-edition bottle with all of Ed’s tattoos on which were sold for £2,000. You’ll now find a bottle in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
He has the word ‘Prince’ on the inner bicep, as an unlikely tribute to a reference to TV royalty Will Smith’s. The prince tattoo was done in the States, purely because he is a massive The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air fan
He got ‘Prince’ and his mate, who was in Rizzle Kicks, got ‘Fresh’.