From the earliest days of self-expression, man has inked his flesh with permanent markings: Tribal symbols and protective totems, military and combat rankings, the names of loved ones, and a number of other sacred images intended to tell the wearer’s moving story, as well as transform the body itself into a work of art.
Our passion for tattoos certainly hasn’t waned; if anything, the trend has become a minted way of life well into the 21st Century. Around the world, men and women continue to honor the ancient art of tattooing, some in ritual tradition, others for the sake of aesthetic pleasure. For many, receiving a tattoo is a rite of passage, and few stop at just one.
It would be impossible to list the sheer plentitude of tattoo options and inspiration, as truly the tattoo’s image is as unique as the individual who selects it. One thing is certain: a tattoo is a lifelong commitment, and what we wear under the skin will no doubt accompany us to the end.
The question therefore remains: what is sacred to you? What emblem speaks of your own struggles and triumphs, as well as your humor and penchant for living life to its fullest? Do you live–and ink–boldly, large and out loud, or conversely prefer the smaller, subtler mysteries that linger seductively on the peripheral?Clothes may not make the man, but the ink he commits to certain does. And where tattoos are concerned, the only rule is to stay true to the man you are, and are no doubt striving to become. With that said, go ahead and explore these top 50 best different tattoo styles below featuring the most popular types and kinds throughout the course of history.
It’s “in your face” ink. If you want body art that stands out and grabs attention, then this is it. While the skin might be flat/curved, artists today can bring virtually any image you have in mind to life. Three-dimensional tattoos take modern ink styles to an entirely new level. From city skylines to cartoon characters, geometric shapes and beyond, if you want a tattoo to truly “pop”, 3D is the way to go. Abstract Style
Do you lean more to the creative/artistic side? Consider going with an abstract tattoo style. While abstract designs are fun to look at, their best feature can be found with their hidden meaning. Let’s face it, a human portrait with four eyes, geometric cubes, colorful lines and two paint drops, doesn’t exactly send a crystal clear meaning or message. However, it most certainly does to the beholder of the design. If you want a piece of ink that’s truly unique or perhaps a design that has a hidden meaning, abstract tattoo styles make for an excellent choice. Ambigram Style
Read it this way or read it that way. Ambigram tattoos feature words with unique lettering designs that allow them to be read the same way from different viewpoints. While this tattoo style used to be extremely popular years ago, today it has more or less died down in favor of more modern styles. Of course, that’s not to say the style hasn’t evolved. In reality, ambigram tattoos have become more ornate and elegant with artists putting their own spin on script and lettering styles. Anatomical Style
From muscles to bones to hearts, and beyond, if you love human body parts, anatomical tattoo styles might just be for you. Anatomical tattoos are as realistic to human anatomy as it gets, though you don’t have to be a doctor or dentist to appreciate them. In fact, a lot of people get anatomical tattoos to remember broken bones from athletic injuries, mountain biking, car accidents and beyond. They can hold a whole host of meanings. Even an anatomical pair of lungs can server as a symbol of being a lung cancer survivor. Biomechanical Style
If you like gears or just the Terminator movie franchise, then you’ll love biomechanical tattoo styles. These often 3D styles feature gears, wires, metal pieces, and much more all connected below the skin’s surface. Perhaps you have always wanted an electronic robot arm or leg but simply couldn’t afford one. Here’s your chance to get one. Black And Grey Style
For when you want your artwork to do all the speaking, black and grey tattoo styles are a fine choice. Heavily shaded body art while not colorful, can still make a significant impression. Just take note of the design above, even without a single drop of color, this piece is absolutely jaw-dropping to look at. Blackwork / Blackout Style
Traditional tribal tattoos aren’t your style? Then consider post-modern patterns found in blackwork and blackout designs. While it is one form of tattoo style, it blackwork tattoos combine elements from other styles including geometric, line, negative space, dotwork, and beyond. In reality, a blackwork tattoo can be as unique as you want to make it. Even traditional tribal ink can be enhanced by surrounding it with solid black ink for a more bolder and modern look. Blast Over Style
Have a fading colorful tattoo? Throw a bird, skull or any other design you want over it in black ink and you’ve just discovered the blast over style. Let’s face it, tattoos are forever but your perception of the world is always changing. If you’ve got a wonky piece of ink from the past but want to hold onto it due to a significant meaning, a blast over tattoo is the perfect solution. Sure, the old design won’t be one-hundred percent visible but it will still poke on through. While technically a cover-up tattoo style, the true invention of blast over ink comes from those who have too much body art but simply want ink. When sace is short, blast over tattoos are a great way to add another layer of artwork over an already full canvas of skin. Broken Glass Style
While not super popular outside of the gangster and pocket watch realm, the broken glass trend is catching on. This type of 3D effect can be placed over virtually any design you want, adding more visual interest to your body art. Paint Brush Stroke Style
