Neo Traditional Tattoos Meaning, Design & Ideas

Over the last 20 or so years, neo-traditional tattoos have shot up the rankings thanks to their bold looks and the fact that the style can be applied to so many different images. In fact, you may have seen dozens of new traditional tattoos in your life and not know what you were looking at.

It is a distinctive style, yet it’s not talked about much outside of the tattooing world, so most folks simply don’t know what it is. Well, on this page we will take a look at this cool tattooing style and some images that benefit from it.

So, what are these neo-traditional tattoos? In short, these tattoos take the classic American tattooing style and modernize it. They do this simply by making each line of the design bolder with thick black lines. Anyone who loves to outline their artwork with black markers will recognize this type of style right away. It makes the colors pop a bit more and it can make some tattoos seem to jump off of the skin more than traditional tattoos.

Below we will take a look at some of the most commonly found neo-traditional tattoos and why they work so well in this style.


Skulls have been some of the most popular tattoos in the world for a while now, and they can look absolutely amazing when turned into neo-traditional tattoos. The skull represents the tattoo owner’s acceptance of their own mortality, and people usually use them as a source of motivation. What’s really great about skulls is that they usually look great in any size, and the neo-traditional style can be applied to all of them. Also, skulls can be great on their own or attached to bodies in larger designs.


If you’ve never looked up flower tattoos before, then you’d probably be surprised to see just how many meanings you can pack into a single one. As far as design goes, the neo-traditional tattoo style can help draw the eye toward the flower while also giving it a unique look. Some people even choose to leave the inner color out of the flower altogether and just get all of the lines in bold black.

Classic Portraits

Portraits are some of the most popular neo-traditional tattoos because they allow you to get the images of a person you want on your skin without having to get them heavily detailed. Most artists will simply thicken the lines all around the face and then work in different shadow effects to make the face look amazing.


One of the top designs to represent courage and determination, a ship tattoo is both meaningful and beautiful. Now, when you add in the neo-traditional tattoo style, you can take your ship to a whole other level. You can add bold lines in and around the water, along the outside of the ship, and maybe even in the sky if you want to include it in your design. The ship tattoo is also one of the most popular tattoos for sailors and those who take great pride in being adventurous.


There are a lot of animal tattoos out there in the world today, so if you want to get one that you can be pretty sure is unique, you might want to get it as a neo-traditional tattoo. As with portrait tattoos, you can get your animal tat in the neo-traditional style simply by making each major line of the animal’s face a bit bolder than in traditional designs. Before you even get to the design process, though, you should look up the meanings attached to all of the animals you like and see if one really does work for you.


One of the ultimate symbols of transformation, the butterfly can make for an excellent neo-traditional tattoo for anyone who wants to make (and commit to) major changes in their lives. As you might imagine, the butterfly works perfectly with this style since you want its colors to stand out. The tattoo artist can very simply make the wings and spots bold to really make those colors jump off of your skin. Add to that the fact that it has amazing meanings and it’s no surprise that the butterfly is one of the more popular neo-traditional tattoos right now.


Mermaids symbolize beauty, grace, and temptation, among other things, but most people choose them as their neo-traditional tattoos because of how well the style and the subject work together. The mermaid is one of the most classic American traditional designs, and it can easily be given a modernized look through the neo-traditional style. Some people still want to add in some extra detail to make their mermaids lifelike while others will just use the bold lines to keep that classic look while making it stand out a bit more.

Native American Designs

Native American portraits, symbols, and landscapes are all very popular neo-traditional tattoos. Some people like these designs so much, in fact, that they combine a bunch of them into one large piece. This is because they all can be made with simple line work, but they have a very cool look when you make those outlines just a tad bit darker. On top of that, of course, just about every Native American tattoo comes with a plethora of amazing meanings that just about anyone would want to include in their tats.

Tribal Designs

What’s interesting about tribal tattoos is that they already have some of that neo-traditional look to them, but you can easily take it even further by widening those lines or making them a little bit darker. It is important that you know all of the meanings behind these symbols and lines, though, and don’t just get them because you thought they looked cool on someone else. The fact is that most honor the tribes that originally got these tattoos, so they aren’t actually perfect fits for a lot of people.

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