Tattoo Styles – The Complete Guide

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Tattoo art is a highly personal expression that should not be taken lightly – but with so many unique styles to choose from, finding the right one can seem overwhelming. This expert guide has all you need to know about traditional Japanese designs and other popular techniques like realistic portraiture, enabling you make an informed decision on your perfect piece of body art.

Abstract Tattoo Style

Abstract tattoos are a type of tattooing style that focuses on creating designs that are open to interpretation. This means abstract tattoos may look different from person to person, as the tattoo artist and patron collaborate on a design that is meaningful to them.

Abstract Tattoo Style
Abstract Tattoo Style (Photo by Seyi Ariyo on Unsplash)

Anime and Cartoon Tattoo Style

Cartoon tattoos have been gaining in popularity and are now one of the most popular tattoo categories. From classic characters such as Taz, Calvin and Hobbes or anime characters like Battle Angel Alita or Sailor Moon, anime and cartoon tattoos are easily customized to reflect personal styles and tastes. They also carry a sense of nostalgia for many people and represent a major part of pop culture history.

Anime and Cartoon Tattoo Style
Anime and Cartoon Tattoo Style (Photo by Danny Choo / CC BY)

Animal Tattoo Style

Animal tattoos remain a timeless, classic choice for tattoo design. In fact, statistics suggest that up to one quarter of all tattoos feature at least some type of animal-related imagery – from intricate scenes to subtle solo creatures.

Animal tattoos offer a unique way for people to express themselves, from emphasizing their own personality traits or serving as an enduring reminder of a place that holds special significance. Alternatively, many find animal designs simply irresistible in terms of visual aesthetics.

Animal Tattoo Style - Lion
Animal Tattoo Style – Lion (Photo by Najib Kalil on Unsplash)

Biker Tattoo Style

For numerous biking devotees, tattoos and bikes pair perfectly. Their body art is designed to commemorate the biker lifestyle – from sleek motorcycles to supportive clubs and partners. One of the most popular tattoo designs? “Live To Ride And Ride To Live”, a moto-themed motto that speaks volumes about passion for their two wheeled obsessions.

Biker Tattoo Style
Biker Tattoo Style (Photo by Tony Alter / CC BY)

Biomechanical Tattoo Style

The mechanical style of tattooing, popularized through iconic films such as Alien and Terminator, invokes a mesmerizing image where the human dermis reveals its inner machinery instead of traditional anatomy.

Biomechanical Tattoo Style
Biomechanical Tattoo Style (Photo by Ettore Bechis / CC BY)

Black and Grey Tattoo Style

Tattoo aficionados are flocking to the popular Black and Grey style that uses varying tones of black ink to bring designs alive with amazing detail. This trend is creating an incredible, realistic effect for a truly unique body art experience.

Black and Gray Tattoo Style
Black and Gray Tattoo Style (Photo by Jannis Lucas on Unsplash)

Blackwork Tattoo Style

When selecting a tattoo design, many opt for the timeless look of black and gray artwork (and also “blackwork tattoos”). Alternatively, some go with bolder color options – especially when choosing an indigenous Polynesian style. With either option, you can create stunning visual pieces that truly stand out.

Blackwork Tattoo Style
Blackwork Tattoo Style (Photo by Darren Nunis on Unsplash)

Celtic Tattoo Style

Tattoo designs with intricate knotwork can be used to create complex images. These kinds of tattoos are often inspired by the artwork found in ancient illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells. This type of tattooing is an excellent way for people to express themselves through body art that is both aesthetically pleasing and meaningful. The Celtic Cross is a great example.

Celtic Tattoo Style
Celtic Tattoo Style (Photo by Jon Dawson / CC BY)

Chinese / Japanese Characters Tattoo Style

With tattoos becoming a popular form of self-expression, many are turning to foreign characters as an intriguing way to represent their names or core values. However, it’s vital that caution is taken when selecting this type of ink – cultural nuances can make all the difference between representing courage and mystery versus something more peculiar! Doing your due diligence by verifying with native speakers or dictionaries ensures you end up with meaningful symbols for years down the road.

Chinese and Japanese Lettering Tattoo Style
Chinese and Japanese Lettering Tattoo Style (Photo by Willian Soares / CC BY)

Continuous Line Contour Tattoo Style

This style of tattooing is characterized by the use of bold, uninterrupted lines and shapes to create flowing, harmonious designs that evoke a sense of movement. Continuous line tattoos can be used to create a variety of designs, from simple sketches to complex pieces that feature intricate details.

