150 Traditional Old School Tattoo Designs

Tattoo art is one of the most popular forms of body adornment, which has rules the hearts of millions for centuries and continues to be on the pinnacle of popularity even in the modern times. Though creative tattoo artists are continuously working on modern and realistic designs, but the traditional old school tattoos still make hot favorites among tattoo enthusiasts. Basically, old school art refer to traditional American styles of tattoos, which feature bold black lines and the color palette of such tattoos is limited. Some of the well known tattoo artists who have been highly regarded in the old school art genre are Sailor Jerry, Amund Dietzel, Herbert Hoffman, Bob Shaw and Bert Grimm.

From its name itself, an old school art is a traditional tattoo that involves a number of conventional designs and patterns. Of course, such tattoo is completely different to the modern day tattoos. It usually involves bold lines and designs. The entire design is made up of bold pictures that are colored with solid colors like black and blue. The truth is, they can be easily identified through their own colors being used by the tattoo artists. Most of the time, the tattoos would have green and red colors that have some touches of blue, purple, brown, and yellow apart from the very common black color. However, even though it is a conventional tattoo, it cannot be denied that it is still in trend even up to these days. As a matter of fact, a lot of tattoo lovers in the world love to have this kind of tattoo when compared to the modern day tattoos.

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Famous Artists for Old School Tattoos

Just in case you do not know, there are a lot of names that can be associated when it comes to an old school tattoo. These are those famous excellent tattoo artists who have invented a lot of gorgeous designs for tattoos including some beautiful designs intended for the traditional tattoos. Here are some of these famous tattoo artists that you should know who really made a big difference in the tattooing world:

  • Norman Keith Collins – Norman Keith Collins used to be a very famous American tattoo artist who was born in the US state of Nevada. He was amongst those high caliber tattoo artists who really made the traditional American tattoos extremely popular in the world. Most of the people who came to him just to have some tattoos on their body were the sailors. This was the main reason why he was famously called “Sailor Jerry”.
  • Amund Dietzel – Another name that became very popular because of the old school art and some other kinds of tattoos was Amund Dietzel. He was a Norwegian-born tattoo artist, but he later on moved to the United States where he experienced a great fame when it comes to tattooing. He was considered to be one of the fathers of the American tattoos.
  • Herbert Hoffmann – Herbert Hoffmann was actually a Swiss tattoo artist who became famous in the entire world because of his excellent contributions in the tattooing world. It was during the 1930s when he began making a great name in the world of tattoos. He started in the beautiful country of Germany. Because of his excellent tattoo works, he was featured in the movie titled “Blue Skin” way back in the year 2004, along with his co-tattoo artists named Albert Cornelissen and Karlmann Richter.
  • Bob Shaw – Bob Shaw was an American tattoo artist who was also a big part in spreading the greatness of an old school art. Without his great contributions, it would not be that popular in the past and even up to these days. He actually learned a lot in tattooing in St. Louis, Missouri with the help of the famous tattoo artist named Bert Grimm. Because of his excellence when it comes to tattooing, he became the National Tattoo Association’s president way back in the year 1983 up to 1988.
  • Bert Grimm – Of course, who would not know about Bert Grimm. He was considered to be one of the fathers of the American tattoos that became extremely famous worldwide. He actually started doing tattoos in St. Louis, Missouri but he decided to move to Long Beach, California to set up his very own tattoo shop. There are lots of sailors and some other tattoo lovers who came to his shop and get tattooed with the most gorgeous tattoo designs they loved. In the year 1970 however, he sold his own tattoo shop to his colleague, Bob Shaw.

Famous Gorgeous Designs

Just like the other kinds of tattoos available these days, an old school art tattoo also has a lot of things to offer when it comes to designs. All of these designs are assured to be extremely gorgeous that you might love to have all of them engraved on your body. If you are very curious about these designs, then here are some of them that you should know:

  • Eagle Tattoo Design – One of the most famous design is the eagle tattoo design. It used to be a very meaningful and gorgeous tattoo design of the ancient American culture. According to the ancient American people, this tattoo design is symbolizing dedication, freedom, and strength. In case you want to change the meaning of your eagle art, then you can possibly add some more designs like quotes or words.
  • Rose Tattoo Design – As its name suggests, this particular design will involve an image of a rose flower. There is no way such design will not look good to any wearer since a rose flower is extremely beautiful in nature. It is also a very meaningful tattoo design. The common thing being represented by this design is love or passion. There are several variations of this particular design such as rose tattoo that is incorporated with names and words, tribal rose tattoo, and black rose tattoo.
  • Pin Up Tattoo Design – Another very common design is really patronized by a lot of tattoo lovers in the world is the pin up tattoo design. The pin up girls tattoos are definitely the craze in the past and even up to these days, especially to numerous men tattoo lovers in the entire world. Such design would really be very sexy, which is why it is loved by boys. Even so, it takes time in engraving such design on your body.
  • Anchor Tattoo Design – Of course, who would forget about the anchor tattoo design? Apart from the fact that it is a very gorgeous design, this is also extremely meaningful. The things being represented by this particular tattoo design are belief, hope, faith, and determination. There are so many people who make this particular design extremely famous especially famous celebrities in the world. The image of an anchor will also look very gorgeous when incorporated with some other beautiful sub designs such as hearts, ropes, and roses.
  • Native American Tattoo Design – The Native American tattoo design is considered to be a very important component of the old school arts. This particular design is being associated to a lot of cultures in the world, not only for the Native American culture. Of course, this design can also be very meaningful depending on the entire design of the tattoo. Some of the most common sub designs of the Native American tattoo are animals, feathers, dreamcatchers, arrows, compass and a lot more.

