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Tattoos may be permanent, but body-art trends certainly aren’t.
Insider spoke with tattoo artists to find out which designs will be popular throughout 2021, and which ones are expected to become less common.
Birthdate tattoos are expected to be huge this year
“People may be more appreciative of their loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Belk said. “A birthdate is a nice, small symbol to honor a close family member.”
For a touch of extra flair, you can consider transforming a date into a series of Roman numerals, dots, or lines.
There’s a growing interest in hand-poke tattoos
Nick “The Tailor” Solomon, tattoo artist and owner of Crown and Feather Tattoo Co., told Insider that hand-poke, also known as stick-and-poke, tattooing is on the rise.
These designs are applied using a nonelectric, freehand needle and ink.
“There’s definitely a charm to this method of tattooing,” Solomon said. “But you need to make sure you’re working with an expert.”
Solomon added that you should only get a hand-poke tattoo from an experienced body-ink artist in a professional studio to reduce the risk of infection or blood-borne pathogen transmission.
Spiritual symbols are expected to be a body-art trend throughout 2021
Tattoos that represent one’s religion or spirituality aren’t a new trend, but Belk said that these designs may be even more prominent this year.
“Spirituality helped many people find peace in the crazy world of 2020,” Belk said. “This is starting to show in the body-art trends of 2021.”
Spiritual tattoo designs include mandalas, lines from a sacred text, crosses, and stars, among others. For those whose practice doesn’t permit permanent tattoos, henna or temporary ink may be alternatives.
Nature symbols may be a popular feature
Ink designs that celebrate nature and the outdoors are expected to be desirable throughout the year.
“After a year of lockdown and limited travel, many people may be finding a new appreciation and love for the outdoors that they now want to represent on their bodies,” Belk said.
Plants, animals, and astronomical symbols all play into nature-inspired tattoo designs.
Traditional-style tattoos are still in demand
Tattoo artist Gianna Caranfa told Insider that traditional designs will continue to be popular in 2021.
“Traditional-style tattoos will always be a staple of tattooing, and I don’t see this trend ever fizzling out,” Caranfa said.
Traditional designs often feature bold lines with dark shading and bright pops of color.
Visible tattoos seem to be gaining popularity
Caranfa said that visibility may be the main tattoo trend of 2021, as more people are requesting body art on their hands, fingers, and faces.
“Tattoos are gaining acceptance in mainstream society, and fewer people are looking to hide theirs in areas covered by clothing,” Caranfa said.
Faces of loved ones may be a popular request
Belk said getting a tattoo of someone’s face is a trending tribute that may become more common.
“I’m predicting we’ll see more tattoos featuring the names and faces of family and friends in 2021 as people become more thankful for their loved ones,” Belk said.
If you don’t want a realistically rendered face tattoo, you can opt for a silhouette or minimalist-line portrait instead.
Chest tattoos will likely stay popular
For people who like the idea of a large tattoo but still want the ability to conceal their design, a chest tattoo may be a good option.
“Chest tattoos were popular in 2020 and are still going strong, including sternum tattoos or ornate designs under the breasts,” Caranfa said.
Tattooing over the ribs may be especially uncomfortable for some, so scheduling multiple sessions may help make the experience more manageable.
Clients are still asking for tribal-style tattoos
Tribal-style tattoos, which use dark lines and negative space to create bold designs, were especially popular in the 1990s, but Caranfa said the trend hasn’t faded away.
“Yes, tribal tattoos are a trend from the past, but these designs are still around today and people are requesting them,” Caranfa said.
These designs are often inspired by traditional Polynesian and South American art and tattoos, so it’s important to be aware that some tribal-style looks are sacred to certain cultures.
Simple line work is trending
Minimalist tattoos featuring clean, simple lines are in this year.
“People are getting a lot of cute, simple line work with the occasional line drags, which can give the tattoo a stippled line effect,” Caranfa said.
Simple designs with minimal shading may also be a good fit for anyone worried about pain, as they often require less time in the tattoo chair.
On the other hand, cartoon-like styles are seemingly becoming less popular
Solomon told Insider that tattoo clients are rarely requesting cartoon-style character designs.
“Cartoony styles are definitely not as popular as they were five to 10 years ago,” Solomon said. “Characters with bright colors, exaggerated proportions, and big, sparkly eyes are starting to look dated.”
Medium-sized designs are becoming rarer
Those hopping in the tattoo chair in 2021 may be less interested in medium-sized designs.
“People these days are looking to go big or go home,” Solomon said. “Medium-sized tattoo designs are on their way out as more clients get elaborate, full sleeves or tiny tattoos.”
Clients are asking for fewer tattoos about money
Belk told Insider that many tattoo clients are realizing that money can’t buy happiness and are opting for fewer designs that focus on wealth.
“Tattoos showing symbols of material wealth will become rarer …” Belk said. “If there’s one thing 2020 showed us, it’s that life can go south quickly no matter your net worth.”
The popularity of lower-back tattoos is fading
Tattoos on the lower back are often easier to conceal than arm and leg body art, but Caranfa said their popularity has begun to wane.
“They’re being replaced by more visible tattoos, like sleeves,” Caranfa told Insider.
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