Continuous Line Contour Style Tattoo
Continuous Line Contour Style Tattoo (Photo by Toan Nguyen on Unsplash)

Death / Memento Mori Tattoo Style

It is easy to assume that the use of death imagery such as skulls and crossbones is horror movie-inspired or a Goth fashion statement. In reality, these symbols are more than just an aesthetic choice; they represent memento mori, which is Latin for “remember you must die”. This phrase may sound depressing at first, but it’s actually a reminder to live life to its fullest potential while we still can.

Death Tattoo Style
Death Tattoo Style (Photo by Sabrina May on Unsplash)

Dotwork Tattoo Style

Dotwork tattoos possess a unique, hand-crafted quality that makes them stand out from other forms of tattoo art. By carefully dotting small patterns into the skin with precision and skill, an artist can create intricate designs ranging from realistic images to various abstract shapes and symbols – all crafted in beautiful detail!

Dotwork Tattoo Style
Dotwork Tattoo Style (Photo by Eduardo Vaccari on Unsplash)

Egyptian Tattoo Style

The decorations found on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs have been a major source of inspiration for tattoo designs. People may choose to spell out their names in hieroglyphs, copy text from the Book of the Dead, or get a portrait of Tut’s funeral mask. Hieroglyphs can be used to phonetically spell words and names as well as express an idea, similar to Chinese and Japanese characters.

Tattoo Trivia: At some point in the 1960s, when bikers were feared as outlaws and criminals, the American Motorcycle Association announced that only 1% of the riders in the country were actually outlaws. Proud to be considered part of that fringe element, then and now, bikers will still sometimes get a tattoo which simply reads “1%.”

Egyptian Tattoo Style
Egyptian Tattoo Style (Photo by H.F.E & Co Studio on Unsplash)

Fine Art Tattoo Style

For centuries, art has captivated and inspired not only the eyes of audiences in museums, but also those etched into skin through tattoos. Tattooists have recreated timeless classics such as Michelangelo’s Creation Of Adam from the Sistine Chapel or Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring in stunning detail – whether it be a watercolor rendition or even an embossed sculpture.

Fine Art Tattoo Style
Fine Art Tattoo Style (Photo by Eric Vieira on Unsplash)

Fine Line Tattoo Style

Fine Line Tattoo Style offers a unique approach to tattooing, with its emphasis on creating intricate designs that are both visually stunning and meaningful. Featuring nature-inspired elements like flowers, birds, and animals, this type of artwork captures the beauty of our natural world in an inspired way.

Fine Line Tattoo Style
Fine Line Tattoo Style (Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash)

Floral Tattoo Style

From vibrant single blooms to elaborate armbands, flower tattoos bring an endless array of possibilities for creativity and personalization. Embrace the beauty of these florid designs with their wide range of colors, shapes and symbolic meanings – making them a timeless favorite choice in tattooing.

Floral Tattoo Style
Floral Tattoo Style (Photo by Raspopova Marina on Unsplash)

Geometric Tattoo Style

Geometric tattoos are trending as a modern, stylish form of body art. Symmetrical designs created using only clean lines and shapes make geometric tattoo style stand out; this artistic expression often incorporates dots, squares, circles and other mathematical elements to create an unforgettable visual experience.

Geometric Tattoo Style
Geometric Tattoo Style (Photo by Matheus Frade on Unsplash)

Horror Tattoo Style

An eye-catching combination of Gothic mystique and modern edge, tattoos inspired by horror and spiritual themes such as ghosts, cemeteries, castles under a full moon are increasingly popular – no festive season required.

Horror Tattoo Style
Horror Tattoo Style (Photo by Antonio Friedemann on Unsplash)

Ignorant Tattoo Style

With its fusion of abstract expressionism, graffiti and a playful drawing style, the Ignorant Tattoo Style is an innovative way to craft sophisticated body art. Discovering this inventive approach may be your key to creating one-of-a-kind tattoo designs that are sure make an impact.

Ignorant Tattoo Style
Ignorant Tattoo Style (Photo by Vinit Singh on Unsplash)

Insect Tattoo Style

Insect-themed body art is becoming an increasingly fashionable choice among women, with butterfly designs leading the charge. Other popular choices include ladybugs, black widows and dragonflies – showing that ladies looking to flaunt their style can now do so in a uniquely creative way. These fun tattoos provide endless possibilities for customization as well.

Insect Tattoo Design
Insect Tattoo Design – Beetle (Photo by Tony Alter / CC BY)

Japanese Tattoo Style

For centuries, Japan has cultivated a distinct style of tattoos that reflect their belief systems and cultural mythology. From symbols to warriors and mythical creatures such as the koi (or Japanese carp), this ancient art form still captivates us today with its intricate designs and meaningful imagery.

Japanese Tattoo Style
Japanese Tattoo Style (Photo by Jason Lander / CC BY)

Lettering Tattoo Style

Letter tattoos allow us to express our personalities in a creative, permanent way. From subtle and elegant script of names or Bible verses to bolder edgier style gang lettering, the options for expressing yourself with ink are endless. Popular choices include meaningful monikers, dates that commemorate life events and even poems that describe your individual narrative.

