10 Bold and Striking Blackwork Tattoo Styles to Inspire Your Next Ink

Are you searching for a bold tattoo to add to your body art collection? Looking at blackwork tattoo styles might provide you with some inspiration!

Blackwork tattoos have been rising to prominence over the past few years. The style focuses heavily on only black ink by using solid sections of ink, thick lines, and heavy shading.

It’s a style that was commonly associated with Polynesian tribes and others like the Aztecs. Now this tattoo style is evolving into more than tribal tattoos, with elements of horror, graphic design, stippling, and more!

Keep reading to check out ten popular blackwork tattoo styles for your new piece of ink!

Man with black ink tattoos on hands and forearms in blackwork tattoo styles.

1. Blackout

Blackout tattoos are one of the least common styles you’ll see within blackwork. It involves covering a large section of your skin with black ink.

This style typically doesn’t include designs and focuses on the ink-saturated section itself. You can also incorporate it into your other tattoos through shading or something different, like a dripping effect.

Many people like to use it as an arm or leg sleeve. But others may use it to cover up unwanted tattoos or scars, discoloration, and other blemishes.

If you’re looking for a blackwork tattoo style that’ll turn heads, this is the option for you!

2. Dark Art

Dark art is a blackwork tattoo style that usually focuses heavily on elements of horror and other-worldly designs. They usually depict creepy and surreal ideas. Think along the lines of this vicious dragon, some snarling zombies, and scary demons.

These designs are typically meant to get you thinking and give you a slightly uneasy feeling when looking at them. Some people like to create a meaning out of this style by displaying the inner troubles that they struggle with. Or some might get one of these creepy designs purely because they like the look.

Besides the design itself, this blackwork tattoo style makes use of heavy shading rather than highly saturated sections of ink. There is plenty of eye-catching contrast to clearly depict shadows. So it combines the literal look of darkness along with dark concepts.

3. Geometric

Are you intrigued by intricate and meticulously placed shapes? Whether you’re a geometry-lover or you just like organization, the geometric blackwork tattoo style could be a cool option!

This blackwork tattoo style primarily uses shapes and lines as its focal point. Using hexagons to create a honeycomb texture is usually a popular option.

But this style goes much further than simple shapes. It uses repetition, plays with the sizes of shapes, and creates designs within designs. Most of the time, this style uses linework and solid shapes. But you might see other techniques incorporated as well, like stippling and shading, to make it pop.

Many of the designs within this style are reminiscent of what you’d typically see inside a kaleidoscope. The look is mesmerizing and orderly and gives off a harmonious vibe.

4. Illustrative

When it comes to the illustrative blackwork tattoo style, it’s reminiscent of graphic design.

Think about what elements you see in things like logos, stickers, advertisements, and other marketing materials. You’ll primarily see two-dimensional artwork. They use little to no shading, along with large filled-in areas. Pop art is another good way to describe it.

Artists can incorporate this graphic style into tattoos by eliminating or decreasing types of depth like shading, cross-hatching, or stippling. This creates a flat look, but this doesn’t mean illustrative designs are boring.

Some cool designs that people ask for with this blackwork tattoo style are things like sticker-like pieces, tarot cards, etc.

5. Negative

The negative blackwork tattoo style is slightly similar to the blackout style. It primarily uses large sections of black ink but with a little twist.

Instead of keeping it plain, this design style creates designs within the blank space of the canvas’s skin. Another way to do this is to overlay white ink over the black ink to make the tattoo pop. However, it can be difficult to make white contrast with black since it’s so dark. So, using the skin as white space is typically the technique of choice.

These options of negative blackwork tattoo styles display a type of x-ray vision design, as it’s like an inverted tattoo.

This blackwork tattoo style is a great attention-grabber. It dresses up the typical blackout design if you’re looking for more than a solid section.

6. Minimalist

Are you more of a minimalist and enjoy simplicity? The blackwork tattoo style has a category for you too!

Minimalist tattoos usually focus heavily on dark linework with hints of black ink-filled areas. There typically isn’t any shading or stippling, as these techniques make the tattoo highly detailed. Very detailed pieces aren’t in the minimalist category.

