Understanding the different tattoo styles available can help you make the best-informed decision on your next tattoo. Determine the tattoo style that is most appealing to you, so you can find the right artist who has the experience for what you need. What follows are a few of the most common tattoo styles, some of which have been around for centuries.

Artistic or Illustrative Tattoos

In essence, this could be described as a painting or graphic design only done on the skin. They are often quite elaborate and reflective of the tattoo artist’s personal vision. This type of work can include black line work to outline a figure or focal point. The figure can be dramatized with colors and angles. Details and a respect to the fundamentals of art are typically apparent.

Blackwork Tattoos

Mostly used to describe tattoos that are crafted only from black ink, the style is more expressive than the description implies. Such tattoos tend to be more experimental and flowing with elaborate designs that are eye-catching. Patterns from Sacred geometry, floral motifs and textiles are often used to build these pieces.

Cultural Tattoos

Both the Chicano and Japanese style reflect the cultures of both countries and are easily recognizable. The Japanese style is quite elaborate and tells a story rooted in mythology. While Chicano is reflective of Mexican history and popular cultural trends.

New School Tattoos

In some ways, new school may be considered old school since it is a trend that has seen better days. From the 1980s through the early ‘90s, this cartoonish style was quite popular. It often featurs highly distorted figures, heavily saturated color and lots of bold outlines.

Realism Tattoos

This is the realistic depiction of objects seen as far back as paintings from the Renaissance period. Only in recent times has realism entered the world of tattoo design. They are quite popular today and most noted for their portraits of family members, famous people, nature scenes, animals and flowers. However, realism is a style that can be used with almost any design, even the surreal.

Traditional Tattoos

Collected by sailors in the 1700’s and in America by WWII solders these tattoos could be found all over the Western world. Often representing the wearers journey and landmarks in life. They are most noted for their recognizable designs, such as anchors, sparrows, and faces of women. Such tattoos are identified by their strong, bold lines and bright, beautiful colors that augment these iconic works. They are typically designed to be recognizable from across the room and remain easily readable for a lifetime. A common phrase used by traditional artists is, “Bold will hold”.

Tribal Tattoos

Easily the oldest style of tattooing, tribal goes back many thousands of years. A rich history with specific tribal patterns come from Polynesian, Maori (New Zealand), Tahitian, Inuit, Samoan, Filipino and many more. However, the current trend of tribal combines body art from different parts of the world into a singular appearance. This style is noted for its unique designs, most often accomplished with black ink. Part of the tribal style also includes elaborate patterns, but not realistic depictions as with other tattoo styles.

Easily the oldest style of tattooing, tribal goes back many thousands of years. A rich history with specific tribal patterns come from Polynesian, Maori (New Zealand), Tahitian, Inuit, Samoan, Filipino and many more. However, the current trend of tribal combines body art from different parts of the world into a singular appearance. This style is noted for its unique designs, most often accomplished with black ink. Part of the tribal style also includes elaborate patterns, but not realistic depictions as with other tattoo styles.

Watercolor Tattoos

Arguably the hottest trend today, it reflects the unique aesthetic of watercolor paintings. Perhaps part of the reason why this look is so desired is because the outcome is soft and subtle. Keep this in mind when requesting a water color tattoo as they tend to fade quickly and may need to be touched up more often. Such tattoos mostly reflect a lighter, happier tone and include bright, colorful items such as flowers, blue skies, and animals. 

Understanding the different tattoo styles, will help you to search for the right artist who knows the style well. Always look at portfolios. That way, you can get what you want the first time and be proud to show off a tattoo that reflects your nature.

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