Tattoos have become more and more fashionable in recent years. Some years ago, tattoos were much rarer, but today people are completely infatuated with ink.

According to a recent study, 13% of 18-24 year olds are tattooed in the UK, which represents 8.5 million people.  

80% of 18-24 year olds believe that tattoos are an art form. In comparison, nearly a decade ago, only 10% of British people were tattooed.

  • Are you considering going under the tattoo needle?
  • Or perhaps you want to become a tattoo artist yourself?

First of all, you’ll have to learn how to draw a tattoo.

Designing a Tattoo: What Are the Different Tattoo Styles?

From Chinese calligraphy to realistic portraits, the world of tattoos is rich with choices. And if you want to draw a tattoo yourself, the first thing to do is determine a style. Are you into tribal patterns, or more old-school designs? First let’s take a look at the main tattoo styles to see what might suit you.

The traditional tattoo

  • The tribal tattoo

This type is very well known in the tattoo world, one which is based on large black shapes and curved lines which these days has, unfortunately, lost its depth of meaning. Originally, the tribes who practices tattooing – whether in Polynesia or Africa – aimed to signify a social rank, the belonging to a certain group. These highly codified tattoos have a strong symbolism still today and are still very popular.

  • The Asian tattoo

Usually using Chinese or Japanese lettering, this style is strongly inspired by Asian art. The Yakuza, in particular, opted for this style of tattoo. Among the most used symbols, we often find the dragon, the samurai, the geisha, and the lotus.

  • The Celtic tattoo

Composed of Celtic symbols and lettering, this style of tattoo is easily recognisable as a kind of tribal art, with the Celtic cross as the main motif.

Realistic tattoos 

The realistic tattoo aims to faithfully reproduce a particular image. These really can be works of art, and require perfect mastery of the art of tattooing in order to achieve perfect results.

Realistic tattoos can represent many different things - they can be drawings of a face, a still life, a landscape – and it can be in black and white or in colour. The end result should be a perfect copy of the original object, as if you’re looking at a photo.

This type of tattoo is not for amateurs – it takes real skill to produce a piece of art like this, with particular attention being paid to the fine details so they are visible on skin.

Old school tattoos are really popular these days
Tattooing goes way back to all different cultures - where does your inspiration come from? Photo credit: Olin Gilbert on Visual Hunt

Old school tattoos

Often retro in style, with a rock and roll touch, the old school tattoo comes from 1930s America, inspired by the local culture of the era. From Native Americans to pin-ups to bikers, this style was popularised by sailors who would take what was most dear to them symbolically through their tattoos.

For a long time, the old school tattoo was considered to be worn by delinquents and had a bad image. Today, it’s returned to popular culture and has changed its reputation.

Graphic tattoos

Graphic tattoos are abstract and artistic, and really give free rein to the imagination. It’s still a fairly recent style which has its origins in art, with each tattoo artist displaying their own unique style. Whether it’s geometric, symbolic, motifs, objects, animals, the inspiration for graphic tattoos are varied and there is a total freedom of expression.

If you like the work or style of a particular tattoo artist, then why not trust him to design you your own tattoo? He will create a unique work of art for your own skin.

You could take inspiration from manga and anime drawings too.

Biomechanical tattoos

This is still a very recent trend. The biomechanical tattoo, as the name suggests, combines mechanical and biological elements. With a focus on the futuristic, this style finds inspiration in science fiction. You could, for example, get a tattoo sleeve of a bionic arm drawn with a 3D effect!

Dot work tattoos

Dot work is similar to the idea of pointillism painting. The technique consists of tattooing in lots of tiny dots. This gives the effect of different materials and textures, bringing a touch of originality and realism to the tattoo.

Calligraphic/writing tattoos 

Getting an inspirational phrase or quote is very common these days. What makes the difference between a good and a bad tattoo – apart from spelling mistakes, of course! – is the calligraphy used. Before getting a calligraphic tattoo, it’s essential to pick your favourite writing style.

And among all these new trends, there is also a new interest in white ink tattoos and 3D tattoos that create an optical illusion on the skin just like a real 3D drawing. So really explore all your options before making your final choice!

Learn about online drawing classes on superprof.

Tattoos are permanent, so make sure you won't regret it!
Be careful with the style you choose and do some research before hand! Photo on

How Can I Find a Tattoo Subject Before Designing It?

