The Definitive Guide to Tattoo Styles – A Complete List


Tattoos have been around for thousands of years and are used by different cultures to signify different things. It is believed that the ancient Egyptians were the first to use tattoos as a form of art, and they used them to signify their status and religion. The Polynesians also used tattoos as a symbol of their social status, and they believed that the tattoos had spiritual and magical powers.

However, in modern times, tattoos are now seen as a form of art and self-expression. People get tattoos to commemorate important events in their lives, such as the birth of a child, a wedding, or graduation. Some people get tattoos to honor their loved ones who have passed away or to show support for a cause they believe in. Conversely, tattoos are also used to express one’s personality and individuality by showcasing their interests, hobbies, and beliefs, which is why most people get tattoos.

However, the tricky part is choosing a tattoo style simply because there are too many. For this reason, we will discuss all of them in this article, including:

Traditional Tattoo Style

Traditional tattoo style, also known as “old school” tattoos, is one of the most popular tattoo styles that originated in the late 19th century. It is characterized by bold, thick lines, bright colors, and simple designs that depict traditional American imagery, such as hearts, anchors, eagles, and roses. Traditional tattoos typically use a limited color palette of red, green, blue, and yellow, often seen on sailors, bikers, and military personnel.

The traditional tattoo style was popularized by tattoo artists such as Norman Collins, also known as Sailor Jerry, who was famous for his iconic traditional tattoo designs. The traditional tattoo style is timeless, and its bold and colorful designs continue to be popular today.

Illustrative Tattoo Style

Illustrative tattoo is a modern and versatile style known for its highly detailed and realistic designs. This style is often used to create tattoos that depict portraits, animals, landscapes, and other intricate designs, using a combination of fine lines and shading techniques.

Illustrative tattoos typically use various colors and shades and can be created in black, grey, or full color. This style often incorporates elements of other tattoo styles, such as realism, watercolor, and graphic design, to create a unique and personalized tattoo.

Realism Tattoo Style

As the name suggests, the realism tattoo style is a highly detailed tattooing technique that aims to create a tattoo that looks as realistic as possible. This style often includes portraits, animals, and other intricate designs that require fine lines and shading techniques to create a lifelike image.

Realism tattoos typically use a limited color palette and focus on creating a range of tones and shades to represent the subject matter. This style requires a skilled artist who can accurately capture the details and nuances of the subject matter.

Portraiture Tattoo Style

Portraiture tattoo style is a highly specialized tattooing that focuses on creating realistic and detailed portraits of people. This style requires a high level of skill and attention to detail to capture the likeness and expression of the subject accurately.

Portraiture tattoos often include celebrities, family members, or loved ones and are usually done in black and gray or full color. The artist must pay close attention to details such as facial features, skin tone and texture, and hair and clothing.

Blackwork Tattoo Style

Blackwork tattoo style is a bold and striking tattooing that uses only black ink to create intricate and elaborate designs. This style often features geometric shapes, patterns, and mandalas, ranging from simple and minimalistic to complex and highly detailed.

Blackwork tattoos typically use combination techniques like dotwork, linework, and shading to create depth and texture. This style is popular among those who want a bold and dramatic tattoo that stands out and makes a statement.

Chicano Tattoo Style

Based on Mexican-American culture, the Chicano tattoo style is a vibrant and colorful tattooing that reflects the rich history and traditions of the Chicano community. This style often features religious iconography, Aztec and Mayan symbols, and imagery related to Mexican-American culture, such as lowriders and gang culture.

Chicano tattoos are typically bold and bright colors, with heavy outlines and shading to create depth and dimension. This style is popular among those who want to showcase their pride and identity as part of the Chicano community.

Japanese-Style Irezumi Tattoo Style

Irezumi is a traditional Japanese tattoo style that dates back to the Edo period. This style features intricate designs and motifs inspired by Japanese culture, such as koi fish, dragons, and cherry blossoms. Irezumi tattoos are known for their bold lines and vibrant colors and often cover large areas of the body, such as the back, chest, and arms.

In Japan, Irezumi tattoos were often associated with the yakuza (Japanese mafia) and were used to signify rank and loyalty within the organization. Today, Irezumi tattoos are still prevalent in Japan and worldwide and are often seen as a symbol of strength, bravery, and tradition.

Neo-Traditional Tattoo Style

Neo-traditional tattoo style is a modern take on traditional American tattoos that emerged in the 1970s. This style combines traditional tattoo elements, such as bold outlines and limited color palettes, with contemporary design elements like realism and three-dimensional shading. Unlike traditional American tattoos, neo-traditional tattoos often feature more intricate and detailed designs, emphasizing shading and texture. This style has seen a resurgence in popularity, particularly among younger tattoo enthusiasts who appreciate its blend of old-school and new-school aesthetics.

New School Tattoo Style

The new school tattoo style is a highly stylized and colorful tattooing that emerged in the 1990s. This style features exaggerated and cartoonish designs, often with a mixture of bold lines and vibrant colors. New school tattoos often incorporate pop culture references, such as cartoon characters or video game imagery, and may include graffiti or street art elements.

Tribal Tattoo Style

The tribal tattoo style is an ancient tattooing style that originated in various indigenous cultures worldwide. This style is characterized by bold, black lines and abstract designs often representing cultural or spiritual meanings. Tribal tattoos can be found in various styles, from Polynesian and Maori designs to African and Native American patterns. In modern times, tribal tattoos are often used as a form of self-expression and cultural identity.

Watercolor Tattoo Style

The watercolor tattoo style is a relatively recent trend that emerged in the early 2010s. This style mimics the appearance of watercolor paintings, with soft, blended colors and delicate brushstrokes. Watercolor tattoos often feature abstract designs, floral motifs, and animals. This style requires a high skill level from the tattoo artist, as it involves freehand painting techniques and blending pigments on the skin.

What Tattoo Style Should You Get?

Choosing the right tattoo style can be daunting, so you must select a style that reflects your personality and interests. You should also choose a style that will look good on your body and that you will be happy with for years, especially since tattoos are permanent. For this reason, you must consider the artist’s skill level. Some styles require more skill and experience, so choosing an artist specializing in your desired style is vital.


Tattoos are a form of self-expression and can be a meaningful and personal addition to your body. Even if you have difficulty deciding what style you should get, you should go with what feels right for you, especially since tattoos are a lifelong commitment you can’t easily erase. This way, your tattoo can accurately reflect who you are and what you love, and you will feel proud to show it off.

Lucky Deville Tatoo Co. is for you if you’re looking for tattoo shops in Buffalo, NY! Our experienced tattoo artists can get you any ink you want, regardless of style, for a fair price. Call us today at (716) 389-2539 to schedule an appointment!