All types of tattoos. Big, small, color, black & gray. It’s part of what makes tattoos great. Getting tattooed is as personal as getting one.
You can sometimes find it hard to decide which tattoo style is right for you because there are so many different ones. Ink comes in dozens of different types (more than we’ve listed below) and everyone has a favorite. It’s important to understand each tattoo style, not just in terms of how it looks, but also its background, to get a beautiful and unique tattoo.
Having chosen a style you love, you can find a tattoo artist who specializes in that style to make sure your tattoo comes out perfect both in style and in meaning. You’ve probably been thinking about your next tattoo, so here’s a complete guide to tattoo styles to help you choose the right one.
Designs of this style are characterized by simple, clean lines and heavy use of negative space. Minimalist tattoos don’t have to be small. In minimalist tattoos, you get graphic designs and varying delicacies of linework, following the principle that “less is more.”
The simplicity of minimalist tattoos works best with designs that can be visualized with a few lines or without too much complexity. In order to keep the design as simple as possible, minimalist tattoos can be done in any color, though black ink tends to be more popular.
Negative Space Tattoos
Skin is used as part of negative space tattoos, and pigments are injected into contour areas to create a visual. Positive space tattoos don’t use an outline to create their image, instead they use the skin as an outline and pigment to fill in the blanks.
Negative space tattoos can be any design, but it takes more planning than just knowing what you want. If you want a negative space design, make sure you work with an experienced tattoo artist to make sure the proportions are right and that the correct areas are filled in versus what’s left bare.
Words and Phrases
Tattoos containing words and phrases, which can also be called “script” when referring to cursive designs, are popular because there are no real rules or structures. Combining different tattoo styles into one allows you to take a word or phrase and add an image to it.
It’s still a good idea to get your word or phrase tattoo done by a tattoo artist experienced in words and phrases to make sure the spelling is right and the design looks good, no matter what its size or shape.
A floral tattoo can mean a lot depending on the blossom (a lily, for instance, means purity and devotion). Also, floral or flower tattoos can just be purely aesthetic, since flowers are a common love and look dainty on the body.
With so many options, you can get anything from vivid colors to heavy black outlines tattooed on flowers. Tattoos with floral designs are common, like roses, lavender, lotuses, and laurels, but you can get anything you want, as long as you find an experienced tattoo artist.
Tattoos that look like watercolors are done to mimic the fluidity and look of watercolor paintings. Watercolor tattoos can look great in any style, from bold lines to soft pastel colors. They’re good as cover-up tattoos due to their fluid look and their ability to fill in space.
Artist Britta Christiansen says watercolor tattoos are just like any other tattoo style. Most people think ink is used less in traditional designs, but it’s actually the opposite. A fading gradient effect is achieved by using a wider range of ink colors, notes Christiansen.
“If a particular watercolor tattoo would include the color red, I will typically use at least five different red tones, from dark red to light red, in order to create a watercolor effect,” says Christiansen.
While a large color gradient is part of a good watercolor tattoo, Christiansen says it’s the contrast that makes them look great and last.
The key to this style is understanding the underlying skin tone and how colors blend together. It can be done with black or shades of gray just as well as pastels or vibrant colors.
The concept of abstract art is that it doesn’t necessarily represent the reality around us, but instead focuses on shapes, colors, and textures that make up the reality.
Using more aesthetic imagery, like random shapes, blobs of color, and different line styles, abstract tattoos follow the same principles. The designs are usually more about how they look than what they mean, and artists develop their own styles based on their experiences.
As abstract tattoos stick to such specific concepts, they become works of art and often represent their artist, kinda like a signature. To make sure your abstract tattoo fits your aesthetic and what you want, you should find an experienced tattoo artist whose work you like.
Tattoos with UV pigments, or glow-in-the-dark tattoos, look good in the dark. The specific wave of light they omit, however, makes these designs glow under ultraviolet (UV) lights. Despite the fact that glow-in-the-dark tattoos sound like they’d light up anywhere, they only work in UV light.
Tattoos like this became popular in the 1990s because of the neon trend, and they’re still being done (safely and professionally) today. Instead of dangerous chemicals, traditional-albeit extremely bright-pigments are used to create the effect now instead of ink containing phosphorous.
In many cultures, like Maori, Polynesian, and Thai, geometric tattoos are inspired by tribal tattoos. Nevertheless, aesthetics play a huge part in modern geometric tattoos, since they make sure it doesn’t look clunky or unbalanced. Geometric designs can be used for anything.
A smaller tattoo will be less complicated to keep it from looking messy, while a bigger tattoo will be more intricate.
Black ink is used for blackwork tattoos. This tattoo style features thick outlines, intense shading, and large black areas. Blackwork tattoos can look heavy, but they also create bold, delicate moments.
It’s best to find an artist whose portfolio you like and book an appointment with them — some artists prefer heavy gray shading, others prefer crisp, all-black designs.
Blackwork tattoos are especially important, since even the slightest over-reach in design can change the feel of the tattoo, like a thick line or too much fill.
American Traditional Tattoos
Traditional American tattoos were first seen on soldiers in the 1700s as a memento from travels around the world. Norman Collins, a.k.a. Sailor Jerry, a tattoo artist from the 1940s to the 1970s, made the style popular with hand-poked tattoos and his Navy service.
Old school, Americana, or Western style tattoos feature simple, clean images with vibrant colors and images such as animal heads, roses, pin-ups, ships, and other military-related subjects. These tattoos also have bold black outlines and minimal black shading, and they’re popular because they’re timeless.
Micro Tattoo Style
The smallest tattoo style is the micro tattoo. Because they’re so small, they’re called micro tattoos. There are some Micro Tattoos that are really detailed, like the Humming Bird tattoo below. Tattoo artists who are highly skilled should do micro tattoos.
3D Tattoo Style
It’s a cool and unique tattoo style to get a 3D tattoo. The 3D red and blue lines are the common thread in all 3D tattoos, no matter how simple or intricate they are. They do it this way so when you wear 3D glasses, the tattoo looks 3D.
Cartoon Tattoo Style
Your favorite Saturday morning cartoons are incorporated into the cartoon tattoo style. Whether it’s cartoon characters or just anything reimagined in the cartoon tattoo style, these tattoos look great.
Continuous Line Contour Tattoo Style
Tattooing Continuous Line Contour involves tattooing the outside edges of a shape and any dramatic changes within it. Basically, continuous line contour tattoos look like an outline drawing without shading, and the tattoo machine never seems to lift from the skin.
Portrait Tattoo Style
Whether it’s a famous person or someone you love, portrait tattoos are cool. They’re very realistic looking, and they take a highly skilled tattoo artist to create. There are a lot of different ways to do portrait tattoos, from simple to very complex. There’s nothing better than a well-done portrait tattoo.
Sketch Tattoo Style
In addition to traditional tattoos, Sketch Style Tattoos have become more popular. Sketch tattoos are usually black like pencils. Color pencils can also be used (see image below). Any tattoo subject looks great with the Sketch Tattoo Style, and it’s not too clean, which gives any tattoo a very authentic look.