14 Main Types of Tattoo Styles to Narrow your Choice

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Art is universal and whether we love it or not, it’s one of the most essential expressions that we can create or develop. It triggers our imagination and empowers us to create something extraordinary. The meaning of art can be superficial; it can also be profound. It’s like a canvas. It’s a shapeshifting entity – it becomes anything we want it to be.

Regardless of who you are and where you are from, we cannot escape art. It’s everywhere around us and in fact, it is even found inside us. They capture our attention, inspire us to think, and even help us conceive both entertaining and purposeful imaginings. Art can be simple or complex. From home decorations to company logos, and even game-changing revolutions, art is always involved. 

Art is constantly evolving; new types of art styles emerge year after year. As much as we would like to cover different kinds of art forms and styles in this article, it’s simply impossible to present them all in one go. But the good news is, we will be talking about a particular art that has been practiced for thousands of years and is still popular as of today. This art even became more in-demand these days – this is the art of tattooing. 

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Tattoos as Art Sensation

There’s a growing number of people getting inked every day. According to research, there are currently 20,000 tattoo parlors in the United States and this number continues to grow each year. It’s also said that 36% of the citizens who are 18 to 29 years old have at least one or two tattoos. Thirty-eight percent of adults aged 30 to 39 years old also got inked. 

Undoubtedly, there’s this consistent rise in the number of individuals who are getting tattooed. Tattoos have become a global sensation and the misconceptions attached to it are slowly vanishing. Along with the rise of tattoo lovers, there’s also the emergence of new tattoo art styles. From abstract styles to hyper realistic expressions, tattoo artists all over the world are competitively coming up with their own signature tattoo styles.  

Getting inked can be challenging and life-altering. It is a permanent decision that you will have to live with forever. Thus, it is a major decision to make. For many people, tattoos signify a unique meaning – it represents their own personality, values, and views.

Tattoos are considered to be one of the effective way to add edge to your appearance (which could be a great factor when attracting the opposite sex). Getting discernible tattoos will surely grab the attention of other people. Having tattoos also demonstrates that you are not someone who always wants to fit in with the crowd. This art also shows that you probably have a rebellious or confident attitude (or both) and you do not hesitate to do what you like.

However, it can still be daunting if it is your first time with tattooing. Also, you probably have no idea on the suitable characteristics for the tattoo. So what is the best style for your selected tattoo?

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Art and Styles

There is a huge assortment of tattoos; they can be small, big, colorful, black, etc. This is an incredible characteristic of tattoos – they distinguish one person to another, depending on the location, style, and other unique features. Did you know that there are different tattoo art styles?

Tattoo styles refer to the overall appearance of a tattoo. Traditional art styles are also common in tattoo art, such as contemporary, impressionist, classical, and many more. There are a lot of tattoo styles to choose from nowadays.

Tattoo styles may vary in popularity because of differences in the history and location/origins of every style. It is amazing because certain tattoo styles can be famous in one location, but not popular in another area.

How Tattoos are Becoming an Art Sensation

To made contemporary artists and popular museum curators, if someone meant their tattoo to be an art sensation, then it immediately carries the description. This is just a lifelong guideline of the world of art. Regardless of the fact that the tattoo was made by the artist or designed by the wearer, a tattoo’s definition or objective can be clearly demonstrated.

If your tattoo is making an assertion, you can consider yourself as the owner of an art piece. The assertions in tattoos can be broad; it can also be explicit or implied. Whether the purpose of the tattoo is to catch attention or to illustrate something or someone important to you, the fundamental message always come from the wearer. Words or images are inked permanently on the skin so the person will remember it forever.

Art has a cumulative value; this is also true for a tattoo. Tattoos can be costly just like a piece of art. Preference for high quality ink and equipment, coupled with a skilled artist, will require you to pay more. Fortunately, you will also likely be more satisfied. The cost of the tattoo is an investment.

Over the past few years, tattoos have started establishing its presence in museums and galleries. Several tattoo conventions have been done as well. You can see an artists’ revolution, which can be seen in the establishment of tattoo museums that exhibit artifacts – from the machinery used in tattooing to the tattoo itself (it can be a picture or an actual living display).

Museums have started to appreciate these artworks due to its capability to draw feelings from the audience. These masterpieces can be interpreted by the audience and can serve as a lifelong conversation for aficionados. Regardless of the size, the tattoo provides the entrance to the designer’s soul; it demonstrates what they are feeling and how they have been living their lives. It is truly a unique medium.

