There are so many tattooing styles available today and just so much skin on the average person to cover. The idea of not being able to ink on all the types of tattoos you like or what style to stick to can because of a bit of panic. Do you have to just stick to one kind, or just can you mix different tattoo styles together?
Mixing tattoo styles is a relatively new form of tattooing and is successfully done by combining various older techniques. Many more recent tattoo clients prefer to combine styles and elements of ideas and images they like together. This creates incredibly unique creative pieces of visually stimulating art.
Combining different styles allows tattoo artists to explore elements of more traditional techniques and create an entirely different look, style, and idea. This will allow for a lot of freedom in expressing art visually and gives the client the chance to have many types tattooed without it looking haphazard or unplanned. The idea that you should stick to just Americana or Neo-Traditional once you start with that style is no longer popular opinion. Let us look at it more in-depth and explore the subject;
Why Mix Tattoo Styles?
From a client’s perspective, the idea of mixing tattoo styles as individual pieces or as a new, combined work can be attractive. This will allow the client to have many of the techniques they like without looking haphazard or unplanned. This can quickly occur if you get a tattoo without planning or spontaneously with friends. Many cover-ups have had to be done over tattoos that clients regretted getting.
Some tattoo artists don’t want to get stuck doing just one style. The creative platform that mixing tattoo styles create gives the artist the freedom to express their talents. Being able to have that sort of space, especially when tattooing, can result in creating masterpieces. There are many trusts exchanged between an artist and the client for this freedom of expression approach.
What Styles Work Well Together?
There are not many rules concerning which styles work well when combined; however, there are a few that you might want to steer clear of. Tattoos with raw imagery and a 2D quality like your old Traditional American will just become Neo-Traditional if you added more color, for example. This is not effectively combining styles but just changing styles.
The art of effectively combining styles keeps the basis of what makes each type unique and identifiable at a glance.
How Do You Blend Different Tattoo Styles Together?
There is precise and determined planning involved in blending multiple styles or combining two very different tattoo styles. The end result will need careful consideration. What is the goal, and what kinds will complement or contrast best. No piece will be successful without a generous amount of contrast, and it will be bland and unassuming.
When you blend two or more styles, the aim is to create a tattoo that people will remember, which they have not seen and will not forget easily. Black ink is always essential when creating contrast, and it will be the base of any piece. The design elements you can combine are endless; however, it will make your tattoo expressive and timeless.
Some purists might say that haphazardly applying tattoos leaves no room for add-ons, claiming that you should know where you will start and where the tattoo will eventually end. In styles like Neo-Traditional, it is not uncommon to see tattoos being applied all over the body with seemingly no planning or forethought. As is dictated by the pirates of old, they used to spread their tattoos all over the body with no intention of making them blend or complement one another.
Tattoos on pirates or sailors told stories of their adventures, the hardships they shared, and of course, of love won and lost. Some would even have treasure maps tattooed onto them hidden in such a way that only they knew how to read it. Today it is much easier to get tattoos done than it was for the sailors of old.
Designing A Mixed Style Tattoo
There is always a place you need to start with, and like any regular tattoo, there are steps; let us have a look at the basics;
- Placement – The number one factor is where to place the tattoo; choosing the right location in the beginning, will allow you to either keep it as a single piece or expand on it at a later stage.
- Styles – After you have an idea of where you want to have the tattoo, start doing some research on different types you like and techniques that could potentially be used together.
- Design – If you are not good at drawing, you can save a few images of tattoo styles and designs you like, narrowing it down to an image you ideally would like. You can then show your artist and come up with a unique design using all the presented elements.
- After you have chosen the styles and designs you like, the Artist research tattoo artists in your area. Some are already specializing in doing combined style tattooing, and it would be recommended you look at their work, the ratings and book a consultation to see if you are a good match. It is essential to have a good relationship and professional understanding with your artist.
Once you are satisfied that all the criteria have been met, go ahead and book a session to start tattooing your unique design. With blending tattoo styles, you can expand on that specific combination or try out different types to add more ink. There is no limit to your creativity.
Examples Of Popular Mixed Tattoo Styles
Because the options in designing an eclectic style tattoo are so limitless, there is no possible way to determine which styles will be the best or most popular. This will be decided by the person getting the tattoo and the artist’s expertise in translating the idea and design onto the skin. Some styles will arguably blend together better, but you can combine something like Geometric and Watercolor if you are looking for sharper contrast. Brush Stroke is another style that is beautifully combined with more traditional Japanese style tattoos or with Watercolor.
Individual styles are known to be much tougher to blend or combine due to elements in each that are so specific.
Let’s look at the most popular tattoo styles that are used together;
Surrealism And Other Styles
Surrealism typically refers to images that appear to be a distortion of reality—depictions of people, inanimate objects, and animals that are a combination of irrational blending and juxtapositions. Salvador Dalí, being widely accepted as the father of surrealism, has inspired this style much.
- Surrealism And Abstract – Abstract typically refers to images or ideas with no real physical form; derived from early surrealism, it represents layered and complex works. Due to this, the images are open to various interpretations.
- Surrealism And Typography – Typography is the art of taking letters or phrases and turning them into beautiful pieces of art. Different styles of writing can be imitated from brush strokes or fine point pens. Combined with surrealistic images, topography can bring an edge to the tattoo.
- Surrealism And Lowbrow – Lowbrow, is a relatively stand-alone style of highly polished cartoon character imagery and scenery. This movement or technique is also known as Pop Surrealism. It is the opposite of highbrow or intellectual art born in the 1970s in Los Angeles. Lowbrow is considered to be one of the tattoo world’s more rebellious styles.
