Black and Gray
Making use of only black ink and distilled water to get varying shades, the black and gray tattoo style begun in the 70’s and 80’s. It got it’s start, in Los Angeles prisons. Inmates only had access to one color of ink and that was, black. Prisoners would have create their tattoos in secrecy, making use of whatever materials they could find because tattooing was illegal. Guitar strings and safety pins were used as needles, and pen ink, cigarette ash, and melted plastic combs were used to create black inks.
Professional tattooers like Freddie Negrete and Jack Rudy, who tattooed in East Los Angeles since the early 70’s, saw this as a challenge and learned to perfect the style of those tattoos however, used clean, professional equipment and inks created for tattooing. So when the inmates left the system, and were looking to continue the work they already had, professional tattooers were ready and able!
This style of tattooing makes up for more than 80% of the work artists do nowadays.
Realism / Portraiture / Photorealism
With the invention of finer gauge and single needles, realistic tattoos are a technique used to create realistic pieces with tons of detail. As opposed to Traditional tattoos that rely on heavy black outlines, realistic tattoos use gradual shading and layering usually without, an outline. Done mainly in black and gray shades, realism or photorealism is a technique that results in artwork that looks like a photograph or a touchable 3D object.
The most popular and hard to master technique in the industry. and many black and gray tattoo artists specialize entirely on realistic portraits, making them very sought after with wait times of six months or more.
Much like black and gray photorealism, this technique requires a very skilled technician but with the use of color to create the realistic effects. One of the industry leaders in this style is Nikko Hurtado.
Not only do full-color realism tattoos require an extreme level of concentration and skill, They often require multiple detailed layers to achieve the final full-color results. Making these tattoos take longer and cost more but, are absolutely beautiful!
Lettering / Script
One can integrate script or lettering into a bigger tattoo or use lettering as a standalone tattoo. Most tattoo artists prefer to write the lettering in their own style unless, otherwise requested. If your chosen artist specializes in a style of letting, trust that he has had thousands of hours of practice and years of experience that will make your bespoke tattoo unique and absolutely beautiful!
- Calligraphy: This type of lettering has been found on papyrus and walls as old as 600 BCE and is an art form. Usually seen in tattooing on remembrance or homage pieces, sometimes hard to read but, always beautiful and meaningful!
Handwritten: Handwritten lettering is frequently used in memorials, dedications or homage tattoos and is also almost always hand drawn by the artist. There are tattooers who specialize in ONLY hand drawn script tattooing.
- Traditional: The traditional style of lettering, also known as Pike Lettering was made famous in Southern California at the Long Beach Pike. Home of the oldest tattoo shop in the United States, Bert Grimm’s World Famous Tattoo Studio. It consists of thick, clean, sharp lined blocky letters with thin lines for embellishment and is usually two-toned, allowing flesh tones to peek through and acts as shading while giving the piece, dimension.
- Typewriter: This style of lettering is crisp, clean, and emulates a typewritten font and is used best for literary quotes.
- Old English or Blackletter: Has roots that date back to the 12th century, this style refers to a style of medieval script but, with a modern twist. Can sometimes be hard to read so most artists will simplify the design for legibility and flow.
- West Coast Old English, Is also an ornate font that uses Old English as it’s base but, made more stylized with drop shadows or beveled enhancements and is almost always hand drawn by the artist.
Geometric / Line Work Only
Trending as amulets or talismans for protection, it is believed that tattooing geometrical shapes on the body will bring good health, either physically, mentally or spiritually.
The geometric tattoo style is simple and bold, using only geometric shapes and lines, it draws its inspiration from sacred patterns found in nature. The most popular images in the geometric style are spirals, circles, lines, and the flower and tree of life.
Geometric tattoos can also be based on the principals of Sacred Geometry, where a cube symbolizes earth, an octahedron symbolizes air, an icosahedron symbolizes water, and a dodecahedron symbolizes spirit, a tetrahedron symbolizes fire. These refer to shapes and patterns that are found in nature, and therefore are naturally perfect and symmetrical.
The Mandala, is also a very popular choice for these styles of tattoos.
Traditional / Old School
The traditional tattoo style was made popular in the 1940’s by Sailors and Servicemen, who collected tattoos at different ports while they traveled the world, protecting our freedoms. It features bold color, clean lines, a simple color palette, and minimal use of shading.
Best described as a tattoo that looks like “a real tattoo,” it uses simple and classic images such as anchors-for stability, peace, strength, determination and passion. Hearts, for everlasting love, swallows- so you won’t drown, daggers-for protection sacrifice and bravery, and eagles for freedom.
Japanese: Irezumi / Tebori
One of the most popular styles of tattoo art, Japanese tattoos have a history steeped in meaning and purpose, derived from the Japanese culture’s wood block printing. The Japanese tattoo style began as a way to convey social status and provide symbolic protection through spiritual devotion. Traditionally these tattoos were done by hand using needles fastened to bamboo sticks, and is referred to as Tebori, which means hand carved or engraved.
Irezumi is the Japanese word for tattoo, and is used in English as a blanket term to describe a number of tattoo styles originating in Japan.
This style was brought to American popularity through the work of Don Ed Hardy and Sailor Jerry Collins.
There are many diverse and beautiful styles that are frequently referred to under the umbrella term “tribal,” but to the trained eye, Polynesian body art is distinctive from Maori.
The styles are all unique but, somewhat similar— almost always done in black with elaborate patterns. Characterized by bold black swirls, blocks and lines to depict a certain image of animals, religious beliefs or other natural elements. Tribal tattoos’ meaning will change from culture to culture, and between designs. They can be a symbol of protection, power, and strength or show the wearers achievements.
The true origin of biomechanical tattoo designs is credited to H.R. Giger, the architect of this mechanical style.
Biomechanical or Bio-mech tattoos are often done is black and grey, with shading to mimic steel or metal and are usually minimal in the use of color while leaving space for human flesh. The body’s joints and bones are represented by parts of a machine like gears and pistons. Its as if you are a robot and your skin cover has been torn to reveal the inner workings.
Popularized in tattooing by Guy Aitchison who added bold color and an element of luminescence while giving it a more organic feel, where Aaron Cain personalized it by adding the more mechanical aspects as well as bold colors.
A great tattoo idea for sci-fi fans!
A watercolor tattoo refers to the look that is created by using a series of colors blended together to create the same watery effect that paint would have on a canvas. Using very little to no black and no outlines, it depends more on gradual shading and subtle shifts in color.
Can be done with bold, bright colors or use a muted palette to create a soft and ethereal effect.
Trash Polka is a tattoo style created by tattoo artists Simone Pfaff and Volker Merschky in Würzburg, Germany.
These tattoos are done mainly in black and red. Abstract designs are combined with realistic motifs which are a key point of this tattoo style. It is common for lettering to be included in the tattoos with distinctive varieties of fonts. Trash Polka tattoos are best done as large scale pieces in order to suit the elements and be legible as the small details are not easily read if the tattoo was smaller.
How to Get Started...
We'd love to partner with you to create the perfect tattoo.
1. Free Consultation
Email us or come into the shop to discuss your tattoo. Bring your ideas, and we'll guide you on how to make it a tattoo you'll love.
2. Book An Appointment
Once you’ve decided what you want, we will give you a quote so you can book the date for your tattoo and pay your deposit.
3. Get Your Tattoo
When you arrive at the shop, your artist will have your design prepared. Now you settle in and enjoy getting your new tattoo.