What’s a neo-traditional tattoo? Neo-traditional style is a blanket term for contemporary tattoos that pay homage to traditional style. Hallmarks of the style include thick lines, bold shapes, and vibrant colors. These designs offer a sense of dimension without appearing 3D. The style mimics simple tattoos that were done hundreds of years ago before the advent of modern technology and modern tattoo guns.
Getting a neo-traditional tattoo is an excellent way to bring the past to life and it gives artists the opportunity to hone their traditional tattoo chops. While these tattoos must follow some rules to work, they are anything but basic or boring. In fact, this style produces some of the most thrilling tattoo designs artists are completing today. To get a better understanding of the style and just exciting it is, we’ve rounded up over twenty examples to share with you. Enjoy!
Learn More About Neo-Traditional Tattooing By Looking at the Examples Below.
We find many elements from traditional tattooing harnessed here along with radical color that’s been blended in a more contemporary style. Also notable is the use of black ink to create dimension and texture in the background of the design.
Rose and Snake
What a showstopper! We find a snake wrapped around a glorious rose in this energetic design. Notice how there is a black outline around every shape in this design? That’s a hallmark of traditional and neo-traditional tattoos.
Mushrooms From a Shell
Here’s an interesting design that finds some handsome mushroom springing from a shell. There is so much texture produced from hatching and movement lines.
Sacred heart tattoos are and have been extremely popular for decades. We find a new interpretation in this design that has a pleasing ombré that brings so much color and life to the design.
Horseshoe tattoos have been popular for a very long time as well. We find an update to the old design with the inclusion of the “sparkle” or “confetti” effect which is simply a bunch of dots used to fill various shapes.
Mum’s the Word
Chrysanthemum designs are well-represented among neo-traditional tattoos today. A cotton candy pink meets baby blue in the petals of this stunner.
Blue Flame, Black Bird
Take a look at this black bird’s plumage and you will see tons of little lines added to give the feathers texture. Despite all of it, the tattoo still reads as flat and 2D which makes the blue element really pop.
The black nails on the hand holding these flowers contrast beautifully with the orange rose in the foreground. Roses have been tattooed like this for decades.
Isn’t this lantern tattoo magical? Note the way the color intensity seems to radiate from the flame in the center and fades the further the tattoo moves away from it. It produces a very interesting effect.
Cute characters from nature are a big part of both traditional and neo-traditional tattoos. We find a sweet raccoon holding onto a pinecone here. Notice how green has been applied to the raccoon to make the golden-orange of the pinecone stand out? That’s money.
Eye Heart U
A heart with an eye in it is a classic symbol that’s been tattooed thousands of times. We find it improved here with a heart that’s full of spikes and has dramatic, black shading.
Lady faces are very popular among neo-traditional tattoos. We find a rather sinister one in the above example with a fresh-looking thorn or flame element.
Death’s-head hawkmoths are another popular design these days. When researching tattoos, we encounter tons of these done in a variety of styles. We must say it translates well for neo-traditional tattoos.
We find a rather poetic neo-traditional tattoo here that finds a broken arrow wrapped in a ribbon and some beads. What an attractive entry.
As we mentioned, lady faces are wildly popular and they have been for a very long time. What’s new in the above design is the shading on the face and its freckles. It’s very close to what you would find among traditional tattoos from decades ago.
Here’s a rather intense-looking rooster in this design which has used some incredibly warm colors that contrast well with the black elements of the design.
How daring is this little bird on a planchette? Botanical elements are popular additions to any design that sweeten the deal.
This flamingo tattoo looks positively electric in neon color. Pink, orange, and olive green all play well together in this big tattoo.
Pretty as a Peach
Go ahead and get your favorite fruit inked on you! Fruits make excellent neo-traditional tattoo designs because they put focus on shape and texture.
A black candle looks mesmerizing with bits of the “wax” picking up some of the warm golden colors that surround it. It makes it look as if the flame is being reflected from it.
What do you think of this neo-traditional bat tattoo? It’s fantastic. We find many elements of traditional tattooing here with a. few surprises for a look that feels both vintage and contemporary.
A True Gent
A gentleman cat? Why not! We think this furry fellow looks rather dapper in his green getup. Despite the whimsical subject matter, this tattoo is very close to the traditional tattooing style.
A Dagger of Love
We find dynamic color throughout this design from the handle to the delicately shaded tip of the dagger. “love dagger” feels like an oxymoron but it totally works for this design.
Neo-traditional tattooing is best when it harkens back to classic flash. An hourglass is a popular thing to get tattooed and it’s taken to brand new heights in this design that offers so much visual interest and plenty of imagination.
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We told you fruit is popular among neo-traditional tattoos. These blueberries are the perfect little celebration of the fruit.
Her Father’s Hand
This is a tribute tattoo for her father who was a carpenter. We find a very interesting perspective with a hand seeming to float in front of the tools of the trade. What a sweet, meaningful design.
A Splendid Mystery
In this deceptively simple design, we find all sorts of popular elements married together. A classic rose, a vase, and a sacred heart are all connected in this inspired design that’s been applied to perfection.
Do you have a better sense of the neo-traditional tattoo style? We hope we’ve given you a good idea of the hallmarks of this style and just how astonishing and cool these designs can be. In general, “traditional” is not something most of us are into but for tattoos, it brings the past to life in fresh, new ways. Happy tattooing!
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 Learn More About Neo-Traditional Tattooing By Looking at the Examples Below.
- 1.1 Lucky Fish
- 1.2 Rose and Snake
- 1.3 Mushrooms From a Shell
- 1.4 Sacred Heart
- 1.5 Good Luck
- 1.6 Mum’s the Word
- 1.7 Blue Flame, Black Bird
- 1.8 A Bouquet
- 1.9 That’s Hot
- 1.10 Rad Raccoon
- 1.11 Eye Heart U
- 1.12 She-Devil
- 1.13 Death Moth
- 1.14 Broken Arrow
- 1.15 Cowgirl
- 1.16 The Clucker
- 1.17 Cute Chick
- 1.18 Flamingo-Go
- 1.19 Pretty as a Peach
- 1.20 Light Up
- 1.21 Beautifully Batty
- 1.22 A True Gent
- 1.23 A Dagger of Love
- 1.24 On-Time
- 1.25 Berry Special
- 1.26 Her Father’s Hand
- 1.27 A Splendid Mystery
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