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Tattoo Styles | Your Full List (19+)

Tattoo Styles | The Basics

How many styles of clothing are out there? How many music genres? Hell, how many colors exist? These are tough questions, considering every person has an opinion on just how much variety in a style or color is allowed before it becomes a new, distinct subset all its own.

Unfortunately, this means we can’t tell you about every tattoo style in the world – but we can get damn close.

“An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.” — James Whistler

A tattoo style is the general look and feel of a tattoo, not the matter or image/writing. Think of it like any other art form – you can tell when an artist is painting in a specific style, regardless of what the painting depicts.

Though many tattoo styles have been around for decades or even centuries, some have adapted or blended with others – creating a melding hybrid. When you add that every artist has their own style, flair, or edge, you see why the lines between tattoo styles are blurry at best. Regardless, here are all of the most common, popular, and distinct tattoo styles that we at Lamar Street Tattoo Club loves.

Tatto Crafted with Perfection

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All the Most Popular Tattoo Styles

Classic Americana Tattoo Style

These can be called ‘Traditional’ or ‘Old School’ tattoos as well – and perhaps the best way to describe them is to picture a Navy man in the 1930s. Bold black lines and bright colors are trademarks of the classic Americana tattoo style. Often, the imagery contains themes of the ocean or nautical imagery, pinups, predators, hearts, roses, thorns, and daggers.

See examples here!

Neo Traditional Tattoo Style

Like their precursor, Neo Traditional tattoos often have bold lines but a more illustrative look, with brighter, more modern colors and more dimension without exaggerated 3D effects. Neo Traditional tattoo styles are like a comic book or graphic novel on your skin.

See examples here!

New School Tattoo Style

If you move a bit further away from Americana and past Neo Traditional, then you land at New School tattoos which have a distinct graffiti or cartoon feel, along with bright colors and frequent pop culture references.

See examples here!

Japanese Tattoo Style

Classic Japanese tattoo styles have been popular for centuries. They often tell stories, use symbolism, and have historical or traditional meanings. Often, Japanese style tattoos cover large areas, like the back, arms, or legs.

See examples here!

Black & Gray Tattoo Style

As the name describes, the black and gray tattoo style really only limits colors used, as any subject matter can be depicted. This style tends to be more realistic with shading in grays by diluting the black ink to gather a spectrum of shades.

See examples here!

Portraiture Tattoo Style

The Portraiture tattoo style is a genre within realism. However, as the name suggests, this style is used for the likeness of people, often with incredible accuracy in black, white, and grayscale.

See examples here!

Stick & Poke Tattoo Style

Stick-n-poke uses a single needle to create simple designs, this is reminiscent of many cultures’ traditional tattooing styles. Often, this style uses thick and bold lines, usually in black, with small decorative dots or patterns.

See examples here!

Realism Tattoo Style

The Realism tattoo style is exactly as it sounds…real-looking tattoos. This tattoo style looks like a photograph and can be in color or black and grayscale. Realism tattoos are often used to commemorate someone or something, as realistic tattoos can portray anything from scenery or objects to animals and people.

See examples here!

Blackwork Tattoo Style

Blackwork tattoo style originally came from the first tribal tattoos, made of thick and bold black lines in a variety of geometric shapes and patterns. Now, artists often add in imagery derived from different sources to create an image that is unique and seems to capture swirling movement in different forms around the body.

See examples here!

Biomechanical Tattoo Style

These tattoos are often done freehanded and are meant to adapt to the individual’s body and muscle movement. And, as the name lends, it is also meant to mimic machinery hidden under the skin.

See examples here!

Sketch Tattoo Style

Sketch tattoos are meant to mimic hand-drawn images. This can be done with resemblances to brush or pen marks, incomplete strokes, overlapping lines, or ‘incomplete’ elements. In addition, the shading is often bold and rough as well, with a heavy emphasis on negative space.

See examples here!

Fine Line or Aesthetic Tattoo Style

The Fine Line or Aesthetic tattoo style is characterized most often by thin lines with no shading or gradation of colors. These tattoos emphasize the image, the lines, and not the colors, textures, or shading. They are also often delicate due to their thin lines, though this doesn’t mean they have to be small.

See examples here!

Geometric Tattoo Style

Geometric tattoos are very popular yet have the ability to be timeless, as they are mainly shapes and lines, which – let’s be honest – will always be in style. Using geometric designs on bodies that are decidedly not geometric is a stunning contrast. A combination of geometric and organic/floral is often used to soften the otherwise ‘hard’ shapes.

See examples here!

Realistic Trash Polka Tattoo Style

Realistic Trash Polka is instantly recognizable for its collage-like feel, as it can include almost anything, all jumbled together in a unique and pleasantly ‘chaotic’ blend. Trash Polka tattoo style can mix blackwork, realism, and a little splash of everything else as well and usually only has black and red.

See examples here!

Surrealism Tattoo Style

Surrealism tattoos are just like the general art genre of surrealism. This gives artists more material and options to work with, and the more creativity given, the more amazing the artwork. This tattoo style is about fantasy and is the opposite of realism.

See examples here!

Watercolor Tattoo Style

Watercolor tattoos are bright, vivid, and look like a watercolor painting with color changes and gradients in a rainbow of hues. This style is softer and more watered at the edges, looking much more like paint than traditional ink.

See examples here!

Tribal Tattoo Style

Many cultures hold as the originators of tribal style tattooing, including the Aztec and Borneo cultures, Samoa, Hawaii, India, Polynesia, and the Maori people of New Zealand. This tattoo style is mainly characterized by solid black dots and lines, traditionally meant for ritualistic or sacred places, as well as storytelling and memories.

See examples here!

Illustrative Tattoo Style

Illustrative tattoos come from both traditionalism and realism. They typically use black outlines, the same as traditional tattoos, and can have color or be only black. What differentiates these tattoos from traditional ones is that it aims to look drawn or animated instead of photo-realistic. This is one of the instances where two styles can blend to make a new one.

See examples here!

Chicano Tattoo Style

The Chicano tattoo style often shows women, skulls, flowers, and religious figures, often in black and grayscale. This style has heavy symbolism and meaning, connections to the Chicano culture, as well as religious and group dynamic connotations.

See examples here!

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