Classic tattoo styles you need to know

tattoo styles

There are probably thousands of styles of tattoos around now, with talented artists creating their own every day. But a lot of those designs are adapted from certain historically popular tattoo styles —many of them decades or even centuries old.

Here are some of the classic styles of tattoo art, the ones you definitely want to know before you start getting into tattoo design. If you’re looking for the perfect tattoo style, you may not be able to use the exact terminology of what you want, but in all likelihood you’ll have one of these in mind already. Figuring out how exactly you want your perfect tattoo to look like is hard, but we hope the styles below will help you narrow it down.

1. Classic Americana

These may be the first kind of tattoo you think of, an old-school style defined by bold outlines and the use of similar colors and imagery. They’re closely tied to the ocean and nautical imagery, pinup female figures, fierce predatory animals, or combinations of hearts, roses, and daggers. The tattoo style was popularized by Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins in the 1930s, but is a consistent choice today—shown here by Frankie Caraccioli of Kings Avenue Tattoo.

2. New school

New School tattoos are like a crazy comic book on your body. Jesse Smith‘s work is famous in this category, depicting fabulous imagined worlds full of chaos and very often chariactured animals in vivid color.

3. Japanese

As we showed you in a previous post, there are centuries of history for the art tattooing all over the world. One that has maintained it’s popularity is the Japanese style Irezumi. Tattoo artists still create both traditional and new takes on these classic masterpieces. And it’s a genre particularly known for large images that cover the back, arms, and legs.

4. Black and grey

Jessica Mascitti of LA’s East Side Tattoo shows us great examples of different kinds of work in a genre that can encompass a wide range of styles. Black and grey images aren’t as limited by subject matter, depicting anything and everything realistically in shades of grey, originally done by watering down black ink to create a spectrum of shades.

5. Portraiture

Shane O’Neill shows us how realistic you can get with tattoos with his portraiture, a sub-set of the realism genre (which is just like it sounds—realistic renderings of imagery). Without the black outlines of some of the more classic styles, artists are able to achieve eerily accurate renditions of people both in color and black and grey.

6. Stick and poke

Artist Slowerblack shows off the possibilities of the stick-n-poke, where the artist uses a single needle to create simple designs. Recently popularized for DIY tattoo-ers, in the hands of a professional this art can go to beautiful levels, characterized by thick and bold lines most often in simple black with small decorative patterns.

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