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The Ultimate Guide to Tattoo Art Styles

Have you decided on your tattoo art style? If not, take some time to think it over. It is important that you do not get tattooed by impulse. If after enough time you think that you are already certain about it, then you may proceed with your plan. Do not be influenced by other people. Choose a tattoo art style that you want and something that has an important meaning to you.

Allow your imagination to surge and ponder about the style, that demonstrates your ideas. Delve into many designs, conceptualize beyond your comfort zone and get something extra-ordinary that will have a great significance to you.

Although it is important that you listen to the suggestions of your tattoo artist, you may pick colors that would complement the tone of your skin. You can ask the artist for professional assistance when seeking for the best colors.

To decide on your tattoo art style, remember the following things:

  1. See to it that the tattoo style has personal significance and that it serves as a reflection of you. Your tattoo style must exhibit something that you cherish. Ask yourself why these things are relevant to you.
  2. Carefully consider tattoo styles that involve writing. See to it that you understand the words, their origins, and all probable interpretations. If you want to incorporate a quotation in your tattoo style, see to it that it tells something about you. Remember to choose the best font.
  3. Check on other existing tattoo styles. However, do not limit yourself to what is already out there. Check posters, books, stickers, stationery, and other sources, not just the designs that you see on the studio walls.

Best Old School Tattoo Styles

Various tattoo styles are available right now, with skillful artists making their own each day. However, plenty of those styles originated from historically prominent tattoo styles – a lot of them are already decades or centuries old. Old school tattoo styles are also the easiest style to discern. Essentially, every artist places their own twist on a traditional piece.

Old school tattoo styles look great on any skin tone since they are highly drenched. The designs are artfully simple. You may notice certain shading on particular details; however, it is nominal.

Here are some of the old school tattoo styles. These are the ones you will need familiarity with before starting your tattoo design. If you want to get the best tattoo style for yourself, you can opt to not use the definite terminology of what you like. However, familiarity with these styles might prove useful. Determining how exactly you’d like your excellent tattoo to appear can be challenging, thus hopefully, the following styles can help you with your choice:

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1. Japanese

The Japanese tattoo style, also known as irezumi, flourished during the time of Edo (1603-1868) in a similar pace as ukiyo-e. These styles exhibit woodblock patterns that were famous among the business class during that time. Considering this fact, the images seen in this genre of art originated from the ancient customs of the country, as demonstrated by tattooed victors from the mythological and Suikoden creatures such as kirins, phoenixes, and dragons.

Tattoo artists managed to do both contemporary and modern takes on these vintage masterpieces. This style is a genre that is specifically known for big portraits that wrap around the legs, arms, and back. The body is considered as a canvas with minimal (sometimes even zero) empty spaces on the tattooed part of the body.

The pieces carry the main theme, which can comprise of myths, heroes, samurais, and scenic battles. Secondary themes are also present such as koi fish, flowers or other natural components, such as clouds and waves. 

In other words, each tattoo that is made in this style explains a story about the wealthy history of Japan. Apart from their sensational smoke and wave loaded look, this is what makes the Japanese style so influential.

It is not surprising that the entire imagery in Japanese tattooing carries deep significance. Because of the history of ritualistic and sacred tattooing in Japan, this style has become an admired and essential element of the culture. These tattoo styles may take a long time to finish and can be very costly.

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2. Lettering

Lettering is one of the most popular tattoo styles and overlaps with several kinds of tattoos since it is present for as long as the tattoo has some sort of writing. It can be used for any alphabet, such as Arabic alphabet, Latin letters, Kanji, or Cyrillic. This tattoo style is exhibited through written connotations. Hence, you can find all kinds of words, symbols, and numbers in all kinds of fonts.

For experts, the hard part is more on the typography – the individuality of the font, composition, and the regularity of the lettering. The customer generally decides on the content and will usually choose the style suggested by the artist.

Nobody wants their tattoo to appear unattractive and lifeless, thus, you must research and get a tattoo font and style of lettering that will show more personality and color. The most common fonts are the script fonts (which normally appear distinct and personal) such as handwriting and calligraphy. 

Old English is also popularly used since it has a dignified appearance and induces an archaic atmosphere. Other common fonts are graffiti fonts, Celtic fonts, and blade fonts, among many others.

If you do not find any of the mentioned fonts appealing enough, you can always solicit advice from your tattoo artist or ask him to perform freestyle.

