All About The New School Tattoo Style

If you’re looking for a tattoo that will showcase your personality, stand out, and be a conversation starter, the New School tattoo style is what you need!

Known best for their bright colors, bold lines, and sometimes wacky images, new school tattoos have been on the scene since the 1970s and don’t show any signs of disappearing.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about the New School tattoo style, including its history, what makes a tattoo New School, and some of the most famous artists who specialize in New School tattoos!

New School Tattoo Style

The New School Tattoo Style Explained

Considering that the art of tattooing has literally been around since caveman days, a style that’s only been around 30-50 years is still considered pretty new. There are many interesting things to learn about the New School tattoo style.

How did it start?

The origination of the New School tattoo style is actually a little contested. There’s a point some people say it started, while others say it actually didn’t start until later. No matter where you land, it’s interesting to think about the beginning of the New School tattoo style!

How it Started Originally

It varies, depending on who you talk to, but some tattoo lovers will trace the New School tattoo style back to the late 70s and early 80s. That is when some tattoo artists began playing with the foundation laid by traditional tattoos.

Using the same bold lines to ensure longevity of the tattoo and other techniques perfected over the years, content matter began to shift, and a new artistic style of expression began to form.

The Re-Birth of New School Tattoo Style

Other tattoo enthusiasts would tell you that the New School tattoo style didn’t come around until the 1990s. Marcus Pacheco is usually credited with being the father of New School tattoos.

A lot of people attribute the rise of New School’s popularity to the rise in popularity of cartoons.

Think about it— Disney animation was at an all-time high in the 90s. They were cranking out hit after hit with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Toy Story, and the list could go on and on. Besides Disney, cartoon classics like The Powderpuff Girls, Ren & Stimpy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles burst onto the scene.

The content that people were looking to get tattooed onto their bodies was changing, which meant that the style in which tattoos were done had to change too. That’s why many people will say the New School tattoo style bloomed from the cartoon age of the 1990s.

What Makes a New School Tattoo?

As with other tattoo styles, several factors need to be present for a tattoo to be considered a New School tattoo.

Bold Lines

With such wild content, the lines of New School tattoos must be thick and bold. There are several reasons for that.

First, black brings a much-needed contrast to any piece of art. When black is added, other colors get brighter because there’s something much darker that adds depth.

Secondly, bold lines add definitions, both initially and long-term. Tattoos with bold lines typically age better than tattoos without. Colored tattoo ink tends to migrate, lighten, and fade over time. A talented tattoo artist will be able to outline their art in black to help negate migration and make the tattoo look great for many years to come!

Bright Colors

Bright colors are a trademark of the New School tattoo style. While many traditional tattoos use colors like red, yellow, and royal blue, New School tattoos celebrate the advancement in tattoo technology and use every color of the rainbow.

Tattoo ink has come so far that even some colors available are fluorescent!

Anything goes in the New School tattoo style, so colors are up to you! Who said a cat has to be white or black? Why can’t they be neon pink? Indeed, a whale doesn’t have to be dusty blue, and it can be bright purple! Your imagination only limits the color options, and even that limit can be overcome with the help of a professional.

The exact colors will vary from tattoo to tattoo, so it’s best to consult with your chosen tattoo artist to plan exactly what will make your New School tattoo pop.


The New School tattoo style came about at the height of Disney’s golden age. People were connecting with these animated stories and characters in a new way and wanted to express that through tattoos.

These days, while people are still getting Disney characters tattooed on their bodies, the style has grown to include any and everything you could think of, but always with a cartoon twist.

The cartoon nature of these tattoos often means proportions are off the table. Whatever feels suitable to the artist and customer is what goes! Think enormous eyes, exaggerated height, wild and colorful backgrounds, anything goes!

3-D Appearance

With the advancement in technology in the ink and needles used, as well as better access to training and techniques, many New School tattoos appear to be almost 3-D, like they’re ready to jump right off the skin.

The 3-D appearance is achieved through many techniques, including the right color choices, shading, and highlighting in specific areas. It’s really incredible what tattoo artists can accomplish!

Famous New School Tattoo Artists

A quick google search will give you plenty of great New School tattoo style artists in your area, but if you’re willing to commit and travel for some of the best of the best, here are some great artists to research more for yourself!

Remember, it’s of the utmost importance to check out a tattoo artist’s portfolio before making an appointment. Many artists can do many styles well, but their best work will be the work they love to do. That will be clear through their portfolio!

Tanane Whitfield

Tanane Whitfield started as an artist, never expecting to be offered an apprenticeship at a tattoo parlor when he walked in to sell some original art in 2008. He’s said in interviews that it was a struggle to get the tattoo needles and ink to do what he wanted them to, but he didn’t give up.

Because of his persistence, he’s made quite a name for himself in the tattoo world! He’s been featured in many publications and won international awards for his color tattoo work.

Tanane is inspired by graffiti and old comic books, which means he’s full of New School tattoo style ideas! His favorite way to tattoo is to be given an idea and allowed to run wild with his creativity, ensuring his clients get his best, unique work.

He currently lives in Suffolk, Virginia. Check out his Instagram to see his work and contact him.

Scotty Munster

If you want a spooky New School tattoo style piece of art tattooed on you, look no further than Scotty Munster!

Scotty Munster has loved art from a young age, and after a season of looking to other artists for inspiration, he decided that he wanted to be a part of adding to the tattoo world instead of emulating it. He’s successfully found his niche with Halloween inspired tattoos!

If he’s not in St. Cloud, Minnesota tattooing, he’s traveling to conventions to teach and judge other tattoo artists. Visit his Instagram page to check out his weirdly charming and spooky work and to make an appointment.

Kelly Doty

After coming in second on Ink Masters and returning as a judge on their spin-off, Ink Masters: Angels, Kelly Doty has made quite a name for herself in the tattoo world.

She specializes in “creepy-cute bobbleheads” and takes a fantastic New School style spin on portraits of people.

If she’s not traveling, she’s at her studio in Salem, Massachusetts. Visit her website for more information about her, to see her portfolio, and to make an appointment with her.


What are some New School tattoo style ideas?

The New School tattoo style draws a lot of inspiration from the cartoon shows and movies of the 1980s and 1990s.

Notice we said “inspiration,” though! You’re not limited to only old-school Disney cartoon characters. What’s your favorite animal? Or maybe your favorite video game character? Or even your favorite food?!

The right artist can make anything into a fantastic piece of New School art!

Can a New School tattoo be black and white?

Technically, yes, you could have a New School tattoo done in black and grey, but you’d be missing out on the fun, excitement, and uniqueness that come with adding bright and wacky colors to a piece!

What’s the difference between Traditional and New School tattoos?

Traditional tattoos have a smaller range of colors and inspiration to draw from. Typical Traditional tattoos include things like anchors, gypsiescrying hearts, and swallows. The colors are usually in the primary color family: red, blue, yellow, black, etc.

The New School tattoo style draws inspiration from everything! The color options are limitless, and the content is as unique as the person getting tattooed.

Wrapping up the New School Tattoo Style

Full of fun, funk, and creativity, the New School tattoo style may be new, but it’s certainly not going anywhere soon! We hope that by now, you’ve got a clear understanding of the New School tattoo style and some inspiration to draw from when you’re ready to get your own!

For more tattoo fun, check out our page on Tattoo Meanings!

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