Traditional Japanese dragons are long fire-breathing serpents. They denote a level of power and rough beauty and are definitely not reserved only for Japanese people. Traditional Japanese tattoos are done in black and grey, though traditional Japanese dragons are done in coloured ink; you can decide for yourself which is more appropriate for you.
A traditional Japanese dragon tattoo consists of its entire body winding either around your arm or leg, or your back. The whole body is considerable in length and will take up a large area of skin. In addition to the dragon, you can set it to a background of fire, traditional Japanese waves or both to portray duality or opposing equal elements. The traditional colours of the dragon vary, but the fire should be red and orange and the water blue with white highlights.
If you don't want the entire dragon or are unwilling to contribute the amount of skin necessary for an entire dragon, consider tattooing only the head of the dragon. Your artist can put a large amount of detail into the features of the dragon's face, creating green-scaled skin, bright eyes, sharp jagged teeth and a serpent's tongue. The head can also be wreathed in flame and water, forming a subtle yin yang. Traditional Japanese colours should be used for the scales and both elements.
Tribal dragon tattoos are an aboriginal design of intersecting jagged or rounded lines from many regions. Your artist can design these intersecting lines to form any image, including a traditional Japanese dragon. Since this type of tattoo fuses tattooing from two regions together, you can decide whether to stick to the traditional tribal colour of solid black or incorporate shades of colours to pay homage to the Japanese style. Tribal tattoos generally have less detail than traditional Japanese images and can take up less space.
A much more modern and simple design that speaks to the strong nature of a dragon involves tattooing patch of scales to spot on different parts of your body. You can make the patch large or small without threatening the detail of the overall meaning, as simply blending in a couple scales to the rest of your skin will only take a small amount of space but still portray the theme adequately. The patch should be traditional shades of colour and appear coarse to the touch.
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