Although many people can discern the different tattoo styles and their characteristics, these remain unknown and extrange to most. It might not seem something too important, and many times it isn’t, but knowing how to talk about tattoos will make communication between the artist and the customer fairly effective, allowing for an easier path to the perfect tattoo for each client. In this post we will briefly explain the key features of the most relevant tattoo styles.




The traditional tattoo style, also known as old school or American traditional, is characterized by its thick and bold lines and bright colors. This style originated in the early twentieth century when Norman Collins, aka Sailor Jerry, began tattooing sailors.


Initially, the color palette used in traditional was quite limited, including red, yellow, green/blue and black. Purple was eventually added to it and then the style evolved to include a wider range of colors. Another characteristic trait of this style is the minimalistic shading which since the beginning ornamented the iconic designs displayed on sailors bodies. Among such designs the most famous ones are the roses, daggers, anchors and the swallows.



Realism or realistic


Realism has been a style prevalent in the visual arts and different points of history. It is characterized by the representation of the subject matter truthfully, as it would look in a picture. Realistic tattoos began to appear in the second half of the twentieth century and since then this style has been refined to perfection and become quite popular. Demanding skills of impressive accuracy, these tattoos can only be done by experienced artists.





This relatively recent tattoo style last bloomed in the last decades. Its colorful designs can be bright and vibrant or subdued and delicate. In spite of the many detractors warning on the poor aging of this kind of tattoos, watercolor tattoos are in high demand and many artist specialize in this new approach to tattooing.




Tribal tattoos are inspired by indigenous body art, the oldest kind of tattoo in the world. Human beings have made permanent marks to decorate their bodies for several purposes for thousands of years. The oldest evidence dates back to more than 5,000 years ago, but many historians argue that we began tattooing more than 10,000 years ago.


These primitive designs have greatly influenced modern tattoo giving birth to a renewed style characterized by geometric patterns in black ink. This style encompasses a wide variety of families of tribal tattoos inspired by indigenous art from all corners of the world.



New School


This style had it origin in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In contrast with old school, new school designs have thin outlines and a rich chromatic diversity. Its cartoonish character was inherited from popular entertainment, including its elements of caricature and exaggeration.



Neo Traditional


As decades went by, the traditional style evolved into something new. Preserving the key features of traditional tattoo, this new style incorporated an illustrative facet greatly influenced by Art Nouveau. In contraposition to its predecessor, neo traditional tattoos display a broader color palette and range of motifs. Another important difference, also inherited from Art Nouveau, is the development of ornament from simple flowers to intricate embellishment.




Traditional Japanese style has its roots in the country’s folklore. Originated during the Edo period between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, this style is characterized by colorful big pieces inspired by the stories of ancient Japan. Traditional Japanese tattoos often depict elements such the dragon, samurai, phoenix or koi fish.



As its name suggests, blackwork consists of creating art by the sole use of black ink. It is evident that this minimal limitation allows for a great diversity of styles to be included in blackwork. From the use of dotwork and linework to create different textures and shadings, to the intricate compositions of black shapes, blackwork allows to create designs ranging from illustrative to tribal styles.



As we said before, these are only some of the tattoo styles out there. The classification of tattoo styles will never be as simple as this, since many tattoos combine features of different styles, some artists incorporate their own touch to their artwork, and each style englobes a variety of sub-styles. Nevertheless, we hope that now your understanding of the world of tattoo is a bit clearer thanks to this post.