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3. Sketch Style

Sketch tattoo styles are mostly used to illustrate plants, animals, and landscapes. These styles easily ingrain sensations of movement and emotional charge. Compared to the minimalist tattoo style, it can illustrate a few objects and exhibit repetition and intricacy of the lines.

Sketch style exhibits extending lines, unfinished strokes, and components that do not entirely close. The work of shading is sharp and coarse; certain portions of the portrait are simply negative spaces. These components provide contradictions and shows that the style’s objective is not to be perfect or excellent, but to demonstrate that it is an unrefined method of creation.

If colors are available, it is recommended to choose softer hues to maintain the sketchy features.

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4. Portraits

The portrait tattoo style rose to prominence just recently. If done properly, this style of tattooing can appear nearly three dimensional and can be a captivating design. One of the fascinating characteristics of portraits is the perception of realism. Compared to other styles of tattooing that opt for abstract appearance, the entire concept of portraits is to make a sensible head design that appears intricate, modern, and eye-catching.

Although the portrait conforms to the approach of realism, there are lots of interpretations involved. For instance, cautious line work as well as shading can give a sensible portrait of appearance. This tattoo style highlights angles, shading, and realistic viewpoint in order to come up with a truly captivating design.

Another remarkable characteristic of a good portrait style is refined appearance. For many tattooists, there is an extreme focus on comprehensive lighting and shading. This makes the portrait appear more realistic; some portraits are quite similar to photos.

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5. Traditional American

Traditional American (also known as the old school tattoo style, western traditional tattoo style, or classic tattoo style) is popular for its striking lines, lively colors, and archetypal patterns (such as anchors, roses, and beautiful lady heads).

Due to famous and powerful people delving in this style, like Don Ed Hardy, Sailor Jerry, Lyle Tuttle, and Bert Grimm, the traditional American tattoo style is one of the most popular and adored tattoo style in the tattoo art community. Designs in this style are dazzling and also ages wonderfully. You will never regret this kind of style!

This style may also include the traditions of sailors (although they are not distinguished through this style). This tattoo style is mostly chosen to preserve memories and symbolize accomplishments (similar to the tribal tattoo in purpose and origin).

Best and Newest Tattoo Styles

As tattoos went mainstream, tattoo-related technology also improved. Machines, ink, and healing practices have progressed in recent years which resulted in smoother, fresher tattoos that will age better and last longer.

However, just like other fields that experience a boosts in growth, there will always be people at the forefront who are not satisfied with the existing conditions. In the tattoo art community, people always encourage the constant development of art. As more people decide to get inked, more people also want to go beyond the limits and stand out among the rest.

Now that the art of tattoos has become mainstream, and getting a tattoo is almost as simple as getting an ear-piercing, how will you stand out from the pack? One of the good things about the newest styles of tattoo is that there is an abundance of various styles. Here are some of the newest tattoo styles that will distinguish you  from the others. 

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6. Blackwork

Generally speaking, blackwork is a broad term; it can be used in any kind of body art with black ink and geometric structures. It is a versatile style that can be carried out according to your preferences.

If you check the artists’ portfolios on blackwork, you will discover all types of tattoos such as old divine geometry, contemporary abstract decorative patterns, and exceptionally specific descriptive pieces. It is the tattoo style wherein numerous experimentations are recently occurring. Some works that are created today are definitely astonishing.

This tattoo style is being continuously modified. It has progressed from simple designs to distinct and complicated designs. 

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7. Tribal

Tribal tattoo styles are considered to be the oldest existing style, dating back thousands of years. This tattoo style is considered as a diversified style because the styles of different cultures (including ancient communities from different parts of the world) are present here. 

Indigenous tribes use symbols in their tattoos to exhibit rituals, social status, group ownership, and wartime accomplishments. It is also used for ceremonial and spiritual purposes.

Different styles can be classified as “tribal” but these styles are still distinct to the expert eye. For instance, the Polynesian body art can be distinguished from Maori or Marquesan tattoos. The facial tattoos of Inupiaq rulers are also different from those seen among Berber women. These styles are distinctive, but also similar. These tattoos are typically done in black ink and incorporated with complicated designs. 

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8. Dotwork

Generally speaking, all kinds of tattoos are a collection of dots that collectively make up a larger image. Dotwork is performed by integrating distance, quantity, size, and position of the dots for every opposition to the conventional needle strokes.

The defining characteristics of these styles are the symmetrical designs, 3D effects, and the utilization of negative space. With any dotwork style, the arbitrary presence of a dot is unnecessary. However, all these dots contribute to the overall value of a masterpiece. 

