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Tattoo Style Guides for Newbies


The art of tattooing has become so common that tattoo styles and variations are continuously increasing. From traditional, to portrait, to blackwork, geometric, water colour etc. But all these forms were derived from classic tattoo styles. This is why it is still important to learn and master classic tattoo guide styles no matter how tattoo forms has evolved over the years. 

Here's a tattoo style guide for aspiring tattoo artists and for tattoo enthusiasts as well. 

Traditional Tattoos

Of course one of the classic tattoo style is the traditional tattoos. It's sometimes called Old School. This is the oldest form of tattooing next to ancient tribal techniques. Traditional Tattoos are composed of designs that have solid black outlines. These tattoos usually have less details and colours. 

Neo Traditional Tattoos

Neo traditional tattoos are almost similar to traditional tattoos, in the sense that it uses dark outlines and shadings. But compared to traditional tattoos, neo traditional style uses darker colour palettes. Neo Traditional tattoos usually incorporate elements of nature in the colours and design.

Realism Tattoos

A tattoo artist needs to be detail oriented to be able to achieve this style. As the name itself, realism tattoos are detailed designs that look incredibly real and true to life. Most realism tattoos include portraits.

Biomechanical Tattoos

If you’ve seen people with cyborg looking tattoos, then you’ve probably seen biomechanical tattoos. This tattoo style mimics machinery that are hidden within the skin. Most people use this style on arms and ribs.

New School Tattoos

If there’s old school tattoos, there’s also new school tattoos. This tattoo style is inspired by graffiti techniques. New school style is usually applied to cartoon designed tattoos. This style uses bright colours and exaggerated dimensions.

Geometric Tattoos

Geometric tattoos consist of lines, patterns, or multiple shapes. The lines or shapes are repeated over a field to create a design. Most minimalist tattoos use this style.

Japanese Tattoos

Japanese tattooing used to be one of the most sacred form of art. The Japanese tattoo style is used for tattoos with detailed designs that cover a large area of the body. If you see beautiful landscape tattoos on someone’s back or chest, it’s definitely a Japanese styled tattoo. This style is not only limited to landscape designs. You can also see Japanese styled tattoos with designs such as dragons, animals, and samurais.

Tribal Tattoos

Another most common tattoo style are the tribal tattoos. This was inspired by certain indigenous backgrounds or culture. Tribal tattoos are done using black ink. Designs using tribal style are usually inspired from Aztec, Native America, Maori, Pagan, Tahitian Wiccan, and other ethnic cultures.


These are just some of the basic and classic tattoo styles. If you want to learn about the other tattoo styles, you need research by speaking with other tattoo artists, reading modern tattoo style guides, and exploring by experimenting and combining different styles. This might even help you create a unique design that will draw customers to your tattoo shop.


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  • Matthew Nelson