Welcome to the new decade! There’s been a lot of hype around this particular new year, perhaps because the past 10 years felt excruciatingly long and disorienting for many of us.
The 2010s were a cultural whirlwind. We saw the rise of Instagram, which changed the way we communicate and market ourselves. We saw young people prove that they will change the world when they marched for their lives and striked to solve the climate crisis. There was even the election of Donald Trump—and then his impeachment. And a lot has happened in the world of tattoo over the past decade, too. We’ve seen tattoos go from a subcultural phenomenon to a mainstream form of art and self-expression. We’ve seen the popularization of styles like minimalism, micro-realism, and watercolor. And we’ve seen the growth of the tattoo community to include hubs around the globe, everywhere from New York to São Paulo, Berlin, and Seoul. But what’s next? What 2020 tattoo trends should we look forward to?
Over the past few months we’ve been scouring Instagram to come up with the 11 tattoo trends outlined below. Here’s what we expect to see in 2020.
1. Hypersaturated (Super Colorful) Tattoos
During the 2010s, colorful tattoos took a back seat to black (and black and grey) designs when minimalism, single needle, and micro-realism tattoos rose in popularity. But color is back. In fact, it’s possible that you’ve already noticed colorful tattoos taking over your Instagram feed. If you have, expect to see even more this year since hypersaturated designs will likely be one of the biggest 2020 tattoo trends.
Looking for some artists to follow who specialize in colorful, hypersaturated designs? Some of our favorites are Zihee, a South Korean tattooer; Emma Anderson, co-owner of smallshop studio in Brooklyn; Chris Stockings, a UK-based Neo-Traditional artist; and Charline Bataille, the Montreal-based tattooer who describes their style as “queer propaganda” done in a “creepy-kitschy-cute” aesthetic.
2. New Takes on American Traditional
Some of the most classic American Traditional tattoos designs—think: the heart with mom inscribed across it, the anchor, and the pin-up girl—date all the way back to the late 18th century, when sailors would get tattooed during their time at sea. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that these pieces gained wider popularity among countercultural groups like bikers and punks. It’s arguably the most classic style of tattoo; one that is deeply entrenched in the art form’s history. And because of that, it’s unlikely that American Traditional tattoos will ever go out of style. Nonetheless, some tattooers are experimenting with new, modern takes on American Traditional designs.
New Mexico’s Christopher Scott, for instance, combines the classic old school illustrative style with trippy designs. His pieces often fall somewhere between American Traditional and glitch. Other artists experimenting with the style include Philadelphia’s Henry Hablak and Dave (AKA Winston the Whale), resident at Portland’s Good Stuff Tattoo. Their new takes on the historic style have been gaining traction on Instagram as of late, something we believe will continue throughout 2020.
3. Continued Popularity of Highly Visible Ink
As tattoos have become mainstream, they’re naturally become more widely accepted as well, particularly in the workplace. Just a few years ago, having visible tattoos was considered a big no-no in most offices, but that’s since changed completely. Many workplaces now have updated policies that are inclusive of body art. Even police forces are relaxing their policies on officers with visible tattoos. And as a result of tattoos becoming more acceptable, there has been an increase in highly visible ink like neck, face, hand, and ear tattoos.
These placements will likely continue to attract tattoo lovers this year, so if you sense an increase in the number of people rocking neck tattoos or sets of finger ink, you shouldn’t be surprised.
4. The Rise of Temporary Tattoos
When you think of temporary tattoos, you might imagine the cheap, press on stickers you wore as a child. But temporary ink has really upped its game since then. Two prominent temporary tattoo companies that have emerged over the past decade are Inkbox—which, full disclosure, is the driving force behind Inside Out—and Tattly. And thanks to the superior quality of these new temporary tats, we expect that this year you’ll be seeing a lot more of them.
Both companies also work with real tattoo artists on the designs they offer. Inkbox currently has collections with South Korean tattoo artist GOODMORNING; Inside Out studio resident artist, Curt Montgomery; and Montreal’s Marc Bonin; among others. Tattly, on the other hand, has collections with New York hand poke tattoo artist, Tea Leigh; Toronto-based tattooer, Jess Chen; and German artist Lara Maju.
5. Merch + Side Hustles: New Ways to Support Tattooers
Side hustles aren’t exclusive to the tattoo community—in fact, according to a 2019 survey from Bankrate, nearly half (45 percent) of Americans have one. And increasingly, tattooers are joining that massive group of side hustlers. So if your favorite artists don’t work near you—and a trip to their locale isn’t in the cards right now—there might be other ways for you to support them and their art.
Mira Mariah, the tattooer better known as GirlKnewYork—she’s one of Ariana Grande’s go-to artists—regularly drops new merch, for instance. Curt Montgomery, resident artist at our very own Inside Out studio, occasionally illustrates for brands and publications. He even did the illustrations and cover art for Lili Reinhart’s forthcoming book of poetry. Then there’s French hand poke tattoo artist Estelle Dalgalarrondo who does embroidery work on the side. Picking up a side hustle (including selling merch) can be lucrative for artists, so it’s something more of them will likely start doing in 2020.
