Tattoo Style Reference

Old School/Traditional
New School (or New Skool)
Tribal
Military
Black and Grey/East LA/Jailhouse/Gang/Fineline
Portrait/Realistic
Permanent Makeup/Cosmetic
Celtic
Asian/Oriental/Japanese
Biomechanical
Custom

OLD SCHOOL / TRADITIONAL
Western style or traditional Americana bold blue-black outline with solid color fill usually red and green only with rare additions of blue, yellow, brown and purple embellished with little or no shading.
ARTISTS: | BOB ROBERTS | TIM LEHI

NEW SCHOOL
Contemporary designs inspired by traditional tattoo style and iconography with a twist; more elaborate blending and shading gradations with an extensive color palette.
ARTISTS: FILIP LEU | TONY PAUKKU | AARON BELL | PHIL HOLT | GUIDO BALDINI | CHRIS CONN | LAURA SADAATI | RINZING | JASON KUNDELL

TRIBAL
Patterns and designs based on traditions, primitive cultural legend and lore. Most common design motifs are seen in Borneo, Polynesia, Micronesia, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Africa and Pacific Islands. They imply a cosmography and knowledge of the powers inherent in nature which primitive peoples knew much more intimately than we do. They left little written record using instead the symbols of their interrelationships and understanding of the cause and effects of nature. Sometimes, the original artwork was a talisman or a kind of cryptic knowledge for the future.
ARTISTS: CAPTAIN CAVEMAN | ROGER INGERTON | INIA TAYLOR III | PUROTU | JIMMY WONG

MILITARY
Predominantly, young male military personnel were tattooed with designs that indicated their service connection. Group identity is an ancient tradition and represents the indelible commitment and social experience that the identity provides. Flags, ships, hearts and banners express their patriotism, love of adventure and longing for home and loved ones. Arms and chest are most common locations, but certain traditions are dictated by folklore and superstitions.It all began with the British Royal Navy when, in 1769, Captain Cook and his crew visited Tahiti. There they found the natives elaborately and artistically tattooed on a scale never before seen by western eyes. Several members of his crew were tattooed as souvenirs of their travels and adventures. Cook found tattooing throughout Polynesia and many more of his crew returned to England bearing tattoos.

BLACK AND GREY | EAST LA – JAILHOUSE – GANG – FINE LINE
Even though tattooing is strictly against the rules in prison, the inmates who have surrendered their name for a number, who all look alike in the same clothes, still define their individuality by taking charge of their body and mind. Their tattoos are an indelible statement of personal identity achieved through the freedom of this primitive form of creative artistic expression. Black and Grey images are popular prison tattoos as color inks are not available. In the past, the black came from a broken ball point pen, the prison print shop or made out of ashes from burnt bible pages.Men incarcerated in the southwest US developed the single needle style of tattooing. A sharpened guitar string powered by a modified razor or Walkman motor was what they used to tattoo. Immediately, the style found its way outside. This prison folk art gave birth to the fine line black and grey California style. Tattooist were suddenly being called to task to tattoo using this recognizable prison style. Their artistic ability created a seamless array of portraits, memorials and jailhouse icons. Those who never saw the inside of prison walls began coming in with their newborn or girlfriend s photo, religious images and cultural icons to be tattooed in fine detail without colors, only in Black and Grey. Many others soon had similar requests and this prison style has grown into public mainstream acceptance.

PORTRAIT REALISTIC | MEMORIAL – LOVE – DEVOTION | FAMOUS PEOPLE OR CELEBRITIES
The level of artistic excellence and rendering of realistic portraits that look more like photographs and charcoal drawings than a tattoo is a highly specialized skill. Portfolios abound exhibiting an array of subjects from girlfriends and lovers to Ghandi and Jerry Garcia. The best case scenario for a tattooist is simple: a large (8X10 if possible), clear portrait style photograph as opposed to a small wallet size group picture with the subject not more than 1/4 of an inch. The size allows clear details and expressions to be studied. Never get discouraged though. Bring whatever you have and many artists will salvage a smile and sentimental feelings from the worst blurred snapshot and turn them into lifelike images beneath the skin.Photos and/or artwork of animals, real or fantasy scenes are also rendered with lifelike hyper-realistic excellence by these tattooists.
ARTISTS: KIM SAIGH | ROBERT HERNANDES

PERMANENT MAKEUP / COSMETIC TATTOOS
Includes lips, eye liner, brows, shadow, beauty marks/moles and even camouflage to disguise and even out skin tone where areas are lacking pigment; creating, darkening or defining areolas; great for older women with poor eyesight and or shaky hands unable to apply makeup.

CELTIC
Nordic metalwork, weapons, stone carvings, mazes and labyrinths were all influenced by similar decorative styles from the Middle East and images that were used in ancient Syrian and Coptic manuscripts. The interlacing Celtic knotwork had become the defining characteristic of Irish art by the 8th century. Through the knotwork, we are reminded of the fact that we are all eternally connected with the cosmos and every living thing showing us we are all part of a never-ending cycle of life where we each add our own strand in the fabric of time and space.
ARTISTS: BEN WAHHH

ASIAN / ORIENTAL / JAPANESE
The Asian style of body decoration has been a souvenir from the Orient since the earliest contact by western explorers. The symbolic significance of Japanese tattoos are part of a complex and multifaceted code of communication. Meanings will vary by era, artistic school and artist. An image chosen by the bearer can be for protection, strength or supernatural powers connected to various gods and goddesses. Dragons, samurai peonies, koi, waves and wind are just a few of the many images that comprise a traditional Japanese body suit. This wealth of images can be traced back to the art and folklore of China. Yet the body suit is purely a Japanese invention.
ARTISTS: HORIYOSHI III | HORITOMO | HORITAKA | HORITOYO | SHIGE | TONY PAUKKU | FILIP LEU | VALERIE

BIOMECHANICAL
We all are bombarded with science fact and fiction of the twentieth century. From the six million dollar man and woman to cinematic epics of alien proportions from the mind of H.R. Giger, tattooists have been inspired to create a view of what is beneath our skin and seamlessly meld our muscle and bone with mechanical devices, pumps, pulleys and metal constructions of their own invention. Through a type of x-ray vision the bio mechanical tattoo takes the inner workings of robotics and droid-like human alterations and renders them on the surface of our skin.
ARTISTS: AARON CAIN | BEN WAHHH | GUY AITCHISON

CUSTOM
Aside from the endless choices of standard designs displayed on tattoo shopwalls, there are creative options inspired by a client s mind s eye visions or random ideas gathered from consultations and conversations. The resultingcollaborations provide endless possibilities for personal statement of identity.At one time, only a handful of tattooists offered custom work. Today, the level of artistry and the involvement of imagination and original ideas to create a tattoo design is widely available, and in some cases offered exclusively, in opposition to prepared designs.

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