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9+ Traditional Tattoo Ideas

The best tattoo designs aim to stand out. No style does this better and bolder than the traditional or old-school tattoo design. Developed in the eighteenth century and perfected in the young-and-fearless West, the traditional tattoo features strong, dark outlining and a stark color range. Now it is a worldwide body-deco phenomenon.

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If you are looking for a winning concept for your first tattoo, or if you are already inked and looking for another great idea, do yourself a favor and check out this collection of gorgeous and distinct old-school designs for both the guys and the gals.

Compass Traditional Tattoo


Traditional Tattoo for Men


Traditional Tattoo Design on Hand


Traditional Little Rose Tattoo

Traditional Floral Tattoo


Is the Traditional Tattoo Style for You?

You do have to put in a lot of thoughtful effort when deciding which tattoo design to get and where to get it inked. Tattoos aren’t for everyone. Not everyone has the inclination or the ability to pull it off. But among those who can, the traditional tattoo is one of the most popular options around.

And it might just be for you. Here’s why.

It successfully works with people of different personalities and preferences, cultures, and backgrounds. (And even different philosophies and beliefs: see the Traditional Tattoo for Men. This will not work for everyone, but for some, it is the best and only option.)

It has a reputation for being unafraid, plucky, strong, challenging, and, above all else, tasteful. It says all this about its wearer.

As you can see from this gallery of the best designs in this field, traditional tattoos are recognized by

  • bold black outlines;
  • minimal shading;
  • a restricted color spectrum: green, red, yellow (sometimes blue or brown); and
  • iconic concepts popular in the 1900s—think navy and army symbols, heart-and-dagger or skulls, eagles, pinup girls, banners, and ribbons with mottos.

These days, the iconic traditional look is able to make almost any subject work, whether you want

  • something youthful and romantic (see Traditional Bird Tattoo Design and Traditional Little Rose Tattoo);
  • something enduring and momentous (Traditional Memorial Cross Tattoo);
  • something timeless and historical (we recommend the Traditional Ship Tattoo and Compass Traditional Tattoo);
  • something artful and symbolic (Traditional Floral Tattoo and Traditional Tattoo Design on Hand);
  • something daring and exotic (Traditional Floral Cat Tattoo); or
  • simply something unexpected and eye-catching (Traditional Handwork Tattoo—think you can pull that off?).

They tend to be large-scale pieces—covering an entire forearm or chest, for example—so if the very sight of these Amazing Tattoos make you balk, you might like to check out some good small tattoo designs.

Traditional Handwork Tattoo

Traditional Floral Cat Tattoo


Traditional Ship Tattoo


Traditional Memorial Cross Tattoo

Traditional Bird Tattoo Design


Make Your Mark

Your tattoo artist will most likely have a portfolio of tattoo designs as awesome as these, if they do traditional. But don’t settle for second best if they don’t. Download any of these Cool Tattoos as references you can take to the parlor, and don’t forget to do your research.

Check out the other amazing tattoo concepts we’ve collected here on that you can always download free of cost. If you are a tattoo artist, consider adding these designs to your portfolio. You won’t regret it.

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