Lettering Tattoo Style
Lettering Tattoo Style (Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash)

Memorial Tattoo Style

Memorial tattoos offer a powerful way to honor those who have left an imprint on our lives, whether they be cherished friends and family or beloved pets. Through this type of tattooing one can carry the memories with them forever – both pleasant and painful alike – as a permanent reminder of all that has been lost but never forgotten.

Memorial Tattoo Style
Memorial Tattoo Style (Photo by mytat_2s / CC BY)

Micro and Small Tattoo Style

Miniature body art is increasingly rising in popularity, appealing to those who appreciate minimalistic design and want the option for subtlety. With designs featuring simple lines, symbols and shapes that can be accentuated with delicate color, micro and small tattoos are visually attractive while providing a more hidden option if desired.

Micro and Small Tattoo Style
Micro and Small Tattoo Style (Photo by Elizabeth Tsung on Unsplash)

Military Tattoo Style

Traditional tattoos have been kept alive in Western culture largely due to the influence of sailors and soldiers. To commemorate their experiences, many tattoo shops around military bases are now creating unique art dedicated to those who bravely serve our armed forces – from generic mottos like “Death Before Dishonor” up unto specialized insignia that honor different branches or operations within service.

Military Style Tattoo
Military Style Tattoo (Photo by Adam Lynch / CC BY)

Mythic Fantasy Tattoo Style

People from all walks of life have adopted the beauty, power and mysticism that fantasy elements can bring to their lives. From gentle floral sprites on delicate petals to ferocious fire-breathing dragons – embedded in our imaginations or tattooed onto skin – these symbols signify a reimagining of reality for millions around the globe.

Mythic and Fantasy Tattoo Style
Mythic and Fantasy Tattoo Style (Photo by Steve Baker / CC BY)

Native American Tattoo Style

Adorning many, Native American symbols provide cultural insight through the art of tattoos. From dreamcatchers to medicine shields and stone tools to rock paintings, these unique designs represent a rich history steeped in spiritual meaning.

Dreamcatcher Tattoo
Native American Tattoo Style – Dreamcatcher

New School Tattoo Style

Graffiti-style tattooing adds a unique punk edge to any design. This style features intense, vivid colors that create bold and captivating imagery – perfect for expressing a rebellious spirit.

New School Tattoo Style
New School Tattoo Style

Neo Traditional Tattoo Style

Neo Traditional tattoos are a modern interpretation of the classic American traditional style, with bold visuals and graphic details that bring each design to life. Featuring striking lines and vivid colors, this type of body art often features imagery such as skulls, flowers, animals – or any other motif you can dream up.

Neo Traditional Tattoo Style
Neo Traditional Tattoo Style (Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash)

Pacific Northwest Tattoo Style

Ancient forms of Pacific Northwest indigenous tattooing continue to captivate today with their distinctive high contrast, stylized images. Representations of sea life like whales and dolphins as well as land creatures such as beavers or bears remain popular in this dynamic art form.

Pacific Northwest Tattoo Style
Pacific Northwest Tattoo Style (Public Domain)

Patch Tattoo Style

Patch tattoos add an extra dimension of realism to the body art experience. By creating a three-dimensional look, these tattoos are reminiscent of real embroidered patches for which they’re named and make for truly unique designs.

Patch Tattoo Style
Patch Tattoo Style (Photo by mytat_2s / CC BY)

Patchwork Tattoo Style

The Patchwork Tattoo Style is a form of body art that combines and juxtaposes varied cultural symbols, motifs, memories and emotions to create one overall design. Combining traditional tattooing techniques with unique components from different cultures offering boundless creative potential.

Patchwork Style Tattoo
Patchwork Style Tattoo (Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash)

Patriotic Tattoo Style

Patriotism comes alive in the form of tattoos, representing national flags and iconic imagery. The Statue of Liberty, red maple leafs or eagles killing snakes are just a few examples that carry strong visual messages symbolizing pride and strength.

Patriotic Tattoo Style
Patriotic Tattoo Style (Photo by Tony Alter / CC BY)

Pinup Tattoo Style

Betty Grable paved the way for pinup girls, while Bettie Page enjoys widespread recognition in tattoo form. The timeless cartoon character of ‘Bettie Boop’ continues to capture hearts and minds alike.

Pinup Tattoo Style
Pinup Tattoo Style (Photo by melgupta / CC BY)

Portrait Tattoo Style

Fans have become creative with the way they commemorate their favorite celebrities through unique portrait tattoos. From a tribute to beloved actors and musicians to pictures of athletes in action – no one can deny that these works of art are memorable keepsakes. Likewise, portrait tattoos can often memorialize a loved one, including pets.

