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No matter how you feel about tattoos, it’s hard to deny they’re a popular design trend. And just as you might get inspired by visuals you encounter in video games, store signage, paintings and other art forms, tattoos are worthy of being added to the list.

How different are tattoos from the clothes we wear? Or the items we decorate our homes with? Or the designs and imagery we choose for our websites? Yeah, yeah … I know tattoos are permanent. But tattoos have a long-standing tradition in cultures around the world and they’re currently an art form actively embraced by a good chunk of the population.

Of course, everyone’s personal style and motivation for getting tattooed is different. That said, there are distinct trends we see in tattoo design right now. And just as you’d look at recent trends in fashion, art and other creative fields for inspiration, you can do the same with tattoos.

Below we’re going to check out six tattoo design trends, why these visual styles are so popular and how you might draw inspiration from them in your digital design work.

Why Tattoos are a Ripe Source for Web Design Inspiration

While the prominence of tattoos may be a modern phenomenon, they’ve been a part of human culture for millennia. A 5,300-year-old mummy named Otzi is one of the oldest known examples we have of tattooing.

According to McGill University, there are more than 39 million people in North America that have at least one tattoo. And Fortune Business Insights estimates that the tattoo market is currently worth $1.89 billion.

So even if you’re not a fan of tattoos yourself, consider this a growing source of inspiration for your work. Fortune expects about a 10% growth in the market by the end of the decade, so you’re going to be seeing tattoos everywhere.

There’s no right or wrong way to go with tattoos. They’re a personal choice, much like the personal choices we make when it comes to web design. That said, there tend to be certain styles we see from body to body. So if you’re looking to gain a sense of the types of aesthetics people generally prefer nowadays, tattoo trends are good ones to check out.


When it comes to design in general, less is more. Every time you add something new to your composition, it vies for attention among all of the other attention-grabbing elements.

That’s why minimalism has reigned supreme in web design since, I’d say, the responsive web design era that began in the early 2010s. Not only did we have more sophisticated tools to help us design (compared to the Paint-inspired crazy designs we had in the ’90s and ’00s), but we also had smaller screens to design for. Minimalism was much needed.

Tattoo art has experienced a similar revolution. Whereas bolder, brasher and edgier designs may have been popular before this latest tattoo boon began, we’re now seeing micro body art.

Mel Robbins, a well-known author and motivational speaker, recently got matching minimalist tattoos with her family:

On @melrobbins Instagram page, she shows off new matching minimalist tattoos she got with her family. Here we see the small stars scattered around an older “it shall be” tattoo.

These simple star designs are quite common in tattoo art these days. Some people probably choose them as a form of decoration. However, if you look deeper at what stars mean, they can tell you a lot about the person’s life or journey at that moment in time. Stars typically are symbolic of hope, truth and inspiration.

You don’t need to fill white space with a ton of symbols or illustrations in order for them to be impactful either. For instance, here’s a paw print designed that was shared by @minimalisttattooideas on Instagram:

The @minimalisttattooideas page on Instagram shared this tattoo from @nastaranpaykanou. It’s a dog’s paw print inside a partial heart.

You could see something like this used in a pet company’s logo design or used throughout a site or app in key areas—for branding or engagement purposes.The symbolism of a dog paw print inside of a heart is crystal clear.

Here’s another example of minimalist tattoo design. This one is from @oatmilktattoo:

The @oatmilktattoo Instagram page shows off a minimalist tattoo of a little plant and an orange-colored sun.

While this tattoo may have personal significance for the person who had it done, it may just be that they liked the look of it. And that they wanted some color and texture without going for the stars, hearts and other minimalist shapes that people commonly go for.

Not every element you add to your web designs has to have a special meaning. While the style should fit with your overall theme in some way, sometimes small elements are there just to add a touch of something to keep people interested.

Line Art

Line art is another type of minimalist tattoo design. What’s cool about this particular technique is that it gives the appearance that the artist’s “pen” never left the canvas as they drew the subject.

Here’s a simple example of what line art looks like. This is from @hybridink.helsinski:

From the Instagram page of, this is an example of line art tattoos. It’s a heart drawn using a single line.

Notice how the heart has been drawn using a single line.

Here’s another neat example of line art. This flower drawing is from @moganji:

From the Instagram page of @moganji, this is a line art drawing of a poppy flower. The entire tattoo is made using a single line.

