When you think about how tattoo culture has grown in different parts of society and all over the world, with origins dating back to prehistoric times, it’s difficult to imagine artists without specialisation. With roots in religious and healing ceremonies, social ranking and even punishments as reasons for ancient tattooing practices, and centuries to carve out nuances and niches, today’s artists and wearers have the luxury of choosing from a collection of culture.

Styles Of Tattoos 

From traditional and ancient practices to modern themes, here are some of the most popular and recognisable styles of tattoos.

Tribal

As the name suggests, tribal tattoos are inspired by traditional tribal practices. There are many kinds of tribal tattoos you can get including Polynesian, Maori, Samoan and Celtic. Usually formed by blocks of black intricate patterns, most tribal symbols have spiritual meaning behind them and build a story of the wearer’s life, family or ‘tribe’.  

Japanese

Stemming from the original Japanese tattoo style Irezumi, Japanese tattoos are large designs with intricate and powerful depictions of Japanese culture. Often using rich colours and images of flowers, dragons and deities, Japanese tattoos are soaked in symbolism.
Image by @retrowaist

American Traditional

Sometimes referred to as ‘old school’, American traditional tattoos feature bold outlines, a strict colour palette and simple designs. Typical designs include nautical imagery, pin ups, animals, roses, hearts and skulls.
Image by @nickadamtattoo

Neo-traditional

Neo-traditional tattoos expand on the themes and style of American traditional. A wider colour palette and more complex or realistic designs build upon the traditional style.

New School

Wacky cartoon imagery, vibrant colours and dramatic proportions collides with popular culture in new school. Think comic book heroes, tv animations and caricatures.

Chicano

Usually fine line and greyscale, Chicano tattoos are steeped in history. Their origins lie in gang and prison culture in the southern states of America by Mexican immigrants. Steeped in political and cultural heritage, Chicano tattoos commonly feature religious figures and women, and many blur the line between realism and surrealism.

Sak Yant

Sak Yant is a traditional form of tattooing originating in Thailand. Usually performed by monks, this sacred style of tattooing is laced with spiritual symbolism. 

Realism

Like a photo you can always carry, realism depicts images as realistically as possible, however it is common to see black and white realism tattoos. Portraits come under this category.

Abstract 

Just as in art, abstract tattoos cover a huge amount of style and nuances. Watercolour and brushstroke tattoos are just a few of the increasingly popular types of abstract tattoos.

Surrealism

Surrealism pushes the boundaries of nature with designs featuring optical illusions, juxtapositions and dream/nightmare fantastical images.
Image by @marcinsonski 

Blackwork

Bold black lines and blocking out entire amounts of skin is known as blackwork or blackout.
Image by @jennarosetattoo

Lettering

Whether you’re looking for etching, engraving or calligraphy, any kind of writing falls under this category.
Image by @jaworski_13 

Geometric

Precise and detailed pattern designs, often repeated and mirrored, can be stand alone pieces or gap fillers in sleeves.
Image by @mikewolftattoo

Biomechanical

Transform your body to look part-machine with biomechanical designs. Like putting your body in an x-ray machine, biomechanical tattoos can depict bones and tears in skin with cogs, nuts and bolts for a surreal peep into life as a cyborg. 
Image by @ericdeletoile

Minimalist

Washing up in waves on social media, minimalism tattooing is a popular choice in modern society. Small, dainty designs and simple line work, often in black, makes minimalist tattoos a neat choice for the modern tattoo fan.

Specialisation For The 21st Century Tattooer

Tattoos have been associated with all sorts of different groups and cultures throughout societal development. Now we have access to a huge amount of styles to choose from and can find the pieces that resonate with our preferences easily. Specialisation has become inevitable as it is difficult to master the array of art available. Furthermore, specialising in a niche area helps to bring the right customer to the right artist. 
The internet has a colossal role in the modern-day tattooing industry. Instagram is labelled as a huge culprit in growing tattoo appreciation, artist specialisation and booming business among the young adults of the world. Beautiful and selective Instagram feeds, with the ability to connect with a community of the niche fanatics, have made it easy to grow followings and find the best designs at the click of a button.
Tattooing is becoming increasing common-place in modern society. In addition to ornamental tattooing, cosmetic tattoo artists firmly leave customers with makeup on fleek. Another growing avenue is medical tattooing. Covering scars, colour correction and adding details post-surgery are just some of the amazing areas tattoo artists can use their guns for good.
 
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October 13, 2020 — Sarah Rachel