How to Design an Old School Tattoo

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How to Design an Old School Tattoo
Design an Old School Tattoo

Old school tattoos are exactly what the name implies, tattoos from the early days of body art. The designs tend to be simple with bold outlines, bold colors and classic themes that include almost anything nautical, pinups, panthers, hearts, floral designs or butterflies with old school flair. Read on to learn how to design an old school tattoo.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Find an old school tattoo artist. Some tattooists specialize in this type of artwork and jump at an opportunity to design and/or complete a traditional piece.

  2. 2

    Pick a classic theme. Swallows, anchors, nautical stars, panthers, roses, daggers and calendar girls from the 1950s are some examples of popular old school designs.

  3. 3

    Discuss the outline with your artist. For a traditional old school tattoo, the outline is usually bold and black. If you deviate from this format, then you're distorting what typifies a tattoo of this era.

  4. 4

    Choose only primary colors, as the color palette was much more limited then, especially when compared to now. Besides all black, the main colors you would have seen were lots of red and green with some yellow and blue. These colors were bold with darker shading than many modern designs.

  5. 5

    Add a ribbon, or not. A lot of old school designs included a ribbon with either a name, significant date or motto on them. Although most tattoo artists will advise against putting your mate's name in the ribbon, it's still done on a regular basis.

  6. 6

    Place your tattoo. Taking into account how big the piece needs to be and how much you want to show it off will help you decide where to put your new piece of body art.

Tips and warnings

  • Like many trends, old school tattoos went out of style for a while, but are now making a tremendous comeback.
  • Originally made popular by sailors and propagated by bikers, old school tattoos were once primarily more of a man's tattoo, but now many women are also finding the style appealing.

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