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Tattoo Styles Guide for Newbies


Tattooing has been around for centuries, and it's only natural that tattoo styles have evolved over time. From traditional style tattoos to modern variations like the geometric tattoo style, the possibilities are virtually endless.

But no matter how tattoo forms have changed, tattoo style guides remain an important tool for aspiring tattoo artists and enthusiasts alike. In this article, we'll explore some of the most popular tattoo styles so you can get a better understanding of the art form.

Why are Tattoo Styles Important to Tattoo Artists?

Understanding tattoo styles allow tattoo artists to create unique and meaningful designs for their clients. Tattooing is an expression of art, and tattoo artists use different tattoo styles as a way to express themselves through the designs they create.

Tattoo styles can be intricate and complex, requiring a high level of skill and precision to execute properly. As such, tattoo artists often develop their own unique tattoo styles based on traditional approaches and modern techniques. By honing their tattoo style, tattoo artists can make a name for themselves and become renowned for the quality of their work.

Why Should Tattoo Style Matter to Clients?

Tattoo style matters to tattoo clients for a variety of reasons. Tattoo styles can differ greatly in terms of aesthetics so picking a style that suits their individual preferences is important. Clients should think carefully about their desired design and style to ensure their new tattoo conveys their intended message.

Different tattoo styles require different levels of skill and experience in order to execute them properly. By carefully selecting a tattoo artist who is knowledgeable and experienced in the tattoo style of their choice, clients can ensure that their tattoo is executed to the highest standards. (For example, there is little point asking a black and grey geometric specialist to carry out a full-colour portrait tattoo).

Not only should this guarantee them a tattoo they'll be proud of, but it also reduces the risk of any potential complications or mistakes that could occur if the tattoo is done improperly.

Traditional Tattoos

The traditional tattoo style is one of the oldest tattooing styles, with a history that dates back hundreds of years. Traditional tattoo designs are characterized by bold lines, vibrant colours and iconic imagery, such as skulls, roses and nautical stars.

Traditional tattoos by davidoneilltattooer


Due to its historical roots, people who specialise in this tattoo style are commonly considered to create old school tattoos. It is often associated with tattoo culture in the United States, particularly on the East Coast. The designs are typically large, detailed and often incorporate themes that are meaningful to tattoo clients such as patriotism or a tribute to a loved one.

Why not take a look at this Radiant Colors Traditional Colour Set for the perfect colour palette for this style of tattooing.

Neo-Traditional Tattoos

The neo-traditional tattoo style pays homage to traditional tattooing while adding modern touches. Unlike traditional tattoo designs, neo-traditional tattoos feature more realism and detail to create a tattoo that looks more lifelike.

Instead of bold lines, colours and iconic imagery like in traditional tattoos, neo-traditional tattoo designs use a greater variety of lines and vivid colour palettes to create a tattoo that is both distinctive and timeless.

Neo-traditional tattoos by theyoul


A neo-traditional tattoo can appear quite similar to the traditional tattoo style, in the sense that they both use dark outlines and shading. However, compared to traditional tattoos, the neo-traditional style uses a darker colour palette, incorporating elements of nature in the colours and design.

Realism Tattoos

As the name suggests, realism tattoos are designs that seek to replicate a subject as realistically as possible. The realism tattoo style requires incredibly detailed artwork and realistic shading, with tattoo artists often using photographs as a reference in order to recreate fine details accurately.

Realism tattoos by hacelladislav


When working within the realism tattoo style, tattoo artists strive to blend colours and shadows in such a way that it appears to be three-dimensional on the skin. This tattoo style is perfect for tattoo clients who are looking to get a portrait tattoo, or any other tattoo that they want to look as realistic as possible.

Check out our selection of black and grey inks here to help craft the perfect realism tattoo. 

Biomechanical Tattoos

Biomechanical tattoo designs feature images of robotic parts, often with an underlying theme that conveys the idea of melding man with machine. They often have a science-fiction theme and widely incorporate images such as gears, pistons, cogs and screws.

