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Breaking Down Tattoo Styles: A Guide to Finding Yours

realism tattoo style

When it comes to expressing yourself creatively, there’s perhaps no canvas as personal and enduring as your own skin. Tattoos are more than just ink on your body—they can be a powerful form of self-expression, a tribute to a loved one, or a symbol of your journey. But, with a myriad of tattoo styles available, deciding on the perfect one can be daunting.

That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve rounded up a variety of popular tattoo styles to help you choose the one that aligns with your personality, artistic preferences, cultural influences, or geographical location.

If you’re looking for more one-on-one guidance, contact us at Mantle! We’ll help you decide what style is best for you and your tattoo ideas!

Factors to Consider Before Choosing Your Tattoo Style

Choosing a tattoo style is a personal and significant decision. It’s a form of self-expression that becomes a part of you, literally. Before settling on a style, there are several factors worth considering. These can help ensure that your tattoo holds personal significance and aligns with your personality and aesthetic preferences. We suggest taking a look at our work for a well-rounded idea of what styles are available to you.

A tattoo is a lifelong commitment.  It’s not just about choosing a design that you love, but also one that resonates with who you are. Take the time to explore, understand the different styles, and find the one that connects with your soul. 

But remember, your personality can shift over time. It’s important to consider representing who you are in the moment. In a 2019 survey, 23% of respondents said they got their first tattoo between the ages of 18 and 21. No one stays the same forever!

1. Personal Style and Interests 

Your tattoo should be a reflection of your personal style and interests. If you’re into vintage fashion, for example, a traditional or old school tattoo might fit your aesthetic (if you want to get really crazy, check out black and white traditional tattoos). If you’re a fan of specific art styles, like surrealism or minimalism, these can influence your tattoo design too. Really into anime? Anime tattoos are the way to go.

2. Meaning and Symbolism 

Many people choose tattoos that hold personal significance or symbolism. For instance, if you cherish your cultural heritage, you may opt for a style that reflects your roots. In this case, tribal or folk style tattoos might be appropriate. Moreover, certain styles lend themselves to specific themes one might be interested in. Biomechanical tattoos, for instance, are often associated with themes of technology and futurism. 

3. Placement and Size 

The intended placement and size of your tattoo can also influence the style. Large areas like the back or thigh can accommodate complex, detailed designs like Japanese or realism tattoos. Smaller areas, on the other hand, might be more suited to simple, minimalist designs. For more thoughts on finding the perfect spot for your new ink, take a look at our tattoo placement guide.

4. Tattoo Artist’s Expertise 

Each tattoo artist has their own strengths and specialty styles. It’s important to do some research and find an artist who specializes in the style you’re interested in. Browse through their portfolio to see if their work resonates with you. For a little help getting started, check out our Instagram page.

5. Your Location 

Your geographical location can also influence your choice. Different regions around the world have specific tattoo styles that are popular or have historical significance. For instance, Polynesian style tattoos hold deep cultural significance in Pacific Island cultures. 

Ultimately, the choice of tattoo style is a very personal one. It’s about choosing a design that you’ll be happy to carry with you for the rest of your life. Remember, tattoos are a commitment, and it’s worth taking the time to choose a style that truly resonates with you.

Personality and Tattoo Styles: What Fits You Best

When it comes to tattoos, the style you choose can say a lot about your personality, and vice versa. It’s about more than just aesthetics; it’s a form of self-expression that can reflect your individuality, interests, and outlook on life. In short, your personality plays a crucial role in choosing the right tattoo style.

How Do I Choose a Tattoo Style That Suits Me?

Choosing a tattoo style that suits you is a personal and exciting journey that requires a thoughtful consideration of various factors. Here are some key aspects to ponder on: 

Your Personality 

Start by reflecting on what truly defines you. Are you outgoing, reserved, or a bit of both? Your personality can guide you towards a design that genuinely resonates with who you are. For example, a vibrant and intricate Neo-traditional tattoo might be perfect for the exuberant souls, while the minimalist ones might lean towards the subtle yet powerful fine line style. 

Your Interests and Inspirations 

Consider what kindles your spirit. Are you drawn to the wild and natural, or is it the cosmos that captivates you? Your interests can become a profound source of inspiration. A nature lover might find a home in the Watercolor style, while a space enthusiast might resonate with the surrealism of New School designs. 

Your Cultural Background 

Your heritage can also be a significant factor in choosing your tattoo style. Cultural tattoos can be a wonderful way to honor your roots and tell your story. For instance, individuals with Japanese ancestry might feel a connection to the Irezumi style, while those with Polynesian roots might find the Tribal style a fitting tribute. 

Your Aesthetic Preferences 

Finally, take a moment to think about your favorite art styles. Do you appreciate the detail-rich realism or are you more into the abstract and symbolic? This can help you streamline your options. If you are a fan of hyper-realistic paintings, the Realism tattoo style might make your heart skip a beat. On the other hand, if you are into abstract art, the Blackwork style could be your go-to. 

