Sketch tattoos or sketch style tattoos are a fashionable tattoo trend that uses lines like you’d find in an artist’s sketch as elements of a tattoo design. These tattoos have an animated quality to them and are often found in working in concert with watercolor tattoo effects. In general, if these tattoos aren’t doing radical things with colorful ink, they’re done in black and grey. The designs tend to look like balanced pencil drawings or highly graphic and full of movement.
This trend has long been popular for fans of animation (there are a ton of Disney tattoos utilizing this effect). They question the medium and want to push the boundaries of how tattoos should look and how they’re composed. These creative designs are such fun and we’ve found 25 examples to inspire you. Here are 25 sketch tattoos that utilize elements of drafting and technical drawing to bring completely original tattoo designs.
As we mentioned, the sketch style tattoo marries well with watercolor effects. This tattoo of a wolf skull is a beautiful example that delivers plenty of drama. The inclusion of white ink really makes this tattoo stand out and helps give the blacks and blues so much depth.
This charming cat has the mystery of the universe on its brain. As you can see, this design is void of color and uses simple black and grey to shade the design.
This humble floral tattoo uses tons of little dots and hatching to give the design elements of sketching and drawing. The swooping curves and circles give these edelweiss flowers movement and vibrancy.
As promised, here’s a Disney-inspired tattoo of Minnie Mouse. The artist could have left out all of the shading and you’d be left with a flatter design. Instead, the tattoo looks like its been quick-sketched.
This natural scene is rather large and just about constitutes a half sleeve. The busy design is full of life just like its subject matter.
This dark design employs a good deal of movement lines near the breaking wave to give an overall appearance of being “unfinished.” Which is exactly what you want with this tattoo trend.
A Poisoned Apple
The poisoned apple from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is iconic. As you can see, the hand holding the apple is tattooed with fine, black, and grey lines will the apple is dripping with color. This is such a fun Disney tattoo.
A Majestic Elephant
Wow! This is one big tattoo of an elephant! We love the use of geometric, angular shapes, and hard lines to give the character so much emotion. There are “splatters” of ink included as well to further complete the illusion.
An Evocative Eye
This glassy eye uses a lot of crosshatching and dots to achieve the sketch effect. We love how the artist has only included color for the iris.
A Ballerina’s Dance
We’ve written a lot about movement in this post because it’s captured so well in this trend. This tattoo of a ballerina dancing is the perfect example. The movement lines accentuate the shape and give it so much life.
This pastel cat/dragon hybrid is a little stunner. We love all the blues and purples used to give this cat its color. The fur coat is further realized by thin, black linework throughout.
Will this person take off in flight if they do jumping jacks? It’s highly unlikely but this wind on the arm is a rather moving design.
A Wise Owl
This owl tattoo highlights the best qualities of illustrative design. Using just simple lines, this owl is brought to life.
Do you remember the cartoon Sailor Moon and all those adorable little brooches? As we mentioned, these designs work extremely well when paying tribute to a beloved animated work. This tattoo is colorful and happy.
Yes, people are getting coronavirus tattoos. The person who shared this image included the caption “quarantine.” As you can see, the design is a person stuck inside of a house and it captures the feeling of isolation many of us are currently feeling.
Listen to Your Heart
Well, the person with this tattoo is clearly a music and art lover. We weren’t expecting to see an anatomical heart wearing headphones today, but alas. Look at all of the detail in the lines themselves. This is a masterpiece and very unique.
Simplicity is bliss and this tattoo proves it. There’s enough detail to get the point across without it being overly done. We love the view of space in the helmet here.
We’re all about a pet tattoo and these adorable cats are just marvelous. The cats’ faces are so expressive and the clean lines really make this tattoo a standout.
Ew but yes. This bug tattoo of a cicada is somewhat unnerving because it’s one of our least favorite bugs. The sound alone triggers fears of finding their little exoskeleton things hanging on to tree bark and everything else. Alas, the tattoo itself is wonderful.
This pretty pink lotus flower is backed by a rich, blue diamond and bespotted bars. The movement lines that surround the blossom make the flower appear to be spinning or floating in space. The juxtaposition of straight hard-lines with the soft roundness of the flower is gorgeous.
Cow is king. This person must really have an affinity for cattle, there’s no other reasoning, right? At any rate, this very big chest piece has a wingspan that incorporates many dots and dashes for shading. The cow’s face is also composed of pretty obvious, simple shapes that make it most appealing.
This windmill scene is remarkable. It looks like something you’d find in an old children’s book.
For the Dressmaker
This tattoo belongs to a seamstress and dressmaker who clearly loves her trade. The cute, cartoonish design includes a watercolor effect in soft pink and blue which gives this tat such brightness.
This Sloth is Eating a Cheeseburger
What in the world is happening here? You’re looking at a sloth eating a cheeseburger while wearing a basketball jersey. We have to mention that the look of pure pleasure the sloth displays is something we can relate to. Probably the only relatable thing about this very strange tattoo.
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This wonderfully creative tattoo design comes from South Korea and looks like it’s been ripped from the pages of a very elegant coloring book. We love an artist who isn’t afraid to color outside the lines and we’ve found that perfectly acceptable in this sweet tattoo.
There you go! 25 sketch tattoos that are inspired by illustrative design and drawing. We love this remarkable trend and all of the different methods and techniques artists are using to achieve it. We hope you’re inspired and might consider getting a little weird with your next tattoo design.