This one’s a bit more complex. However, if you look closely at it, you’ll see that it’s possible to have made this drawing without ever removing the pen from the paper (or the cursor from the screen).

And here’s one more cool example of line art from @liz_tattoo_piercing:

From the Instagram page of @liz_tattoo_piercing, this is a line art drawing of two faces. It’s a somewhat abstract drawing as one of the faces appears to have its eye created from a flower shape.

More than one line was used to create the two faces, but it’s still a beautiful example of what you can do with minimal illustration work to create an impressive design. It also demonstrates how abstractions in design can still be recognizable so long as you give people clues at what they’re looking at. For instance, we see a face in the bottom part of the drawing even though the eye isn’t an eye at all. It’s a flower.

One of the reasons I included this on the list is because line art reminds me a lot of minimum viable products (MVPs) and why they’re invaluable in design.

One of the reasons why product teams create MVPs is to test their basic concept with users before over-investing in features and designs that might not be needed. Take a look around at other line art tattoo examples and you’ll see that you don’t need a whole lot—just a strong concept and creative execution—to create something beautiful and enjoyable for all who encounter it.

Stylized Text

We’ve seen typographic design rise in popularity on the web in recent years. Text-based tattoos are also trendy. However, I don’t want to highlight word or quote tattoos that are nothing more than a string of text written in serif, sans serif or even cursive lettering.

What I want to focus on instead are word tattoos that have extra style added to them. If you’re looking for new and creative ways to come up with display text for hero sections and other important areas of your site, then these are the kinds of tattoos to check out.

Here’s one from @tattoosbysujeet:

From the Instagram page of @tattoosbysujeet is an example of a text-based tattoo. It reads “la vie est belle”. The end of the cursive “e” at the end turns into the stem of a flower with a red rose petal emerging from it.

This isn’t your standard calligraphy tattoo. The final “e” becomes the stem of the red rose petal emerging from the words “La vie est belle.”

Here’s another text-based tattoo that incorporates some visuals into it. This is from @unicornink:

From the Instagram page of @unicornink, this cursive tattoo says “always”. There’s a line that extends from the letters “s”. It loops around the top of the word and loops back to connect to the “a”, forming an infinity shape. The word is also surrounded by paw prints embedded in a dark and light blue watercolor flow.

This is another example of a beautiful handwritten tattoo. Only this one has a bit more going on, and not all of it is obvious. For starters, there are paw print shapes embedded into the watercolor flow around the lettering. It almost looks like what you’d see if a dog stepped on a surface with wet paws, but in reverse.

Notice also the line that connects the “s” back to the “a.” It forms an infinity symbol which plays into the tattoo’s concept of “always.”

One other example I want to show you is from @irezumitattoosindia:

A tattoo from the Instagram page called @irezumitattoosindia. The word “chaos” appears in all caps and red lettering. Behind it is the word “calm” in all caps and blue lettering.

This one is cool because you have the blue-colored word “calm” hiding behind the red-lettered “chaos.” You can imagine this kind of layered typography appearing in a hero image. It might even be animated, with the words pulling away from one another as the user scrolls or hovers over them.

Geometric Shapes

You can do more with geometry than add basic shapes and lines to add background textures or basic symmetric designs. Geometric tattoos are proof of this.

For example, you can do as @aditya.sawant_tattoos has done and use geometry to put a unique spin on an otherwise common image:

From the Instagram page of @aditya.sawant_tattoos. The tattoo is of a lion’s face. Only it’s mostly been created using geometric figures and lines.

The lines, straight-edged shapes and dotted textures make this lion’s face appear almost mechanical or futuristic. Compared to the realistic or cartoonish routes that other tattoo artists might’ve gone, this geometric representation of a lion is super unique and memorable. It would actually make for a really cool logo design for a hi-tech company.

Another interesting example is this two-armed design from @blx_tattooer:

From the Instagram page of @blx_tattooer. This tattoo has been drawn on both forearms. When brought together, they form a geometric depiction of space, with the sun and moon at the center and the four elements of earth, wind, fire, and water floating as planets in orbiting circles around it.

This beautiful blackwork design has been done on both forearms. When the geometric designs are brought together, we see the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water floating around what looks like a united moon and sun. The geometric approach to this design helps bring order out of the chaos that is the universe.

