Choose which tattoo style is best for you.
1. Japanese Tattoo Style
Japanese tattoo style (commonly referred to as Irezumi, Wabori, or Harimono) is a traditional style of tattooing that originated in Japan. This style is easily recognized by its characteristic motifs, bold shading, and readability.
West of Japan, Europe, and the United States, we often see Japanese tattoo style as standalone large-scale work, for example, a sleeve or back piece. However, the traditional Japanese application is one single tattoo occupying the entire body as a suit, covering the legs, arms, torso, and back. In this traditional bodysuit style, a single strip of untouched skin is left visible from the collar line to the navel, so the wearer’s tattoos are not visible in a kimono.
Wonderfully colorful, flattened perspectives, graceful illustrative linework, and unique use of negative space were all to inform not only European painters like Monet and Van Gogh but also craft movements like Art Nouveau and Japanese tattooing, itself.
The most classic Ukiyo-e motifs we see in tattoos today include Japanese folkloric figures, masks, Buddhist deities, famed samurai, tigers, snakes, and koi fish, as well as mythical creatures not limited to Japanese dragons, kirin, kitsune, Baku, foo dogs, and phoenix. These subjects can stand alone as foreground or, most commonly, are paired with flora or another element (like water) existing as background. As with many aspects of Japanese tattooing, the meaning or symbolism behind the work depends on the colors used, placement, and accompanying images surrounding the central concept.
2. Lettering Tattoo Style
This is a style of artistic tattooing in which a word or phrase is depicted using different fonts. Lettering tattoo style is essentially the art of drawing letters. The artist can use an existing font as a basis, but in most cases, they create new ways of depicting letters. Therefore, the lettering style of tattooing is closely linked to the art of calligraphy.
Popular tattoo sketches are names; quotations from films, songs, and books; meaningful phrases; and initials. In any case, these tattoos are likely to have a special meaning for their owner.
3. Sketch Tattoo Style
Sketch tattoo styles are mostly used to illustrate plants, animals, and landscapes. These styles quickly ingrain sensations of movement and emotional charge. Compared to the minimalist tattoo style, it can represent a few objects and exhibit repetition and intricacy of the lines.
Sketch style exhibits extending lines, unfinished strokes, and components that are only partially close. Shading work is sharp and coarse; certain portions of the portrait are negative spaces. These components provide contradictions and show that the style’s objective is not to be perfect or excellent but to demonstrate that it is an unrefined method of creation. If colors are available, it is recommended to choose softer hues to maintain the sketchy features.
4. Portraits Tattoo Style
The portrait tattoo style rose to prominence just recently. If done correctly, this style of tattooing can appear nearly three-dimensional and can be a captivating design. One of the fascinating characteristics of portraits is the perception of realism. Compared to other styles of tattooing that opt for an abstract appearance, the entire concept of portraits is to make a practical head design that appears intricate, modern, and eye-catching.
Although the portrait conforms to the realism approach, many interpretations are involved. For instance, cautious line work and shading can give a realistic portrait of appearance. But on the other hand, this tattoo style highlights angles, shading, and practical viewpoint to create a truly captivating design.
5. Traditional American Tattoo Style
Traditional American (also known as the old school tattoo style, western traditional tattoo style, or classic tattoo style) is famous for its striking lines, lively colors, and archetypal patterns (such as anchors, roses, and beautiful lady heads).
Due to famous and influential people delving into this style, the traditional American tattoo style is one of the most popular and adored in the tattoo art community. Designs in this style are dazzling and also age wonderfully. You will never regret this kind of style!
This style may also include the traditions of sailors (although they are not distinguished through this style). This tattoo style is mainly chosen to preserve memories and symbolize accomplishments (similar to the tribal tattoo in purpose and origin).
Another remarkable characteristic of a good portrait style is refined appearance. Many tattooists have an extreme focus on comprehensive lighting and shading. This makes the portrait appear more realistic; some portraits are similar to photos.
6. Blackwork Tattoo Style
Generally speaking, blackwork is a broad term; it can be used in any kind of body art with black ink and geometric structures. It is a versatile style that can be carried out according to your preferences.
You will discover all types of tattoos with blackwork, such as old divine geometry, contemporary abstract decorative patterns, and concrete, descriptive pieces. It is the tattoo style wherein numerous experimentations are recently occurring. Some works that are created today are definitely astonishing. This tattoo style is continuously being modified. It has progressed from simple designs to distinct and complicated designs.
7. Geometric/Dotwork Tattoo Style
This style is based on lines and geometric shapes, which are used to complete a picture. Geometric tattoo styles not only use ornamental drawings—but the artist can also use fine-lined images of plants and animals, such as birds.
The most popular style is having such geometric tattoos done in black, but they can also be done in color. This style is often combined with others, in particular Dotwork tattoos. While two-dimensional images are characteristic of geometric tattoos, it can be possible to achieve a three-dimensional look using these combined styles.
