Drawing tattoo design.

Neo-Traditional is a relatively new term in the tattoo industry. Some people describe neo-traditional tattoos as a combination of old school and new school tattooing. While others simply deem them old school tattoos with a new twist. Because these pieces take ideas from both new and old school concepts, you have a variety of design choices that are only limited by your imagination.

Pick a design. A tattoo done in a neo-traditional style may be a simplified shape common for traditional tattoos only done with broader color choices, but still using the bold, black outline. On the other hand, you may use the traditional color choices, but choose a more modern design like a snake with a woman's head. You're not limited on design choices, but to have a truly neo-traditional piece of body art, it should combine some of the aspects found in both traditional and modern tattooing.

Choose an outline. Old school outlines were thick, bold lines and always in black whereas new school outlines lean more often to finer lines that are usually in black but can be in other colors as well. Neo-traditional tattoos can use either a thick or a thin outline. Your design choice will greatly influence this decision. Simple shapes tend to pop more with a thick outline whereas more elaborate shapes require a thinner line to prevent them from blobbing over time.

Color the design. Old school tattoos were usually dark with limited color choices including the average red, blue, yellow and green. The color in traditional designs is done in blocks with very little detail. New school tattoos take an old school design and jazz it up with brighter and more varied colors with more shading and realistic qualities. If you're going for more of the traditional in your neo design, then you'll want to stick with standard colors and avoid anything too bright. You can also meet somewhere in between and use more colors, but stay away from the brighter, neon choices.


  • Some people will use the terms "new school" and "neo-traditional" interchangeably, while others argue there's a distinct difference between the two styles.