Having trouble deciding on just one tattoo style? You don’t have to choose just one! Using mixed style techniques, you can have a tattoo that includes classic elements from each style you like! We loo...

How to Design a Mixed Style Tattoo

Having trouble deciding on just one tattoo style? You don’t have to choose just one! Using mixed style techniques, you can have a tattoo that includes classic elements from each style you like! We looked into mixed style tattoos to find out how to get the perfect design, things you want to think about during your decision process, and key elements of what makes a design a mixed style one. Read on to find out more about mixed style tattoos.

What is Mixed Style?

A mixed style tattoo is exactly what it sounds like – a mix of different tattoo styles combined into one piece of art. Mixing styles is a newer form of tattooing, and is one that allows for a ton of creativity. It’s an especially good option if you’re looking into getting some new ink, and you’re torn between a couple of different tattoo styles. You can simply take the elements that you like most about each individual style, and use them together to form a wholly unique visual piece.

Some tattoo artists are beginning to specialize in mixing styles to create art with their own flare. Greek tattooist Kenlar decided to get into tattooing and mix styles because of other artists he admired, “Before tattooing, I used to do graffiti, and…that’s the main reason I started tattooing… a lot of graffiti [artists] I used to admire… jumped into tattooing, so I just followed them”. Since then, he’s been a full-time tattoo artist perfecting his own style of mixed tattoos.

Most tattoo styles work well when combined with another, but there are some that aren’t quite as flexible. American Traditional, for instance, has a very basic color scheme, a 2D quality to it, and a recognizable motif, all of which are part of what makes the style identifiable. When you start adding more color and more modern imagery, you get into the Neo-Traditional style, which is a whole other style of tattooing in and of itself, but one that also combines well with a style like Illustrative. The more modern styles tend to work best when combined, so see what’s out there before making any final decisions on your tattoo idea.

Key Elements of a Mixed Style Tattoo

There’s really only one central element of a mixed style tattoo, and that’s the use of two or more distinct styles in one tattoo. For Kenlar, he likes the “combination of graphic and realistic tattoos.
I love strong contrasts, abstract elements, watercolours, splashes, brushes, ink drops and drips,
sketchy lines, stencils, patterns”. Kenlar loves the abstract concept, but he likes to spice things up by adding elements of realism into the composition of the piece, because “it makes it more interesting and fun”.

The design options are endless with a mixed style tattoo, because you don’t have to adhere to one type of motif or color scheme. These kinds of designs allow you to express your creativity beyond what you would be able to do if you stuck with one style over another, and make your tattoo truly unique.

Where to Start with Your Design Idea

As always, decide first where you want to get your tattoo, as this impacts the dimensions and overall size and amount of detail in the piece. Next, spend some time looking at different tattoo styles online to get a feel for what you like. The great thing with mixed style tattoos is that you can take bits and pieces from any style you like, and use them in your own design. Even if you don’t have a clear picture of what you want to get, as long as you have a rough idea and style in mind, your artist can make up a rough draft of a tattoo for it.

Some tattoo artists specialize in primarily inking one style over others, so look into some different portfolios to ensure you book with a tattooist who has skill and experience mixing tattoo styles. This can be something as simple as using Illustrative elements in a Geometric design or vice versa, and a huge number of tattoo artists have some experience or another in combining tattoo styles.

Things to Consider with Mixed Style Tattoos

The biggest aspect of your design and style choice, according to Kenlar, is the amount of contrast involved. Without contrast, the artwork isn’t as interesting to look at, so it’s an essential element, “Contrast is the most important thing; black colour is the base of the design, [and] if it’s weak, the whole ‘structure’ falls. On the other hand, [there] has to be balance in the composition”.

Mixed Media Chest Tattoo

Contrast alone isn’t what dictates how visually appealing a design is, you also need to consider “the elements you have combined, the watercolors, the splashes…what colours or which pattern you use, and why”. He noticed tattoo artists at Sake Tattoo in Athens mixing tattoo styles in a way that reminded him of graffiti, and knew instantly that was the style he wanted to emulate, “I feel very excited to work on this style and is something that I really enjoy doing… otherwise what’s the point?”

Most Popular Mixed Style Tattoos

Mixed Media Book and Tree

There’s no way to pinpoint a particular design that’s more popular than others for a mixed style tattoo, because the options for what you can get are limitless. There are some tattoo styles that overlap and mix naturally, so it’s more common to see these styles combined than some others. Geometric and Illustrative styles mix well together, so they’re seen used together in a number of tattoos. Illustrative and Neo-Traditional, as mentioned before, are often used in combination with each other, as well as Neo-Traditional and New School, or Illustrative and new School.

The only styles are typically much tougher to combine with others are American Traditional and Trash Polka, because of the specific elements required for each of these styles. Using a color other than red, for example, in a Trash Polka tattoo puts the authenticity of that style into question, as true Trash Polka designs include that punch of red.

A number of tattoo designs include overlapping, or mixing, tattoo styles, which are used in harmony to create a visually appealing work of art. Coming up with a mixed tattoo design can be daunting at first, due to the sheer scope of the possibilities, but once you narrow it down to styles and images that you like, you just have to find an artist to help you create that custom piece.

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