Looking for the top tattoo design trends of 2021? We got you covered. 2020 was a wild ride, but at least one silver lining was that it did give us tons of time to get really creative while in quarantine. This upcoming year, we expect to see the art of tattooing hit new levels of ingenuity.
If you look at trends across the board in creative fields like food, fashion, hair, fine art, people are truly pushing the boundaries and being more inventive than ever. Here you'll find the trending tattoos of 2021 and some serious inspo for your future tattoos.
Tattoo Style Trends 2021
Optical Illusion Realism
Realism isn’t really a trend, per say, since it’s a favorite style transcending any era. However, recently we’ve been seeing Realism tattooists getting really creative with their work. Take, for instance, the Mike Wazowski tattoo by Kozo below. As if literally taped onto the skin, this is a perfect example of how artists are playing with tattoo techniques and the body to create fun and interesting takes on the Realism style. Optical illusion Realism will definitely be an ongoing 2021 tattoo trend.
As contemporary tattooing progresses even further into the future, people are leaving traditional tattoo styles behind and embracing creative freedom. Playing with new techniques, designs, color stories, classic art movements like Surrealism, and more, many tattooists are developing a very unique style that is far from what people think of as “tattoo art”. However, tattooing has always been about breaking boundaries, so bring on the weirdness. We love it.
The Chicano style gained new ground the last few years with people the world over loving the blend of classic iconography, Realism, and Illustrative touches. Lately, we’ve been seeing artists taking this old school style to new places, evolving it into an even more refined and eye catching technique. If you’re feeling that nostalgia vibe, you’ll also notice that 90’s Tribal is holding strong and often makes an appearance alongside Chicano pieces.
Art Supplies in Tattoo Form
We first saw the sparks of this 2021 tattoo trend a bit last year but people are truly embracing it on another level! Crayon tattoos, pastel, chalk, and painterly brushstrokes are becoming a super fun way for people to expressive their artistic side. Whether childlike drawings or hyperrealistic swaths of impasto pigment spread lovingly across skin, this is definitely something we expect to see more of going forward.
Esoteric is making a big time comeback, with Illustrative tattoos getting really heavy on linework. Tons of artists are creating intricate pieces with tons of line, similar to classical etching or drypoint artworks. Alchemical, Dark Art, and Esoteric motifs are being embraced by a new crowd who resonate with the magical and primitive aspects of this incredible style.
Tattoo Design Trends 2021
One really exciting tattoo trend of 2021 is the stencil tattoo! Created to look more like a tattoo stencil than an actual tattoo itself, artists are playing with this idea in really fun and exciting ways. Some artists, like Mike Elmo, have simply used purple-blue ink to create this ingenious look and Andreas Vrontis uses an old school carbon copy paper look, while Kelly Rico uses patches of black ink to create this stencil style culminating in a beautiful antique look. Regardless of what technique is used, this is a really interesting and fun trend that we’re really loving.
Folk patterns have always been a favorite amongst Traditional tattooers but we’ve seen a huge rise in these particular motifs. No longer being used as merely a decorative part of a larger tattoo, many artists and clients are using folk patterns to explore their cultural identity. We’ve been seeing a lot of gorgeous Indonesian Batik or classic Korean patterns like the Taegeuk and we look forward to seeing even more in 2021!
Oriental Florals and Vases
Towards the end of 2020 we saw the hints of a new 2021 tattoo trend: oriental flowers and vases. These motifs have long been used in tattooing but, of course, contemporary tattooers are taking it to new heights of high-quality. One of our favorite pieces from last year was by Cheon; using the chest and length of the arms, the skin became a rippling stream dotted with florals. This has inspired many clients, as well as artists, and will continue to do so. We’ve also seen vases being decorated with Kintsugi, “golden joinery”, the ancient Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with melted gold.
Although this has been going strong for awhile, a 2021 tattoo design trend we will definitely see more of is anime and manga themed pieces. This may partly have to do with the overwhelming, and long lasting, fashion trend that sees us returning to the 90’s as well as Netflix picking up all the Studio Ghibli films, pushing anime further into the mainstream. Nostalgia is holding strong and many people are resonating with these often intricate Fineline pieces.
Tattoo Placement Trends 2021
Smaller Neck Tattoos
The face tattoo trend has finally eased off! And although some hardcore homies are still getting larger face and neck pieces, it seems tiny neck tattoos are a trend that will ride the waves of 2021. This is often how trends work: something goes viral, goes big, and then later it becomes a bit more reserved. Plus, it makes sense...sometimes people want to take a tiny dip before jumping in. And smaller pieces can still make people feel as if they’re part of the larger community and trend.
One of the awesome things about the mainstream finally really embracing the tattoo art form is that more people are acquainted with great tattoo styles and artists before they actually even get their first piece! It seems newbies who are already super committed are taking the jump and devoting large parts of their body to one style, usually to one artist. The outcome is usually high impact and awe-inspiring. We actually mentioned this in our 2020 forecast, but this tattoo trend will remain strong in 2021.