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Popular Designs

They are very traditional in nature, with some basic designs making it into this genre, though designers have molded them in many forms to make them contemporary. Here are some popular designs which are in extensive use in modern times too:

  • Compass Tattoos – Compass tattoos, which derive their design from the much used navigation device, is one of the most well known old school designs. It stands for direction and inspires the bearer to take up the right direction in his life, which would take him towards achievement of his goals. The tattoo is popular among sailors, travelers, adventurers and navigators.
  • Native American Tattoos – Native American tattoos relate to tribal culture of ancient times and form an important element of old school designs. These tattoos have a strong connection with tribal heritage, in addition to symbolic meanings related to tribal customs and traditions. Some widely used Native American designs are the dreamcatcher, feathers, animals, natural forces and human heads, all having their roots in the Native American culture.
  • Heart Tattoos – The heart is regarded as the seat of human emotions and feelings, which is why heart tattoos are related with love, compassion and friendship. These tattoos are most famous form of old school designs, which are preferred by lovers and also borne by people who want to express their feelings towards loved ones, like parents, children, friends and family members. They come in great variety such as sacred heart, winged heart, broken heart, bleeding heart and pierced heart tattoos, each one signifying something different related with the emotions of the heart.
  • Swallow Tattoos – Swallows are tiny little birds associated with health, prosperity, loyalty, freedom, protection and strength. Swallow tattoos are a highly appreciated old school design, which were introduced by sailors as a sign of hop of safe homecoming. Later, they were used as a symbol of liberty by people who were freed from the prison, which closely relates swallows with the expression “jail bird”. Gradually, this pretty design became popular and began to be used by common people too.
  • Anchor Tattoos – Another popular design is the anchor tattoo, which is not only appreciated for its aesthetic value but also its symbolic meaning. The tattoo stands for determination, faith, hope and belief. These designs have been popularized by celebrities and are liked by both men and women. Many designs are created using design elements like roses, birds, ropes and hearts.
  • Eagle Tattoos – One if the most powerful designs is the eagle tattoo, which is a symbolic of American culture and represents strength, freedom, dedication and dedication. Most of eagle tattoos are large and prominent and can be incorporated with words and quotes, in addition to other design elements. The purpose behind it is to add a new meaning to the basic tattoo design.
  • Mermaid Tattoos – One of the most fascinating and beautiful among old school art is the mermaid design, which features the grace and charm of this mythical creature. Originally a favorite among the sailors who spend their lives on the sea, these tattoos are now equally popular among women as they look feminine and magical. The design also stands for independence and playfulness.
  • Dagger Tattoos – Knives and daggers have been used as old school designs in abundance, as the symbolize mystery and make an interesting choice for those who want something weird and bizarre to be inked on them. These creative designs may also include elements like skulls, hearts, flowers, feathers and animals, each one giving a different symbolic meaning to the basic dagger tattoo design.
  • Rose Tattoos – Rose tattoos make a popular old school design, as they look extremely beautiful and also have a deeper meaning, which links them with the expression of love and passion. Rose tattoos are featured in various designs such as black rose tattoo, tribal rose tattoos, rose tattoos with name, quotes and words.
  • Pin up Tattoos – The glamorous pin up girls used as old school art have increased the popularity of this tattoo art to a great extent, with these charming and feminine designs attracting tattoo lovers from all over the world. The sexy pin up tattoos are eye catching but equally difficult to ink, which require a lot of expertise at the hand of the tattoo artist.
  • Navy/Armed Forces Symbols – Navy and armed forces tattoo designs are highly regarded in the old school art, as they stand for valor, courage, power and strength, all of which are deeply linked to the armed forces. These assertive looking tattoos feature symbols of the navy and the armed forces, which include guns, weapons, skull, nautical stars and tanks, all of which are related with defense forces. These tattoos are used by navy and army personnel to make a show of their position in the armed forces as well as physical prowess.

All these tattoos which come from the old school tattoo art, boast of unique looks, besides holding a significant deeper meaning, which has made them the original elements of tattoo art. Modern tattoo art draws inspiration from the old school to a great extent, and makes use of these designs in the contemporary tattoo art too.

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Placement Guide

Here are some of the common placements;


  • Tattoos on Arms – Your arms are said to be the perfect locations You can decide if you will place it on the right arm, left arm, elbow, wrist, or in any other parts of the arms.
  • Tattoo on Chest – A lot of tattoo lovers also consider placing the tattoo on their chest. The tattoo will only be visible when you are topless.
  • Tattoo on Hips – Another good location that you can consider is the hips. Such placement can emphasize the beauty of their own hips, making it to be one of their body assets.
  • Tattoo on Back – When you want it to be seen by the other people around you, you can just cover it with your shirt.
  • Tattoo on Wrist   The number one body part that you can place is your wrist. You can have it in both of your left and right wrists.
  • Tattoo on FeetLot of ordinary people and celebrities are having a tattoo on this particular body placement.
  • Tattoo on Legs – Legs are also perfect locations for this art. Legs are normally longer, so the particular illusion that you want to show with your tattoo can surely be achieved.
  • Tattoo on Stomach – Another perfect placement for this tattoo is stomach. This is a common option of many women tattoo lovers in the world who consider having this art.
  • Tattoo on ThighIf you want to have your old school art tattoos not that obvious to some other people, you can choose to place them on your thighs.

Final Words

Without a doubt, there will be unlimited options for you when it comes to an old school tattoo. Meaning to say, there are a lot of extremely gorgeous designs that you can choose from. These designs are not only very gorgeous, but also extremely meaningful. Hence, before choosing one, make sure that you already know what message you want to tell to the other people through your old school art tattoos.


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