A Complete List Of Different Types Of Tattoo Styles

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Reviewed by Scott Terry, Professional Tattoo Artist Scott Terry Scott TerryProfessional Tattoo Artist facebook_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BA (English Hons) Pahul Nanra BA (English Hons) Experience: 2 years
Edited by , BTech Anjali Sayee BTech Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MSc Manjari Uppal MSc Experience: 3 years

The world of tattoos is a diverse canvas showcasing a myriad of artistic styles, each with its own unique flair and significance. Exploring this vast array of tattoo artistry involves understanding the different types of tattoos that individuals can choose from to adorn their bodies. From traditional and timeless styles to contemporary and avant-garde designs, the options are as varied as personal tastes and cultural influences. In this article, embark on a journey through the complete list of different types of tattoo styles, shedding light on the characteristics and cultural origins that define each of them. Whether you are a seasoned tattoo enthusiast or someone considering getting their first ink, understanding the diverse landscape of tattoo styles opens the door to a world of artistic expression and individual storytelling.

Different Types Of Tattoo Styles

Tattoos come in various designs, each telling a unique story. From traditional tribal designs to Polynesian art, tattoo enthusiasts can explore these diverse styles, reflecting personal identity and artistic expression, to choose one that they can proudly flaunt on their own body.

a) Types Of Tribal Tattoos

Tribal tattoos, rooted in ancient cultures, symbolize a rich tapestry of traditions and identity. These designs, characterized by bold, black lines and intricate patterns like swirls, often hold deep cultural significance for indigenous communities worldwide. Each symbol, whether geometric shapes or stylized animals, reflects spiritual beliefs, social status, or rites of passage. Beyond their aesthetic appeal, tribal tattoos serve as powerful expressions of heritage and resilience, connecting people to their roots. As contemporary art merges with ancient practices, these tattoos continue to evolve, bridging the past and present, embodying a timeless testament to the diversity and enduring spirit of tribal communities. Here are five popular types of tribal tattoos that have gained popularity in contemporary tattoo art:

1. Polynesian Tribal Tattoos

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Originating from the Polynesian islands, these tattoos often feature bold geometric patterns, intricate lines, and symbols with specific meanings. They often contain popular elements such as the sun, sea turtles, and spearheads.

2. Maori Tribal Tattoos

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Hailing from the indigenous people of New Zealand, Maori tattoos are characterized by intricate spirals, curves, and complex patterns. Each element in a Maori tattoo has a symbolic meaning, often reflecting the wearer’s genealogy, social status, and personal achievements. The Maori tribe is well-known for their distinct style of tribal tattoos called ‘Ta Moko’.

3. Haida Tribal Tattoos

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The Haida people of the Pacific Northwest have a rich artistic tradition that is often incorporated into tattoo designs. Their tribal tattoos often feature stylized animals such as eagles, bears, and wolves. These tattoos are designed with bold lines and often convey spiritual meanings or represent the totemic symbols of the Haida people.

4. Borneo Tribal Tattoos

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The indigenous tribes of Borneo, such as the Iban and Dayak, have a long history of tattooing. Borneo tribal tattoos typically feature flowing, organic designs inspired by nature, incorporating animals, plants, and other symbolic elements. These tattoos are often applied to mark rites of passage or to symbolize protection.

5. Aztec Tribal Tattoos

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Inspired by the ancient Aztec civilization of Mexico, Aztec tribal tattoos often incorporate intricate geometric patterns and symbols representing deities, animals, and celestial elements. These tattoos are rich in cultural significance, and the designs can vary widely, with each symbol carrying specific meanings.

Jd Mytes, a YouTuber, shares her experience of getting a tribal tattoo along with some aftercare tips. She mentions the importance of picking a design saying, ” Just make sure you think it through because it’s something that’s permanent, something that’s going to be there for like almost forever (i).” She continues adding, “Something that has a meaning…that you will be happy with the outcome.”

protip_icon Quick Tip
While traditional tribal tattoos are often black, you can add subtle colors to enhance the visual interest and modernize the overall aesthetic.

b) Types Of Polynesian Tattoos

Polynesian tattoos, deeply rooted in cultural traditions, are ancient forms of body art originating from the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands. Characterized by intricate geometric patterns and symbolic motifs, each design holds significant cultural meanings, reflecting one’s heritage, social status, or life journey. Traditional tools, like bone combs and natural inks, were historically employed. Today, modern Polynesian tattoos fuse ancient aesthetics with contemporary styles. Common elements include tribal patterns, turtles, sharks, and spearheads. These tattoos serve as powerful expressions of identity and carry a rich cultural legacy, connecting individuals to their Polynesian roots. Here are four popular types of Polynesian tattoos:

1. Hawaiian Tattoos

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Hawaiian tattoos, also known as Kakau, have a distinctive style characterized by bold, black lines and geometric shapes. Traditional Hawaiian tattoos often feature symbols like triangles, spearheads, and waves. Elements from nature, such as turtles and sharks, are also commonly incorporated.

