30 Creative Tattoo Artist Ideas to Keep You Inspired

Tattoo Artist Ideas to Keep You Inspired

Having a handful of clients and making a living off your art is all good, but we know you want more than the standard tattoo artist gig. You’re someone who wants to master their skills, right? If so, to be a truly great tattoo artist, it takes practice, dedication, and probably most importantly, creative tattoo ideas. 

Without that creative element, you’re just another tattoo artist trying to make it in a world where there’s a tattoo parlor on the corner of every block.

Say goodbye to standard tattoo artist conventions, and say hello to creative tattoo artist ideas you can use to bring in clients and make a name for yourself in the industry.

large linear tattoo between woman's shoulder blades

Where can I find unique tattoo ideas? 

To start, we want to provide you with a quick, high-level overview of where you can find unique tattoo ideas. This is a great resource to save for the next time you’re searching for that spark of inspiration. While each idea won’t register with each artist, with so many to choose from, there should be enough to get you going. 

And if not, continue reading. There’s plenty more inspiration where that came from.  

Get the ball rolling with these ideas: 

1. Social media 

Social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest can be a great source of inspiration for tattoo artists, as they allow them to see the work of other artists and find new and trending designs.

full chest and neck tattoos on man laying in field

2. Conventions 

We know you probably already have your own tattooing style, but that doesn’t mean you should be closed off from learning about new styles and techniques. Tattoo conventions and expos are a great way for artists to see the work of other artists, as well as attend workshops and seminars to learn new techniques and styles.

Even if you’re not necessarily looking for a change, attending an event like this is often a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

3. Get drawing

Sketches and drawings can be a great source of inspiration for tattoo artists, as they can be used as the base for a design and then adapted and modified to create a unique tattoo. In other words, even if you’ve been in this industry for some time, don’t be afraid to get out the sketchbook and start at square one. You’re never too experienced for good old pen and paper.

hands beside a sketch of a bird in a small unlined notebook

4. Other styles of art 

Tattoos aren’t the only style of art which you can get your inspiration from. You can also look to photography and art books for a wide range of visual references and ideas. 

5. Collaboration 

Yes, you can collaborate with other artists, but don’t forget that you can also collaborate with clients to create custom designs based on their ideas and interests. This can be a great way for you as a tattoo artist to find inspiration beyond what is in your own mind. 

Paying attention to current trends and popular culture can also be a great way for tattoo artists to find inspiration, as it can help them create designs that are relevant and in demand.

tattoo of a robin on back of shoulder

7. What is going on in the world?

Keep in mind that pop culture and comic books can be a great source of inspiration for tattoo artists. They can provide a wide range of characters and imagery to draw from.

Of course, you don’t want to copy these designs exactly but think of Wonder Woman, celebrities, characters from books, and musicians. Real people or fictitious characters, there is plenty to draw on.

tattoo inspired by book "pride and prejudice and zombies"

8. Always be open 

As you can probably see, there’s inspiration for tattoos everywhere. You just have to be open to discovering that inspiration. We recommend carrying a notebook with you or using your phone to jot down notes whenever you happen to come across inspiration. Trust us, even if you can’t see it now, you never know when inspiration is going to hit. Being prepared will help immensely.

How to come up with creative tattoo ideas 

As an artist, having your own style and unique aesthetic is important, but this also means it’s easy enough to get stuck in a rut with your art, creating the same tattoo over and over again with very little experimentation. For some, this can be fine, but for others who feel inspired by a challenge, bringing a creative edge to your work might just be the little pick-me-up that you require. 

If this sounds familiar, try using some of these ideas and examples to bring a creative edge to your tattoos: 

1. Look to nature 

If there’s one thing we can always rely on for a heavy dose of inspiration, it’s nature. Consider incorporating elements like animals, plants, and landscapes into your tattoo design. For example, a wolf howling at the moon, a blooming cherry blossom tree, or a rugged mountain range.

Keep in mind, even if those more nature-inspired tattoo ideas don’t fit your aesthetic, you still might find that getting out into nature provides you with a fresh perspective and a boost of creative energy. 

two women wearing flower crowns with a sun and a moon tattoo

2. Use meaningful symbols and imagery  

Think about what is important to you and find a way to represent it through a tattoo. This can include religious symbols, astrological signs, or even something as simple as a heart or infinity symbol.

Remember: At this point, you’re in the creative phase. You’re not in the tattooing phase, meaning you don’t necessarily have to share these tattoo ideas with anyone. Instead, you’re just experimenting, discovering your own personal preferences, and playing with styles to come up with something unique. 

3. Explore different cultures

Similar to getting out into nature, you also might find that discovering new cultures also helps bring a creative edge to your work. For example, a traditional Japanese tattoo, known as Irezumi, often features intricate designs such as dragons, koi fish, and cherry blossoms.

