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 at least 40 of the 60 tattoos on the Shape of You singer’s body, including the famous lion on his chest.
He revealed that all of Ed’s tattoos have special personal meaning to the £300million hitmaker and are linked to his friends, family, career achievements and memories.
Kevin tattooed Ed, 32, at his studio in Derby, Ed’s country home in Suffolk or his home in London and in hotel rooms around the world while the star was on tour.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, he said: ‘Sometimes he would travel to me, but usually we would go to his house, put on a box set and order Nando’s, and do a bit of tattooing. It was all very cold.
‘Everyone is personal to him, it is his personal story.
“They may look random, but they all have deep and personal meaning and suit him.”
Tattoo artist Kevin Paul was pictured working on another creation on Ed Sheeran’s arm
Dad-of-four Kevin Paul has inked a number of celebrities including Rihanna, Harry Styles, N-Dubz frontman Dappy and James Arthur. He met Ed Sheeran in 2012.
Dad-of-four Kevin – who has also signed 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 good friends with Kevin and even visited Ed’s country house in Suffolk at Christmas.
Reflecting on their long friendship, Kevin said: “We just hit it off and we’ve been friends ever since. Ed once said to me, “As a pop star you do drugs, drink or get tattoos, so I have tattoos.”
‘With his new tattoos, I’m not surprised at all. He always told me he wanted to settle down and have children with his wife. He’s a family man – that’s why he built his house in Suffolk in the first place.
“Everything Ed has done is a bit strange to most people. Many people mock his tattoos, especially on his front, but what they don’t realize is that Damien Hirst designed quite a few of them himself. He also had a few designed on his upper back.”
Kevin says the pair were close for years before splitting in 2019.
‘Ed and I were very close and I knew a lot about him and his family. On Boxing Day I went to him and he bought presents for my children.
‘We both had busy careers and sometimes we wouldn’t talk to each other for a year and a half and he would say come down and it would be like we were best friends again.’ If I saw him at a celebrity event, I would go up to him and say hello and ask him how his kids are doing, how his wife is doing, things like that. I look back on our friendship with fond memories and am proud of his tattoos.’
Here he explains the story behind some of pop’s most famous megastars:
This received by far the most attention. He came up with the idea of having three lions tattooed on his chest because he had just sold out three nights at Wembley Stadium in 2015. What we ended up with was we had this one big lion right in the middle of his chest. He has this 7-foot painting in his hallway of Africa that someone sent him. He really loves Africa, it’s one of his favorite places, so I said we could do it in the style of an African painting. I drew it out and started it the next morning. We did about six hours that day and then he said to me don’t tell anyone. The next day he posted a picture of it on Instagram and my phone blew up. The attention the tattoo received was incredible.
I did a version of the Van Gough painting with a village and swirling stars above in yellow and blue on his arm because it was his father’s favorite painting. He came to my studio in Derby to have it done. He didn’t flinch.
He has four picture frames on his back – two with prints of his children’s footprints in them and two are empty. He comes from a large Catholic family and always wanted a large family, so I think this suggests he wants more children. He always loved children. I remember when I came over before he had kids, he called his mom, who picked up his old toys for my kids to play with. He bought my kids Lego and started playing with them.
This was a tribute to his grandmother who died of cancer. He is so close to all his family. He also wrote a song called Supermarket Flowers about his grandmother, and has a tribute tattoo on his stomach.
His nickname at school was Teddy and he is still good friends with many people from school. Despite everything that has happened in his career, he tries to remain the same boy he was when he was in school
The puzzle tattoo was something he and everyone around him had as a sign of their friendship. He even got the record label bosses to have it. No one escaped. I remember one of the big bosses at Warner Brothers didn’t have one. He said he’d only get one if Ed sold 1,000,000 records, and as soon as he did, Ed asked me to do it.
Rolling stone lips
He had 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 hang out with them afterwards. It was just a very 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 and got a tattoo of the trophy. We did it in this little pop-up studio I used to have on Harley Street in London.
It was intended for the partner of Corteney Cox (Snow Patrol musician Johnny McDaid), who is a good friend of Ed. Johnny wanted this phoenix on his arm, so I talked to him about how we could do this and Ed thought it was a great idea and said I want to do that. It was the day after Boxing Day 2017 when I did that. I went to his country house with my children.
I did Pingu tattoos on Ed and Harry Styles. Ed called me and said I have some ideas, I want to get some tattoos this Sunday. My buddy Harry wants some too and he sent me his number. They had gotten drunk the week before and were talking about how Pingu was their favorite cartoon, and they had the idea to both do it.
His friend had a similar one and he enjoyed having matching tattoos with people he was close to. It is meant to represent great wisdom and fortune.
Mother and child portrait
At first glance it looks like just a squiggly line, but it is a copy of Henri Matisse’s line drawing of a mother and baby. It was the first thing I did for Ed and it was for his mother because it is her favorite painting. A few years later he bought the painting for her.
He had Red tattooed on him ever since he opened Taylor Swift’s Red tour in 2013. It was a very 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 during his 2012 US tour, purely because Ed missed it while he was there. We then worked with Heinz on a limited edition bottle featuring all of Ed’s tattoos, which sold for £2,000. You can now find a bottle in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
He has the word ‘Prince’ on the inner bicep, in an unlikely tribute to a reference to TV king Will Smith’s. The prince tattoo was done in the United States, purely because he is a huge fan of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
He got ‘Prince’ and his buddy, who was in Rizzle Kicks, got ‘Fresh’.