American Traditional Tattoos Detailed Guide

trisha sinha roy

Updated At  25 Aug 23

Tattooing is a vast form of art and has numerous types and kinds. There are traditional tattoos and new school tattoos and we also have portraiture, realism, Japanese, and a lot more. Tattoos rule the body art empire and have been favorited by countless body art enthusiasts around the globe who do not mind some needle jabs at all. 


American Traditional Tattoos Guide

Among many different forms of tattoos, American traditional tattoos are one of the most liked and popular. American traditional tattoos go back in time where they come from and are also usually bright and colorful, which is why a lot of people take a strong liking to them. If you have begun to love American traditional tattoos as well, we have covered everything that you need to know about them in this article. 

Also check out valknut tattoo guide to find out everything about them along with the details of their history, origin, FAQs, cost and all details.






What Are American Traditional Tattoos? 

American traditional tattoos are one of the most common and popular types of traditional tattoos highly popular among tattoo enthusiasts, mostly in Western countries. American traditional tattoos are also known as Western traditional tattoos or Old School tattoos. These tattoos are characterized by clean and prominent black outlines, bold colors, and minimal shading. American Traditional tattoos are bright, commonly depicting flowers, women figures, skulls, weapons, etc. American traditional tattoos are mostly bright and colorful but are also prevalent in the usual black and grey, although they still would not consist of a lot of shading. 

In recent times, artists have begun to combine American Traditional tattoos with some new school art to bring out something unique. Nonetheless, their characteristics remain the same. American traditional tattoos are meant to be bright and eye-catching. The linework in these tattoos is always bolder and darker than other tattoos in general. The characteristics that were assigned to this particular genre of tattoos have a whole story and meaning as to why they are the way they are. Tattoos with meaning are really special as they convey a deep meaning.





American Traditional Tattoos History

The origin of American traditional tattoos goes back to the early 1930s. Body art enthusiasts came up with this particular style of tattooing to represent freedom and wanderlust, or the urge to explore the world beyond what is served to the people by the regulated society. Founders of American traditional tattooing rejected the American dream and wanted to live a life that defied the binding rules of the mundane mainstream society. During the 2nd World War, tattoo legend Norman Collins, also known as Sailor Jerry, upheld and pioneered American Traditional tattoos in Hawaii. This was a major reason behind the upsurge in the popularity of American traditional tattoos. 

This period is commonly categorized as the revival and rebirth of American traditional tattoos in the history book of tattoos. This old-school tattoo style continues to represent freedom from the confinement of a generic and regulated society. American traditional tattoos can be easily set apart from other tattoo styles because of their bold colorfulness. American traditional tattoos hold a lot more meaning to their enthusiasts apart from their visual appeal and the essence of this tattoo style has been passed down carefully ever since its origin and advent. 

Check out our guide to find the best tattoo designs for women as we cover all the designs trending this year.




American Traditional Tattoos Cost


Costs of American Traditional Tattoos mostly depend on the size of the tattoo. Many artists also charge hourly rates for their work. On average, an American traditional sleeve tattoo would cost anywhere between $1000 to $5000 dollars. For smaller tattoos such as a flower, a female figure, a skull, etc. the cost would be around $100 to $500. 


Costs of tattoos usually depend on the artist and how they choose to charge. American traditional tattoos have certain parameters that an artist much maintain to do justice to the art. Hence, going to an experienced artist is recommended. American Traditional tattoos also usually involve the use of a lot of colored ink which might make it a little more expensive than general black and grey tattoos. 


If you are looking for back tattoos, do check our guide to find the best back tattoos for girls.     






How To Get American Traditional Tattoos 

If you have developed a liking for old school tattoo arts and are willing to get an American traditional tattoo done on yourself, here is how you should do it. 

  • Choose a design. You cannot get a tattoo if you do not have a design in mind. American traditional tattoos have a plethora of ideas you could choose from. You can show your artist a design and then get it customized. Or you can also explain the design you want and ask your artist to create it. 
  • Choose an artist who is experienced in this particular genre. Not all artists do all styles of tattoos. Some even specialize in specific styles. Opt for an artist who has prior experience with American traditional tattoos or traditional old-school tattoos in general. 
  • Book your appointment! 

Here is what you need to do before getting tattooed. 

  • Drink enough water. Staying hydrated is important before you get tattooed. 
  • Eat well before you get tattooed. You need to have energy and a balanced system. Tattoos are paimful and a hungry stomach is going to make you feel worse. 
  • Get enough sleep the night before. Once again, tattoos are painful and burn calories even though you will only be sitting in one place the entire time. Not having enough energy will make you feel easily exhausted and intensify the feeling of pain. 
  • Make sure you are sure of where you want your tattoo done. Take a good shower and carefully shave the area you want to get your tattoo on. Avoid getting tattoos on wounded skin. If you are getting tattooed on a part of your skin which is scarred, make sure the wound has completely healed. Consult a doctor if need be. 
  • Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages before getting tattooed. This can result in unnecesary bleeding. 
  • Follow the artist's instructions on post tattoo care very carefully.

