Different tattoo styles and design types: the guide for those who want to figure it out

When choosing a tattoo style, it is important to know the deep symbolism of the elements and the history of the origin. The tattoo that adorns your body should be in tune with your style and principles.
Over the years of its existence, tattoo styles have come a long way. If initially wearable drawings represented simple tattoos of lines, then later they became full-fledged paintings.
For this, in this article we will analyze what styles of tattoos come from, where it came from, and what it mean now.

Mark Blankenship

Tattoo style selection guide: when you have no regrets

Therefore, before doing this, it is necessary to take into account several nuances:

  • Only fill tattoos that you really like. No need to follow any modern fashion trends and the advice of friends.
  • The figure should fully correspond to your lifestyle and physique. So, a large man will look ridiculous with a cartoon hero on his leg.
  • If you are in doubt about the election, you can always consult with the master immediately before the procedure.
  • Do not be surprised if the tattoo mater refuses to do this or that drawing. The specialists in this industry are creative people, therefore, they may have any prejudices regarding one or another style.
  • Any tattoo is a unique creation, which no one else has and never will have. Therefore, the meaning of this picture is laid by you.
  • As in any other business, saving on a tattoo is not worth it. Indeed, in this case, you risk in a few years instead of a beautiful picture to get a blurry spot.
  • Make a tattoo on a sober and clear head.

What types of tattoo styles are there

In the fashion world, there are more than 40 different styles of tattoos. Each of these pictures has a long history and is distinguished by a unique style of performance.

Technique First

Traditional Tattoo Style (Classic Americana)

The meaning of almost all sketches for a traditional tattoo is “in the palm of your hand”. In the modern tattoo industry, all experienced masters say that artistic tattoo does not matter. But lovers of traditional drawings still sometimes try to find the background in their tattoos.

For example, a person who has survived a breakup chooses a sketch of a heart split in half, and one who loves gambling is interested in drawings featuring cards or dice.

New School Tattoo Style

Modern body art is brighter, lighter, more affectionate than the old tattoo style. It is lively, realistic, beautiful, and sometimes almost unbearable style. But this is precisely what makes him what he is — proud, cheerful, colorful, and in the artistic sense much more complex in design. Another aspect of the new tattoo styles is that it takes a 2 or 3 dimensional look and the old style is usually smooth or 1 dimensional.

Neo Traditional Tattoo Style

The main feature of the Neo — Traditional tattoo style is clear edges and an image that is understandable to everyone. This style is performed both in color and in black.

Popular works in this style most often depict people or animals. As a rule, the first and second look quite aggressively from the body decorated with a tattoo. Sometimes the neo-traditional style depicts skulls or existing objects in the form of crafts and toys. Performed insects are most often masked in different patterns.

Irezumi\Japanese Tattoo Style

Initially, Irezumi wore a criminal connotation — she was stuffed with a man for the crime he committed. It was a kind of lifelong label: «criminal.» After leaving prison, a man, in order to “erase the past”, tried to disguise such a tattoo, supplementing Irezumi with new details and colors. As a result, the picture grew to incredible sizes.

The appearance of Japanese patterns, for the most part, is asymmetrical, having a smooth contour, which is displayed in thin and neat lines. As for the saturation of the image, with the right dosage of tones, the effect is incredibly beautiful. Using a special filling technique, the edge of the tattoo is brighter, and the central part of the tattoo, on the contrary, is dimmer.


Graffiti tattoos are a popular trend in the art of tattooing, with the help of which they express protest, extraordinary thoughts and feelings. The transfer of street culture elements to the body gives the image a special meaning. 

The master creates an inscription in the original performance, which emphasizes the character and lifestyle of a person.

Trash Polka

Thrash is rubbish, something brutal and dirty. That is, in simple terms — unadorned harsh everyday life. You won’t have cute teddy bears and butterflies in your stomach. 

Because the reality is murders, drug dealers on the streets, slums and other problems that mankind has been unsuccessfully trying to fight for hundreds of years.


