Most Popular Tattoo Trends from the Last Five Years

Over the last few years, social media, celebrity tattoos, and relaxed job requirements have led to an increase in the popularity of tattoos - as well as the number of tattoos people are getting. 

As tattoos become more and more popular, certain trends in tattoo designs, placement, and color are becoming common. 

As an artist, it’s important to know what kinds of tattoos are popular so that you can be ready for clients to request them, as well as create some on-trend designs ahead of time to help you gain more clients.

In this article, we’ll break down:

  • What makes a tattoo popular
  • Which designs have been trending over the past five years

What Makes For A Popular Tattoo Design?

butterfly tattoos

In 2019, it was reported that 30-40% of Americans have at least one tattoo, and that number is growing quickly. As you see more and more people with tattoos, you’ll notice that some types of tattoos - including design, placement, size, and style - are more popular than others.

What Causes a Tattoo to Be “Trendy”?

The popularity of certain tattoo designs can be caused by a lot of different things including celebrities getting tattoos, social media trends, and themes that are common in pop culture. 

It’s not uncommon to see tattoos of popular quotes or characters from movies and TV or song lyrics from famous artists.

The Rise of the Internet

As it gets easier for people to learn about their histories and cultures, culturally-based tattoos or tattoos showing ancestry are becoming more common. 

The way that social media and access to the internet have connected people based on similar ideas and interests like pets, nature, activism, and music has led to shared tattoo ideas as well.

Tattoo Trends from 2018 to Now 

Here is a look at some of the biggest tattoo trends over the past 5 years:

Matching Tattoos

Matching tattoos of hands doing a pinky promise

Though they’re sometimes frowned upon by tattoo artists and tattoo enthusiasts, matching tattoos that people get with a partner or friend are gaining popularity.

Matching Tattoo Symbolism

Matching tattoos often have some kind of symbolism and represent something that is important to all of the people getting the tattoo. They can be identical, or they can have slight variations. 

Matching tattoos frequently symbolize love and connection.

Full Sleeve Tattoos

As the popularity of tattoos has increased, so have the size of tattoos. More and more employers are loosening their rules on visible tattoos, allowing tattoo clients to get bigger tattoos that are harder to conceal. This has led to full sleeves becoming some of the most popular tattoos.

Tattoo Sleeve Composition

Full sleeves have become pretty common because they can be designed as a full piece, or they can be put together as a patchwork of a bunch of smaller designs.

Micro Tattoos 

Full-sleeve tattoos are becoming more and more common, but so are the exact opposite: micro tattoos. 

Micro tattoos are small, fine-line tattoos that are usually an inch long or smaller and sometimes done with a single needle. They’ve become increasingly popular through social media and celebrity trends over the past few years. 

Micro tattoos are becoming very popular because of their simple, delicate appearance and the ability to hide them in plain sight.

Favorite Micro Tattoo Designs

Popular tattoo designs for micro tattoos include hearts, infinity symbols, insects, flowers, singular words, and small geometric shapes.

Water Color Tattoos

Bright color is incredibly popular in tattooing right now, which is a big change from the limited color palette you see in the traditional tattoo style. 

Tattoo styles like neo-traditional and new school have increased the possibility for color in the tattoo world, which has led to artists trying out new ideas and effects. One example of this is what’s known as the watercolor tattoo.

Landscapes and Nature

Some of the most popular tattoo designs out there right now feature landscapes and natural themes. Nature scenes like mountains, campsites, winding roads, and the ocean are very popular, and are often contained inside a geometric shape like a triangle or oval.

Geometric tattoos 

Full tattoo sleeve made of geometric shapes and patterns

Geometric tattoos, both large and small, are also popping up more frequently. They often feature shapes like triangles, squares, and circles, and can be filled in with bright colors or just black ink. 

Strong, angular shapes like triangles are sometimes thought to symbolize strength, and a lot of clients will lean on the symbolism of certain shapes to develop their tattoo ideas. Tattoos with multiple stylized geometric shapes organized into a line that covers the forearm or wrap around a limb are popular.

Pet Tattoos

Pet tattoos

Insects and other animals have remained popular. The most commonly searched tattoo designs are butterfly tattoos, closely followed by the bee tattoo as well as dragons, snakes, and lion tattoos.

Photorealistic Pet Portraits are Trending

A common trend in tattoos right now is photorealisitic pet portraits or paw print tattoos to memorialize a beloved pet. 

Japanese Tattoos

Japanese tattoos have been around for centuries and have influenced famous tattoo artists around the world including American Traditional founding father, Sailor Jerry. They are usually larger pieces, and common designs include dragons, tigers, and other animals. 

One of the most popular choices is a dragon tattoo. Because the Japanese tattoo style often focuses on the flow of the muscles, the ability to curve the body of a dragon tattoo makes it a popular choice.

In recent years, access to the internet has given tattoo artists outside of Japan the ability to study traditional art and other tattoo styles like Japanese tattooing, bringing centuries-old tattoo traditions into the American mainstream.

Flash Tattoos

popular tattoos on a flash sheet

Flash tattoos have been popular for decades, especially with the influence of Sailor Jerry, but they are still incredibly popular now. Flash designs make popular tattoo designs easier to access because of their lower prices and the ability to have them done as a walk-in. 

Over the past few years, flash has become even more popular because of holiday-based flash sales. 

Many tattoo shops will have their artists offer flash at a discounted price for occasions like Halloween and Friday the 13th. Because of this, some designs like a skull with a candle coming out of the top, jack-o-lanterns, gravestones, and bottles of poison are popular choices.

Monochromatic Tattoos 

A tattoo trend that has been popping up a ton over the last few years is the monochromatic tattoo. These tattoos involve intricate, often ornamental designs that are done completely in one color other than black. 

Blue, red, and white ink are very common for monochromatic tattoos.

Three-Dimensional Tattoos

Geometric tattoo styles

Neo traditional tattoos and new school tattoos are both known for their ability to make a design look three dimensional through shading and varying line weights. 

Realism tattoos are currently in high demand, and part of the appeal of a hyperrealistic tattoo design is the tattoo looking like it is physically popping out at you. 

Three dimensional designs give tattoos an extra feeling of life and creativity. The eye-catching nature of 3-D tattoos has made them a very popular request.

Flower Tattoos

Floral designs have been a common theme in tattooing for centuries, and they still remain one of the most popular tattoo trends. 

Rose tattoos are the most popular design for flowers, but other kinds of flowers like sunflowers, cherry blossoms, peonies, and lotuses are also big.

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

popular tattoos in different tattoo styles

Understanding the challenges that come with doing popular tattoos is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straight-forward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
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  • Private mastermind community
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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