Tattoo Styles

In the world of tattoos, there are many different design styles. Simply walking into a tattoo parlor does not work as easily as “I want a tattoo of a bird”.  Given the multi-talented artists across the country, especially in Richmond VA, a little more detail would be preferred from the customer to the artist.  These styles range from realistic to abstract.  The different styles do not just deal with the way a tattoo looks; most of the time the tattoo style represents a way of life or even an entire culture.  Today I will be taking you into the world of styles and their deeper meanings, this way if you are interested in getting a tattoo and aren’t quite sure what you are interested in, this will give you more options than you thought were possible.  Of course you might be limited to particular styles due to the expertise of an artist, but most artists who are professionally working in tattoo shops have a wide range of capability when it comes to the styles I will present to you. 




Traditional/Old School tattoos were the foundation of the tattoo movement in the U.S. This style was used by the Famous tattoo artist Ed Hardy.  Many know of this name through the clothing company and fragrances, but his initial notoriety stems from his tattoo artwork.  In general this style uses-but is not limited to-skulls, roses, knives, stars, swallows, gambling motifs and hearts.  Any tattoo artist, as long as they work at a tattoo parlor, should know this technique.  It embodies the simplicity of cartoonish-looking tattoos, while retaining the history of the art in the U.S. 



Contemporary tattoos are the wave of the future for tattoos.  This style gives the artist a free range to expression the deepest of emotions through their artwork.  Tattoo artists are indeed artists, as they wish to be unbound by straight-forward design.  Contemporary tattoos open up a wide range of freedom for the artist to break out their skills and use their creativity to create a true work of art.  The use of different “brush stroke” techniques and use of realistic shading and the use of multiple colors gives them this range of technique.  Contemporary can range from anything to Realistic landscapes to abstract animal portraits. Don’t be shy! These artists are yearning for some creativity in their artwork.  I promise you will notice a difference in their mood if you give them freedom to apply their personal style to a tattoo, rather than asking for an exact replica of a picture of what you want.



Japanese (Irezumi) style is a very common style used to create sleeve tattoos.  The word Irezumi is defined as the insertion of ink under the skin, permanent.  Basically the Japanese word for a tattoo.  This style is best used for sleeves because the design easily flows within itself.  Usually depicting a nature scene, this style exhibits the use of koi fish, tigers, flowers, samurai, water streams, trees, mountains, etc.  The tattoo style originated for decoration and spiritual purposes in the Japanese culture, but was later used by many gang members to show affiliation with their gang.  Now, tattoo shops are hard to find in Japan and if you have any tattoos, many places will not allow you to enter their establishment because the connection between tattoos and gang members.



Mauri-commonly known as Tribal tattoos-have been a popular use of style in the U.S.  Originating in New Zealand, their designs seem simple at first look, but are actually very intricate pieces of artwork.  The use of bold thick lines and repetition of the patterns give them the unique look of a tribal warrior.  The first artist to begin using this technique was the artist Ta Moko. He was known to personalize every tattoo to display and incorporate family lineage and personal history of residents in New Zealand. 


These are some of the most popular styles that most any tattoo artist should know how to draw.  Choosing the right style is important to the process of getting a tattoo.  As always, make sure to take your time and explore all of your options before getting a tattoo! A rushed or spontaneous decision can lead to dissatisfaction or even regret!

Have fun out there and support your local shops!

-Chris Crowe


2 thoughts on “Tattoo Styles

  1. This is a nice breakdown! How would you classify tattoos that are simply text? Can they fall into these categories, or are they their own entity?

  2. rumseyhe says:

    Very interesting! I like reading your posts and learning more about something that I don’t really know much about, it makes me appreciate it more!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s