Illustrative tattoos include anything that looks like you might find in a book illustration or drawing. And just as there are many kinds of art style, there are many kinds of illustrative tattoos. This style is one of the most popular for tattoos today, and you can find many tattoo artists specializing in it, each with their own take on what an illustrative tattoo looks like.

Illustrative tattoos take inspiration from both traditionalism and realism. They typically use solid black outlines, much like traditional tattoos, and may be colorful or simply black. The key to an illustrative tattoo is that it retains a drawn, animated feel, rather than being shaded to look photo-realistic. This gives artists and clients a lot of flexibility to design either a simple illustration or a complex, abstract piece. Creativity and a touch of whimsy are key ingredients to these tattoos. 

Many illustrative tattoos are done in blackwork, meaning that they only contain black ink. In these designs, tattoo artists may use dotwork, lines, cross-hatching, and stippling to add detail and dimension. Illustrative blackwork tattoos can have an impactful graphic quality, or look like they belong in an old book of fairy tales.

Other illustrative tattoos feature a range of colors. Most use a muted color palette to create soft transitions, rather than the bold contrast of a traditional tattoo. Many illustrative tattoo artists use color to create a cartoony style. For this reason, illustrative tattoos are popular for people who want to recreate a favorite cartoon or animated character. It’s also a great style to capture a beloved animal or person in a cartoon style. 

Because there are so many different artistic styles that can be incorporated into illustrative tattoos, it’s a tattoo style with a lot of flexibility. 

If you’re looking for inspiration for illustrative tattoos, there are lots of amazing tattoo artists around the world. Noelle Longhaul creates intricate blackwork tattoos that look like they belong in dark folktales. Servadio has an element of bold spookiness in his designs. If you like the feel of a comic strip, you’ll love Woozy Machine’s illustrative tattoos. If cartoons are more your style, you’re likely to love Rob Robinson’s designs. 

Zach Crisp strikes a delicate balance between realism and artistry, with striking tattoos that usually feature animals. Emma Sailor adds more of a botanical style to her tattoos of flowers and birds. Ashley Wolly’s designs also feature animals and flowers, but with more of a drawing-quality. If you’re looking for a tattoo immortalizing your cat, her tattoos could be for you.

As you can tell from these examples, illustrative tattoos include a wide range of styles and subject matter. If you’re looking for a style of tattoos that captures an artistic feeling, with either an ethereal or a bold cartoony style, an illustrative tattoo might be what you’re looking for.

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