6. Eco-Friendly Tattoo Studios
There are simple steps that we can all take to be more eco-friendly—creating less waste, consuming fewer animal products, and eliminating single-use plastics, for instance. Unfortunately, the tattooing process involves a lot of single-use materials that, for a long time, were not created with environmental sustainability in mind. For years, many studios have been offering customers vegan tattoo ink, but that was the extent of their environment initiatives. Things like gloves, cord sleeves, and bed covers are always thrown in the trash after each tattoo appointment—something that is necessary to keep the tattoo process sanitary. But now there are ample eco-friendly options.
Companies dedicated to creating sustainable alternatives for tattooing are beginning to gain traction. There’s Toronto-based brand Good Judy, which sells biodegradable gloves, razors, and ink caps. Australian company Eco Tattoo Supplies provides similar products including biodegradable bottle covers and paper towels made of 100% recycled paper. So we’re calling it: Environmentally conscious tattoo studios will be one of the top 2020 tattoo trends. Expect artists and studios—including our own shop, which already uses many of these products—to provide increasingly eco-friendly services this year.
7. The Resurgence of Ignorant Style
Building on a trend that started to gain momentum last year, ignorant style tattoos are going to be big in 2020. The minimalist linework style is defined by its rough drawings which typically include some element of humor (usually dry humor) or irony. Although the style has been around for a while—Scarlett Johansson got an ignorant style tattoo back in 2012—it’s only now gaining widespread popularity. We expect this to continue throughout the new year. Soon ignorant tattoos will be everywhere.
If you’re into the style and want to check out artists who specialize in the most humorous of the 2020 tattoo trends, some of the best include Parisian artist Chantal Dessinemal; UK-based Mathew Sawyer (AKA Woozy Machine Tattoos); Bowser, a Berlin-based tattooer; and Emerik Derome, the artist better known as ‘dirtyl00ks.’
8. Embroidery-Inspired Tattoos
In 2019, a handful of artists from around the globe began practicing a new style of tattoo known as ‘embroidery.’ These tattoos have been gaining traction over the past few months, and we have a strong feeling that the style is going to really explode in popularity in 2020.
The tattoos have a unique three-dimensional look, which is uncannily similar to embroidered patches—hence the style’s name. Some of the most popular artists pioneering embroidery tattoos include Duda Lozano of São Paulo (he did the Disney-inspired tattoo shown above), Mexican artist Paulina Oliver, Moscow’s Ksu Arrow, and Pennsylvania-based Adam Zimmer. When asked about the secret to creating great embroidery tattoos during an interview with Tattoo Life, Lozano said it’s necessary to understand “light and shadow” in order to create a realistic 3D effect.
9. Large-Scale ‘Body as Canvas’ Designs
When we chatted with Montreal-based tattooer Marc Bonin in November, he said, “I personally prefer larger-scale projects like this recent back piece I did. In the future, I would love to experiment, creating pieces that use the whole body as a canvas. I just love the impact that it has.” It seems that many artists share this sentiment, as we’ve seen a growing number of these massive ‘body as canvas’ designs over the past few months, and we expect to see even more throughout this new year. This might be our favorite of the 2020 tattoo trends because it’s always so exciting to see how tattooers create large-scale pieces around the natural curves of their clients’ bodies.
10. Style Crossovers
Given the large number of unique tattoo styles, it feels only natural that artists are now experimenting with crossovers, or style mixing. Rather than specializing in just one style, many tattooers are combining several of them. What exactly does that look like? In the photo above for instance, Montreal-based tattooist Hans Deslauriers combines black and grey realism with hypersaturated animated elements like the bow tie and headdress. The contrast between the two styles really makes the design pop. And tons of other artists are hopping on this trend, too. The North Carolina artist known only as ‘hiphopsprayer‘ combines detailed black and grey work with glitch element in his designs, for example. And UK’s Bonita Caruana has a hypersaturated style that includes elements of both sketch and watercolor design.
11. Greater POC Representation
Many tattoo shops have taken important steps in becoming safe spaces for women, POC, and LGBTQ+ folks, and we applaud them for that. But there’s still a lot of work to be done, especially when it comes to reshaping the tattoo community to be inclusive of POC in particular.
People of color remain vastly underrepresented in the tattoo community (if you need proof, take a quick scroll through the #tattoo tag on Instagram and let us know how many, or rather, how few, POC you see). Thankfully, there’s a growing number of POC tattoo artists who are dedicated to creating a more inclusive community. These artists—like Toronto’s Brittany Randell and Alex Abbey, LA-based Miryam Lumpini, and New York’s Sanyu Nicolas, Doreen Garner, and Tann Parker—use their platforms to showcase tattoos of all styles on darker skin tones. They’re paving the way for more black and brown artists to becoming tattooers. And they’re creating spaces where darker skinned folks feel safe getting tattooed. Thanks to these artists, we expect to see far greater POC representation in the tattoo community in 2020.
If you like our post 2020 Tattoo Trends: Here’s What You Can Expect To See This Year, be sure to check out our story on How American Musicians Are Shaping Mainstream Tattoo Culture.