You can use dotwork along with any other styles; blackwork and illustrations are the most popular. Nearly all dotwork is done in black ink.

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9. Geometric

Geometric tattoo styles are very prominent right now. They can last for a long time if carried out the right way. These styles can either exhibit exclusive geometric components or a mixture of organic and geometric components. You can use lines, rectangles, small crosses, or fractals. Anything can be formed as long they contribute to the overall image.

Geometric styles can also be employed to demonstrate sacred structures or philosophical ideas. The style’s association with the mystical and the ordinary makes it a primal selection for people who wants to relate to the spiritual and metaphysical elements of the tattooing experience.

The contradiction between the rigorous, pointed lines demonstrated in this style, as well as the body curves, makes it stand out in a striking manner. In this tattoo style, you can choose to get repeating designs (or not). You can get symmetry (or not). The explanation to this is that everything can be reduced into its geometrical structure – or components.

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10. Watercolor

Watercolor is one of the rapidly-progressing styles; this style is a combination of the conventional watercolor paintings and the skill of tattooing. This style is comparably new thus a lot of people perceive this as a unique approach from conventional tattoos. But the truth is – it’s not new.

The watercolor tattoo style is currently in great demand among tattoo aficionados who are likely searching for conventional tattoo styles that suit the new age.

Watercolor is performed with a brush blotted in damp pastels. Although it is easy to make this creation on canvas or paper, it is not an easy feat to do on the body. And yet, artists are able to do fancy and dramatic pieces through this contemporary style of tattooing.

Watercolor is also characterized by lively colors that are distributed on the skin as if it was spilled ink on canvas. The colors can be used along with an image in black. Colors are often scattered over the main image.

Natural elements like plants, trees, animals, and people are mostly used. Although not as typical, you will also see abstruse watercolor tattoos combined with other tattoo styles like anime and surrealism. 

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11. Illustrative

A lot of tattoo pieces are known as illustrative – this is because it is motivated by movements and strategies. The illustrative tattoo style is highly adaptable since it can employ different strategies, such as carving, engraving, and even use indefinite expressionism.

Although the illustrative technique is distinct due to the overall style and the quality of lines, this style can still be erroneously perceived as simple drawings placed on the skin. This style has ancient roots. Through this tattoo style, we learned about the history of the artists who utilized the diverse strategies of sketching.

A lot of artists typically combine their own style with the illustrative to come up with a new tattoo style. The illustrative tattoo style is reminiscent of artworks on canvas or paper.

This tattoo style is not characterized by its symbols, shapes, or colors. However, they are defined by the feelings conveyed by the wearer or designer. To convey these feelings and sensations, artists commonly lessen the detail of shading and restrict the gradients of color. They tend to just work with two-structural drawings and emphasize the boundaries with bold black outlines.

The engraving and etching style commonly noticed in blackwork is an intrinsic component of the illustrative tattooing style. In many cases, demonstrating the resulting product requires several drawings as a first step in the making of the tattoo artwork.

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12. Minimalism

Minimalist tattoo styles are often interpreted into the most elemental components. A lot of minimalist tattoos are placed in areas that are not commonly tattooed, such as the inner part of the ears, inner lip, and between the fingers. Since this style reduces everything into just the essential elements, then the objective is to dismantle all things down to its fundamental quality and thus attain simplicity.

Most of the time, minimalism only uses black ink. Fine lines will typically comprise the majority of the structure. Hollow space is utilized to occupy the major theme which allows specific elements and trivial themes to be attached to the entirety, without getting them particularly drawn.

For a creation to become minimalist, it is not the tattoo’s size that is important but adherence to the principles of simplification. Minimalism is self-governing and produces distinct art creations. These designs focus on eliminating the non-essential components, occasionally even trying to remove the artist’s presence. However, the artist can never be taken out of the creation since he is the one deciding what is introspectively important. 

The negative space is the major element of minimalism. By removing the greater specifications of an idea or subject, the hollowness accentuates particular details.

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13. Anime

Sometimes referred to as cartoons, anime adds life to memories and characters of video games, cartoons, animations, and manga. These tattoos are commonly requested by the enthusiasts of the genre who like to personify their affection for particular shows and characters. 

Anime is an amazingly famous cartoon genre throughout the world, and some enthusiasts opt to demonstrate their affection by means of body art. If you choose to get an anime tattoo style, you have to be certain that you will  have the excellent artwork feasible, like with any other kinds of tattoo. Hence, it is necessary to check into various tattoo styles to determine which one is most appropriate.

