Like any other art form, tattooing comes in many different styles. Depending on your taste and reasons for getting inked, you should choose a tattoo style that best fits you. Choosing the style in which to render the tattoo is an important choice, because the right style can make your tattoo a better one. Some tattoos work best in a traditional format and some work better in a more realistic or illustrative one. A flower or an anchor can be rendered in almost any style, but something very detailed like a face or a city landscape would often work best in a more illustrative or realistic style. The following tattoo styles are not by any means the only options out there, however they are some of the more common ones.
The traditional style, also called old school or American traditional, is known for its bold lines, bright colours consisting mainly of primary colours, and iconic Americana images like skulls, roses, anchors, daggers, hearts, pin up girls, eagles and other patriotic symbols. Popularized by artists such as Sailor Jerry and Don Ed Hardy they are filled with the history of tattooing. You can’t really go wrong with a piece in this genre!
Neo-traditional is a more modern twist on traditional style, in which more realistic depth, shading, colour and detail are added to traditional conventions. It embraces traditional tattoos with similar bold lines, but experiments with dimensions, colours, and blending. There is much more detail to these designs, while still paying homage to the past. Pieces done in this style are known for their lush, decorative details as well as the use of natural imagery such as florals and animals.
New School is a tattooing style originating as early as the 1980s and influenced by some features of old school tattooing. The style is often characterized by the use of heavy outlines, vivid colours, and exaggerated depictions of the subject. The style is a highly animated style of tattooing, typically the images created are caricatured characters doing out of character things.
Like its name, this style tends to look quite like the illustrations one would see in a storybook. Illustrative styles combine techniques from both traditional styles of tattooing and realism. Typically they feature bold outlines with intense colour saturation, paired with realistic shading techniques, in order to create a tattoo that looks more like an illustration than a tattoo.
Realism is a style that tries to recreate images as they would appear in real life. Realism typically lacks the bold outlines found in more traditional forms of tattooing; it instead uses shading and colour contrasts to render the image. Realism is exactly what it sounds like – realistic tattoos that look like a photograph on the skin. It’s important to have a good picture for reference.
A portrait of someone recreated as a tattoo is a style typically done in realism. A tattoo of someone’s face, be it a family member, character, or celebrity. This style is similar to realism, but doesn’t necessarily have to be a realistic portrait, it could be a caricature or something along those lines.
Watercolour tattoos are meant to mimic an experimental artistic process of using splashes and streaks of colour to give an impression of paint on a canvas. The tattoo lacks outlines, imitating the brushstroke.
Tribal tattoos date back centuries and are probably the oldest known style of tattoos. There are many different types of tribal, from Polynesian and Aztec, to Maori and Samoan. They were used for aesthetic, spiritual beliefs, and rites of passage. Tribal is depicted in big, bold loops, swirls, hooks, and could be designed to represent animals as well. Celtic crosses and knots are also a type of tribal, as is today’s modern Western version. Though these styles are all unique, they are somewhat similar, almost always done in black with elaborate patterns.
Ornamental tattoos are usually done with black ink, ornamental tattoos are mandalas, laces, or florals and usually add subjects like flowers and crystals around this design. These designs are usually very delicate and resemble dainty jewellery.
Meaningful quotes, lyrics or even meaningful peoples’ names or dates of special events are all very personal and sentimental themes for script tattoos. Different fonts can affect the way the quote is read. Feminine or bold or classic fonts can be used to accentuate the words and illuminate their meanings. Script tattoos are perfect for any part of the body, depending on the length or brevity of the words themselves.
Dotwork is a style of tattooing that renders various images, designs, and patterns entirely through dots. Shading and depth is created through how far apart each dot is from the next. Common forms of dotwork include sacred geometry, religious and spiritual tattoos.
Biomechanical tattoos are designed based off of the client’s body flow. Usually these tattoos mimic body flow through patterns that are of mechanical, cyborg, or alien aesthetics. It imagines what the inside of the body would look like combined with machinery.
Geometric tattoos are done typically using only lines and geometric shapes. Sacred geometry and ornamental colour design work all rely heavily on basic geometric conventions.
Line-work is a relatively young style of tattooing. The word linework speaks for itself and means work with lines. It’s a beautifully simplistic style, great for those who want a tattoo but may not want to commit to a larger piece.
These are just a few examples of the many styles of tattoos, and keep in mind that not all tattoos have a set style! Tattoos are art, and art is always changing.
Portraits, Tribal/Polynesian style, Celtic, Writing, Photo Realism, Traditional, New School, Family Crests, Horror, Black & Grey as well as Full Colour. All can easily be done, but if your style isn’t listed, then please tell us what you you’re looking for. Each artist has a wide & varied range of experience & styles, allowing them to help you design and create your next masterpiece. We do have a large selection of flash designs available, but encourage clients to take the time to find ideas/styles they like so that we can help them create/fine tune their tattoo.