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Article: The Top 12 Most Popular Tattoo Styles You Have To Know

The Top 12 Most Popular Tattoo Styles You Have To Know

Discover the top 12 most popular tattoo styles of all time and understand better how to practice their artistic skills according to their roots!


As time goes by and trends shift, most likely, the creative world has vast objects to show their imagination. Tattoos are always part of the creative industry for their beauty and functions. However, there are a lot of tattoo styles around the world. It is especially true when considering how vast the popularity and how the business is spreading. 

Many talented artists come up with their designs to eventually create new styles. It also helped with the changing trend and markets. However, many types that are common in society have more than just aesthetic values. Many of them even dated from centuries or decades ago. 

From that point of view, you can say that some of the tattoo styles are meant to be considered classic or basic. And yes, learning and knowing the basics can help you comprehend the further potential for your project. If you are interested in peeking at some of the tattoo designs and styles, here is what you should know beforehand.


1. Black And Grey 

If you are a new tattoo artist that is looking for a design and fits with the modern aesthetic but still has a pinch of traditional touch, you can consider the back and grey style. This body art model is pretty much how it sounds. You will find that most of the models come with a two-color tone, black, and grey to make an aesthetic monochrome-looking tattoo.

However, the style itself also has quite a deep history and meaning behind them. The key interest of monochromatic design also can be seen in several different tattoo genres. It is because of how diverse and also how easy to adapt the tattoo style is. It is also known as Jailhouse or joint model. 

It is believed that the tattoo originated from prison, which uses handmade machines and inks. Thus, creating a simple colorization. However, the method can also vary depending on the result and design. Most of the time, experienced artists use variations of black and grey color to make shading. What makes this model pretty interesting is its versatility. 

There are many examples of different kinds of work in this same genre. It explains how the design can encompass a wide range of styles. The images and illustrations are also unlimited to a certain degree. In other words, it can depict anything and everything in the shades of grey. You can use it to make minimalistic to highly realistic body art. 

Created by sean_assassin_tattoo |


2. Stick And Poke

The stick and poke or also known as hand-poked tattoos, are pretty much what you can expect. It has the same monochrome colorization tattoo style. The style adores the old traditional ways to make even more attractive body art. Since it is traditional, you can expect that the tattoo artist is rather simple and minimal. It can fit with the modern aesthetic as well. 

What makes the stick and poke stand out is the method of applying the tattoo. Artists will use a single needle to hand poking the skin. The needle is in a rod-shaped element that mimics a pencil. Thus, creating a less painful and invasive impression. At some point, professional artists will use a coil or rotary machine to insert the ink into the skin. 

The manual work did not limit the style or design itself. Most professional artists can also turn this handmade or DIY tattoo project to look professional. Some might even mask the result and create an almost identical machine tattoo. However, there are also some pinpoints to recognize the tattoo style. 

One of them is its character. You can see that the result will appear with a bold and thick line in black. It also most likely lacks decoration but still has some small decorative patterns. If you want to get this body art style, make sure you take a look at the artist portfolio. But for those of you who are trying to learn, make sure you know all the basics of manual methods.  

Created by evolucao_tattoo |


3. Blackwork 

Blackwork body art style goes back very far away. It has a long history and also meaning. It was originally derived from tribal tattoos that cover some body parts. What makes it different is the use of thick and bold black lines. It uses the same intake of the black and grey scheme. However, the blackwork focuses on one ink color (black). 

As it originates from tribal design, most of the time, it adopts the sense of geometric shapes. However, there are a lot of possibilities in creating body art with this style. Artists continue to take the genre into something different. From the simple geometric design, now it can envelop some imagery, including character, pattern, and many more. 

The form is also pretty versatile. One can make it into something minimalistic with a small tattoo. But some designs wrap different forms around the body. Some of the best characteristics of the blackwork are large, black areas, intense shading, filled-in, thick outlines, and many more.