At first glance, abstract tattoos are a new trend, but in fact they have a rich history. The first tattoos in the style of abstractionism were used even by Indian and Scythian tribes hundreds and thousands of years ago.

The essence of abstract tattoos is that deep images are embedded in simple images, accessible to understanding only by the elite.

Realism or realistic tattoo style

The basis for creating realistic tattoos can be beautiful images or photographs of loved ones. Also, you can use photos of your favorite actors and famous people, as well as images of animals and plants. The choice of picture depends on your personal preferences and tastes. It is worth noting that realistic tattoos can be made in any color scheme.

It can be both Realistic Black & Gray Tattoos, and Realistic Color Tattoos. Even tattoos in black and white are particularly bright and realistic. 

Surrealist / Horror

A tattoo in the original style of surrealism is suitable for creative people who want to colorize gray everyday life and move away from conventions. Such people are purposeful and extraordinary by nature, have their own opinion on any issue, always achieve what they want. It is surrealistic tattoos that help to express your inner self and outlook on life, to touch the unknown.

When color matters

Blackwork Tattoo Style

Blackwork style tattoo is a drawing of a large — sized picture on a skin area, in which only black color prevails. Many tattoo lovers quite often prefer to decorate their body with one of the most unusual, fascinating and interesting styles. 

Some people, far from blackwork people, such a picture may scare or seem strange. Recently, however, an increasing number of tattoo lovers have been delighted with the simplicity and minimalism of this style.

Black and Gray

This style involves drawing a three-dimensional image and the presence of halftones in the illustration. He is able to merge with almost all areas of tattoo art. 

In the black and gray technique, for example, realistic portraits transferred from photographs, animal images in the style of tribal, etc. can be performed. In the black and gray, a portrait, a pattern, and an abstract pattern can be executed.

Glow In The Dark / UV Ink

Tattoos of this type are no different from the rest, with the exception of one detail — they are made with ultraviolet paints.

That is, in the light of the day such wearable designs are not visible. They become noticeable only at night.

White Ink Tattoos

White ink tattoos are a popular body decoration option. Outwardly, they resemble artistic scarring, but differ in a more neat appearance and are much less painful.

Ancient history of faith

Tribal Tattoo Style

Although tribal and a common style in tattooing, for many it still remains a mystery what it actually means. These patterns came from the traditional tribes of Africa, America and other places. The sailors, impressed by such visual appeal, brought them at one time. But this is not just a beautiful picture. For Aboriginal people, it was a real amulet that helped drive away various evil spirits.

Chicano\Religious Tattoos

The main image of this kind of tattoos, of course, is Jesus. His image is presented either in a light shine, or crucified on the cross. Such painting means deep faith, love of God, and a sincere desire to help people.

Polynesian, Samoan, Maori, and Tahitian

This type of body art became popular about 100 years ago. In the beginning, the outline of people began to attract a unique shape from intricate geometric shapes.That in these tattoos you can encrypt any information that only a professional can learn about.


Haida tattoo is a special drawing applied to the body of the Indians. Tattoos were used in ancient times, but such tattoos were not applied for the sake of fashion. 

Each tribe or nationality had its own drawings, which emphasized only their identity. Within the tribe, tattoos had special meanings. From the drawing, we can conclude to which genus the person belongs.


A person who prefers a Celtic pattern should understand that he will personify with his tattoo. 

Often, ornaments are chosen by people who are strong in spirit, who are swift and persistent, go to their goal, regardless of the problems encountered. 

Often they are domineering, or they want to subjugate others with their outward severity.


Mandala tattoos are not just a bunch of weird characters or beautifully painted geometric shapes. 

For Buddhists and Hindus, this image has a sacred meaning, it can dramatically affect the life of the owner of the tattoo.

Graphic in every line and dot

Lettering and Ambigrams

An ambigram is the word shifter or (scientifically) calligraphic pattern that allows you to combine two different readings from the same set of lines.


Polygons is simple, beautiful, concise and infinitely diverse style that inspire many modern designers. From them you can make abstract compositions and stylish illustrations of any complexity.