The paintbrush stroke tattoo style offers a serious level of uniqueness. Unlike a traditional tattoo, this style can be nearly impossible to replicate thanks to its different variations in watercolor and gradient design. Most commonly, you’ll find the paintbrush stroke style being used for things like the Enso symbol or OM symbol. More modern artists are pushing the limits of this style by doing more than just symbols and instead opting for designs like rose flowers, sailing ships and beyond. Celtic Style
Cool knots and complex curves are what you’ll find when it comes to Celtic tattoo styles. While you can’t travel back to the Iron Age to tour badges of honor found on warriors from Celtic tribal societies, you can, however, do something else. For inspiration just seek out The Irish Book of Kells and you’ll find plenty of interwoven and interlocking knotwork. In terms of popularity, the Celtic cross is by far one of the most popular designs, while bears, dragons, owls, and wolves are commonly used as well. Chicano Style
Perhaps one of my favorite types of tattoo styles, Chicano body art is truly breathtaking. If you’ve ever seen this style applied to designs with statues of Greek gods then you’ll know just how captivating it is to look at. Known for their cornucopia of Hispanic themes, Chicano tattoos feature everything from the Day of the Dead sugar skulls to The Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and beyond. Of course, you’ll also find everything from guns and gangsters to money roses and clocks, all themed with the iconic Chicano style in today’s day and age. Dotwork Style
Dotwork tattoos beg for closer inspection, which is where the artistry shines! From simple to complex, dotwork showcases one level of talent from afar, and another up close. Images, cuffs, or sleeves look great at first glance, but on closer inspection, reveal surprising details. Each is created solely with a multitude of dots, rather than full lines or fill. Geometric Style
Based on the most basic of shapes, geometric tattoos are anything but! Squares, circles, triangles, and polygons come together in abstract images, mandalas, or low-poly models. There is no limit to the possibilities. These designs are ideal for those who want to show a love of beauty while recognizing the set rules of nature which surround us. Glitch Style
Glitch tattoos remind us to question our reality. Like an old VHS tape with tracking issues, glitch tattoos are flawed or glitched in some way. Zig-zagging or offset lines obscure parts of the image and suggest that, despite our outward appearances, we are all flawed in our own ways. Glow In The Dark / UV Ink Style
Take your tattoo to new levels with glow in the dark ink. Ultraviolet (UV) ink absorbs light during the day and glows when darkness falls. Use it to highlight your existing ink or to add artwork that is only visible at night. A reminder that all is not what it seems, and that our daytime self often changes when the lights go out. Gradient Style
A gentle flow from one color to the next, gradient tattoos do away with hard lines in favor of a natural flow. Light to dark, blue to red, day to night; where does one end and the other begin? Rarely is the answer simple. Adding a gradient to your tattoo as the background, or as the primary color scheme, adds a degree of softness not easily achieved with solid borders. Graffiti Style
Lover of graffiti art? Showcase your own tags with a graffiti tattoo. Use your body as a graffiti artist would use a wall and express yourself without the fear of your work being painted over. From personal tags to full murals, you’re only limited by your imagination, and not by how much spray paint you can carry. Hyper Realsitic Style
Is that a tattoo, or is it a photo? With hyper realistic tattoos, it can be difficult to tell. This style requires an expertly skilled artist and a lot of time, but the results are breathtaking. Often leaving us questioning our perceptions, a hyper realistic tattoo has the depth, shading, and flow of reality. Expect lots of looks, and some touching, with this style. Inverted Style
Japanese culture has permeated art throughout the world. Showcase your appreciation with your tattoo. Creatures from legend, lotus flowers, and Japanese lettering come together to create the ultimate tribute to Eastern culture. These images are perfect for everything from small, one-off designs to sleeves, and full body tattoos. Lettering Style
Get your message across with a tattoo showcasing custom lettering. Use a favorite font, or create your own! Combine your lettered design with any other style to create a tattoo that is uniquely yours. Block, script, or gothic, if it can be written, it can be transferred to your skin. Line Style
Get back to basics with a simple line tattoo. Sometimes simple is better. A line drawing is made using a simple line. While shading or coloring can be added for effect, the premise remains the same. Sometimes the simple messages are the most important, and elaborate is not always “better”. Mambo / Destrutturato Style
While not as well-known as other styles out there, the “Mambo” as I like to call it or “Destrutturato”, is an entirely new style that’s gaining in popularity. The simple black ink design features colorful backgrounds that resemble the bright and flat colors often found in Japanese tattoos. It’s different, unique and comes straight out of Milano, Italy thanks to a gentleman named Mattia Mambo. Mandala Style
A mandala is a product of patience, love, and mindfullness, and can remind us of those qualities when carried with us. Starting in the center and working your way out, round by round, pattern by pattern, Mandalas have been created for centuries as a form of meditation as well as art. Generally round is shape, these are well suited for forearm, chest, or back tattoos.