Before starting the first sketches of a tattoo, you need to determine which style you want to use and equally what your subject will be.

This is obviously a very important step, because once it’s tattooed on your skin, it will remain there…unless you opt for some painful and expensive laser removal sessions. So make sure it’s something you won’t regret!

Tattoos are symbolic: beyond the aesthetic aspect, a tattoo is personal and expresses something important to the person who wears it.  There are so many possibilities - whether it’s a character, an abstract pattern, or any symbol, it’s important to find the right inspiration to create the perfect personalised tattoo.

  • Use your own personal experience to find an important subject
  • Explore different artistic references, look in art books, at street art, film, music
  • Have a look at the work of your favourite tattoo artists

Tattoos are a graphic representation, just like designing a logo. For successful and satisfying results, it shouldn’t just be a message, but it should also be perfectly designed and executed.

There are two possibilities to consider:

  • Designing your own tattoo: for this you will need to have a good grasp of the basics of drawing so that you can design an aesthetically pleasing tattoo which can then be reproduced on your skin.
  • Go to a tattoo artist: you can tell the artist your ideas and wishes for your tattoo, and they will propose an original and creative design to you. A good tattoo artist is above all an experimental artist. To avoid any disappointment, it’s best to follow their advice.

5 Constraints of Designing a Tattoo

Do your research and think of a unique tattoo design
How do you get started with designing a tattoo? Find an original idea! Photo credit: °]° on Visualhunt

All tattoo artists will tell you: just because a drawing is beautiful, doesn’t mean it will make a beautiful tattoo. The reasons are simple – a tattoo must be designed taking into account certain constraints.

  1. The size of the tattoo

It seems obvious. If you have a face tattooed in a 3cm square area, you will not be able to add much detail whatsoever. Remember to adjust the size of your tattoo according to the desired design. The more realistic and detailed you want your tattoo to be, the bigger it will need to be to accommodate that.

  1. Placement

Where will your tattoo be placed on your body? This is another essential question to ask before creating your tattoo. Remember that in this case, your skin is the paper or canvas, and a tattoo needs to be designed according to which part of the body it will go, be it arms, back, torso, neck…

  1. The colours

How many colours are there in your tattoo design? Make sure you take into account the fact that not everything can be transferred from a drawing to a tattoo. It’s not enough to just be a good artist when it comes to drawing an original tattoo, you need to understand the method too!

  1. Consistency

Different tattoos on a person should all harmonise together. But how can you make sure all your tattoos work well together? This is also an issue that shouldn’t be neglected. If each tattoo is unique, they must all nonetheless find a place next to each other.

  1. Who will execute the tattoo?

This is the question that makes all the difference. If you have a very precise idea in mind that you have designed yourself, you need to find a tattoo artist you will respect it as faithfully as possible.

Everyone has their own style and technique. If your design has too many colours or effects, it’s possible that slight adaptations or modifications will be necessary to make the tattoo work.

Choose the Right Tattoo Artist to Get the Tattoo of Your Dreams!

Find the right person for the job!
A tattoo artist is an expert, so they'll be able to advise you on your own body art. Photo credit: henboffman on Visual hunt

Whether or not you know how to draw, the key to a successful tattoo lies with the person who will eventually create it. And finding the right person for job isn’t always an easy task.

Take the time to do your research, have a look at their achievements, style and reviews before you get started.

You can also opt for some drawing classes to help you create your own design.

Most tattoo artists will be able to show you their tattoo catalogue, which will include original and unique tattoo designs that they’ve previously done. Feel free to browse your local tattoo studios to see if you’ll find the right tattoo template.

Don’t forget that there’s no shame in using a tattoo that you find in a catalogue or online! Whether it is a character drawn in comic-book style or a simple band, it just might be the case that your perfect future tattoo has already been imagined by a tattoo artist.

If this isn’t the case, most artists will offer to draw a custom tattoo for you to help you in the decision process. Simply explain your approach and what you want the tattoo to symbolise or represent for you, and the tattoo artist will be able to offer you an original tattoo design based on your ideas.

And never forget that tattoos are permanent! If you’re having doubts, why not test out a semi-permanent or temporary tattoo to get more concrete idea before going for the real thing?

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