The new school tattoos are a modern evolution of an old age tradition to decorate your body. The designs are inspired by the pop culture of the 70s and 80s, with inks depicting animated scenes of cultural icons. Colorful designs come out of the skin with bold contours, saturated colors and lots of attention to detail.
The new school is fun, vibrant and engaging. Do you want to know more? We are going to take a look.
A Brief History of New School Tattoos
A short story indeed, because this modern style only appeared a few decades ago and is still evolving in multiple directions. Different stories are told that trace the origin of the style at work of artists of the 70s and 80s with roots in the counter culture of the west coast at that time.
Pioneers like Marcus Pacheco of San Francisco Bay have connected with the tradition of graffiti that became more and more visible at the time.
The old school black and white images came to life in rich colors. Traditional images such as eagles and crosses have been replaced by pop culture icons – cartoon characters, science fiction characters, and representations of contemporary celebrities. The new school tattoos are bold, bright and light.
In the 90s, the new school management established itself as a very popular style, with an exaggerated subject, vivid color palettes and bold outlines. There is distinctive 3D imagery and a sense of movement in this style that creates perspective and space – sometimes the characters seem to come straight out of the image.
The new school style
The iconographic images encountered in the new school are taken from familiar subjects found in cartoons, graffiti and popular culture.
The most distinctive aspect of this style is the use of rich and solid colors everywhere, and therefore has an important role in the new school. Color catches the eye, highlights shapes and adds perspective.
Some artists have a preference for a dominant color, but the era of clean black lines is long gone.
Tattoos With Style
For tattoo artists, the new school style is an incentive to express their best skills with sometimes limitless creativity. Shamelessly spanning large parts of the body, the colored inked images are larger than life. The world of new school models has left tradition behind and is filled with fantastic subjects, innovative models and is highly personalized. The detail invested is simply fascinating.
The elements remain from old tattoo traditions like folk art, old school and irezumi, as well as the heavy lines often used. But the new school tattoos use much brighter colors than the old, typically monochrome styles. The new school tattoos exaggerate the details and shapes, to lose all sense of realism, as seen in cartoons and graffiti. The jagged edges and bubble letters are much more reminiscent of hip hop culture.
While the new school style was parallel and stemming from the graffiti tradition, it echoed the bold lines and the exaggerated perspectives. Many cartoon characters from the 70s and 80s appeared with the same cleanly carved lines, but now completely filled with different colors.
Modern designs have a strong sense of atmosphere and detailed line work which is often organized in scenes with a distinct foreground, middle and background.
Perspective is an integral part of profiled characters, inverted or extending across, sometimes transforming from side to side within the same image.
Imagination without limits
The imagery of the new school tattoos reflects the limitless imagination of the artists and their subjects. Nothing seems out of bounds that can be represented with bold lines and colors. Tattoos are hypnotic because they draw the viewer into imaginary worlds and spaces.
Cartoon characters appear, often distorted and discolored, trapped in a struggle with other objects or figures. Or you can see mythical creatures like an octopus with tentacles wrapped around abstract objects.
Lizards, dinosaurs and dragons, sometimes indistinguishable, put their fangs on the observer. Raptors spreading wings or extraterrestrials with dripping canines are not for shy people.
Tattoos for women tend to be more attractive, with recognizable characters from popular anime or cartoons. Or you find yourself in the eyes of mesmerizing faces of women elegantly draped over the contours of the subject’s body.
Another common feature is the intricate patterns that dress various parts of the body in mechanical, natural or traditional forms. Sometimes indistinguishable from stretch fabric, it is only the eyes and the shapes of mysterious creatures that warn against the artist’s deception.
Representing true to life can be intimidating. A coiled snake with its hypnotic gaze fixed on you or a wolf ready to strike you, attracts and repels at the same time. Intense faces make you wiggle or a grimacing skull lets you shiver with visual impressions that you hope will not find their way into your dreams.
Less formidable but no less breathtaking are emblematic images from traditional culture. All-seeing eye tattoos are popular with an eye representing the gaze of God placed inside a triangle evoking the Holy Trinity.
There are Polynesian masks with large eye cavities evoking a voodoo culture. The patterns and forms borrowed from ancient South American cultural representations allude to human sacrifice. In a new school, nothing is sacrosanct.
Skulls appear frequently. Sometimes they’re clean from a cartoon movie; other times, they are strangely distorted or present unreal ornaments that suggest strange themes from this world. Skulls are stuck under ordinary household objects, breathing fire or are arranged with bizarre collections of random objects.
Dive below the surface
Sometimes, the illustrated scenes plunge the spectator under the surface in strange decorations of submarines with fish turning into pirates, large sailing ships afloat or sunk under breaking waves, cute fish taken out of Disney World which, with the second take, have shark jaws. Nothing is as it may seem at first glance.
The list of wild imaginations is endless, with furniture that turns into extraterrestrials, eyes on random objects and tentacles emerging from mouths arbitrarily placed.
Skin as canvas
The new school is an opportunity that awaits individual tattoo artists to express their own style, tradition and strengths. Skin is a unique canvas that invites artists to use shapes and tones to accentuate shapes and patterns. Everyone’s body shape, texture and skin tone are different. Your body can be the inspiration your artist expects.
For tattoo artists, the new elements of the school add more complexity and challenge than traditional black and white styles. But the New School tattoo ink is extremely distinctive and personal, which explains its wide appeal. To become a walking work of art, the new school has incredible potential.
Choose your artist
When it’s time to choose an artist to work with, you want your style to speak to you. Check out their portfolio, perhaps on Instagram or other online media they use, or ask to see photos. Next, look at how they use the “skin canvas” to represent the images common to the new school described above.
Your preferred style will also depend on the placement you have in mind. A shoulder tattoo allows less space but can be displayed or hidden as you wish.
Give the artist space to lie on your back or on your chest, and the scene can become much more complex. The detail and interaction within the new school tattoos can create amazing designs for the right kind of artist.
With enough space, there is plenty of room for art and meaning. Your artist will have a repertoire of stylistic elements on which to rely as well as all the tradition that preceded it. If you take the time to discuss your ideas and values, you will have the opportunity to find out if the artist will be able to capture this with ink.
How to end up with a custom design
If you are a fan of comics, anime or just games, the new school style will appeal to you. When you go to the artist you have chosen, you offer your body as a canvas to express his style.
Give them inspiration by identifying a pop culture icon that resonates with you. It could be a cartoon character that materializes your aspirations. A graffiti image that makes a statement that you want to echo. Or a form of a dream you had recently.
The amount of content and detail in the new school models translates into large tattoos covering whole limbs or body surfaces such as the back or entire shoulder. The part of the body chosen will play an important role in determining the artist’s realization of the desired scene.
The new school is devoid of preconceived notions and requires artistic freedom to find the synergy between texture, form, moment and tradition to manifest itself in a striking color and form.
If you choose a new school tattoo artist to work on your body, you can be sure to end up with a work of art that will make a bold statement.