what are the different styles of tattooing

What Are the Different Styles of Tattooing: A Comprehensive Guide



Are you considering getting a tattoo, but not quite sure what style you want? With so many different styles of tattooing out there, it can be overwhelming to choose. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll introduce you to the most popular tattoo styles, so you can find the perfect one for you.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are many different tattooing styles to choose from
  • Each style has unique characteristics and aesthetics
  • Consider personal preferences and the tattoo’s meaning when choosing a style

Traditional Tattoo Style

Traditional tattoo style, also known as old school tattoos, originated in the early 20th century and is characterized by bold lines, limited color palettes, and classic designs such as anchors, roses, and hearts. These tattoos are usually created using a single needle, resulting in a clean and simple design.

The iconic style was popular among sailors and soldiers, who would get tattoos to mark their time at sea or show their allegiance to their country. The traditional style is often associated with American culture and tattoo legends such as Sailor Jerry and Don Ed Hardy.

Traditional tattoos are timeless and offer a classic, retro look for those seeking a more straightforward design.

“Traditional tattoos never go out of style, and they’re a perfect choice for those who want a timeless design that will last a lifetime.”

Characteristics of Traditional Tattoo Style

Traditional tattoos feature distinct characteristics that set them apart from other styles. The bold outlines, limited color palette, and classic designs are some of the defining features of traditional tattoos.

Bold OutlinesLimited Color PaletteClassic Designs
Traditional tattoos use bold black outlines that help the design stand out on the skin.The color palette of traditional tattoos is usually limited to primary colors such as red, blue, yellow, and green.Classic designs such as anchors, roses, and hearts are often found in traditional tattoos.
The bold outlines also help the tattoo age well, ensuring that the design remains clear and distinct over time.The limited color palette helps the design to stand out and adds to the simplicity of the tattoo.These designs are usually created using a single needle, resulting in a clean, simple design.

Traditional tattoos are a popular choice for those seeking a timeless design that will never go out of style. The classic designs and bold lines are perfect for those who want a straightforward design that will last a lifetime.

Realism Tattoo Style

If you’re looking for a tattoo that looks like a photograph or a realistic representation of an object, then the Realism Tattoo Style is for you. This style is all about creating highly detailed and lifelike designs that leave people in awe of the artist’s skill.

The Realism Tattoo Style often features portraits of people, animals, or objects with incredible shading and depth. Some designs also include an element of fantasy or surrealism to create an otherworldly effect. Whether you want a tattoo of your favorite celebrity or a depiction of your pet, a skilled realism tattoo artist can bring your vision to life on your skin.

Realism tattooing requires great technical skill and attention to detail. The artist must be able to accurately replicate the subject’s features, including lighting, shadows, and textures, on a flat surface like skin. This style often takes multiple sessions to complete, as the artist needs to carefully layer the ink to create the desired effect.

Pro tip: If you’re considering a realism tattoo, make sure to do your research and choose an artist with a strong portfolio in this style. Look for examples of their previous work to see if their style and skill level match what you’re looking for.

Watercolor Tattoo Style

If you’re looking for a tattoo style that’s both unique and eye-catching, watercolor tattoos may be the perfect fit for you. Watercolor tattoo style is known for its vibrant, flowing designs that look like they were painted directly onto the skin.

Watercolor tattoos are characterized by their use of bright, bold colors and free-flowing brushstrokes that create a stunning watercolor painting effect. Unlike traditional tattoos, watercolor tattoos are not defined by thick black lines, giving them a softer, more gentle appearance.

One of the benefits of watercolor tattoos is their flexibility in design. You can opt for an abstract design that emphasizes color and brushstrokes, or a more detailed and realistic image that incorporates watercolor techniques to create an ethereal effect. The possibilities are endless, making watercolor tattoos an excellent choice for those who want a unique and personalized tattoo.

However, it’s important to note that watercolor tattoos require a skilled and experienced artist to achieve their full potential. Due to their intricate and delicate nature, watercolor tattoos require a particular technique and expertise that not all tattoo artists possess. Remember to research potential tattoo artists thoroughly to ensure they have experience in creating watercolor tattoos.

Japanese Tattoo Style

If you are fascinated by traditional Japanese art and culture, a Japanese tattoo style might be the perfect choice for you. Also known as “irezumi,” Japanese tattoos feature intricate motifs that are rich in symbolism and cultural significance.

Japanese tattoos typically cover large areas of the body, such as the back, chest, or arms, and often feature elements such as dragons, flowers, waves, and mythical creatures. The designs are usually full of detail and color, with a mix of bold lines and shaded areas to create depth and texture.

One of the unique aspects of Japanese tattoos is the use of “horimono,” a traditional technique that involves hand-carving designs into the skin with special needles. While this technique is less common today, many Japanese tattoo artists still use it to create authentic and intricate designs.

The Symbolism Behind Japanese Tattoos

Many of the motifs found in Japanese tattoos have deep symbolic meanings. For example, dragons are often seen as guardians and protectors, while cherry blossoms represent the fleeting nature of life and the impermanence of beauty. Koi fish, on the other hand, are associated with perseverance and determination, as they swim upstream against strong currents to reach their destination.

Before getting a Japanese tattoo, it’s important to research the symbolism behind the designs and choose motifs that resonate with you on a personal level. Many Japanese tattoo artists also offer custom designs that can incorporate your own personal symbols or stories.

If you are drawn to the beauty and complexity of traditional Japanese art, a Japanese tattoo style may be the perfect way to express your appreciation and pay homage to this rich cultural heritage.

