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New School Tattoos: Origins, Styles, and Artists | Best Guide

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What is New School Tattoos? New School tattooing is made with a highly animated aesthetic that pulls from many different places for its style by Intensely vivid tones, rounded shapes, eye-catching characters, and cartoonish concepts.  There are few things this style does not borrow from, with foundations in American Traditional, Neo-Traditional, as well as anime, manga, video games, and comic arts. We look at the origins, stylistic influences, and new school tattoo artists that make up this incredibly saturated New School tattooing aesthetic, in this guide

The Origins of New School Tattooing

How its foundations are cemented within American Traditional is One of the few things people don’t notice about New School tattooing. With the clarity and healthy ageing of tattoos, Many of the rules set forth by Trad artists long ago help. From spreading, bold New School Tattoos stylesblack lines help keep color; with the ability to easily form highly legible tattoos, large shapes and designs help; these are all things that New School keeps close at heart. 

With Neo-Traditional, there’s also the pretty obvious relationship; you can see the Art Nouveau and Japanese aesthetic influencing new school tattoo artists, usually, quite clearly. The differences are also easy to see. Tattooists are able to use striking colors, from fluorescents to neons with technological advances in pigments for inks. These tints help to solidify the cartoonish aspects of the style considering where New School pulls its iconography from. There’s also just that: by a variety of pop culture, new School tattooing is mostly influenced. Gamer ink, anime and manga characters, comic book fans, …they all find a home here.

Due to the influx of client requests, changes in the industry, and the generally closed and exclusive air of the tattoo community, the real beginnings of New School tattooing are sort of lost in translation and time.  Some people see the 1990’s as the true emergence of the aesthetic we now know while others argue that the New School style has origins in the 1970s. Regardless, most tattooers see Marcus Pacheco as one of the main forerunners of the genre, however, to be not only an evolution of the artist and art but also sparked by changing client tastes, some ink historians regard this change in style. 

It should be noted that during the ’90s there was certainly a resurgence of a true interest in mainstream pop culture; as well as graffiti compositions, and more, we can see ink from that era including a great deal of cartoon and Disney influences. These are some of the most iconic ink ideas from the ’90s: Betty Boop, tribal tats, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Pokemon, Zelda, a time when concepts were merging and clashing.

It actually makes sense that in the late 20th century the forefront of aesthetic culture and change became the pop culture, and that information would be continually shared in newer formats. The internet was finally fully commercialized, and users were hit with an incredible amount of visual and intellectual material, more than ever before, in 1995. 


Perhaps the most famous internet provider who is known for its “You’ve Got Mail” slogan, is AOL which in itself, attests to the power of the web, and of pop culture. The ’90s and early 2000s were a time inundated with new ideas, styles, and a plethora of information and inspiration that would go on to influence tons of artists and industries, though the internetJapanese new school tattoos was emerging in the late 1980s.

There has often been a division between American Traditional artists and new school tattoo artists.

The techniques, rules and mediums of tattooists are usually closely guarded information that is only shared through artists and devoted apprentices. It wasn’t only the demand for latest new school tattoo designs via customers, it was also a hope of some new school tattoo artists to progress and share new concepts and modes of working; to work outside the rules.


This progression was made easier with the invention and public integration of the internet. With the stylings of Neo Trad, New School, and about a thousand other different styles and takes on this ancient art form, Traditional American tattooing was blown open.

The Styles of New School Tattooing

The Art Nouveau stylings of Neo-Traditional, as mentioned above can easily be seen within New School tattooing as well. But the influence of Japanese aesthetics not only comes from Art Nouveau decorative techniques and Irezumi iconography, but through comic books, video game culture,  and most often: manga and anime, as well. 

This impact is not only because of pervasive public access to the internet but cable television also. , Overseas appreciation wasn’t really widespread until Western adaptations, best new school tattoo artistdubs, and networks started pulling anime for their own programming, while Japanese animation has an incredible history of its own. Toonami, first originating as an afternoon and evening block on Cartoon Network, exhibited shows like Dragon Ball Z, Outlaw Star, Sailor Moon, and Gundam Wing.

This was also thanks to the materialization of highly skilled animation studios which in 1996 formed a partnership with Disney that would ensure a rather new and extensive viewership like Studio Ghibli. All of these steps helped in bringing anime, manga, comics, and other Japanese cultural movements to Western fanatics who would then turn to the only artists in the industry able or interested in bringing their wonderful nerd dream tattoos, to life, New School tattoo artists.

The same could be said of Disney. Disney had a renaissance of their own creating some of their most well known and beloved films to the public, In the 1990s. Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast,  Pocahontas, The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, Mulan, and so many more were part of this new life within the Disney repertoire. And, these iconic films are mainstays of New School tattoo portfolios even today. 

The obvious passion behind the work is one thing that can easily be said of the style; many contemporary New School pieces are based on childhood nostalgia or fascinations. The most common concepts within the style are comic book heroes, animated characters or Perhaps All of these. And it makes sense;  to show the outside world your affiliations or deepest infatuations, tattoos are often away. 

There is a devotion seen in very few other communities within New School tattooing, and the industry in general, but those other super devoted communities definitely include gamers, comic and graphic novel lovers, as well as anime aficionados. In fact, there is a special word for this type of person: Otaku, in Japan.

Graffiti is another large slice of the pie, while cartoons certainly have the most influence new school tattoo designswithin new school tattoo styles. The popularity of graffiti hit an all-time high in the ’90s and into the 2000s, although hugely popular in the underground of the 1980s. 

Wild Style and Style Wars were two films that brought street art to the attention of the public in the early ’80s, but with the emergence of top new school tattoo artists like Obey and Banksy, graffiti became a mainstream art form quickly. New School tattooists have used the drop shadows, bright colors, and swooping, graceful lines of street artists as inspiration for their own work, and the fonts themselves can be part of the design sometimes.

The Artists Within New School Tattooing

Due to the easy adaptability of the New School tattoo style, many new school tattoo artists choose to work in this style and influence it with their own personal tastes and predilections. Michela Bottin is new school tattoo artists known for her perfect recreation of many Disney characters, from Lilo and Stitch to Hades from Hercules, as well as anime stars and Pokemon creatures. 

For their highly colourful pieces including many manga inspirations, Kimberly Wall, Brando new school Japanese tattooChiesa, Laura Anunnaki, and Lilian Raya are also famous. With surreal cartoon influenced shapes and styles, Logan Barracuda, John Barrett, Jesse Smith, Mosh, and Jamie Ris are really straight forward New School. Best new school tattoo artists like Kike Esteras, Andres Acosta, and Oash Rodriguez, creating a whole new look of their own, they tend to merge their work with Neo-Traditional and Realist stylings.

New School tattooing is a wonderfully strong aesthetic that pulls from pop culture to create a whole new style that deeply resonates with many, again, with foundations in Traditional American and Neo-Traditional. The history, stylistic qualities, and new school tattoo artists within the New School tattoo style have created a genre that gamers, anime lovers, and comic book geeks adore; this style has carved out a place in the community just for them, and so many more.

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