2. Samoan Tattoos

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Also known as Pe’a for men and Malu for women, Samoan tattoos are characterized by intricate patterns that cover a large portion of the body. These tattoos are applied using a traditional hand-tapping method and often symbolize the wearer’s identity, status, and achievements within the community.

3. Tahitian Tattoos

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Tahitian tattoos, also known as Tatau, feature bold, dark lines and often depict symbols inspired by nature, mythology, and the environment. Traditional Tahitian tattoos may include motifs like the sun, ocean waves, and various animals. These tattoos are rich in cultural significance and can convey the wearer’s identity and heritage.

4. Marquesan Tattoos

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These tattoos originate from the Marquesas Islands and are characterized by bold geometric patterns and intricate designs. These tattoos often cover large areas of the body and may include elements such as tiki figures, rays, and motifs inspired by the natural world. Marquesan tattoos are known for their complexity and aesthetic appeal.

c) Types Of Japanese Tattoos

Japanese tattoos, rooted in centuries-old tradition, epitomize an art form blending aesthetics with cultural storytelling. Renowned for their vibrant colors and ornate designs, these tattoos often feature iconic motifs such as dragons, koi fish, and cherry blossoms. These tattoos often symbolize strength, resilience, and spiritual growth. Japanese tattoos trace their origins to ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Traditional irezumi artists create masterpieces with meticulous detail using hand methods such as Tebori (a needle attached to a bamboo stick). Beyond the visual allure, these tattoos embody a deeper narrative, reflecting honor, loyalty, and the transient nature of life. In contemporary contexts, Japanese tattoos continue to captivate, preserving an ancient legacy within modern skin artistry. No wonder this is one of the most popular tattoo styles in the world. Here are five popular types of Japanese tattoos:

1. Irezumi Tattoos

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It is the traditional Japanese tattoo art that has been practiced for centuries. These tattoos often cover large areas of the body and feature detailed, colorful designs. Irezumi typically includes themes such as mythical creatures (like dragons and phoenixes), flowers (cherry blossoms, lotus), anime characters, and traditional Japanese symbols. The designs often tell a story or convey a message about the wearer.

2. Koi Fish Tattoos

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This is a popular motif in Japanese tattoos that symbolizes strength, determination, and perseverance. The image of a koi swimming upstream and transforming into a dragon is another common theme and represents overcoming adversity and achieving transformation. Many people often choose koi fish designs with black outlines filled in with bright colors like blue, red, and pink.

3. Hannya Mask Tattoos

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This is a traditional Japanese Noh theater mask. The Hannya mask is used to depict a vengeful and jealous female demon. Hannya mask tattoos are often worn to symbolize the complexity of human emotions such as love, jealousy, and anger. These tattoos can convey a sense of inner conflict and the struggle to overcome negative emotions.

4. Samurai Tattoos

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Samurai-themed tattoos pay homage to the historical warriors of feudal Japan. These tattoos often depict samurai warriors in armor, wielding weapons like katana swords. Samurai tattoos may represent traits such as honor, loyalty, and courage. They are a popular choice for those seeking a symbol of strength and discipline.

5. Cherry Blossom Tattoos

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Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are revered in Japanese culture for their fleeting beauty and association with the transient nature of life. Cherry blossom tattoos are often chosen for their aesthetic appeal and can represent the beauty of life, the impermanence of existence, and the fleeting nature of time.

protip_icon Quick Tip
When getting a Japanese tattoo using the traditional Tebori hand-poking technique, go through the portfolio of the artist to check their expertise level. The works of skilled Tebori artists will have sharper fine lines, detailed shading, and vibrant colors.