Created by blue_train69 |


4. Geometric 

Geometric tattoo styles take a unique shape that appears more modern and timeless. What makes this design pretty worthy of learning is the features of geometric elements that blend with the shapes and organic elements. Most often, the best organic elements come in the shape of floral or natural elements. 

In this case, the combination brings out a mesmerizing contrast. The sharp lines and the curved natural shapes make the style quite stand out and look very bold. However, this body art design is not something you can underestimate. Artists should consider the size, the body shapes, the body part, and how it will complement each tattoo element.

Created by dubuddha |


5. Classic Americana 

Classic Americana, traditional tattoos, western, or whatever you call it, is probably the first style that you have ever encountered. It is pretty much everywhere, especially when considering how popular the design is. The tattoo style tends to have bold outlines, using the same or similar color for the body art and graphics.  

One thing that sets the classic Americana design distinctive is the imagery. Most of the artists closely tied the design with the more nautical, ocean, fierce, and combination of masculine with feminine imagery. It is said that the basics of the design itself date far behind since its popularization time, in the 1930s. 

Sailor Jerry or Norman Collins is believed to be the one who is behind the tattoo popularity. The tattoo artist was heavily influenced by the hand-poked method and his U.S navy deployment. With that consideration, it is safe to say where the stereotypical designs came from. You can also call the name from its characteristic of heavily saturated colors style. 

Created by tattoohere |


6. Portraiture 

Just as the name implies, you can say that the body art design is a circling portrayal of someone as its imagery. This kind of design again is pretty diverse in its coverage. Each artist also has different characters and skills, which can heavily impact the tattoo style variation. It even comes with a range of genres, from black and white to the fully colored model. 

The portraiture itself is a subset of the realism genre. In other words, you can underline that the design goes around realistic renderings. At some point, the result of portraiture design pretty much looks like a photo. Many people choose this kind of body art to make a memorial reminder for someone dear to them, including lovers or inspiring characters. 

Some of the distinguishing features of the portraiture tattoo go to its no outline design. To make a more realistic portrayal, most artists opted out of the black outline. This kind of style also helps to bring more classic touch and creating an accurate rendition. But, never the least, the tattoo style can also come in both monochrome or color.  

Created by alicehopetattoo |


7. Realism 

Realism or realistic design goes hand in hand with portraiture. However, the image coverage is much more extensive than a human photo. The good point of this kind of tattoo style is its versatility and long-lasting impression. You can design the body art style in the form of realistic images of scenery, people, animals, objects, and many more. 

Most artists recommend this tattoo style if the client has a very specific detail that they want to portray. In some cases, clients can also bring some examples to tell the exact imagery that they want to imprint. What makes the style even more amazing is how fine art has been a part of the creative realm since the Renaissance era. 

However, realism in body art has just gained some popularity in the latter half of the 20th century. All reasons go to the high skill and experience required for the tattoo artist or designer. A Realistic picture is not an easy move to nail. This is why it is very hard to find the best artisan out there. But when you find one, they can give you a jawbreaking result. 

Some of the designers can turn the tattoo style into a photo-like art. They can even come in color or black and grey portraits with every little detail. It is pretty surreal how it can be applied as body art. But when considering the help of computers or technology (robotic hand), getting the real depiction is not something impossible anymore. 

Created by joanzunigatattoos |


8. Realistic Trash Polka

Setting aside the very trashy name, the realistic trash polka tattoo style is such as fire. In many cases, it can be part of the surrealist design with a pinch of salt to add flavor. In other words, it is not only wacky but also meaningful in picture or design. You can tell it by how the style is characterized by a combination of surrealistic, lettering, photorealistic, and naturalistic touch.

Under the name of artists Volker Merschky and Simone Pfaff, the tattoo style has spread from Germany. The two phenomenal artists use mixed media to form a very creative, commenting, and meaningful body art. It also brings non-limited components, including print materials, handwriting, photography, to paint splashes writing. 

