New School tattoos, an Old School remake?

What is this style about? How is it related to Old School?


The New School tattoo style has been on the rise for a while now. It is a very particular style that fantastically mixes techniques. Colours, volumes and three-dimensional designs are its strong points.

What relationship do they have with the Old School style? Why do they have different names? Let's see the differences.

What is the Old School tattoo? Where does it come from?

Broadly speaking, we can say that the Old School style is the oldest, and it is one of the pioneers in many ways, both culturally and socially.

It can be said that the Old School tattoo originated at the end of the 19th century. However, its popularity grew significantly in the early 1900s, especially in the United States in the interwar period and at the end of World War II.

These tattoos remained illegal and even frowned upon since due to their origins, they were considered “from the underworld” and were often related to crime and marginality.

It was not until the middle of the 20th century that they began to become more popular in different social groups. In any case, this transition was very gradual, as it has been difficult to reverse those beliefs.

Characteristics of Old School tattoos

These types of tattoos are easily recognizable to anyone and are distinguished by their:

  • Contours. They are usually tattoos with well-defined black outlines, achieved through strong strokes.

  • Colours. Black is one of the most used colours, although it can also be combined with primary colours.

  • Designs. They are frequently tattoos of women's faces, anchors, sailboats, animals such as tigers or cougars, and roses, among others, without extreme details or volumes.

  • Shading. If there is something that truly characterizes this type of tattoo, it is the use of powerful and easily distinguishable shadows.

New school? What's that?

The term New School is not so new. It was born around 1970 and evolved greatly until it became what we know today. Although its name returns to the traditional tattoo style, in practice it is much more different.

Inspired by comic art, New School tattoos combine styles such as street art, graffiti, Realism, cartoons, and Manga.

One of the most notable differences they have from the traditional ones, among other characteristics, is that they use very vibrant colours, prioritizing bright and electric tones, and using a wide range of shades.

However, they also have the strong and well-defined lines of Old School, but adding gradients and paying special attention to shading.

These shadows are not necessarily the same as in traditional tattoos, but thanks to different techniques and new machines, they have been able to be more refined.

The use of varied inks and good management of colourimetry will make your tattoos have a spectacular result in this style. Otherwise, that “magic” that characterises them could be lost.

Again, practice is essential here. It is not an easy task to achieve a good gradient of colours or fades in the tones, to achieve good results, demands your time as an artist and your dedication, so let's do it!

As we mentioned in this article Learn to drow for tattooing, we recommend that you practice drawing digitally or on paper, as to understand how shadows behave in this type of design and to be able to analyse perspectives and their different visual levels.

Perspectives here play an essential role, as they will be responsible for achieving this characteristic effect of the 3D drawing. Graffiti skills can ease this technique when transferring drawings to tattoos.

The New School themes are comics, and like in Old School, they also have anchors, cats or seagulls, but with a higher level of difficulty in the strokes.

New School tattoos are often confused with Neo-Traditional, since these two names are misleading. Far from being the same, they are extremely diverse.

If you want to know more about this style, we invite you to read our article Neo-Traditional tattoos: all you need to know, where we explain the specific characteristics of each style. Remember that both Old School, Neo-Traditional and New School are entirely unique styles.

Old School or New School, which one to choose?

Both styles may have similarities and New School honours Old School but in a much more modern, risky and flashy way.

This style takes advantage of new technologies and advances in machines, inks, and needles to be able to combine countless styles in one. Knowing about these elements is essential for any New School tattoo artist.

Undoubtedly, it is not for everyone. In other words, this style requires a lot of practice and mastery of very varied techniques, for which training is essential.

Although their names can lead to confusion, both the Old School and the New School have many differences: while the first focuses on primary colours and simple drawings, the second stands out for the variety of colours and shades and more elaborated drawings.

We can’t state that one is better than the other. In fact, each style has its own particular colour. There is no accounting for taste.

Did you know this style? Would you like to tattoo it? Drop us a comment!