These styles preserve wistful sensations, memories of childhood, or flashbacks from different shows like Death Note, Naruto, Dragon Ball, My Neighbor Totoro, and Sailor Moon. Although the anime style can illustrate Japanese manga, it should not be mistaken with the Japanese style.

When carrying out an anime tattoo style, the artists will typically recreate the original style of the character, including the colors and proportions. This results in bright and flashy pieces with clear-cut lines.

These tattoos can also imitate the original personification and add more intricacy to it. This is attained by incorporating other tattoo styles such as trash polka, new school, or blackwork.

Some anime tattoo pieces tend to look better compared to other tattoos of the same style since some artists have more experience and skills.

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14. Surrealism

Surrealism can be illustrated as a dream-like peculiarity. It may seem that the components are physical and real, which is not really the case. This style is used to demonstrate dreams, chaotic ideas, and other aspects of the world. It tests order and logic and values artistry and wonderment.

It offers artists plenty of materials to work with. The creative style can alter and the subject may also change. The artist attains his purpose if the viewer achieves the experience of divine fantasy.

Surrealist tattoo styles are commonly comprised of the following elements: elements and objects of nature that are non-existent, abstract landscapes, and disfigurements and blends between few animal species.

Surrealism can be aesthetically understandable and not entirely anarchic or lacks meaning. It neutralizes components of realism with elements of fantasy to provide life to a hypothetical but comprehensible world, which can occasionally be utilized to illustrate a description of the senseless mind. 

The Ultimate Guide for Choosing Your Tattoo

Tattoos are special because these can last for a very long time. Thus, it is very important to consider your tattoo preference and the area where you will place it. The price will vary depending on the style, the artist’s skill, coloring, size, and the location of the tattoo. These are simply the things that you will have to consider when choosing your tattoo.

If you are planning to get a word-art tattoo, you must understand that words require more space. If you are planning to get a word or a sentence tattooed on your body part, see to it that all things are properly spelled – especially if you are going to use another language. 

The most significant thing when choosing your tattoo is to ensure that you are choosing something that would please you.

Below are some tips you can use when choosing your tattoo:

  1. After gathering some ideas on what you like for your tattoo, you can change any style to make it more suitable to your taste. For instance, if you see a particular tattoo image that you adore, you can adopt a portion of it (or you can alter the colors).
  2. If you prefer a tattoo that is entirely original, get a skilled tattoo artist to do the design for you. Do not hesitate to ask for assistance in making a unique design.
  3. Know that your imagination is the limit. It means that you have so many available options. Do not deprive yourself of extra time to brainstorm creatively. You should avoid choosing tattoos on impulse; consider all the possible options.
  4. Think about how the tattoo will be interpreted in different cultures. Will your chosen tattoo offend others? Does it signify anything that appears negative to others?
  5. If you want to get a tattoo written in Asian characters, remember to choose cautiously and verify your choice. It will be best if you research first. Do not rely on the interpretations posted on the walls.
  6. Let’s say that you underwent tattooing ten years ago – would you still want it now? If you answered no, then it only means that you have to seriously consider the tattoo you want. You have to make sure that it is something that you will still appreciate after a long time.
  7. In addition to homemade tattoos, one of the most common tattoos for removal are names. It would be safer if you avoid tattooing names. However, this is alright in some cases – such as a tattoo of your kid’s name or a special person who passed away.
  8. When choosing a tattoo, it does not necessarily have to be of deep significance. Do not be scared of putting a cartoon image if you truly like it.
  9. Remember that it is quite costly to get tattooed on the hands, feet, and face because these areas require more touch-ups. These areas also need extensive attention and time to cure. Some artists will decline to do these kinds of tattoos, particularly if you do not have tattoos on the bigger body parts. 

Final Words

Whether you choose to get an old school tattoo or the newest tattoo style, it is always recommended that you pick the tattoo style that serves as a reflection of you. Remember that it is your body and it is your life to live. Now that you know the different types of art tattoo styles, you already have an idea on what to discuss with your artist if in case you decide to get inked.

A tattoo is a beautiful form of expression. It is an interesting art style and a lifelong memento. There are different styles that will fit every unique personality. The artist will surely assist you in finding the best way to express yourself.


  1. My boyfriend and I would like to have a tattoo on our backs, which is why we’re currently looking for a shop that may do this successfully. Well, I agree with you that we must opt for a design that will represent our personality and values. Thank you for also sharing here that various types of tattoos, such as the contemporary, impressionist, and classical.


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