Geometric designs don’t always have to be so lavish in order to be effective. Take, for instance, this Japanese-inspired tattoo from @b.b.tattoos:

From the Instagram page for @b.b.tattoos. This is a Japanese-inspired tattoo of an ocean wave framed against a mountain which is also framed against a red sun. This image is contained within a rectangular shape.

Here we see how geometric figures can be used to create frames for other imagery. By containing images within shapes like squares, diamonds, circles, etc., we provide some stability and balance for them.


Designing with color is nothing new for any art medium. What we’re seeing with watercolor drawings in tattoos, however, is an interesting change of pace. These vibrant designs that paint outside the lines often bring a feeling of whimsy to the person who is tattooed with them.

This design by @brittachristiansen is a good example of how to use watercolor to convey a sense of innocence:

From the Instagram page of @brittachristiansen. The tattoo is of a mother kissing her daughter. A rainbow watercolor palette fills in some of the details of the two people while also bleeding outside the lines.

The tattoo of the mother kissing her daughter is a sweet image. Rather than leave it as a simple outline drawing, the artist has applied rainbow watercolors to fill in some of the details and to surround the two as they embrace.

Now take these pretty watercolor birds included on the @tattooawardsdotcom Instagram page:

From the Instagram page of @tattooawardsdotcom. We see side-by-side forearm tattoos of tropical birds done in watercolor.

The bright color palette and imperfect coloring of the birds makes a memorable impression. Not only that, in this case, the watercoloring makes the birds appear as though they’re moving so fast that all you’re seeing is the blurred color of their bodies.

Here’s another way to adeptly use watercolor by @queentattooco:

From the Instagram page of @queentattooco. The tattoo is of a beautiful woman wearing  a Greek leaf crown. Rather than drawn in the lines of her hair, the artist used blue and purple watercoloring to create her hair.

The image is of a beautiful woman wearing a Greek leaf crown. The artist has gone to painstaking lengths to draw the details of her face. However, her hair has not had the same treatment. It has been created using blue and purple watercoloring.


On the other end of the spectrum is what is referred to as blackwork in tattoo art. It’s kind of like black-and-white photography or dark mode design for your skin.

However, blackwork isn’t necessarily chosen in order to create a darker space or motif. Sometimes the fine details of a drawing deserve more attention than whatever crazy color palette a tattoo artist might apply to it.

Take this example from @wilwbr:

From the Instagram page of @wilwbr. The tattoo is a fairy done in all black ink.

The beautiful fairy tattoo doesn’t need color. The intricate lining and details are enchanting all on their own. One might argue that color would’ve been too much for this design and would’ve taken away from its attractiveness.

Then you have this design from @rot_ink:

From the Instagram page of @rot_ink we see a blackwork drawing of a woman’s face. She has four eyes and her mouth has split open to reveal a mouth full of fangs and a long serpent-long tongue.

Unlike the fairy tattoo where the blackwork helps reveal more of its innate beauty, the blackwork in this drawing helps us see the ugliness of it. And I don’t mean that the design is poorly done. I just mean that it’s a literal depiction of a monster. Adding color to a tattoo of this nature might’ve made it appear cartoonish and silly, so the blackwork was a great choice.

And here’s one final blackwork tattoo example. This comes from @deanna_art:

From @deanna_art on Instagram, we see a half-sleeve tattoo done all in black and grey. It’s of a massive sailboat in turbulent waters in the middle of the night.

The blackwork of this half-sleeve tattoo does a number of things. First, it brings attention to the gorgeous detailing of the sailboat on the ocean. It also works perfectly to create the dark atmosphere of night, allowing the bright moon to shine through.

So if you’re looking for an effective way to get your users to pay close attention to fine detailing on your site or in your photography or illustrations, consider a black-and-white design.


It’s safe to say that tattoos have become a socially acceptable part of today’s society. Even if it’s still only a fraction of the population that’s inked up, designers can appreciate this rising art form.

There’s a lot we can learn from the kinds of designs people put on their bodies. Some of these trends we already see in web design, like minimalism and geometric shapes. Others may not be as obvious or as commonly used. But now that you’ve seen how popular they are in terms of body art and the different ways in which they’re expressed, perhaps you’ll start to incorporate aspects of them into your own work.

About the Author

Suzanne Scacca

A former project manager and web design agency manager, Suzanne Scacca now writes about the changing landscape of design, development and software.

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