American Traditional

Popularized by tattooist Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins in the 1930s, this style is based on bold, clean black outlines and a minimal, well saturated color palette consisting mainly of primary colors.  Traditional imagery typically consists of skulls, roses, and daggers.

Traditional Japanese (Irezumi)

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.  Like American traditional, it is based on bold black outlines and minimal shading, but typically features images inspired by traditional Japanese art and nature as well as creatures and characters from Japanese folklore.  Traditional Japanese imagery typically consists of lotus flowers, koi fish, tigers, warriors and waves.

Black and Grey

Black and grey typically goes hand-in-hand with realism tattooing, however instead of using color, traditionally black and grey tattooing only uses black ink and water.  Tattooists will water down the black ink to make it softer and more grey in order to create shades, hues and color contrasts. Nowadays many newer artists will use grey washes, or pre-watered down black ink, as well as actual grey ink and white ink for highlights.

New School

New School is a highly animated style of tattooing that reads like a more exaggerated version of the illustrative style.  Typically the images created are caricatured characters doing out of character things.  Common New School subject matters include personified objects and animals in fancy clothing.


Biomechanical tattoos, also known as biomech, are tattoos designed based off of the client’s body flow and are typically freehanded.  Usually these tattoos mimic body flow through patterns that are of mechanical, cyborg, or alien aesthetics. Bio-organic tattoos are similar to biomech, except they feature patterns reminiscent of organic organisms rather than machines.

Trash Polka

Trash Polka is a style of tattooing made famous by the Buena Vista Tattoo Club.  It consists entirely of a black and red color scheme characterized by collage-like images featuring moments of realism, lettering, and abstract or geometric shapes.


Chibi (-小人 or ちび or チビ?) is a Japanese slang word meaning “short person” or “small person” – it originally derived from “Chitchanabito” or “Chitchana no Hito”; although is used at times for children. The word has gained currency among fans of manga and anime. It means someone or some animal that is smaller in stature compared to the majority. It can be translated as “little”, but is not used the same way as chiisana [小さな] (tiny, small, little in Japanese) but rather cute.

Chibi style is usually used in depicting scenes which are cute and/or humorous, and it is extremely rare for it to be used for an entire anime series


Blackwork tattoos are characterized by using only black ink to render images, designs or patterns through intense color blocking and/or impeccable line work.  Mandalas are common images used in blackwork tattoos.


Dotwork is a style of tattooing that renders various images, designs and patterns entirely through dots.  Shading and depth is created through how far apart each dot is from the next.  Common forms of dotwork include sacred geometry and stipple portraits.

Day of the Dead

A mixture of Aztec and European symbolism infuse the meaning of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) face painting designs. The tradition is a mixture of Catholic beliefs with the religions of indigenous Mexican people.

For people not familiar with Latin American culture, this might seem strange and even scary. However, the skull has a uniquely positive meaning in Dias de los Muertos, very different from the skeletons and ghosts of Halloween. The multi-day holiday is an opportunity for families and friends to gather, pray for, honor, celebrate, and remember friends and family members who have died.

Bright colors and bold design make this style very recognizable.