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.
Tattoo Styles | The Basics
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We Know Our Tattoos
Lamar Street Tattoo Club has diverse and talented tattoo artists, which means we are practiced in many styles. Ask us about yours! Whether you already know exactly what you want or you are looking to collaborate, send us a submission form and we’ll get back to you with a consultation, appointment time, and tattoo artist recommendation.
Walk-ins Always Welcome, Appointments Preferred.