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Classic Tattoo Motifs: In All Styles

Tattoo art features a wealth of styles that will leave you spoilt for choice. Whether you prefer ancient or modern, the options are endless. And you can ease the initial discomfort by using numbing cream for tattoo boots.

Each style comes with various motifs or symbols that carry significant meanings. Some motifs cut across different styles, although they are presented differently. Here’s a glimpse into the classic styles and motifs tattoos:

Classic Americana/Old School

American traditional style of tattooing is generally referred to as ‘old school.’ This style features elements of America’s history, right from original settlers crossing into America to images from the Wild West. This style was and is still common among sailors.

Some motifs include ships, anchors, rose, hearts, daggers, wild horses, and other nautical images. Most images in this style are designed with minimal color and bold outlines. Even though most of it is about the past, it comes with modern features representing the present.


Tribal tattoos are a popular style that pays homage to old traditions of indigenous tribes and ancient tribal art. This classic style features simple patterns like the flora and fauna, sun and moon, rivers, and mountains.

However, it also brings out bold designs like Samoan animals, Celtic knots and crosses, Maori face tattoos, and Hawaiian Kakau.

Originally, one would have been able to identify the wearer’s tribe just by looking at the tattoo. Samoan and Maori tattoos have much more symbolism than other styles. They are perfect for any size, from small to sleeve to full body.


This tattoo style has evolved over the centuries into a popular art appreciated all over the world. It features various motifs like flowers, including lotus flowers, peonies, and cherry blossoms. Japanese lettering in grey and soft black is also quite popular. Oni masks and dragons are other common motifs with this style.

The frames or backgrounds to these elements are usually rivers, clouds, and lightning. Japanese tattoo artists also ink religious deities (Buddha) and legendary heroes (Shinto). These motifs work well for all-size tattoos, from small designs to full-body tattoos.

Viking Style

The Vikings were not only fierce fighters. They were also talented craftspeople and had tattoos all over their bodies with symbols originating from Norse mythology. Modern Viking tattoo designs include objects, symbols, animals, and weapons.

Their tattoos feature elaborate knotwork and intricate patterns. Some of these motifs include spikes, thor hammer, troll cross, Odin’s knot, the triple horns of Odin, the tree of life, and so on. This design is still popular today among the modern population.


The portrait tattoo is a timeless style that will probably never be wiped out. The main motif is the face (obviously) of your loved one or someone you idolized, like a pop star or historical figure. In some cases, it’s a fictional character that you relate to in some way.

Portrait tattoos are a permanent way to pay tribute to the person you admired and keep their memory alive. This specific style is a difficult one compared to the others as the artist must accurately bring out your loved one’s facial features.

Some tattoo styles are here to stay because of the significance they hold and the boldness of their motifs. All these classic styles and motifs are still popular today, and all you have to do is choose the one that appeals to you. Of course, if