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Written by Kieran Proctor

How to Choose A Style of Tattoo?



In this post, I’ll start with the first step in everyone’s tattoo journey, which is choosing a tattoo style. And I’ll explain how you can get that first tattoo inspiration. I’m starting with ‘style,’ because it’s the most essential element when deciding to get a tattoo.

Before you walk into a tattoo shop for the first time, you need to know the basics of what you want as a tattoo and where you’ll get the tattoo placed on your body. Tattoo placement is covered in the next article. So, let’s start.

Kieran - author - tattoovagabond and inlovelyblue
Some of my own tattoos – Photo taken in Buenos Aires, Argentina

How to choose a tattoo style?

In order to choose a tattoo style, you need to look at a lot of pictures and get a feel for what you like. By the time you enter a tattoo shop or start working with a tattooist, you need to be certain of which style of tattoo and color palate you want on your body, for years to come.

In my opinion, the best place to find images of quality tattoos, is on Pinterest. And you should head over to Pinterest and start with our board where we’re saving all the great tattoo sleeves we’ve found.

You might not want a tattoo sleeve, but it will give you an idea of colors and styles. And it’s a great place to start. As you start looking at and clicking on the images you like on Pinterest, Pinterest will auto-magically start to show you visually similar images.

It’s a great place to hunt down styles and refine your tattoo ideas.

You should save at least 5 images to give to your tattooist once you’ve decided on style, decided on placement, selected a tattoo studio and picked a tattoo artist. These 5 images that you’re going to give to your future tattooist, need to clearly convey the style of tattoo you want and they need to clearly show the stylistic cues or elements.

The pictures need to demonstrate the color palate you like the most and the elements you’d like incorporated into your new tattoo.

You should be asking yourself whether you want flowers, Koi, skulls, calligraphy, knuckle dusters, straight razors or any one of the infinite number of potential things that can be incorporated into a tattoo. If you can picture it or get a picture of it, a tattooist somewhere can ink it. So, don’t be scared to select the images you like best. And don’t rush.

There’s no time limit on getting past this first step in the process. It isn’t a race.

Keep looking at images and collecting them until you’re absolutely certain you know what type of tattoo style and color combination you like. Remember, a tattoo is permanent and you will be wearing this tattoo for years to come.  

Ask questions in the comments where somebody has posted a picture of a tattoo you like

Artists posting photos of their work and clients showing off their tattoos online, are always happy to discuss tattoos. Ask in the comments who the artist was and what the style is. Then search some more.

Learn about the particular styles of the tattoos you’ve seen images on online and that you like. Use the responses you get from your questions online, to hunt down more answers and narrow your stylistic preferences.

You need to know the terms associated with the tattoos you like. For example, are they old school, new school, traditional, Irezumi or blackwork? Was the tattoo done in tebori, with a conventional tattoo gun or a new school rotary? Is the tattoo solid color, or did the artist use gray-wash?

The more questions you can answer about the tattoos you like, then the easier the next steps in the process will become.

What happens if you don’t know which style you want when you make a tattoo booking?

Not knowing the style of tattoo you want and not having narrowed down the details of your future tattoo, before booking a tattoo appointment, usually spells disaster. You’ll waste the tattooists time. Annoy the tattoo artist. Or worse yet, you may wind up with a tattoo you’re not happy with.

Tattooists only get paid while they’re tattooing. They generally don’t get paid while they’re standing around dealing with clients who have no idea what they want. And this can be utterly frustrating for them.

Clients who know what they want and have come to their shop to make a booking, because its a tattoo that the particular artist is known to do well, is the optimal situation.

When a client knows what they want, where they want it and has selected their shop and them, because they know the shop and artists reputation, then the artist will be super happy to meet you and book your appointment.

When you wander in off the street, with no idea what tattoo you want and try to take up all their time for free, you will just annoy the artist. So, do your homework first. And once you’ve got the style narrowed down, then look at my next article, which explains how to decide on tattoo placement. 

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