We have articles on various tattoo styles and how to make them work for you including ones like tattoo sleeve ideas for women and finding the best font for a script tattoo to help you navigate through the decision process.

Popular Tattoo Styles to Consider

1. Traditional 

The American traditional or old school tattoo style, with its bold outlines and vibrant colors, often appeals to those with a bold, straightforward personality. If you appreciate simplicity and have a penchant for vintage aesthetics, this might be the style for you. 

Traditional Snake Tattoo

2. Realistic 

If you’re a detail-oriented person who values precision and realism, consider the realistic tattoo style. This style involves intricate details and shading to create a lifelike image on your skin, perfect for wildlife lovers, or people who adore the beauty of realism in art. 

Realistic Backpiece Tattoo

3. Watercolor Tattoos

Are you a free spirit who loves color and creativity? The watercolor tattoo style could be your match. Just like watercolor paintings, these tattoos are vibrant, whimsical, and often have a “painterly” quality. They’re a great fit for creative souls with a love for unique, artistic expression. 

Watercolor tattoo idea

4. Tribal 

For those with a strong connection to their roots or a deep appreciation for ancient traditions and cultures, Tribal tattoos can be a significant choice. These designs, often in black ink, feature bold geometric patterns and symbols and can be a powerful representation of your heritage or spiritual beliefs. 

tribal tattoo idea

5. Neo Traditional

Neo traditional tattoos, take on the same bold lines and vibrant colors as traditional tattoos but incorporate a wider color palette and more modern concepts. If you like the traditional shapes with more vivid colors, this style could be perfect for you.

If you’re looking for more information and examples, check out our article on neo traditional tattoos.

neo traditional tattoo idea

6. Minimalist 

If you’re someone who believes in ‘less is more’ and appreciates the beauty in simplicity, then the Minimalist tattoo style might be right up your alley. These tattoos usually involve simple, subtle designs that can be both elegant and meaningful. 

If you’re into this style and want good examples of it, take a look at our delicate tattoos.

delicate tattoo ideas

Remember, these are only suggestions, and there’s no hard and fast rule that you must stick to a particular style based on your personality. Ultimately, the decision is yours, and the most important thing is to choose a tattoo style that you love and feel a personal connection with.

Without further ado, here’s a thorough list of various tattoo styles that you might want to consider: 

  • Traditional Tattoo Style
  • Fine Line
  • Realism
  • Watercolor
  • Tribal
  • Neo Traditional
  • Japanese
  • New School
  • Blackwork
  • Dotwork
  • Geometric
  • Minimalist
  • Biomechanical
  • Trash Polka
  • Surrealism
  • Graffiti
  • Script/Lettering
  • Portraiture

Each style is unique and caters to different preferences and personalities. Whichever you choose, make sure it resonates with you.

Mixing Tattoo Styles: Creating a Unique Look

Pushing the boundaries of creativity is where the true artistry of tattooing shines. Mixing different tattoo styles can result in a truly unique and captivating design, one that represents your individuality and aesthetic preferences in a way that no single style could achieve. 

Mixing styles, however, requires careful thought and planning. It’s not just about mashing together two or more styles you like. Your chosen styles should complement each other, creating a cohesive piece of body art. Here’s a simple guide to help you achieve a harmonious blend: 

  1. Understand each style: Before you start mixing, it’s crucial to understand the defining characteristics and rules of each style. This will allow you to identify which elements can work together harmoniously. For a base understanding of tattoo styles, check out our work.
  2. Seek professional advice: Your tattoo artist has the expertise and experience to guide you. Discuss your ideas with them and listen to their suggestions. Because everybody is different, they can provide valuable insight into how your chosen styles can best fit your ideas and your anatomy.
  3. Consider your personal style: Your tattoo should reflect who you are. Consider your personal style and how the mixed styles could represent it. For example, if you’re into vintage and surrealism, mixing traditional and surrealistic elements could result in a unique tattoo that complements your personality.

Here are a few examples of how different styles can be mixed to create stunning tattoos: 

Style MixDescription
Traditional and RealismThe bold outlines of Traditional tattooing combined with the detailed shading of Realism can create a striking, 3D effect.
Watercolor and BlackworkThe contrast between the vivid colors of Watercolor and the bold black lines of Blackwork can create a dynamic, eye-catching piece.
Geometric and DotworkThe precise shapes of Geometric tattoos complement the intricate details of Dotwork, resulting in a sophisticated design.

Mixing tattoo styles is an exciting way to further personalize your body art. With careful planning and the right artist, you can create a unique design that truly represents you.

Tattoo Styles by Geographic Region: What’s Popular Where

Now that you’re aware of the various factors to consider when choosing a tattoo style, let’s dive deeper into understanding how geographic location can influence popular styles. The world is a vast, diverse canvas of varying cultural and aesthetic preferences, and this is reflected in the tattoo styles that have emerged and flourished in different regions. 

North America 

In North America, particularly in the United States, the diversity of tattoo styles is immense. However, there are a few that stand out. The American Traditional style, characterized by bold lines and bright colors, emanates from the classic tattoo imagery of the early 20th century. Equally popular is the Realism style, which captures photographic-like detail in its designs. 


