It’s time to get schooled. One of the fun things about the world of tattooing is how many different styles there are out there. There’s biomechanical, traditional Japanese, Polynesian, color-horror, and on and on.
If you’re not a tattoo artist, we don’t expect you to know all of these styles. That’s why we’ve put together this tattoo style guide. So, it’s time to do your homework. Read on to learn about just some of the tattoo styles you can choose from.
10 Popular Tattoo Design Styles
American Traditional: These are your classics. The style was popularized by Norman Collins in the 1930s. Amazingly, the style is still popular and is often the first style people pick for their first tattoos. Which makes sense, the style is based on bold, clean black outlines and a minimal, well saturated color palette with mostly primary colors.
Traditional Japanese: Flowers, koi fish, waves, and warriors dominate this style. They were originally inspired by the ancient Japanese tebori tattoo techniques popularized by the Yakuza. Like American Traditional, you’ll see bold black lines in these tattoos but also some minimal shading.
New School: If you like fun and something a little kookier, than ask your tattoo artist about a New School style tattoo. They’ll show you some awesome examples, so it’s worth asking. You can think of these as more exaggerated versions of the illustrative style. Think more caricature and less realistic.
Lettering: We know you know what this is already. All the same, this wouldn’t be a complete style guide without including lettering. These tattoos are highly stylized and feature names, words, phrases, or numbers. Basically, it could be anything from your great-grandfather’s name to a phrase that you always want to remember.
Black and Grey: This style may sound boring but it’s actually pretty damn cool. Instead of using color for these, we will use black ink and water. We’ll water down the black ink to make it softer and more gray to help create some cool shading, hues, and color contrasts.
Illustrative: These tattoos take some of the best qualities of realism and traditional and mashed them together. These are for you if you like lots of colors or are more into drawings and art. Typically, they feature solid, bold outlines with some intense color saturation and realistic shading techniques.
Biomechanical: For something more off the wall, a biomechanical tattoo might be your perfect fit. They mimic how your body flows with patterns that are based on mechanical or alien features.
Color-horror: These are your tattoos that feature darker subject matter. They typically look like portraiture or realism gone evil. Think zombies, freehanded-monsters, and other characters from your favorite horror movies.
Sketch Work: Flip through an artist’s notebook and you’re bound to see something that looks like these tattoos. They are rough images that appear like unfinished drawings or designs. You can probably spot one of these if you see a tattoo that is semi-colored in areas or has unclear outlines.
Geometric: These can be super meaningful tattoos or intricate designs. These use only lines and geometric shapes to create sacred symbols or ornamental design work.
Now that you’ve done your reading, we want to know which style is your favorite from this guide. Let us know in the comments! Otherwise, we hope this inspired you to maybe step beyond your usual comfort zone and try out a new style. If so, make sure to give us a call to schedule a consultation or to book your next appointment. We can talk more from there.