Geometry style tattoo is when an artist turns your favorite animal, image of an idol, plant or nature into a fresh and unusual tattoo in the form of geometric shapes.

Fine Line

Tattoo style Fine line, like many others have their own characteristics and nuances. They can be displayed both in patterns of lines, and in the colors or images of animals.

Line work is a style in which a sketch is created from one line. Yes, some lines and nothing else. This style is still very young and was born recently, less than ten years ago. 

It reached the original performance very quickly and became popular. Currently, images in this style are used now in all tattoo parlors in the world.


The name of the style comes from the French word pointiller — “write with dots,” based on the color scientific theory of the laws of fusion on the retina, the natural perception of sunlight and color in nature.


The main feature of the style is that it is based on a kind of point technology.

So, the whole tattoo is made up of dots. As a rule, all such works are large.

Stick and poke

Hand poked tattoo or «stick and poke» — tattoos made without using a machine.

Traditional drawing and tattoos

Illustrative Tattoo Style

As for this style, it is chosen by people who want to see on their body not just patterns, but images of real places or animals. Such masterpieces are performed in colored colors and are suitable for both men and women.


Very often, for portrait tattoos, choose a photo of important and beloved people. It can be wives, husbands, children or parents. Images of idols are also quite popular. 

Believers often prick God on their bodies. There are also tattoos with the image of actors, singers, writers — each person has their own reasons for this choice.


These drawings are a kind of reminder of a person who was dear to you and prematurely passed away.

Also some people using this style. They are stained on the body with significant dates for them.

Sketch style

Sketch style tattoo — a kind of tattoo style consisting of drawings in the form of sketches, sketches, translucent outlines.

Sketch tattoos involve light and distinctive drawings that are difficult to confuse with drawings of other tattoo styles.

Like a sketch of a pencil on a white sheet of paper, a sketch style tattoo is distinguished by its grandiose artistry and extraordinary beauty.

Images of portraits, animals, subtle patterns and interlacing of strokes look very realistic and harmonious. A tattoo artist who works in this style must be a real artist and creator of the beautiful, so that the drawing comes out truly “alive”

Cartoon / Anime Tattoos

Tattoos with cartoon characters appeared a very long time ago. A separate and relatively new direction is anime.

The meanings of cartoon tattoos vary greatly depending on the characters that are depicted.

Firstly, of course, any tattoo with a cartoon character conveys the character and life position of the character himself.

A man wants to emphasize quality, he conveyed in his tattoo.

Watercolor Tattoo Style

Watercolor tattoo style is real creativity, artistic improvisation or a certain pattern. This is a professionally embodied painting on the human body. 

A simple watercolor technique takes us to the early years when we experiment with watercolor paints that paint not only sheets of paper, but also ourselves.

These experiments have been preserved in our memory with enthusiastic impressions to this day. Now these emotions can be translated into reality.

Styling the surface of unusual materials


As a rule, biomechanical tattoos have no meaning and do not carry a semantic load. They are a simple depiction of the surprisingly new inner world of a person.

But despite this, these tattoos are very complicated in execution due to the impressive amount of work, thanks to which an experienced and talented master needs to achieve three-dimensionality as accurately as possible.

Wood Carving

If a tattoo master can perform similar work, then he has reached the pinnacle of excellence.

These three-dimensional drawings are made in the form of figures and objects cut from a tree.

Stonework Style

A tattoo with the image of a stone means constancy, strength, protection, destruction, cosmic energy, endurance, strong spirit, support, truth, oath, ability to keep words, strength of character, courage, determination, beauty, integrity of a person, determination.

What different tattoo styles and types go together

Many modern fashionistas believe that if you once made a tattoo of a certain style, then the next one must be in the same direction. But this is a fallacy. 

Your body may have several different drawing styles at once. So, a Celtic tattoo on the leg can look harmoniously with the geometry on the chest. Or multitask drawings will be nice to combine with a portrait or illustration.

If you are fascinated by the beauty of tattoos, then why not decide to professional retrain? By creating paintings on the skin, you could become famous. To understand the application technique and styles, I recommend specialized courses.