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Neo-Traditional Tattoos NYC


Neo-traditional tattoos are exactly what they sound like they would be. They mix the old school style of traditional tattoos with new and modern techniques to create a unique piece that can be colorful and eye-catching. Although this style of tattooing is less common than others like realism and traditional, it still takes great skill and technique to perfect.


Unlike traditional tattoos that have a more simple color palette and smaller range of needle size, Neo-traditional tattoos use a wide range of colors and line sizes to create more depth and dimension in a piece. They might use similar imagery and motifs but the results will look very different. Neo-traditional tattoos have become more popular and that could definitely be because you can really take any image of an animal, object, person, or flower and make it into a beautiful illustrative piece. There is really no limit to what you can draw in the Neo-traditional style and that is what sets it apart from Japanese or American traditional tattoos.

Mikhail Andersson - First Class Tattoo

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History of Neo-Traditional Tattoos

A mix of old school imagery and modern techniques, the neo-traditional style of tattoo has long been a popular choice among tattoo artists and clients alike. The term “neo” indicates that it’s not just old school, but rather blends inspiration from a number of older styles to become a style in its own, giving a wider range of colors forming cartoon-like subjects and characters with more blending from one tone to another, but keeping the boldness of it. 

One of the most appealing aspects of the neo-traditional style is its lack of rules or guidelines, unlike older tattoo styles such as Japanese or American traditional. Many people also choose this style because of its connection with tattoo history. Neo-traditional tattoos generally look similar to how they would have looked years ago, but with a modern flair. They can be inspired by anything from the American traditional style (1940s) to Japanese prints (Ukiyo-e in the 17th century) to Art Nouveau (late 19th and early 20th centuries) and Art Deco (1920s) designs.

The Future of the Style

Neo-traditionalism is a general term for a style that features bold outlines, detailed illustrations, highly saturated colors, and dimensions that stretch between 2D and 3D—appearing realistic but not exaggerated. As the style evolves, these main aspects are sure to remain the same, as they are some of the most defining characteristics of neo-traditionalism.


However, some aspects which will continue to evolve include the themes and images associated with neo-traditionalism. While traditional images include snarling animals, portraits of women, ships, and nature imagery, many people have taken more modern approaches to make neo-traditionalism more inclusive of other types of images.


Different Uses of Neo-Traditional Techniques

1. Pay homage to iconic images, but with a customized flair

If you’re looking to get a classic image tattooed but want to add a modern or customized look, the neo-traditional style is for you. Neo-traditional images range from classic images of animals and people to images of personal pets and modern icons.


2. Pop out, but not too much

As a style that balances 2D and 3D, neo-traditionalism is realistic but not exaggerated. This can help images and colors pop out without being overwhelming.


3. Use bold outlines and shading to your advantage

One of the lasting features of the neo-traditional style is its use of bold, dark outlines and shading that serve to make images more realistic, adding to the balance of 2D and 3D.

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Neo-Traditional Tattoos FAQs

Do neo-traditional tattoos last as long as other types?

Yes, if you take proper care of them. The durability of a tattoo does not depend on the style but on how well the tattoo artist and the client take care of it and discuss ways to prevent fading and ensure that it heals properly.

Do neo-traditional tattoos hurt more than other types?

No. The design or style of a tattoo usually does not indicate the pain level—rather, the amount of pain depends on the location of the tattoo.

Do neo-traditional tattoos last as long as other types?

Yes, if you take proper care of them. The durability of a tattoo does not depend on the style but on how well the tattoo artist and the client take care of it and discuss ways to prevent fading and ensure that it heals properly.

What’s the difference between neo-traditional and American traditional?

The neo-traditional style is often compared to the American traditional style, but there are in fact quite a few differences between the two:


  • Neo-traditional tattoos follow the old school style (like American traditional), but with new techniques.

  • The neo-traditional style allows for more rule-breaking and creative license.

  • Like American traditional, neo-traditional uses outlines in black ink, but the latter style also relies heavily on shading.

  • Colors of different gradients and pigments play a large role in neo-traditional tattoos, whereas the American traditional style generally uses red, black, yellow, and green.

  • American traditional tattoos usually have a 2D look, while neo-traditional tattoos have a feeling of more dimension without fully being 3D or cartoonish.

  • The line width of neo-traditional tattoos differs with each outline, whereas the American traditional style includes outlines of the same width.

  • Subject matter varies with every tattoo style, but American traditional tattoos tend to follow old school subjects and are based on the traditional “flash” that allows people to choose historical images that have been used for decades. Neo-traditional tattoos, on the other hand, veer away from tradition and may include any subjects from modern icons to pets to hobbies.


What’s the difference between neo-traditional and new school?

Many people get confused between neo-traditional and new school tattoos. There are many differences between the two styles:


  • New school tattoos are brightly colored and more exaggerated, like cartoons, while neo-traditional tattoos feature more subdued colors and are not exaggerated.

  • New school tattoos are often influenced by modern pop culture, but neo-traditional tattoos use older and more classic art styles with modern images.

  • Neo-traditional images remain 2D, whereas new school tattoos are known for being 3D and exaggerated to the max.

Neo-Traditional Tattoos & Cover Ups

Neo-traditional tattoo designs make for fantastic cover ups; the astonishing color, plus the huge variety of topics and sizes makes for a versatile cover up style. A skilled artist can create the perfect neo-traditional design that can do wonders as far as hiding a range of tattoos. For a great team that commonly works with neo-traditional tattoos as cover ups, First Class Tattoo is a fantastic destination.


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Ask us a question or inquire about booking a time for your Neo-Traditional Tattoo!

52 Canal Street, New York, NY 10002  |  Tel: (646) 998-5203

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