Tattoo Styles And Techniques. Part 1

Tattoo Styles And Techniques. Part 1


American Traditional (Old School)

American traditional is the original and oldest style of tattooing. This style features solid black outlines, a limited colour palette, less detail and impeccable precision.

This limited colour palette typically included yellow, red, green and black. Purple was eventually added to it as well.

This classic style, also called "old school" or "traditional," is a throwback to the art form’s golden age.  The traditional style was born on the high seas during the 1700s, after sailors like those who sailed with Capitan James Cook first encountered indigenous communities with tattoos and, becoming inspired by their bodily markings, decided to start collecting body art as mementos of their long voyages. Over the course of the 19th century, the style became more refined taking on the boldly lined and brightly colored aesthetic seen in the work of well-known American tattooists of the 1900s like Sailor Jerry.

When talking tattoos, a "Sailor Jerry" reference may get tossed around a few times. Very Western in design, typically done in three parts; one part black, one part color and one part skin. Thick lines are always used, and the motifs are typically nautical and military in theme. Often these tattoos had significance behind them for those in the Armed Forces. Traditional tattoos imagery typically include eagles, anchors, skulls, daggers, swallows, hearts and banners, etc. 

New School

New school veers away from traditionalism. It’s all unique patterns and custom ideas that haven’t been used before. It almost references a hip-hop and graffiti style: jagged edges, bubble lettering.  Screaming poisonous colors, most often blue "electrician", acid green, lemon-yellow. And plots similar to hallucinations. Infinite imagination, non-existent animals / heroes, humorous and hallucinogenic subjects.

The cartoon of the drawings, which borders on realism - like there is a shadow and a volume, but there is no such thing in nature. The outline of the image, which is visible from afar. Can be distorted and broken. With new techniques, modern equipment, and fresh ideas, the new school style is becoming more and more prevalent.

Don't let the name fool you, new school isn't really all that new anymore. It rose to prominence in the weirdness that was the late '80s and early '90s, but lately it has waned in popularity.  The style is cartoonish and wacky, featuring caricatures and other exaggerated figures. It doesn’t matter what your age is, getting a cartoon tattoo is just a fun way of expressing your youthfulness. They take you back to a time when your biggest worry was what kind of cereal to eat. Cartoon tattoos are a great reminder that we can still be young at heart even as adults. If you're the sort of person who likes their body art injected with the spirit of Ren and Stimpy, then this comic style is for you.  



Neo-traditional, as the name implies, is an evolution of the traditional style. It features the core properties of its predecessor, like pronounced linework and extremely vibrant colors but it also has an illustrative quality to it. This is because neo-traditional artists employ various line weights to achieve a more textured and detailed aesthetic. Neo-traditional tattoos straddle the line between the past and the future in a very intriguing way. The same bold black outlines are used on these tattoos; however artists tend to incorporate a lot more color than they would with traditional tattoos. This style of tattooing first became popular in the 1980s, which explains why bold and bright colors are often used. In pieces done in this style, you'll also find more blended colors schemes, giving primary figures a plush appearance, which is why it's so ideal for depicting things like animals and lively imagery. Often infused with elements of nature, and put together with surrealist flair, neo-traditional tattoos are an exceptional example of the innovative nature of the tattoo industry.

Japanese Traditional 

Inspired by the ancient Japanese tebori (hand carved) tattooing techniques, the traditional Japanese style was popularized in Japan by the Yakuza, the Japanese criminal underworld.

Similarly to American traditional, Japanese tattoos make use of a similar colour scheme with the tattoos also based on bold outlines with little to no shading.

The traditional Japanese style of tattoos are rich in color and intricate designs and have a deep history. The style can be done in full color or in black and gray.

These detailed designs are made to a specific standard of rules including elements such as positioning, colours and imagery. The traditional Japanese style, aka Irezumi, originated during the Edo period (1603-1868) alongside ukiyo-e — woodblock prints that were hugely popular among the merchant class at the time. Because of this, the icons found in this time-tested genre of body art come from the country's age-old folklore, featuring tattooed heroes from the Suikoden and mythological creatures like dragons, kirins, and phoenixes. In short, every tattoo done in this style tells a story about Japans rich past, and beyond their dramatic smoke and wave filled appearance, this is what makes Irezumi masterpieces so powerful.

Japanese tattoos today tend to be as colorful and graphic as they were in their heyday in Japan nearly 2,000 years ago, although black and gray Japanese tattoos aren't unheard of either. Some people choose to incorporate Japanese symbols into their tattoos, while others opt for detailed geisha tattoos, Japanese dragon tattoos, tiger tattoos, and designs featuring natural elements common in Japanese tattooing, like cherry blossom tattoos. Many Japanese tattoos feature combinations of some or all of these elements, as well as Japanese fans, lotus flowers, koi fish, war dogs, Japanese idols, and more.


The word “tribal” means “pattern on the skin”. Indeed, it resembles intricate patterns on the bodies of tribes of Africa, Native America or Australia. And in some of the tribes, such drawings were really applied to the skin for a lifetime as a tattoo.

The style of tribal tattooing came to us from ancient times with tribal tattoos being the original form of tattooing. This style normally utilizes very flat and black line works and patterns.

The first notable tribal tattoo designs emerged from Polynesia, where Samoans, Maori and other Polynesian cultures that have been tattooing themselves for nearly 2,000 years before Captain James Cook of the English Royal Navy "discovered" them around 1769. Captain Cook was the one who invented the English word "tattoo", which was his phonetic translation of the Polynesian word "tatu" and the Samoan and Tahitian word "tatua".

Tribal tattoos — i.e. indigenous body art — are the oldest in the world, dating back thousands of years. This style should actually be thought of as multiple styles or more so different traditions of tattooing from aboriginal communities all around the globe. These diverse and beautiful styles are frequently referred to under the umbrella term "tribal," but to the trained eye, Polynesian body art is distinctive from Marquesan just like tattoos on Inupiaq matriarchs' faces are different from those found on Berber women. Though these styles are all unique, they are somewhat similar— almost always done in black with elaborate patterns.


see also