Europe has a rich tattoo history with styles as varied as its many countries. Neo-Traditional, an evolution of the American Traditional style, has seen a surge in popularity across the continent. Dotwork, a style that utilizes tiny dots to create intricate patterns and designs, is also quite prevalent in Europe. 


Asia, home to some of the oldest tattooing traditions, boasts some unique styles. Irezumi, the traditional Japanese style known for its large, vibrant, and highly detailed full-body tattoos, is still widely admired and practiced. Furthermore, the Sak Yant style from Thailand, featuring geometric designs and Buddhist prayers, holds a deep spiritual significance for many. 


Down under, Australians have embraced a blend of styles popular in both Europe and America. Still, the Indigenous Australian style, reflecting Aboriginal culture with intricate dot designs, holds a special place in the tattoo scene. 


In Africa, tattoos often hold traditional and spiritual meanings. The Scarification style, a practice of making incisions on the skin to create a form of body modification, is widely practiced in some regions. Unique tribal designs are also quite popular and distinctive in African tattoo art. 

What are the Cultural Considerations of Certain Tattoo Styles?

Getting a tattoo is a deeply personal decision and one that can carry significant cultural implications. Understanding the context of different tattoo styles can help you choose a design that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also meaningful and respectful. 

traditional Japanese tattoo leg sleeve

Tribal Tattoos 

Tribal tattoos are some of the oldest styles in the world, rooted in the indigenous cultures of Polynesia, Africa, the Americas, and other regions. These tattoos often serve as markers of identity, status, and community. However, it is important to approach tribal tattoos with respect and understanding, as inappropriate use of these designs can be seen as cultural appropriation. 

Japanese Tattoos 

Japanese tattooing, or Irezumi, is a style with a rich history and deep cultural significance. These tattoos often depict traditional Japanese themes and mythology, such as dragons, koi fish, and cherry blossoms. In Japan, tattoos have been associated with both religious and criminal elements, so it’s vital to understand the cultural context when considering a Japanese-style tattoo. For more information, read our article on traditional Japanese tattoos.

Realism Tattoos 

Realism tattoos strive to replicate images as they appear in real life, from portraits to landscapes. This style doesn’t have specific cultural roots, but it does require a high level of skill and precision from the tattoo artist. Whether you’re looking to honor a loved one with a portrait or capture a favorite scene, a realism tattoo can be a truly unique piece of body art. 

In conclusion, while tattoos are a wonderful form of self-expression, it’s important to remember that certain styles carry deep cultural significance. Always do your research and seek expert advice to ensure you’re making an informed and respectful choice.

How do I Find a Tattoo Artist Who Specializes in a Particular Style?

Finding a tattoo artist who excels in your chosen style is a crucial step in your tattoo journey. This person not only understands the nuances of that particular style but can also guide you through the process, ensuring your tattoo looks its absolute best. 

Here are some steps to help you find that perfect tattoo artist: 

  1. Research: Start by researching artists in your area. Look for ones who have a strong portfolio in the style you are interested in. You can do this online or by visiting local tattoo parlors.
  2. Reviews and Recommendations: Check out reviews and ask for recommendations. Social media platforms like Instagram have made it easier than ever to find and assess tattoo artists.
  3. Consultation: Once you’ve found a potential artist, book a consultation. This gives you a chance to discuss your ideas, see more of their work, and get a feel for their approach.
  4. Ask Questions: Don’t be shy about asking questions. Find out how long they’ve been working in that style, what their process is, and any other details that might affect the outcome of your tattoo.

Remember, a good tattoo artist will be happy to discuss your ideas and answer any questions. The right artist will want to ensure your tattoo not only looks great but also stands the test of time. 

If you’re ready to take the next step in actualizing your tattoo or just want seasoned suggestions, schedule a consultation with us.

Trust Your Gut 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right during your consultation, or if the artist doesn’t seem enthusiastic about your ideas, it might be best to keep looking. Remember, this is your body, and you want to feel 100% confident in your decision.

Discovering Your Tattoo Style

Embarking on a journey to get a tattoo is thrilling, it’s an opportunity to wear your heart, your beliefs, or your memories on your skin. Like a personal emblem, each tattoo style reflects a different facet of who you are or aspire to be. 

Whether you lean towards the bold imagery of traditional, the intricate patterns of tribal, or the soft haze of watercolor, there’s a world of styles waiting for you. It’s your canvas, and you have the power to choose how your story gets inked. 

downtown los angeles tattoo shops

Remember, the perfect tattoo style for you is one that resonates with your personality, values, and aesthetic preferences. So explore fearlessly, imagine freely, and tune in to what speaks to you the most. 

If you’re still needing that one-on-one consultation, schedule one with us! We’re here to help you make the choice that’s best for you.

As you venture into this vibrant world of ink and creativity, may your chosen style not only enhance your skin but also strengthen your spirit. Here’s to celebrating the art of self-expression!

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