Choosing a Design and Location
The choice of design is a matter of personal taste. You should make your decision with care and forethought and remember, the tattoo you get will be with you for the rest of your life. When picking your design think in terms of ten, twenty or fifty years from now.
Styles of Tattoos
Here are the various tattoo styles;
Black & Gray Wash – This style uses black ink and various shades of black to ’round’ out the design. Strong light source and subtle shading is used to render the tattoo and will usually hold up well over time. This is the preferred method for portraits (which should be done by someone adept at portrait rendering).
New School – Bright colors and bold outlines give this style its distinctive look. Based on graffiti art, New School tends to have exaggerated poses and proportions and contrasting color hi-lites. This is a very ‘trendy’ tattoo style.
Old School (Traditional) – Taking its roots from the early days of tattoos, this style uses simple lines and flat shading with a minimum of colors. The traditional colors are black, red, green, yellow and blue. These are the tattoos of your grandfather’s time.
Irezumi – Otherwise known as ‘Japanese’ or ‘Oriental’ tattoos. The theme usually defines an Irezumi tattoo and include such things as koi fish (carp) swimming in ‘finger’ waves, oriental dragons, buddhas, samurais and geishas, kabuki masks and other traditional oriental icons and images. The colors are bright and simple with a conscientious use of black areas.
Tribal – A very popular style, tribal work tends to be decorative lines and shapes that invoke a ‘feel’ rather than depict an object. Usually rendered in solid black but can be done with a mixture of color or shading for interesting variations. The term ‘tribal’ is also often misused. The term originally referred to any tattoo design taken from indigenous people from other parts of the world, in particular from the Pacific Islands and Africa. Today it is often used to refer to any solid black decorative design having a ‘tribal’ feel. Some artists refer to this variation as ‘neo-tribal’.
Celtic Knotwork – Taken from the old Celtic manuscripts from Ireland this style can be as complex or as simple as you like. Celtic knotwork requires skill in rendering it properly and should be done by an artist that specializes in this art form. Usually done just in black but can use solid, bright primary colors for interest.
Bio-mechanical – This style became popular through the work on the ‘Alien’ movies by Swedish artist H.R.Geiger. This style combines anatomical flesh intertwined with some sort of mechanical parts. This style requires some rendering skill by the artist and should be done by someone who specializes in this art form.
Fine Line – A more contemporary style of tattooing, this style relies on thin tines and finer detail than the old traditional forms. Fine line is particularly good for small, feminine tattoos and realistic tattoos where line as well as form help create a more natural rendering.
As much thought should go into placement of the tattoo as to the design. Preferably the design should fit comfortably into the area where it will be tattooed. Questions to consider are visibility and the effects of longevity on the tattoo.
Visibility – Who should see your tattoo is a personal choice. If you prefer to keep your tattoo out of sight then placement should be in an inconspicuous place such as the shoulder, hip or thigh, groin area, buttocks, inner ankle, upper arm above short sleeve level or chest/breast. Otherwise, any part of your anatomy is fair game.
You should note though that most reputable parlors will not tattoo the hands or face for obvious reasons.
Longevity – Certain areas of your body take more abuse than others and sheds and replenishes its skin more rapidly. This shedding and replenishing tend to fade out a tattoo more rapidly. These areas include the hands and feet, elbows and knees, lower arms and wrists.
There are also certain areas where the skin stretches so much that a tattoo there will tend to ‘move’. This includes the inner part of the elbow, the neck and backs of knees. Women in particular should keep in mind that childbirth will have a big effect on their body. Stretch marks may appear on the breasts and abdominal area. A tattoo in these areas will be affected.