Tattoo Styles

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By 2017-09-09

By Uwin Lugoda

Tattoo culture is a fairly new thing in Sri Lanka, with tattoos itself only coming into play during the last few decades.

While it seems as if almost everyone in five people have tattoos here now, there's still a lot we don't know about them. There are so many styles that have come out throughout the years. Here are a few of the styles that you must know about before you go get inked.


Also known as 'old school tattoos', traditional tattoos originated in the 1700's thanks to indigenous cultures, and this style first appeared on sailors who had travelled to these cultures. But it didn't come into the world until the 1930's. This is when the style adapted a more refined and aesthetic look thanks to famous American tattoo artists like Sailor Jerry.


Realism is fairly new in the world of tattoos, only entering it in the late 20th century. This style takes the concept of realism which has been in the fine art world since the Renaissance, and puts it on your skin. It ranges from portraits of people to realistic depictions of nature. These realistic tattoos can come in two forms, either colour or black and grey, either way, done right, the end result is breathtaking.


This is one of the most beautiful styles that have just come into play. It's exactly as it sounds. The style recreates the look of a canvas which has to be run through with a brush dabbled in watery pastel. This style takes an extremely talented artist to perfect, since getting the aesthetic look of watercolours on skin is no easy task. The watercolour style is especially popular among the newer generations of tattoo enthusiast.


This is the most famous and the oldest style of tattooing. This style is basically what gave birth to modern tattooing. Dating back thousands of years, it was first discovered in aboriginal communities around the world. Tribal is however an umbrella term since the style varies from culture to culture. Almost always done in black, it has become one of the most tattooed styles in the world.

New School

Despite the name this style originated in the late 80's and early 90's. New School is a very cartoonish and wacky style which is almost always done in colour. Sadly this highly animated style of tattooing hasn't aged well; reaching the height of its popularity in the early 90's, it's become a very niche style in the tattoo community.


This style is the new evolution of the traditional style. While the basis of the style remains the same as its predecessor, neo-traditional artists use various line weights to get more textured aesthetic and they use extremely vibrant colours in they're tattoos. It also has a higher illustrative quality and a more blended colour scheme than the traditional style. This style is used when depicting things like animals and lively imagery.


The Japanese traditional style, also known as Irezumi, originated in the Edo period (1603-1868). This style mainly focuses on Japanese folklore, such as dragons, kirins and phoenixes. This style of tattooing takes a very dramatic appearance with most tattoos being filled with smoke or waves. The tattoos that are done in a style that tells a story about the history of Japan.

Black work

Black work again, is an umbrella term. It's for any tattoo that is done solely using black ink, from ancient sacred geometry to modern abstract ornamental designs to extremely detailed illustrative pieces. Black work is also being used as a form of experimentation by artist around the world, some of whom have come up with beautiful designs.



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