In such tattoos, the basic composition consists of a framework of a geometric figure with all the action occurring inside.
Generally speaking, all kinds of tattoos are a collection of dots that collectively make up a larger image. Dotwork is performed by integrating distance, quantity, size, and position of the dots for every opposition to the conventional needle strokes.
The defining characteristics of these styles are the symmetrical designs, 3D effects, and the utilization of negative space. With any dotwork style, the arbitrary presence of a dot is unnecessary. However, all these dots contribute to the overall value of a masterpiece. You can use dotwork along with any other styles; blackwork and illustrations are the most popular. Nearly all dotwork is done in black ink.
8. Tribal Tattoo Style
Tribal tattoo styles are considered the oldest existing style, dating back thousands of years. However, this tattoo style is considered a diversified style because the styles of different cultures (including ancient communities from different parts of the world) are present here.
Indigenous tribes use symbols in their tattoos to exhibit rituals, social status, group ownership, and wartime accomplishments. It is also used for ceremonial and spiritual purposes.
Different styles can be classified as “tribal,” but these styles are still distinct to the expert eye. For instance, Polynesian body art can be distinguished from Maori or Marquesan tattoos. The facial tattoos of Inupiaq rulers are also different from those seen among Berber women. These styles are distinctive but also similar. These tattoos are typically done in black ink and incorporated with complicated designs.
9. Watercolor Tattoo Style
Watercolor is one of the rapidly-progressing styles; this style combines conventional watercolor paintings and the skill of tattooing. This style is comparably new. Thus, many people perceive this as a unique approach to traditional tattoos. But the truth is – it’s not new. The watercolor tattoo style is in great demand among enthusiasts who are likely searching for conventional tattoo styles that suit the new age.
Watercolor is performed with a brush blotted in damp pastels. Although it is easy to make this creation on canvas or paper, it is a challenging feat to do on the body. And yet, artists can do fancy and dramatic pieces through this contemporary style of tattooing.
Watercolor is also characterized by lively colors that are distributed on the skin as if it was spilled ink on canvas. The colors can be used along with an image in black. Unfortunately, colors are often scattered over the main image.
Natural elements like plants, trees, animals, and people are mostly used. Although not as typical, you will also see abstruse watercolor tattoos combined with other tattoo styles like anime and surrealism.
A lot of tattoo pieces are known as illustrative – this is because it is motivated by movements and strategies. The illustrative tattoo style is highly adaptable since it employs different techniques, such as carving, engraving, and even indefinite expressionism.
Although the illustrative technique is distinct due to the overall style and the quality of lines, this style can still be erroneously perceived as simple drawings placed on the skin. However, this style has ancient roots. Through this tattoo style, we learned about the history of the artists who utilized diverse strategies of sketching.
Many artists typically combine their own style with illustrative to develop a new tattoo style. The illustrative tattoo style is reminiscent of artwork on canvas or paper.
This tattoo style is not characterized by its symbols, shapes, or colors. However, they are defined by the feelings conveyed by the wearer or designer. To express these feelings and sensations, artists commonly lessen the detail of shading and restrict the gradients of color. They tend to work with two-structural drawings and emphasize the boundaries with bold black outlines.
The engraving and etching style commonly noticed in blackwork is an intrinsic component of the illustrative tattooing style. In many cases, demonstrating the resulting product requires several drawings as a first step in making the tattoo artwork.
11. Minimalism Tattoo Style
Most of the time, minimalism only uses black ink. Fine lines will typically comprise the majority of the structure. Hollow space is utilized to occupy the significant theme, allowing specific elements and trivial themes to be attached to the entirety without getting them particularly drawn.
For a creation to become minimalist, it is not the tattoo’s size that is important but adherence to the principles of simplification. Minimalism is self-governing and produces distinct art creations. These designs focus on eliminating the non-essential components, occasionally trying to remove the artist’s presence. However, the artist can never be taken out of the creation since he is the one deciding what is introspectively important.
The negative space is the primary element of minimalism. The hollowness accentuates precise details by removing the greater specifications of an idea or subject.
Sometimes referred to as cartoons, anime adds life to memories and characters of video games, cartoons, animations, and manga. Enthusiasts commonly request these tattoos of the genre who like to personify their affection for particular shows and characters.
Anime is an amazingly famous cartoon genre worldwide, and some enthusiasts opt to demonstrate their affection through body art. If you choose to get an anime tattoo style, you have to be sure that you will have excellent artwork feasible, like any other kind of tattoo. Hence, it is necessary to check into various tattoo styles to determine which is most appropriate.
These styles preserve wistful sensations, memories of childhood, or flashbacks from different shows like Death Note, Naruto, Dragon Ball, My Neighbor Totoro, and Sailor Moon. Although the anime style can illustrate Japanese manga, it should be distinct from the Japanese style.
When carrying out an anime tattoo style, the artists will typically recreate the original style of the character, including the colors and proportions. This results in bright and flashy pieces with clear-cut lines.
