24 Ace Skull Designs Done In Today's Most Popular Tattoo Styles

Skulls simply rock and there's something for everyone here in the most popular tattoo styles of today from trash polka to realism

My name is Sarah Calavera...and I'm a skullaholic. The name calavera means skull in Spanish so it seemed fitting that I of all writers at Tattoodo needed to do a post about skull tattoos. 

Being one of the most common icons that has been inked since the beginning of the art, the skull has many representations. Symbolizing life and death, our mortality , spirituality and even just plain old badassery to show how hardcore you are, it seems there is no end to the possibilities you can get with a skull tattoo.

Being addicted to skulls of course, I had to have my own skull inspired tattoo. I went for colorful Dia De Los Muertos inspired skulls and a zombie Catrina. My artist used several styles in the sleeve including realism, black and grey, traditional and even a touch of Japanese. Check it out...

I decided to let my artist run riot freehand armed with only a Sharpie and the result was very unique with a mix of styles and I couldn't be happier. 

Today there are so many styles available some old favorites like the traditional American style and others that border on contemporary art pieces like the highly stylized graphic art of trash polka. But you might be wondering what all these names mean. What defines these popular styles you keep hearing about? So this post is to give you an idea about what just a few of these styles look like using skulls. If you are a skull fan or not I'm sure it will get your creative juices flowing for your next tattoo adventure.  

Traditional American: Characterized by bold black outlines bold colors using a minimal palette (mostly blue, red, yellow and green) with minimal if any shading. 

Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Traditional tattoos can look simple but stunning. Photo via Pinterest, unknown artist #skull #traditional #colorful #wrist #AmericanTraditional
Traditional tattoos can look simple but stunning. Photo via Pinterest, unknown artist #skull #traditional #colorful #wrist #AmericanTraditional
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Traditionl tattoos can also be fun and quirky. Tattoo by Liam Alvy #skull #skeleton #traditional #AmericanTraditional #fun #LiamAlvy
Traditionl tattoos can also be fun and quirky. Tattoo by Liam Alvy #skull #skeleton #traditional #AmericanTraditional #fun #LiamAlvy
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Awesome old school style skull and dagger tattoo by Zach Nelligan #skull #dagger #traditional #AmericanTraditional #ZachNelligan
Awesome old school style skull and dagger tattoo by Zach Nelligan #skull #dagger #traditional #AmericanTraditional #ZachNelligan

Dotwork: A popular style of today these tattoos use fine needles to build up designs using a combination of strong black lines and dots much like the art technique of pointilism.

Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Incredible detail on this black and grey dotwork skull by Kamil Czapiga #skull #dotwork #blackandgrey #KamilCzapiga
Incredible detail on this black and grey dotwork skull by Kamil Czapiga #skull #dotwork #blackandgrey #KamilCzapiga
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Awesome dotwork on the head-dress of this Native-American skull tattoo by Brian Gomes #skull #dotwork #blackandgrey #nativeamerican #BrianGomes
Awesome dotwork on the head-dress of this Native-American skull tattoo by Brian Gomes #skull #dotwork #blackandgrey #nativeamerican #BrianGomes
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Animal skulls also make killer tattoos like this one by Kamil Czapiga #skull #animalskull  #dotwork #blackandgrey #KamilCzapiga
Animal skulls also make killer tattoos like this one by Kamil Czapiga #skull #animalskull #dotwork #blackandgrey #KamilCzapiga

New School: This design is fun and surreal often brightly colored and very unusual looking with distorted proportions and cartoonish imagery. 

Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Brightly colored fun sugar skull tattoo by John Maxx #skull #newschool #sugarskull #JohnMaxx
Brightly colored fun sugar skull tattoo by John Maxx #skull #newschool #sugarskull #JohnMaxx
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Awesome take on a surreal looking skull photo from Pinterest artist unknown #skull #newschool #candle #surreal #snake
Awesome take on a surreal looking skull photo from Pinterest artist unknown #skull #newschool #candle #surreal #snake
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Beautiful colored shading on this floral skull design photo from Pinterest #skull #newschool #rose #floral #surreal
Beautiful colored shading on this floral skull design photo from Pinterest #skull #newschool #rose #floral #surreal

Trash Polka: Realistic trash polka is a painterly tattoo style created by Simone Plaff and Volko Merschky at Buena Vista Tattoo Club in Germany. Volko describes it as a combination of “realism and trash; the nature and the abstract; technology and humanity; past, present, and future."

Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
A trash polka original from the inventors of the style Simone Plaff and Volko Merschky at Buena Vista Tattoo Club #skull #trashpolka #SimonePlaff #VolkoMerschky #BuenaVistaClub
A trash polka original from the inventors of the style Simone Plaff and Volko Merschky at Buena Vista Tattoo Club #skull #trashpolka #SimonePlaff #VolkoMerschky #BuenaVistaClub
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Strong trash polka influenced design by artist Adam Stoner #skull #trashpolka #raven #clock #AdamStoner
Strong trash polka influenced design by artist Adam Stoner #skull #trashpolka #raven #clock #AdamStoner
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Killer full thigh piece in the trash polka style photo from trashpolka.ru #skull #trashpolka #roses #script
Killer full thigh piece in the trash polka style photo from trashpolka.ru #skull #trashpolka #roses #script
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
The skull in this tattoo has some killer black and grey shading photo from Pinterest by unknown artist #skull #roses #blackandgrey #trashpolka #backpiece
The skull in this tattoo has some killer black and grey shading photo from Pinterest by unknown artist #skull #roses #blackandgrey #trashpolka #backpiece

Micro Tattoos: Tattoos don't always have to be huge and some of the nicest designs can come in small form. Micro tattoos are discreet and can be placed on subtle parts of the body and still look badass.

Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Small but stylish micro skull photo from Pinterest by unknown artist #skull #microtattoo #blackline #ankle
Small but stylish micro skull photo from Pinterest by unknown artist #skull #microtattoo #blackline #ankle
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Cute idea for couples who are skull fans with this micro finger tattoo photo from Pinterest by unknown artst #skull #sugarskull #couple #finger #blackline #microtattoo
Cute idea for couples who are skull fans with this micro finger tattoo photo from Pinterest by unknown artst #skull #sugarskull #couple #finger #blackline #microtattoo

No-Line Color Realism: These tattoos use very minimal black outline if any at all and use more bold colors and highly detailed shading instead. Some artists are concerned about the longevity of these types of tattoos the same as the popular watercolor design, but they do make striking looking designs when fresh.  

Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
This realistic skull looks amazing in color line free from John Anderton #skull #realism #color #noline #JohnAnderton
This realistic skull looks amazing in color line free from John Anderton #skull #realism #color #noline #JohnAnderton
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Sumptous colors in these skull and rose tattoos from John Anderton #skull #realism #color #noline #JohnAnderton
Sumptous colors in these skull and rose tattoos from John Anderton #skull #realism #color #noline #JohnAnderton

Neo-Traditional: Based on traditional style tattoos neo-traditional pushes the style into contemporary contexts. Think of it as traditional with a new twist and hints of realism.

Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Cool contemporary twist on a traditional skull and rose tattoo photo from Black Garden Tattoo #skull #rose #neotraditional #blackandgrey #loveandhate #BlackGardenTattoo
Cool contemporary twist on a traditional skull and rose tattoo photo from Black Garden Tattoo #skull #rose #neotraditional #blackandgrey #loveandhate #BlackGardenTattoo
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Killer sailor captain skull tattoo from Peter Lagergren #skull #sailor #beard #neotraditional #PeterLagergren
Killer sailor captain skull tattoo from Peter Lagergren #skull #sailor #beard #neotraditional #PeterLagergren
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Flawless realistic skull in antique style frame with roses photo from Pinterest by unknown artist #skull #vintage #roses #neotraditional #pocketwatch
Flawless realistic skull in antique style frame with roses photo from Pinterest by unknown artist #skull #vintage #roses #neotraditional #pocketwatch
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Awesome modern take on a classic skull snake and dagger by Uncle Alan  #skull #neotraditional #snake #rose #allseeingeye  #UncleAlan
Awesome modern take on a classic skull snake and dagger by Uncle Alan #skull #neotraditional #snake #rose #allseeingeye #UncleAlan

Realism: One of the most popular styles still out there is realism or even hyper photo realism. It is insane what some artists can achieve now to get a lifelike looking tattoo. 

Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Rad realistic skull tattoo with high details photo from Pinterest by unknown artist #skull #realism #blackandgrey #minimalcolor #highshading
Rad realistic skull tattoo with high details photo from Pinterest by unknown artist #skull #realism #blackandgrey #minimalcolor #highshading
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
High black inked skull creates a dramatic look by Rob Richardson #skull #blackandgrey #realism #blackworker #RobRichardson
High black inked skull creates a dramatic look by Rob Richardson #skull #blackandgrey #realism #blackworker #RobRichardson
Sarah CalaveraFrom Tattoodo App
Hyper realistic Grim Reaper tattoo by the immensely talented Nikko Hurtado #skull #GrimReaper #realism #photorealism #NikkoHurtado
Hyper realistic Grim Reaper tattoo by the immensely talented Nikko Hurtado #skull #GrimReaper #realism #photorealism #NikkoHurtado