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9 Classic Tattoo Styles

by Amanda Vermeer on Jan 13, 2022

9 Classic Tattoo Styles

Traditional tattoos - also known as American traditional or old school - are easily recognizable with bold, black linework and deep, saturated colors. Most have little to no shading, offering a 2-dimensional look with simple yet striking designs.

@NickAdamTattoo on Instagram

Similar to traditional tattoos, the neo-traditional style utilizes bold colors and defined linework. The main difference is that neo-traditional tattoos tend to have much brighter colors and more variation in line weight. 

@TiagoBorgesTattoos on Instagram

Stick-and-poke is a type of tattooing without electricity that can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt. Ink is applied to the skin without using a tattoo machine, usually by needle attached to something to make holding it easier. Stick-and-poke is becoming increasingly more popular as of late among younger generations, especially with its trendiness on TikTok during quarantine.

@Almudena.Rocca on Instagram

Watercolor tattoos utilize a few different techniques to give the illusion of a watercolor painting on the skin. Bright colors, gradual color filling, and subtle color gradients between those vivid colors create the effect. The watercolor illusion is usually combined with bold black text or designs overtop for a striking contrast.

@YdTattoo on Instagram

Realism, also called photorealism, is easily one of the most intricate tattoo styles out there. Taking a photograph or real life object and creating a tattoo to look exactly like the reference is a skill that takes years to master, and looks absolutely mind blowing when completed.

@JamieMahood on Instagram

Tribal tattooing has been around for centuries, stemming from ancient tribal rituals across many cultures and groups of people - perhaps most notably Polynesian culture. The style has maintained the root inspiration throughout modern evolutions, and is still widely practiced today.

@IupatiCustomArts on Instagram

The style of traditional Japanese tattooing is called “Wabori”. Originally completed using needles attached to sticks of bamboo, each tattoo highlights Japanese culture and showcases different important elements, such as flowers, animals, and water. Portraits are also a common feature of Wabori. Western interpretations of this traditional Japanese style are referred to as “youbori”.

@NewLove_Tattoo on Instagram

New school tattooing is a style that evolved from old school tattooing around the 1970s. Common elements of new school tattoos include exaggerated, 3-dimensional depictions of characters, bright, vibrant colors, and bold outlines. It’s often thought of as the most relaxed tattooing style in terms of rules - as long as the design has one or multiple of these elements, it can be considered new school.

@KellyDotyLovesSoup on Instagram

Blackwork tattooing is exactly as it sounds - tattoos created with black ink. Heavy, thick outlines, large areas completely blocked in with black, and deep shading make these tattoos easily recognizable. Blackwork tattoos utilize the negative spaces of exposed skin to create contrast, allowing even the most delicate of designs to pop.


@MattWMurray on Instagram

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