d) Types Of American Traditional Tattoos

American traditional tattoos, an iconic ink tradition, originated in the 19th century and evolved into a timeless art style. Defined by bold outlines, a limited color palette, and classic motifs like anchors, eagles, and roses, these tattoos reflect a rich maritime and patriotic heritage. Pioneered by artists like Sailor Jerry, the style gained popularity among sailors and soldiers, symbolizing courage, loyalty, and love. Each design carries specific meanings, creating a visual language that transcends generations. Today, American traditional tattoos endure as a revered form of self-expression, blending nostalgia with a sense of enduring tradition and cultural identity. Here are five popular types of American Traditional tattoos:

1. Sailor Jerry Tattoos

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Sailor Jerry, a legendary skilled tattoo artist from the mid-20th century, played a significant role in popularizing American Traditional tattoos. His iconic designs often feature nautical themes such as anchors, ships, mermaids, and pin-up girls. Sailor Jerry’s influence is still seen in many American Traditional tattoos today.

2. Eagle Tattoos

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The bald eagle is a symbol of freedom and patriotism in American Traditional tattooing. These tattoos often depict a bold and majestic eagle with outstretched wings, clutching a banner or other symbolic elements. Eagle tattoos generally represent strength, courage, and national pride.

3. Traditional Rose Tattoos

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Roses are a versatile and popular element in American Traditional tattoos. They symbolize love, beauty, and remembrance. These tattoos typically feature a bold, red rose with green leaves and a simple, timeless design.

4. Snake And Dagger Tattoos

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The combination of a snake and dagger is a classic American Traditional design. The snake, often coiled around the dagger, may symbolize transformation, danger, or temptation. This tattoo may convey themes of resilience and the ability to overcome challenges.

5. Panther Tattoos

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These are a classic motif in American Traditional style. The panther, often depicted with a fierce and snarling expression, symbolizes courage and strength. These tattoos may also represent protection and resilience in the face of adversity.

e) Other Types Of Traditional Tattoos

There are other traditional tattoos, rooted in cultural history, that offer an enduring appeal. These designs, characterized by bold lines, vivid colors, and timeless motifs, draw inspiration from indigenous practices and maritime heritage. Sailors, in particular, popularized these tattoos with each symbol carrying unique meanings, such as an anchor for stability and a rose for love. These tattoos have their origins in various cultures, from American Traditional to Japanese Irezumi, and often symbolize rites of passage, cultural identity, or personal milestones. Their enduring charm lies in the craftsmanship and symbolism, making traditional tattoos a revered art form that transcends time, connecting the present with the rich tapestry of human history. Here are five popular types of traditional tattoos:

1. Anchor Tattoos

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Anchors are a classic symbol in traditional tattoo art, often representing stability, strength, and a connection to the sea. They are particularly associated with sailors and can symbolize a grounding force in one’s life.

2. Swallow Tattoos

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Swallows are traditional symbols of good luck and were historically popular among sailors. Swallow tattoos often carry meanings related to loyalty, love, and the return home. They are associated with the idea that swallows always return to the same place, making them a symbol of loyalty and fidelity.

3. Nautical Star Tattoos

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Nautical stars, also known as compass roses, are common in traditional tattoos and associated with finding one’s way. These tattoos can symbolize guidance, protection, and a sense of direction. They often feature a bold, five-pointed star with alternating light and dark shades.

4. Heart Tattoos

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Hearts are a classic symbol in traditional tattooing, often adorned with banners, scrolls, or the names of loved ones. This symbol represents love, passion, and romantic devotion. Broken hearts or hearts pierced by arrows may be used to convey deeper emotions or experiences.

5. Skull And Snake Tattoos

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Skulls and snakes are common motifs in traditional tattoos, often representing mortality, danger, and rebirth. The skulls can be additionally adorned with hats, crowns, or daggers, while snakes can be depicted as coiled or intertwined with other symbols, adding depth to the meaning of the tattoo.

f) Types Of Aesthetic Tattoos

Aesthetic tattoos, a contemporary ink trend, prioritize visual appeal and personal expression. This style embraces a wide range of influences, from minimalist designs to intricate, nature-inspired motifs. Aesthetic tattoos often focus on clean lines, subtle color palettes, and meaningful symbolism. Popular themes include botanical elements, celestial bodies, and abstract geometric patterns. These tattoos, rooted in individual tastes, serve as artistic expressions of identity, emotions, or experiences. With a focus on beauty and modern aesthetics, this tattoo genre allows for a diverse range of interpretations, making it a popular choice for those seeking a unique and visually pleasing form of self-adornment. Here are five popular types of aesthetic tattoos:

1. Minimalist Tattoos

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These are characterized by simple and clean designs with a focus on essential elements. These tattoos often feature fine lines, geometric shapes, and small, subtle details. Popular minimalist tattoo subjects include symbols, animals, and nature-inspired elements.