Most of the time, the tattoo style has a black and red color scheme. However, it can also complement other contrasts to make an optical effect. At some point, the design also underlines the sense of abstraction. It is also worth underlining that the style can also come as a large or small piece to suit the element, motifs, and meaning.  

Created by archziner |


9. Japanese 

Japanese body art design has a very long history, and it still maintains popularity until the modern era. Japanese style that also goes with Irezumi dates from the Edo period. It was hugely popular for the merchant class. But then, it was found in many kinds of body art lovers from the country. You can even make a clear idea by taking a look at the yakuza tattoo pictured in many movies. 

The tattoo itself has quite a bad reputation in the country, which is why it is related to criminals. However, the traditional tattoo style still has historical significance. So, what makes it unique? One of the best characteristics that set it apart is the design. Most Irezumi use mythical creatures' imagery, such as dragons, phoenixes, Kirins, and many more. 

Japanese tattoo styles reach the modern audience with their versatility and beauty. It does not have a size or particular limitations. It can cover the back, legs, arms, and other body parts as one large image. Another point goes to its deep meaning or storytelling design. It is also portrayed by the use of dramatic drawing such as waves, blood, or smoke. 

Created by tattoo-journal |


10. New School

Going to the more modern tattoo style, the New School mimicked comic design as body art. The characteristic is pretty much how it depicts imagery design. From the caricatural imaginative character, future worlds, human-like animals, and many other comic-themed designs. Very often the body art is distinguished due to its weirdness. 

The tattoo style itself is not new anymore. It was popularized in the late 80s and early 90s but started gaining a lot of popularity in the modern era as well. The best typical idea of the style is its wacky, cartoonish, and exaggerated imagery. It also had a tremendous impact on popular entertainment in the relevant period.   

Created by cbr |


11. Surrealism

When it comes to the surrealist, the tattoo style is mostly about imagination and creativity. The design turns the sense of unconscious being and dreams into a realistic depiction with a literal concept. The thing that makes the surrealism design charming is the ability to adapt and morph over time. The meaning may expand and change following experience and envision. 

While the concept and the design can be completely random, but as long as the viewer perceives it works. At some point, artists need to consider the feeling of sublime fantasy, meanings, and experiences. Another pinpoint of the design itself also comes from its varying model and design coverage. 

The tattoo style can look amazing in color or black and white scheme. It also encompasses many images that include human portrayal, animal, object, environment, to a particular condition. One thing that makes Surrealism design unique also comes from its multiple or vast meanings, which can also be an object to say to critics or feeling toward something. 

Created by thisiscolossal |


12. Biomechanical

The last basic tattoo style that can bring visual value and meaning is Biomechanical. The idea of the concept itself is pretty much creating a visually attractive design that matches the surface. In this case, the surface is body parts. With that information, you can underline that the design will mimic or follow the flow of a person's body with unique body art. 

Most of the time, the style adopts the sense of machinery imagery to make a highly related body art for the person's body. Thus, it is called a biomechanical tattoo. The design can create a realistic or semi-realistic picture that resembles a hidden part beneath the skin. Thus, it creates a great illusion for the body parts and makes it a great visual addition. 

This kind of tattoo style itself was brought into popularity from the 1979 movie Alien. The artist develops prolific style design and takes good inspiration from traditional body art. It warps the body part perfectly. But the uses of biomechanical art make the tattoo into new popularity and innovation. It later gets more attention in the modern-day. 

The design elements are pretty interesting to tell. It traces the skin and body parts to make a robotic and mechanical drawing with complex detail. Some of the designs can cover many designs, which makes the tattoo more captivating in many ways. As an example, the mechanical style with gears and pistons either in color or monochrome scheme. 

Created by dubuddha |


Final Words

Considering how vast and rapidly the development of body art is, chances are you will find more design or style shortly. Some pictures or illustrations might come with some fascinating meaning and details. It is something that might be able to be captured with more modern technology. However, the charm of the basic tattoo style will always be worth learning.

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