Tattoo styles had very meager beginnings. Starting with simple bold lines and shapes, tattoos have evolved into complex works of art. With many styles becoming possible due to new color availability and growing technology in the craft of tattooing.
Although these techniques have allowed for finer and more detailed work, there is still a large following for the ancient and early American styles. When searching new tattoos you should get familiar with the different styles.
From the oldest designs to the latest technology, here is a list with descriptions of the most well known tattoo work.
Ancient– Designs have been discovered on mummies as old as 5200 years old. The patterns found were basic images done in a black tribal style. These images included mythical creatures, traditional animals and bold lines and markings.
Tribal – The tribal style is very similar to the Ancient style, done in dark to black bold lines and basic images and patterns.
Tribal markings were used by many tribes around the world to identify tribe membership and to also indicate individuality among tribe members. This style experienced an renewed interest in the 1980's and is still commonly requested in tattoo shops.
Asian – The Asian tattoo styles is timeless. From it's origination to current designs the Asian style has held firmly to its roots. The big, bold designs with amazing color work make this style a largely requested type of tattoo work.
Many common elements include the koi, dragons and cherry blossoms. These elements all provide the opportunity for beautiful colors and large pieces. The Asian style is often seen as sleeves, back pieces or full body designs.
Traditional American – Beginning in the early 19th century this style became “the” tattoo designs associated with North American tattooing. Known at that time as “pricking”, shops began cropping up near sea ports for easy access to sailors.
These designs, though basic, have their own simple beauty. Anyone familiar with this style should also be aware of the pioneer of the Traditional American tattoos “Sailor Jerry” Collins.
Due to the seafaring beginnings of this style many of the subjects include nautical themes. Anchors, nautical stars, mermaids and pinup girls are a few of the more common designs.
Fine line black and gray – This style originated in the 1970's in southern California. Using thin black lines with smooth black and gray shading this style has a dimensional look and is often used in portrait style tattoos. Tattoo styles like this one require much practice and artistic ability.
Fine line tattoos are often seen with script-style lettering and religious motifs. Portraits of Jesus, Mary and crosses are commonly requested subjects. Jack Rudy is one of the pioneers of this style and has tattooed many well known people including Jesse James.
Surrealist and Photorealist – These tattoo styles are probably the newest styles in the field of tattooing. Surrealist designs are colorful tattoos incorporating art in the style of Salvador Dali and others in the genre.
These generally include fantastic creatures and nightmarish monsters. Photorealist tattoos have only recently become possible with new technology in the tattooing field. These tattoos are taken from photos and images and applied to skin with a realism that would have been deemed impossible just a few years ago.
With so many styles available in the tattoo world, there is very little reason to get a “standard” or generic tattoo. A good artist and a vivid imagination can open up a whole new world of body art for a person seeking to display beautiful designs.