Portrait Style Tattoo
Portrait Style Tattoo (Photo by viklundvisuals on Unsplash)

Realism Tattoo Style

Realism tattoos are a timeless way to capture special memories in beautiful detail. From loved ones and cherished family members, to intricate landscapes or animals – the realism tattooing technique adds captivating hyper-realistic quality with soft shading techniques and bold lines that bring artwork alive.

Realism Tattoo Style
Realism Tattoo Style (Photo by Alexander king / CC BY)

Religious Tattoo Style (Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Wicca)

Buddhist symbols are becoming increasingly popular as tattoos in the West. Examples include portraits of the Dalai Lama, Sanskrit writings of Buddhist prayers, lotus flowers and the Sanskrit symbol for “om”. The latter is a primordial sound associated with meditation and creation.

Religious themes have long been a popular choice for tattoos, as they are symbols of comfort and faith that are likely to remain meaningful throughout one’s life. Common designs in this category include the cross, crucifix (which depicts Jesus on the cross), the sacred heart, and the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. Sailors used to get a cross tattooed on their back in hopes it would protect them from punishment.

Hindu symbols and gods are becoming popular in western tattoos, though to a lesser extent than Buddhism. Popular figures include the elephant god Ganesha, Krishna with his blue face, and the multi-armed Shiva who is often depicted dancing. These gods are being used to express their cosmic forces through ink.

Rastafarians, Wiccans, and practitioners of Voudou have all used tattoos to express their beliefs and identities. These tattoos may be less common than other types of body art, but they can still be meaningful symbols for those who choose to get them.

Religious Tattoo Style
Religious Tattoo Style (Photo by Brandon Morales on Unsplash)

Sketch Tattoo Style

Sketch tattoos provide a unique take on the art of body modification. Utilizing simplified and minimalistic designs in black ink, these tattoo styles are often abstract or surreal – as though they were hand-drawn onto your skin.

Sketch Tattoo Style
Sketch Tattoo Style (Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash)

Traditional & Maritime & Old School Tattoo Style

Retro tattoos have become increasingly popular in recent years. Tattoos such as hula girls and nautical stars, which were once considered a thing of the past, are now seen on many young people today. The pendulum has swung back in favor of these vintage-style tattoos.

This style of tattooing is characterized by its bold black outlines, classic tattoo themes, primary colors, and darker shading. It is currently experiencing a revival among people who enjoy nautical and retro designs.

Tattoo Trivia: Sailors used to tattoo the fingers of one hand with “HOLD” and the fingers of the other hand with “FAST” to remind themselves about their grips while swinging in the rigging.

Traditional Tattoo Style
Traditional Tattoo Style (Photo by Stories & Ink Tattoo Care on Unsplash)

Trash Polka Tattoo Style

Combining bold abstract designs with gritty realism, trash polka is a unique tattoo style that has taken Europe by storm. Bursting onto the scene in Germany, this art form fuses elements of graffiti and realistic tattoos to create dynamic masterpieces. Characterized by their two opposing images – typically one concrete and one more outlandish – these striking patterns are further highlighted through heavy blackwork shading which gives them an edgy look.

Trash Polka Style Tattoo
Trash Polka Style Tattoo (Photo by Denis Moskalev / CC BY)

Tribal Tattoo Style

Pacific Island tattoos often represent an individual’s place in the community or family, using bold black lines and striking geometric shapes to illustrate their identity. Tattoos are typically placed strategically on specific body parts depending on size; small patterns usually adorn areas like hands while larger designs can span the chest or back.

Tribal tattooing is a graphic style of design that draws inspiration from Polynesian culture, with visuals ranging from abstract to realistically detailed. A unique feature of this type of artwork is its lack of tribal specificity – it can be used for arm bands, back pieces or even facial portraits without being linked to any single tribe.

Tribal Tattoo Style
Tribal Tattoo Style (Photo by Seyi Ariyo on Unsplash)


When considering a tattoo, your personal preference should be the most important factor. Take the time to research artists and review portfolios – this will help ensure that you create an end result that is both meaningful to you and visually appealing. Best of luck on finding artistry which reflects who you are.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose my tattoo style?

Choosing a tattoo style involves some soul-searching and research before you take the plunge.
To get the best results, it’s important to talk with your artist about their expertise so they can help create something that is uniquely meaningful for you.

What is the current tattoo trend in tattoo styles?

Tattoo lovers can expect a diverse array of designs for the 2020’s, ranging from colors that pop to dots and minimalist art. Abstract images as well as styles reminiscent of the 90s are also on trend.

How many different tattoo styles are there?

Depending on how you count or how you define a style, there are easily a couple dozen different tattoo styles.

March 25, 2023