Inside: American Style Tattoo Styles + Definition 

What is American style tattoo?

American Traditional design styles use heavy black outlines with minimal color and a lot of black shades. They are usually darker in appearance and the color choice is limited to simple colors such as average blue, green, red and yellow. Colors are used in blocks with very few details.
American Style Tattoo

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing an artist for your tattoo is the most important part of the process.
  • They are usually darker in appearance and the color choice is limited to simple colors such as average blue, green, red and yellow.

Main Themes & Symbols in Old School Tattoos

The original flash designs may have varied from artist to artist, but there were some common themes:

  • Eagle Tattoos
  • Diving Swallow Tattoos
  • Pin-Up Tattoos
  • American Traditional Tattoo Lettering
  • Cross Tattoos
  • Bird Tattoos
  • Traditional Flower Tattoos

Here are a few more of our favorite designs! 

Tattoo Styles American Traditional

American Traditional Tattoo Artists

American Traditional tattoos may not be the only style on the block anymore, but they are not going anywhere. For tattoo enthusiasts, this one is here to stay. Have you decided you’d like an old school tattoo, but aren’t sure where to go? Choosing an artist for your tattoo is the most important part of the process. Especially when it comes to something with a specific aesthetic like the old school style.

What Should I Look For in an Old School Tattoo Artist?

First, it’s important to see how they tackle an old school tattoo. Many artists are multi-disciplinary, but you want to be sure they have the right stuff for this historic style. Because of the thick, bold lines, saturated colors, and familiar aesthetic, when an old school tattoo looks off, it’s easy to spot the mistakes. These images are notorious and even an un-tattooed person will probably recognize them. See how your artist attacks outlines, coloring, and shading. Are they bold and generous with their color, or more romantic and wispy? Finally, just ask if they do old school tattoos! If your favorite artist doesn’t feel up to it, they likely know someone who is.

The History of American Traditional Tattoos

Tattoos are an ancient art form, but they took longer to take off in America. Maud Wagner (1907) Maude Wagner, one of the OG names in the game, was the first recorded female tattoo artist in America. She met Gus Wagner in 1904, and this was the beginning of her tattoo journey. Maude was working as a circus performer at the time and Gus was a heavily tattooed tattoo artist. He began teaching Maude his skills and the two became a famous tattoo artist couple.

Tattooed people who weren’t vaudeville or circus performers were generally seamen. Sailors and pirates traveled to islands, so they were privy to tribal tattoos. For a long time, American tattoo artistry remained on the outskirts, with people who dedicated their lives to not fitting in. It was during the second world war that tattoo artistry really took off. Soldiers would tattoo each other with patriotic symbols. It was during this time that the enduring symbols in American Traditional tattoos were popularized and refined.