Chicano tattoo designs are similar to murals and car paintings but also have their own characteristics. Originally done with a sewing needle and Indian Ink, real Chicano tattoos must only use black ink.
Fine lines are used for religious themes and girls portraits, while bold shadings stand out for letterings, often first names, Spanish words or locas (names of birthplace or neighborhood).
Above photo of ‘Oldies’ shows his Chicano tattoos by artist John Lin.
Loyalty to the community, to family, women and God is Chicano’s art main element. But contrary to popular opinion, Chicano tattoo is not bound to Mexican and Latin American people. Clients from Europe, Asia and the US also ask for them and tattoo artists from various origins favor this style. Most famous Chicano artists are Californian masters Steve Soto and Jun Cha and also Italian famous tattoo artist Antonio Macko Todisco.
The Virgin Mary, Jesus and angels are indeed well represented but also the heart with thorns, the praying hands and various crosses, especially the pachuco cross, with heritage from the gangs and tattooed between the forefinger and thumb.
Whether we're talking actual clowns with graffiti style or clown make-up on a pin-up, the idea is still the same: keep smiling and cry inside. It is also usual to see tattoos with two comedy masks which illustrate the sentence ‘Laugh now, cry later’. Clowns are also associated with game symbols and usually stands for gambling with life.
Those well known American cars are very important in chicano tattoos, as well as in Chicano art in general.
Chicano tattoos are famous for their iconic elegant lettering, combined with realistic portraits or alone with some embellishment.
Family and history pride reunited in a great back piece by Steve Soto.
If you want to know more about the roots, cultural references and artists of Chicano Tattoos, check out our guide right here.