Tattoo Designs and Their Meanings

Tribal. These designs are black silhouettes. Most are based on ancient tribal designs. A popular modern mutation of this style is to modify a traditional design so that it appears to be tribal. Many of the most popular styles are modeled after the ancient styles of the South Pacific Islands. These tattoos are usually abstract, artistic representations that consist of a combination of discrete design elements such as spikes swirls and spines. Tribal tattoos are often designed to fit or accentuate a specific part of the body. For example, a tribal tattoo might snake along the contours of the lower back.

Realistic. These designs are usually portraits or landscapes that mimic the fine detail of a photograph. Mostly they are done in black and white as it takes a master tattoo artist to emulate images in colors. Sometimes this style is also called photo-realism.

Oriental. Usually, the oriental style of tattooing involves using the entire body as a canvas rather than adding a single image here and. Images are used to weave a story or a myth on an entire armor over the entire back. Usually, this is very fanciful, bold, yet detailed color work. Big murals of dragons, flowers, fish, and other animals are the most common oriental tattoos. A dominant image such as a dragon might be surrounded by “fill work” that consists of artistic, fluid-like swirls of color. The oriental tattoo often follows the rules of Japanese perspective in painting that is concerned with symmetry and balance. Also, the symbols in a Japanese tattoo often have deeper meanings. For instance, a tattoo of a carp represents wealth and prosperity.

Celtic. These silhouette style tattoos have thick bold black lines, and sharp angle. A Viking offshoot of the Celtic style includes mythological creatures such as griffins. They are primarily completed in black ink only. Because they are difficult to do, Celtic tattoos are often best created by an artist who specializes in the style Celtic tattoos.

Biomechanical. These tattoos often depict machinery intertwined with human flesh. A typical biomechanical tattoo work might depict a human hand, arm, or chest tangled with pieces of machinery such as screws, wheels, or and pulleys. The result is an image of a creature that looks half-robot, half-human. This type of tattoo is inspired by movies such as “Alien.”

Traditional. This style of tattoo refers to work that features bold black outlines and pitch black shading contrasted with very bright colors. The style is thought to have its origins on military bases in the 1930s and 1940s.

Fine line. These delicate tattoos are very detailed and usually associated with black and gray work. Fine line is also often used to express a realistic depiction of an image. Fine line images cannot be too complicated as sometimes over time the image can degenerate into a blotch or a shadow.