This style is usually a good choice if you want blackwork but want something on the smaller side. It could also be a good choice if you’re getting your first tattoo. You won’t be sitting in the tattooing chair for too long.

7. Patterned

The patterned blackwork tattoo style uses repetition to create beautiful yet bold designs.

It’s a little different than geometric tattoos, as it doesn’t solely focus on geometrical shapes like squares, triangles, circles, etc. The style can use anything ranging from this iron fence-like design to flowers. This style can use shading or strictly focus on solid ink. It’s up to you!

If you like the idea of a blackwork pattern, it will usually look best as a full or half sleeve. But you could even use it as a type of filler tattoo for the other ones you have. Another great idea is to use the pattern to create a cuff that wraps around your arm or leg. It’d be like a piece of permanent body jewelry.

8. Silhouette

Silhouette blackwork tattoos are exactly what they sound like! They are simply filled-in outlines of an object or general design that you pick out.

Common options are usually realistic things like flowers, trees, animals, and people. The trick is to choose something with a recognizable shape, so your tattoo will be identifiable. This is because there aren’t any details included in the silhouette blackwork tattoo style.

Make sure to pick the right tattoo artist as well. You’ll need clean lines to create the perfect silhouette. It might seem like an easy design, but it takes a lot of focus and precision.

9. Stippled

Stippling is a beautiful technique that many other tattoo styles incorporate. This technique isn’t new and has been around for thousands of years in the art world.

It uses dots to create depth rather than typical shading. The closer the dots are to each other, the darker the shadow will be. When it comes to the stippled blackwork tattoo style, most of the stippling is tight, which creates a darker look.

The cool thing about stippling is that it works well with almost any design. So, if you’re not fond of shading, asking the tattoo artist to use stippling is a unique twist.

10. Tribal

Tattooing is an art form that has been around for about 10,000 years or more. With this, tribal tattoos have most likely been around just as long.

Many tribes used tattooing to showcase their social status, family, and even their accomplishments. People still get tribal tattoos for these reasons today, while others might get them just because they’re beautiful.

The tribal blackwork tattoo style combines elements like filled-in shapes, intricate linework, and patterns. Generally, specific designs will correspond with certain tribes or cultures. Not all tribal tattoos look the same or have the same meaning.


Closeup of a tattoo artist creating a tattoo in black ink.

What is the traditional blackwork tattoo style?

The traditional blackwork tattoo style tends to be tribal tattoos. This is where the overall umbrella of blackwork stems from. Tribal tattoos primarily use black filled-in shapes and omit the use of depth through shading. That’s what blackwork is mostly about.

What’s the difference between black and gray tattoos and blackwork tattoos?

Black and gray tattoos are much different than the blackwork tattoo style. A blackwork tattoo is very dark, as it uses straight black ink. But, a black and gray tattoo uses diluted black ink to get the varying shades of gray. This gives the tattoo a softer and lighter look. It almost has an airbrushed look, while blackwork tattoos are harsh and bold-looking.

Is a blackwork tattoo more painful?

Any tattoo you get will have at least some pain, so blackwork isn’t necessarily more painful.

The pain level depends on where you get your tattoo, how big it is, and how detailed it is. If your tattoo is large or requires tons of detail, you’ll be in the tattooing chair for a while. And the longer you’re there, the more pain you’ll need to endure. If you’re worried about pain, using a numbing cream beforehand can help.

Head to the Tattoo Shop!

Person pouring black tattoo ink into small plastic cups.

Whether you want something minimalistic or bold and ominous, these blackwork tattoo styles have plenty to offer! Their striking and eye-catching nature will make a great addition to anyone’s tattoo collection. So, jot your ideas down and head over to your tattoo artist today for a new piece of body artwork!

Do you need some ideas for your blackwork tattoo? Check out 19 Dark Tattoo Ideas to Inspire You for some inspiration! Our Tattoo Styles page can also help you brainstorm for other future tattoos!

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