- Surrealism And Neo-Traditional – Neo-Traditional style developed out of the older, more traditional types of tattooing. It is recognized by the bold lines in black and beautiful bright colors. Neo-Traditional is known for using human, floral, and animal images, geometric designs and looks similar to the early artists’ paintings. Combining surrealism with the Neo-Traditional creates a very new and edgy tone to what is considered a more traditional tattoo style.
Realism And Other Styles
Realism typically refers to the oldest style of painting we know. The Renaissance would be the best source of reference. Realism is the art of creating realistic and life-like images of people, animals, nature, and architecture. Realism is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful styles of tattooing out there. Realism is combined very successfully with the following styles;
- Realism And Trash Polka – The blending of Trash Polka’s bold abstract style with Realism creates beautiful pieces that contrast the lines and shapeless with the discipline in linework, shading, and Realism color. Trash Polka is recognized through the use of black, grey, and red as the only colors.
- Realism And Geometric – The use of Realism as the centerpiece of the tattoo and framing or accentuating that with geometric designs and bold colors is straightforward to achieve. These two styles blend together effortlessly.
- Realism And Classic – Known as Traditional or Old School American, the classic style of tattooing is known for its bold black lines and bright colors. The sailor-type tattoos were inspired by Polynesian and Asian styles and were first seen on British sailors. Classic is easily combined with Realism to create some of the most awe-inspiring tattoos around.
Illustrative And Other Styles
As the name suggests, Illustrative is a style that appears to originate out of a fairytale or storybook. Not cartoon-like but more fictional in the overview. Creatures like fairies, unicorns, dragons, or wildlife are commonly used. Trees or depictions of historical events can all be done in Illustrative style. It uses bold, black line work and is filled or shaded with black or color ink. Illustrative can be combined with the following types;
- Illustrative And Geometric – Geometric is typically a tattoo made up of a combination of lines, shapes, patterns, or starts that are repeated or combined to create an even bigger form. Geometric is a disciplined style, and precision is needed to make it look balanced. Combining Geometric with Illustrative will break the repetitive pattern and blend it into an effortless image.
- Illustrative And New School – New School style uses exaggerated images of fictional cartoon-like characters, fantasy worlds, and very bold colors. The linework accentuates the color by using heavy black outlines, and combining this style with Illustrative works exceptionally well as they are complimentary.
Blackwork And Other Styles
Blackwork refers to almost any tattoo that is done just in black ink. The style has expanded to some people completely blacking out sections of their bodies. Many horror or slasher tattoos are also done in Blackwork style to give it a more shocking and mysterious feel. Blackwork can be combined with the following types;
- Blackwork And Dotwork – Dotwork is essentially using a combination of dots in either black or a range of colors to either create an image or to fill a shape. It is a very versatile style, and a lot can be achieved through its application.
- Blackwork And Negative Space – Negative space tattoos use the space in between the ink to create the image, and the Blackwork is usually done around the idea to create an illusion and image.
- Blackwork And Pointillism – Pointillism takes Dotwork to another level, improving on what is already there. The dots are packed together so tightly to create the tattoo, and it is hard to see them unless you are very close.
- Blackwork and Geometric – Geometric tattoo designs such as Mandalas, Fibonacci sequence designs, or any other sacred geometry designs are almost always done in combination with black linework and sometimes with black and color designs.
Realistically speaking, there are only a few styles of tattoo that are difficult to combine. They are styles of tattoo that are so authentic in the colors and styles they are known for that if mixed or blended with another, and they will lose the message completely. Trash Polka, for example, can only be done by using red as the complementary color. If more colors are added to that piece, it will destroy the style.
There are instances where more than just two styles are combined or overlapped to create incredible masterpieces. Watercolor combined with Brush Stroke, Realism, and Geometric using Blackwork is a blend of four or more techniques that can ultimately complement one another and gives you a unique design.
Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you
Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.
Design and tattoo ideas
For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):
- Great Book of Tattoo Designs, Revised Edition: More than 500 Body Art Designs (Fox Chapel Publishing) Fantasy, Celtic, Floral, Wildlife, and Symbol Designs for the Skin by Lora Irish
- The Big Book of Small Tattoos – Vol.1: 400 small original tattoos for women and men by Roberto Gemori
- Tiny Tattoos: Over 1,000 Small Inspirational Artworks by Rebecca Vincent.
If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).
The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):
As the tattoo industry grows and evolves, the pressure to create unique and different styles pushes artists to explore various design and delivery aspects. Each artist has a style of tattoo that they prefer applying or that they specialize in doing. Some artists will spend years perfecting a particular tattoo style like Hyperrealism, and if you want one of their unique art pieces on your skin, you will know exactly what the end result will be.
Artists depend on the client’s trust when they are applying the design to the skin. Some artists may not be too willing to try out new design combinations if they are unfamiliar with the styles, the results, or the end result. Find an artist that specializes in blended pieces, do lots of research before you make a booking.
As we have seen, there are only a few styles that really should not be mixed or blended with others due to the defining characteristics it demands. For the rest of the techniques, there are really no rules attached to them. Your imagination and a willing, competent artist are what you need to get the unique kind of tattoo that will not be replicated elsewhere. As with any new piece, please always consult your trusted tattoo artist regarding application, design, and most importantly, the aftercare protocol they recommend. The aftercare protocol ensures your tattoo looks as if it is fresh and new, even years after.