Do check our guide to find the best hawaiian tattoo designs for females as we cover all the spectacular designs trending this year. 





American Traditional Tattoos Types And Designs  

American Traditional tattoos do not have specific broad categories. However, these tattoos have a history to themselves and the style itself was the brainchild of artists who wanted to embody freedom and defiance towards the mainstream society and its boundaries through this art. So when American traditional tattoos were born, the artists used some specific imageries to express what they wanted to express. There are essentially no categories of American Traditional tattoos, but certain old-school designs hold beautiful meanings to themselves were some of the first designs that artists used in American traditional tattooing. 

While a lot of people get American traditional tattoos solely because they look bright and beautiful, all these tattoos have their own unique and powerful meanings as well. So if you want to explore through designs, we have got you covered! 




Swallow Tattoos 

In American traditional tattooing, Swallows signify the idea of return, which is rooted in the birds' migration patterns. Swallows always return to their homeland even after migrating far away seasonally each year. This tattoo also signified the legend that talked about how birds carry the souls of sailors to heaven who die at sea. One of the top men tattoos, swallow designs continue to gain popularity.





Skull Tattoos 

Skull tattoos in traditional tattooing signify bravery and respect toward the forces of nature. Skull tattoos are to symbolize the acceptance of death as a part of the life cycle on earth. Skull tattoos also mean bold and fearless. These designs were worn as a mark of warriors and adventurers. 




Ship Tattoos 

Ship Tattoos were a favorite of traditional tattoo pioneer Sailor Jerry himself. Ships in American Traditional tattoos express adventure, freedom, bravery, wanderlust, curiosity, and the hunger to explore. Ships also signify the feeling of being 'homeward bound'. 




Anchor Tattoos 

Anchors are really popular tattoos among American traditional tattoo designs. Anchors signify stability, consistency, and staying grounded. This design is also related to the ship, which poses as a homeward-bound adventurer at sea. Anchor tattoos are often done along with the name of a beloved person. This is because it stands for a lasting, grounded, and stable form of love. 





Female Head Tattoos

Female head tattoos were used to signify beauty, feminity, romance, desire, etc. People often got these tattoos to represent a lover or a muse. When sailors went away to sea, they often got these tattoos to remember their loved ones back home. A lot of these tattoos represent women from the Gypsy culture where nomadism was seen as a form of freedom and Gypsy women were seen as beautiful, free, and feminine beings. 






Can American Traditional Tattoos be Removed? 

Of course! Laser tattoo removal can effectively remove any kind of tattoo. Laser removal involves shooting highly concentrated light pulses at the ink to help break the ink and slowly remove it from the skin. It might take a number of sessions depending on the tattoo and how old it is. Generally, American traditional tattoos are very pigmented and hence may take a while to laser off. Nonetheless, like all other types of tattoos, American traditional tattoos are also very removable. It would, however, involve some pain and endurance, and patience for the process to complete. 



Frequently Asked Questions On American Traditional Tattoos



Q. What are the rules for American Traditional Tattoos?

American Traditional tattoos consist of bold and clean outlines, lots of clean and uniform coloring, and minimal shading.


Q. What are the most traditional tattoos? 

Some of the most traditional tattoos include female heads or figures, flowers, anchors, skulls, ships, dragons, birds, snakes, wolves, etc. and many more.


Q. Where did traditional tattoos originate?

Traditional tattoos travel far back thousands of years in time where Eastern cultures are believed to have birthed the art of traditional tattooing. Traditional tattoos were greatly encouraged and popularized in ancient Japan, China, and Pacific Islands.


Q. What colors are traditional tattoos?

Traditional tattoos are very colorful, mostly consisting of the primary and secondary color palette, i.e., red, green, blue, orange, and purple. However, many people also choose to have their traditional tattoos done in black and grey.


Q. Which are the popular American Traditional tattoo artists?

Sailor Jerry, Mildred Hull, Don Ed Hardy, Sailor Jerry, Bert Grimm, and Lyle Tuttle, are some pioneers and legends of American Traditional tattoo art. In the current day, Valerie Vargas, Stewart Robson, Shaun Topper, Beau Brady, Katie Gray, and Alex Zampirri, are some famous and renowned American Traditional tattoo artists. 


Q. What are the American Traditional Tattoo Colors? 

Amerian Traditional tattoos feature primary and secondary colors in most cases. Some people also get the colors of their own choices. American Traditional tattoos mostly work with a palette of red, green, blue, orange, and purple. American Traditional tattoos can also be done in the usual balck and grey.