These tattoos can also imitate the original personification and add more intricacy to it. This is attained by incorporating other tattoo styles such as trash polka, new school, or blackwork.
13. New School Tattoo Style
New school is a tattooing style originating as early as the 1970s and influenced by some features of old school tattooing in the United States. The style is often characterized by the use of heavy outlines, vivid colors, and exaggerated depictions of the subject. New school also represents a transition towards openness in the sharing of techniques in tattooing.
Surrealistic tattoos are unusual, hyperrealistic, and paradoxical images with abstract subjects. Surrealism in tattoos is a continuation and manifestation of surrealism.
The style takes its roots in France in the 1920s. At the heart of this trend is the idea that our subconsciousness, if not the foundation, is a huge and underestimated part of man. The true surrealist draws creative inspiration from his or her subconsciousness (dreams, changed states of consciousness). Followers of Salvador Dali created their works by using unusual color combinations and inventing fantastic images.
15. Cyberpunk Tattoo Style
It’s no surprise that Cyberpunk tattoos are rapidly growing in popularity. Cyberpunk movies and computer games make this new body art genre trendy to all Sci-Fi lovers.
16. Trash Polka
What is a Trash Polka Tattoo? A painterly and dynamic tattoo style created by Simone Plaff and Volko Merschky at Buena Vista Tattoo Club in Germany. This collaborative effort can be described as a crazy combination of realism, surrealism, script, and abstract lines. Mixing bold and fine black lines, grey shadings, and dramatic touches of bright colors, primarily red, it looks more like a collage of elements that are not directly linked and meaningless by all appearances.
Trash Polka Tattoo style resembles art collages that combine realistic and photo-realistic images with graphic elements that generate a chaotic, discordant look to the piece. The art of color contrasts is used, combining photo-realistic portraits in a detailed presentation with simple graphical elements, such as some large black areas, strokes, or shown abstract forms, generating beautiful visual effects. The style is bold, and the pieces are done in red and black ink, having a “just finished”, fresh look.
Trash Polka tattoos are tailored to each person and made unique, so no two designs will ever be identical. Each one tells a different story, so picking out typical designs for this tattoo style is challenging. Some common elements for Trash Polka tattoos are skulls, eyes, clocks, and birds. In addition, common themes for Trash Polka tattoos include war, death, remembrance, time, beauty, and nature.
Trash Polka tattoos are the most unique of all the tattoo styles and are steadily becoming more recognized on the mainstream tattoo scene. Key elements must be present for a design to be considered Trash Polka: the two-tone colors and the abstract collage look. If you’re considering a Trash Polka design for your next tattoo, make sure you start by deciding where to put the ink and what story you want to tell with the tattoo, then find a tattooist who’s experienced with Trash Polka tattooing. Keep in mind that, ideally, the Trash Polka tattoo style is geared toward large-scale pieces but can also be worked into smaller designs.
The most significant thing when choosing your tattoo is to ensure that you are choosing something that would please you.
Below are some tips you can use when choosing your tattoo:
- After gathering some ideas on what you like for your tattoo, you can change any style to make it more suitable to your taste. For instance, if you see a particular tattoo image that you adore, you can adopt a portion of it (or you can alter the colors).
- If you prefer a tattoo that is entirely original, get a skilled tattoo artist to do the design for you. Do not hesitate to ask for assistance in making a unique design.
- Know that your imagination is the limit. It means that you have so many available options. Do not deprive yourself of extra time to brainstorm creatively. You should avoid choosing tattoos on impulse; consider all the possible options.
- If you want to get a tattoo written in Asian characters, remember to choose cautiously and verify your choice. It will be best if you research first. Do not rely on the interpretations posted on the walls.
- Let’s say that you underwent tattooing ten years ago – would you still want it now? If you answered no, then it only means that you have to seriously consider the tattoo you want. You have to make sure that it is something that you will still appreciate after a long time.
- In addition to homemade tattoos, one of the most common tattoos for removal are names. It would be safer if you avoid tattooing names. However, this is alright in some cases – such as a tattoo of your kid’s name or a special person who passed away.
- When choosing a tattoo, it does not necessarily have to be of deep significance. Do not be scared of putting a cartoon image if you truly like it.
- Remember that it is quite costly to get tattooed on the hands, feet, and face because these areas require more touch-ups. These areas also need extensive attention and time to cure. Some artists will decline to do these kinds of tattoos, particularly if you do not have tattoos on the bigger body parts.
Whether you choose to get an old school tattoo or the newest tattoo style, it is always recommended that you pick the tattoo style that serves as a reflection of you. Remember that it is your body and it is your life to live. Now that you know the different types of art tattoo styles, you already have an idea on what to discuss with your artist if in case you decide to get inked.
A tattoo is a beautiful form of expression. It is an interesting art style and a lifelong memento. There are different styles that will fit every unique personality. The artist will surely assist you in finding the best way to express yourself.