Tattoos are a form of art that has been in existence since the evolution of the modern man, with evidence of tattoos being found in archaeological findings that date back over 3300 BC. As such, tattoos have been used around the world to represent several things, which range from a traditional form of body modification to a symbol of success. These different beliefs led to the development of different ways of leaving a mark on the skin that eventually laid the groundwork for the wide variety of styles we see today.
Like every other art form, tattooing is home to a lot of different styles that can sometimes be overwhelming to the untrained eye. Tattoo styles play a huge role when picking out what you want to get, as each style portrays its own unique aesthetic.
Understanding these styles is also responsible for the type of artist you pick to do your tattoo, as the styles differ from each other based on the artistic elements present in the tattoo and even the region it originated in. Tattoo artists specialise in these styles the same way doctors do in a field of medicine; similarly, the artist you pick must correlate with the style you want.
Most artists do more than one style, while many develop their own style by combining two or more existing ones. And some experimental artists who like to push the boundaries often go on to create new styles entirely. However, there are a few styles that are very prominent in the industry today.
While I am unable to get through all the different styles in this one article, I have listed out the five most prominent styles so that you have a better idea of what you’re getting.
Traditional/American traditional tattoos were some of the first to be popularised in western culture due to the style gaining prominence in America. This style boasts bold lines and bright colours, and also often features stereotypical designs such as crosses, skulls, and anchors. Tattoos of this nature have maintained their popularity for a reason: They are strikingly beautiful and timeless.
Blackwork, at its core, simply refers to work done using black ink. Out of all the styles, this is the basis for most artists and is heavily influenced by tribal Polynesian tattoos. Over time, blackwork has come to refer to a style that has a more macabre aesthetic featuring subjects from horror tales and surrealism.
However, this style also happens to be one of the most experimental styles, and blackwork artists often combine black art with various styles such as dotwork, abstract, geometry, and realism, among many others.
Realism or realistic tattoo style
While classic realism has been a part of the fine arts since as far back as the Renaissance, it only found its way into the world of tattoos recently, popping up around the latter half of the 20th Century. Since then, the style has increasingly gained popularity while also becoming more refined.
Due to the immense amount of detail that goes into realism, the style requires an artist of extreme skill and experience. When pulled off correctly, the style is home to some of the best tattoos in the world. It’s popularity has increased so much that you can find jaw-dropping colour and black and grey portraits of pretty much any celebrity you can think of as well as realistic depictions of nature and just about anything else imaginable.
Another style which has only recently come into the spotlight, minimalist tattoos are driven by simple, clean lines and the heavy use of negative space. The idea behind minimalism is that “less is more”, and minimalist tattoos follow this same concept by featuring graphic designs and extremely varying delicacies of linework.
Because minimalist tattoos tend to break designs down to basics, it works best with designs that can be visualised with a small number of lines or without a lot of complexity. While black ink tends to be the most commonly used colour to keep the design as simple as possible, almost any colour goes for the style.
The style has mostly garnered popularity among those in fashion, as well as social media influencers.
The concept of geometric tattoos lies rooted in early science and mathematics as well as spirituality, which identified these shapes as being the core of all life. The style uses basic geometric shapes to create everything from minimalist to detailed tattoos using a wide range of subjects.
Artists often use sacred geometry as the basis for their designs and usually combine it with line-work to create intricate patterns. Mandalas are some of the most popular tattoo designs at present.
Next: We will be covering each of the other styles with local tattoo artists who specialise in these respective styles in future articles.