2. Watercolor Tattoos

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These tattoos mimic the appearance of watercolor paintings with their vibrant colors and soft edges. These tattoos often lack bold outlines, creating a more fluid and painterly effect. Watercolor tattoos are known for their artistic and visually striking qualities, often featuring abstract designs or depictions of natural elements.

3. Botanical Tattoos

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Botanical or floral tattoos showcase intricate and detailed depictions of flowers, plants, and foliage. These tattoos often incorporate realistic shading and fine lines, creating a delicate and aesthetically pleasing result. Popular choices include roses, cherry blossoms, and various types of leaves.

4. Blackwork Tattoos

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These types of tattoos use bold, black ink to create bold and visually impactful designs. This style often includes intricate patterns, mandalas, or detailed linework. Blackwork tattoos can range from bold and geometric to more intricate and ornate designs, making them a versatile choice for those seeking a strong visual impact.

5. Neo-Traditional Tattoos

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These types of tattoos build upon the foundation of traditional tattooing but incorporate modern techniques and a broader color palette. These tattoos often feature bold lines, vibrant colors, and a mix of traditional and contemporary subject matter. Neo-traditional tattoos may depict traditional motifs with a more detailed and stylized approach.

g) Types Of Geometric Tattoos

Geometric tattoos, a contemporary and avant-garde trend, showcase the fusion of art and precision. Rooted in mathematical shapes, these tattoos employ lines, angles, and patterns to create intricate designs. Circles, triangles, and polygons interplay to form visually striking and symmetrical compositions. This style often combines geometric elements with symbolic motifs, reflecting a balance between order and complexity. The versatility of geometric tattoos allows for personalized expression, conveying individual meanings through abstract aesthetics.

Whether minimalistic or intricate, these tattoos captivate with their clean lines and harmonious geometry, offering a modern and visually compelling form of self-expression. Here are five popular types of geometric tattoos:

1. Mandala Tattoos

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Mandala tattoos draw inspiration from traditional spiritual symbols and geometric patterns. They often feature a circular design with intricate details, radiating from a central point. Mandalas are known for their spiritual significance and represent balance, unity, and harmony.

2. Sacred Geometry Tattoos

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These tattoos incorporate geometric shapes with symbolic meanings, such as circles, triangles, and hexagons. These tattoos often draw inspiration from ancient geometric principles believed to hold cosmic significance. Common symbols include the Flower of Life, Metatron’s Cube, and the Seed of Life.

3. Dotwork Tattoos

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Dotwork tattoos use dots to create geometric patterns and designs. The technique involves placing individual dots close together to form shapes and shading. Dotwork geometric tattoos can range from simple and minimalistic designs to intricate and complex patterns, creating a unique visual effect.

4. Geometric Animal Tattoos

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Geometric shapes are often combined with animal silhouettes or features to create visually captivating designs. These tattoos can represent the essence of an animal in a stylized and abstract form. Popular choices include geometric wolves, lions, elephants, and birds.

5. Linear Geometric Tattoos

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This type of tattoos rely on straight lines and angles to create precise and sharp designs. These tattoos often feature geometric shapes like triangles, squares, and rectangles arranged in visually appealing compositions. Linear geometric tattoos can be simple and clean or more intricate and complex, depending on the desired effect.

h) Types Of Realism Tattoos

Realism tattoos, a contemporary tattooing style, aim to replicate the appearance of a photograph or a real-life subject with incredible detail and precision. Tattoo artists in this genre meticulously recreate intricate details, shading, and textures, resulting in lifelike depictions on the skin. Realism tattoos often feature portraits, animals, or objects, showcasing the artist’s skill in capturing the essence of the subject. This style requires a high level of technical expertise, as artists use a combination of light and shadow to produce three-dimensional effects. The result is a striking and authentic representation that brings the tattooed imagery to life. Here are five popular types of realism or realistic tattoos:

1. Portrait Tattoos

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This involves the realistic depiction of a person’s face, often a loved one, celebrity, or historical figure. The success of portrait tattoos depends on the tattoo artist’s ability to capture the subject’s likeness, paying attention to facial features, expressions, and subtle details.

