The history of Asian tattoos goes back to eastern mythology. Many of the images seen in Asian pieces refer to different stories and myths allowing each image to have its own unique symbolism. Today you will find many Asian tattoos based off the old woodblock paintings of the Edo period called Ukiyo-e.
Traditional Asian tattooing utilized one of the two forms of hand tattooing called Tebori. This method is different then machine tattooing (what is done in most shops) as Tebori utilizes a bamboo stick with a flat needle head attached to the end. The tattooer levies it over the thumb of their stretching hand and uses force to push it up under the skin. The sound it creates while tattooing is called shakki as you can hear a distinct rip of the skin. This style of tattooing creates a very smooth gradient in black and grey, which lends itself nicely to the wind bar and water imagery commonly found in Asian pieces.
The placement of Asian tattoos also has great significance as a historic Asian body suit will have an open section down the sternum and stop ¾ of the way down the arm as to allow the wearer the ability to hide their tattoos in a traditional kimono. This is much like the business man suit you see today when a tattoo will stop ¾ of the way down the arm so that you can make that million dollar deal without showing off your ink.
If you are looking to get a new Asian piece and don’t know where to start we have a large library of books of Asian artwork to help you draw inspiration! Or click here to see a gallery of Asian style tattoos.
Originally named Naval Tattooing, American Traditional style tattooing bore its roots from maritime traditions. Sailors were some of the first to begin getting tattooed after seeing the practice done in the islands they visited. After seeing the tribes men adorn themselves they too wanted permanent keepsakes to keep them safe.
Different images had different symbolism and represented different milestones in a sailors career. One would have a pig and a rooster on each foot to keep you safe, propellers on your butt to keep you from sinking and birds on the chest to show how far you’ve been at sea. Since tattooing has had its origins in oral history most of the designs have been passed down through the generations which is why there is still a heavy nautical theme to many traditional tattoos.
The style was categorized by simplistic bold line work that could be done quickly and efficiently. Most tattoo shops were based outside military bases or on the boardwalks with Sailor Jerry being the most well known pioneer of the style. Flash sheets became popular as artists had an arsenal of tattoo designs they could create and pump out in a quick and efficient manner. It wasn’t until later with the rise of custom work that traditional tattooing became what it is today allowing the client more control over the subject matter. The heavy line work designs and simple imagery has made American Traditional tattoos one of the most iconic styles of tattooing.
Click here to see examples of American Traditional tattoos.
Full color tattoos have a come a long way since their origin. With the growing popularity of tattooing so came unique changes to equipment and styles within the industry. Where the tattooer was once limited to only a few colors over time a full color palate became available helping to expand the options with tattooing.
With more pigment came more experimentation. The major transitions began in the late eighties going into the early nineties. Graffiti artists began picking up tattoo machines and their vibrant exaggerated style formed the building blocks for the style we call “new school” which composes large cartoon-‐esque images with bright vibrant colors. With these new advancements in pigment, artists began pushing the boundaries of what could be done with ink and skin.
As tattooing gained popularity formally trained artists came into the industry. Referencing the paintings of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vellejo, classically trained artists began rendering things from their works into tattoos and began the movement for what is now called color realism. The style and possibilities of color work continues to grow with the increased popularity and social acceptance of tattooing.
Click here to see examples of Full Color tattoos.
BLACK & GREY
Black and grey tattooing was born in the prison system of Southern California and slowly evolved into the style we see today. Inmates had limited access to supplies and could only easily make black pigment. Using what they had, they created tattoos that showed depth by using varying tones of grey to show light and dark. The style was given its proper name of “black and grey” by Ed Hardy after pioneers in the industry like Jack Rudy and Freddy Negrette helped showcase it and bring it across the country. Today black and grey tattoos are one of the most popular and asked for styles.
Moving away from its prison roots, most tattooers use a series of washes varying in intensity to create the smooth gradient. This method allows the natural luminosity of the skin to come through. Un-tattooed skin reflects light while tattooed skin doesn’t. By allowing areas of open skin to act as the “white” it adds a luminous effect to the piece. Black and Grey tattoos are great for the sun worshippers as they hold truer through the test to time and to UV exposure.
Click here to see examples of black & grey tattoos.
Tribal tattoos are some of the oldest known tattoos in history. For many men, the process of receiving the tattoo was a right of passage in it of itself and was often an elaborate affair with the tattoo spanning their whole body. The healing process for these intense pieces often took months and much assistance as the tattooed skin would be washed and massaged with salt water to extract the impurities. Different placements as well as designs represented different meanings and standings within the tribes.
The most common tribal tattoo styles you will see today go back to the Polynesians and Maori Tribes. Each island has a different and unique style. Hawaiian tribes use heavy animal symbolism such as lizards or turtles as well as weaving patterns, where as the Maori use large spirals and swirls to cover the body as well as marking the chin and face called moko, which is used as a marriage tattoo for women of the tribe.
Most of these cultures use the method of hand tattooing called Tau‐tau. The process for Tau‐tau historically utilized a tool made from sharpened boars teeth attached to a turtle shell and wooden handle. The teeth or “needle” would be tapped by another mallet onto the skin to create the design.
The name tau‐tau is what birthed the name tattoo in modern culture after the Western missionaries discovered the tribes and their process. Many of the tribes believed that the marking of the skin represented the wearers’ mana or spiritual power. Much of the tribal imagery and designs you find today are inspired by these ancient cultures.
Click here to see examples of Tribal tattoos.
When looking to get a cover‐up done the best thing to arm yourself with is patience. Cover‐ups are not something to be rushed, as you are already unhappy with what you have. There is no use in slapping something new on top of a piece you are unhappy with for the sake of getting rid of it as quickly as possible. You don’t want to become unhappy with your new piece five years down the road.
There has been much improvement with cover-ups today, as they don’t have to be filled with black in order to hide what’s there. The best images to use are things that are busy and that allow the old tattoo to fit into the new piece. Symmetry, text and geometry typically don’t work the best. While they don’t need to be all black, darker colors do tend to lend themselves better. Most cover-ups take a lot of time and many layers to fully hide what was once there.
Getting laser removal is not always necessary but is always beneficial and can create many more options as to what is possible for a cover up. The money you spend on the laser treatment will save you thousands on the tattoo. The wearer will always be able to see bits and pieces of the old tattoo poking through as they have worn the original piece for so long.
Cover-ups do have to be a certain size in order for them to work and need to be larger then the existing piece. The goal is to draw the eye away from what you are hiding by creating an area of the tattoo that isn’t hiding anything. If you are looking to get a cover-up done our artists are more then happy to sit down with you to discuss your options.
Click here to see a gallery of successful cover-ups.