Tribal Tattoo Style

If you’re looking for a tattoo that draws inspiration from indigenous cultures around the world, the tribal tattoo style might be the perfect fit for you.

Tribal tattoo style is known for its bold black patterns and symbols, often featuring intricate designs that are deeply rooted in the history and traditions of various ethnic groups.

The origins of tribal tattoos can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where they were used to signify social status, religious beliefs, or simply as a form of adornment.

Today, tribal tattoos have become a popular choice among tattoo enthusiasts, with many artists putting their own spin on traditional patterns and symbols to create unique and personalized designs.

The Significance of Tribal Tattoos

One of the main appeals of tribal tattoos is their rich cultural significance. Each design is imbued with meaning and symbolism, representing the values and beliefs of the people who created them.

For example, Maori tribal tattoos from New Zealand often feature spirals and curved shapes that represent the harmony between life and nature, while Polynesian tribal tattoos can symbolize strength, courage, and warrior spirit.

Whether you choose a traditional design or opt for a more contemporary interpretation, tribal tattoos are a powerful and meaningful way to express your individuality and appreciation for ancient cultures.

New School Tattoo Style

If you’re looking for a fun and playful tattoo style, new school tattoos might be just what you need! This style is all about exaggeration, bold colors, and cartoonish elements that can turn any design into a whimsical masterpiece.

New school tattoo style often feature exaggerated proportions, giving characters and objects a larger-than-life appearance. This style also embraces bold outlines that make designs stand out, and often incorporates elements of graffiti and street art.

Some popular new school tattoo motifs include cartoon characters, animals, and pop culture references. If you’re a fan of bright colors and playful designs, new school tattoos might be the perfect fit for you!

Dotwork Tattoo Style

If you’re looking for a tattoo style that’s visually striking and intricate, you may want to consider dotwork tattoos. Dotwork tattoo style involves using tiny dots to create shading and patterns, giving the design a unique texture and complexity.

Dotwork tattoos are often inspired by mandalas, geometric shapes, or even portraits and landscapes. The technique involves using different sizes and densities of dots to create contrast, depth, and texture.

One of the benefits of dotwork tattoos is their versatility. They can be small and delicate, or large and bold, depending on your preference. They also tend to age well, as the solid dotwork can withstand fading better than other styles that rely more heavily on shading or color.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that dotwork tattoos can be time-consuming and may require multiple sessions to complete, especially for larger designs. They also tend to be more painful than other styles, as the constant tattoo gun tapping can become uncomfortable over time.

If you’re considering a dotwork tattoo, make sure to do your research and find an experienced artist who specializes in this style. They can help you design a unique and meaningful tattoo that incorporates your personal aesthetics and preferences.

Geometric Tattoo Style

If you’re someone who appreciates precision and symmetry, then geometric tattoos might just be the right fit for you. Geometric tattoo style features clean lines, shapes, and patterns that are inspired by geometry and mathematics.

Geometric tattoos often use basic shapes like circles, triangles, and squares. But they can also incorporate more complex shapes to create unique designs. The tattoo artist will use a variety of techniques like dotwork, linework, and shading to bring the design to life.

One of the most appealing aspects of geometric tattoos is their versatility. They can be big or small, placed anywhere on the body, and can work well in both black and grey or color.

Common themes for geometric tattoos include animals, nature, and sacred geometry. But you can also get creative and create your own unique design. Just make sure to find an experienced artist who can bring your vision to life.


Congratulations! You’ve made it through our comprehensive guide to the different tattoo styles. By now, you should have a better understanding of the various tattooing techniques and designs available.

Remember, choosing the right tattoo style is a personal decision that should reflect your individual preferences and aesthetics. It’s important to take your time when considering which style to go for, and to do your research on reputable artists and studios.

Whether you prefer the bold lines of traditional tattoos, the lifelike portraits of realism tattoos, or the vibrant brushstrokes of watercolor tattoos, there’s a style out there for everyone.

So, take some time to explore the different tattoo styles, find inspiration from other tattoos, and most importantly, have fun with the process. Your tattoo should be a reflection of your unique personality, so choose a style that speaks to you.


Q: What are the different styles of tattooing?

A: There are several different styles of tattooing, each with its own unique characteristics and aesthetics.

Q: What is the traditional tattoo style?

A: The traditional tattoo style is known for its bold lines, limited color palette, and classic designs like anchors and roses.

Q: What is the realism tattoo style?

A: The realism tattoo style focuses on creating lifelike portraits or objects on the skin, using shading and intricate details.

Q: What is the watercolor tattoo style?

A: The watercolor tattoo style features free-flowing brushstrokes and vibrant splashes of pigments that resemble watercolor paintings.

Q: What is the Japanese tattoo style?

A: The Japanese tattoo style draws inspiration from traditional Japanese art, featuring intricate motifs such as dragons, cherry blossoms, and koi fish.

Q: What is the tribal tattoo style?

A: The tribal tattoo style is characterized by bold black patterns and symbols, inspired by indigenous cultures around the world.

Q: What is the new school tattoo style?

A: The new school tattoo style is vibrant and playful, with exaggerated proportions, bold outlines, and cartoonish elements.

Q: What is the dotwork tattoo style?

A: The dotwork tattoo style involves using tiny dots to create intricate patterns and shading, resulting in visually striking designs.

Q: What is the geometric tattoo style?

A: The geometric tattoo style features clean lines, shapes, and patterns inspired by geometry and mathematics, known for its precision and symmetry.

Q: Conclusion

A: In conclusion, there is a wide variety of tattoo styles to choose from, each offering a unique artistic expression. When deciding on a tattoo style, it is important to consider personal preferences and aesthetics.





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