The biomechanical tattoo style often uses dark lines and shading to give the tattoo a mechanical look. This tattoo style is most commonly seen on the arms, chests and ribs.

New School Tattoos

New school tattooing is a tattoo style that emerged in the late twentieth century and continues to be popular today. It is characterised by cartoon-like, or stylised pop art tattoos with exaggerated features and bright colours. This tattoo style can also include elements of surrealism, as tattoo artists are able to use the tattoo design to create an almost dream-like effect.

New school tattoos by mattyroughneck


The new school tattoo style is often seen as an extension of traditional tattoo designs, combining classic tattoo elements with bold lines and vibrant colours. The result is tattoo designs that are eye-catching and unique and can range from humorous to serious, depending on the tattoo client's preference. New school tattoos are perfect for those looking to stand out from the crowd.

Geometric Tattoos

Geometric tattoos are tattoo designs that feature geometric shapes and patterns, such as circles, lines, squares and triangles. These tattoo designs can be simple or more complex, depending on the tattoo client's desired design.

Geometric tattoos by tkennedyuk


Geometric tattoos have been around for a long time and are one of the most popular styles among tattoo enthusiasts due to its minimalist and symbolic design elements. Geometric tattoo designs often feature mandalas or other spiritual symbols. The geometric tattoo style is also well-suited for both clients looking for small or large tattoos.

Japanese Tattoos

Japanese tattoos are known for their unique style, which incorporates bold lines and a vibrant colour palette. The Japanese tattoo style often features traditional Japanese motifs such as dragons, tigers, and koi fish, which can be used to tell stories or express personal beliefs.

Tattoos done in the Japanese style can be very detailed and require an artist's skilful hand to perfect the tattoo design.

Japanese tattoos by dannywildhorses


For traditional Japanese shades, why not take a look at this Intenze Dragon Ink Set?

Tribal Tattoos

The tribal tattoo style uses bold lines and intricate designs to create a blackwork tattoo that is visually striking. Tribal tattoos typically feature patterns and shapes derived from ancient tribal cultures, with tattoo artists often using their own individual spin on the design.

Tribal tattoos are often used to represent strength and power, as well as an expression of one's spiritual beliefs. This tattoo style can range from small and subtle to bold and striking, depending on the tattoo client's desired design.

Find the perfect black tattoo ink here.

Watercolour Tattoos

Watercolour tattoos are a relatively new tattoo style that have become increasingly popular in the tattoo industry over the past few years. The watercolour tattoo style is characterised by its use of softer, muted colour palettes, as well as a painterly, watercolour-like effect that gives intricate tattoos a delicate and ethereal appearance.

Watercolour tattoos by noemi_tattoo


How To Find Your Own Tattoo Style as a Tattoo Artist

Finding your own style is a process that requires time, patience and practice. It involves understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, experimenting with different techniques and materials, and exploring popular tattoo styles from all over the world. A tattoo artist should strive to create artwork that is reflective of their own individual style while also staying true to the client's wishes.

It can be best to start by familiarising yourself with some of the more classic tattoo styles such as traditional, tribal, and Japanese style tattoos. This will provide a better understanding of some of the fundamentals before starting to explore and experiment with your own tattoo designs.

Once you gain a better understanding of these different tattoo styles, you should then look to explore more modern styles such as watercolour or geometric tattoos. These other styles will help develop an understanding of tattoo trends and what works for different types of clients.

Finding the perfect tattoo style for you will take time and practice. However, it is an important process to undergo as it will help you hone your craft, develop as a skilled tattoo artist and create tattoo designs that both tattooists and clients alike can appreciate.

If you're looking for more ways to practice your tattoo style, find out more in our blog: 'Which Fake Tattoo Skin is the Best?'

Last updated February 2023.

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  • Matthew Nelson