What style should you choose for your tattoo design?

What style should you choose for your tattoo design?

The same image can be done in different styles

APART from the image or design you choose for your tattoo, you will need to choose a style.

Different tattoo artists usually specialise in certain styles, so have a look at their portfolios to get a feel for their work and see what you like.

Also, tattooists can work with different styles and create their own variations on them to make your design unique.

The main tattoo genres are normally classified in these categories:

Traditional or Old School

Also known as classic style, it uses bold lines and bright colours. This is a well-known and much-loved style which will allow you to create a wide variety of designs despite the limited palette. Usually with little to no shading, these are clean designs in 2D.

New School

Having been born in the late 80s, it’s not that new, that’s just its name. It is really a product of those times and featured animated and cartoon-like designs of popular characters as well as caricatures. For those of you who would still enjoy getting the image of your favourite cartoon character or something similar as your tattoo, we are pleased to say that it has now become much more refined and colourful. These generally have bold outlines and vibrant colours with some elements of shading and 3D effects.

Neo traditional

An evolved version of the traditional style which still has the bold and clean lines and bright colours but for much better quality images, a wider variety of colours and more varying designs. These tattoos are more like traditional art than the graffiti-like styles above.


At the end of the 20th century, realism made a comeback in the form of tattoo art and has since become increasingly popular. You can find the most amazing designs, depicting flowers or animals. There is also surrealism, which includes realistic depiction of surreal images.


Portraits of people or animals in either black and white or in colour that look so good you could be forgiven for thinking you’re looking at a photograph. These also fall under the realistic style.


Tribal tattoos are the oldest type in the world, and can refer to a variety of different styles from all over the globe. They are almost always done with black ink and involve elaborate patterns of varying sizes. This includes Maori and Celtic designs, as well as Polynesian, Samoan, Norse, Aboriginal, Mayan and Hawaiian.


As the name indicates, this style also uses only black ink, but can apply to almost any type of design and is one of the areas where most innovation is being carried out in tattoo artistry nowadays. They can also work for silhouette tattoos.

Black and grey

Similar to the above, it can depict pretty much anything in a realistic manner using watered down black ink to create a wider palette of colours and create an image in shades of grey.

Japanese or Irezumi

The Japanese style generally tells a story from Japanese folklore featuring heroes and mythological creatures with more delicate lines and a wide variety of colours.


This term covers a variety of techniques and styles, but to keep it simple, if it looks like an illustration that could very well be hanging in an art gallery or decorating a wall, it’s illustrative!

Stick and poke

The artist uses a single needle to create simple designs with black ink. It has become popular for DIY tattoos, but done by a professional it can lead to some amazing designs with thick, black lines which are generally small and simple.

Geometric tattoos and mandalas

A timeless style which can use only geometric patterns or combine them with other elements. Line tattoos are also popular and allow for a variety of designs.


This style shows the machinery that could be beneath the skin.


As the name indicates, these tattoos show body parts on body parts. In some cases they are random and in others they show what is under the skin at that exact spot on the body.

Script tattoos

Using different fonts and alphabets, you can design a script tattoo that has meaning for you with anything from a name or date, to a quote or a passage from a book. The options are never-ending. This includes ambigram tattoos, which can be read the same way from different angles.


Small, simple tattoos which are generally symbolic, with clean lines and very little shading.

What style should you choose for your tattoo design?

There are many other styles of tattoos, including sketchy, fine-line, bio-organic, microrealism, 3D, abstract, blast over, broken glass, paintbrush stroke, Chicano, dotwork, glitch, gradient, graffiti, mambo, negative space, optical illusions, pinstripe, outlines, pixelated, stained glass, torn or ripped skin effect, trash polka, white ink, glow in the dark, wood carving effect, sticker or patch effect, fantasy and horror, and many more…

The important thing is that you choose what you like and what feels right to you.

If you want to get a tattoo and you’re not sure what style to choose for your tattoo design on the Costa del Sol and you are looking for a reputable tattoo studio to advise you and do great artwork, then check out Jaganath Tattoos and Piercing, Calle Ramon y Cajal 42, Fuengirola

Jaganath tattoos and piercing Costa del Sol

See designs by Jaganath Tattoos on Facebook and Instagram.

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Written by

Jennifer Leighfield

Jennifer Leighfield, born in Salisbury, UK; resident in Malaga, Spain since 1989. Degree in Translation and Interpreting in Spanish, French and English from Malaga University (2005), specialising in Crime, Forensic Medicine and Genetics. Published translations include three books by Richard Handscombe. Worked with Euro Weekly News since November 2006. Well-travelled throughout Spain and the rest of the world, fan of Harry Potter and most things ‘geek’.