2. Wildlife And Animal Realism Tattoos

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Realistic animal tattoos showcase the beauty and intricacies of various creatures. These tattoos often feature animals such as lions, wolves, eagles, and domestic pets. The level of detail in the fur, feathers, or scales, as well as the portrayal of eyes and expressions, contributes to the realism of these tattoos.

3. Nature Realism Tattoos

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These depict landscapes, flowers, trees, or other natural elements with incredible detail. Artists use shading and color techniques to recreate the textures and nuances of the natural world, making these tattoos visually stunning and true to life.

4. Still Life Realism Tattoos

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This involves the replication of inanimate objects, such as everyday items, flowers in a vase, or intricate details like watches and jewelry. The challenge lies in capturing the realism of the objects, including light and shadow, reflections, and textures.

5. Hyperrealism Tattoos

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Hyperrealism takes realism to an extreme level, creating tattoos that appear almost three-dimensional and incredibly detailed. These tattoos often include intricate details like fine lines, textures, and highlights, giving them an ultra-realistic appearance. Hyperrealism can be applied to various subjects, including portraits, animals, and objects.

When selecting a tattoo, you need to be particular about the style you choose since it may affect how it ages over the years. Certain tattoo styles may require more frequent touch-ups compared to others. Keep reading to learn more.

Types Of Tattoos That Age Well

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Certain tattoo styles age gracefully, maintaining visual appeal over time. Traditional tattoos with bold lines and limited color palettes tend to resist fading, retaining their classic charm. Fine line tattoos are delicate and have short longevity. Geometric designs, relying on clean lines, also stand the test of time. Generally speaking, tattoos with greater contrast will age the best. Additionally, tattoos in areas less exposed to sunlight, like the upper back or chest, tend to age better. Choosing styles that withstand the effects of aging ensures a lasting and ageless allure, preserving the beauty of body art for years to come.

The world of tattoos unfolds as a captivating canvas of diverse artistic styles, each bearing its unique charm. This exploration into the types of tattoos unveils a rich tapestry of traditions, expressions, and cultural influences, from the timeless allure of traditional and American Traditional tattoos to the contemporary aesthetics of minimalism and geometric designs. Each style speaks to personal identity and storytelling with a common thread lying in the power of visual expression. Tattoos transcend mere body adornment; they encapsulate narratives, heritage, and individual journeys. Choosing a tattoo style becomes a profound act, a fusion of art and personal significance that echoes through time, telling stories that endure in the ever-evolving world of body art.

Frequently Asked Questions

What tattoo style hurts most?

The pain level of a tattoo depends on individual pain tolerance, but generally, styles with fine lines or shading, like realism or detailed work, may be perceived as more painful than bold, simple designs. Pain perception varies, so what is uncomfortable for one person might be tolerable for another.

What type of tattoo hurts the least?

Tattoos on fleshy and less sensitive areas of the body, such as the outer arm or thigh, tend to be less painful. Simple, bold designs with minimal shading or intricate details may also cause less discomfort during the tattooing process.

Key Takeaways

  • Ancient tribal tattoos, with bold lines and intricate patterns, signify rich cultural traditions; types like Polynesian, Maori, Haida, Borneo, and Aztec embody heritage and resilience in contemporary tattoo art.
  • Japanese tattoos, rooted in tradition, blend aesthetics and storytelling with vibrant designs like dragons and cherry blossoms, symbolizing strength and resilience; popular types include Irezumi, koi fish, Hannya mask, samurai, and cherry blossom.
  • Traditional tattoos, rooted in cultural history, endure with bold lines and vivid colors, symbolizing stability, love, luck, loyalty, and guidance through popular motifs like anchors, swallows, nautical stars, hearts, and skulls/snakes.
types of tattoos

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Embark on a visual feast as you explore the diverse world of tattoo styles. In this video, witness the richness of artistic expression through various tattoo genres. Ready to discover the style that speaks to you? Watch now and dive into the kaleidoscope of inked creativity!

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Scott Terry

Scott TerryProfessional Tattoo Artist

Scott Terry is a distinguished tattoo artist and has over 20 years of experience in the field. He specializes in color and black-and-gray realism. Scott graduated from the Joe Blasco School of Professional Makeup Artistry. His work has graced the pages of esteemed tattoo magazines and earned him accolades at various conventions. His accomplishments include trophies, such as 3rd place...read full bio

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