4. Incorporate your hobbies and interests

Even though your tattoo ideas are ultimately for a client, at the end of the day, if you’re not creating art that feels expressive of your own interests and passions, there’s a chance that this lack of connection will show through. 

With that in mind, if you’re feeling disconnected from your work, don’t forget to tap into your own interests. For instance, think about your hobbies and interests and how you could represent them in a tattoo. This can include things like musical notes, sports equipment, or even a favorite book character. The sky’s the limit. 

5. Quotes and words 

While clients will of course have their own quotes that will have meaning to them, this doesn’t mean that you can’t take inspiration and ideas from things you read yourself. While you might not be directly tattooing these words onto your clients, they can still provide inspiration. 

latitude and longitude tattoo on forearm

6. Try a new technique 

There are so many different techniques you can experiment with as a tattoo artist. For example, watercolor tattoos are a popular trend and can add a unique and creative touch to your tattoo design. 

7. Play with abstract ideas 

Not everything about your tattoo designs needs to be so cut and dry. Instead of creating something that is immediately recognizable, don’t be afraid to create designs that feel a little more unconventional. This won’t be a style that everyone enjoys, but don’t forget that you only need one fan for your piece to have a new home. 

Not to mention, playing around with abstract ideas might help you create something beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. 

man with abstract symmetrical tattoo design on his neck and chest

8. Consider a minimalist design

Sometimes less is more. A simple and small tattoo can be very powerful and meaningful. Consider a small symbol or word that holds a special meaning.

What makes a great tattoo? 

As an artist who is working with clients who have their own opinions about how their tattoos should look, you don’t always have full control over the process. Having said that, if you want to be a truly great tattoo artist, in some cases, making your opinion known and finding a client who is willing to work with you and take your feedback could mean the difference between a great tattoo, and one that you’d rather not own up to. 

These are some tattoo artist ideas you’ll want to consider when creating your art: 

1. Cohesive feel/style 

Great tattoo artists have a look and feel to their work. They don’t one day create a super feminine tattoo, and then transition to something bold and dark the next. Having a distinct style not only helps make your work recognizable, but also helps you hone your craft because you’re continuously practicing a single style. 

Some tattoo theme ideas or styles you might consider include tribal, minimalist, portraiture, classic Americana, Japanese, new school, and realism. 

2. Size 

Bigger isn’t always better, but at the same time, smaller isn’t always better either. It’s the size of the tattoo relative to the detailing that is important. 

While the client is ultimately going to have the final say about the size of their tattoo, if you want to ensure your work looks as best as possible, you should have a conversation with your client about sizing. 

For instance, if the client wants a super detailed tattoo, but you know you can’t achieve that level of detail in the requested size range, this is something that needs to be discussed for optimal visual impact. 

3. Placement 

Again, here’s another instance where the client is going to have the most control. Again, though, as the artist, you know what works best. If the style, design, or detailing isn’t going to work because of where the curves on the body land, you need to express this to your client.

large linear tattoo between woman's shoulder blades

4. Skin breaks 

Skin breaks are areas of the tattoo where skin shows through. Great tattoo artists want to achieve these skin breaks. They make the tattoo feel more professional and are more visually appealing to the eye. If you ignore skin breaks, the tattoo will likely feel cluttered, overwhelming, and might make the piece unrecognizable. 

man with chest and sleeve tattoos

5. Saturation  

Skin breaks shouldn’t be confused with saturation. 

While we want skin breaks, this doesn’t mean we want breaks in the actual lines themselves. All tattoo lines should be fully filled (i.e. saturated). There should be no gaps present once the tattoo heals. If there is, this is likely an indication that the tattoo wasn’t filled properly.

6. Linework

Linework shouldn’t be ignored. Great linework can make a tattoo feel professional, whereas sloppy linework gives off an amateur feel. 

Crisp and consistent are the two things you’ll want to evaluate when looking at your line work.  

7. Timeless feel 

And lastly, you should definitely consider stepping outside convention when coming up with your tattoo ideas, but also keep in mind that tattoos are meant to be permanent art fixtures on the body. Don’t step so far outside the box that your tattoo loses some of its staying power.

woman with upper and lower arm tattoos

Upgrading your business with tattoo portfolio ideas 

Here’s the thing about working as a tattoo artist: You can be the most talented artist in the world, but if you’re not displaying your work well, chances are, you’re going to struggle to bring in clients. Trust us, word of mouth can only get you so far. Clients want to see your work, and they want to feel confident that you can deliver. Having a professional portfolio can ensure that all your creative tattoo ideas are displayed in the best possible manner. 

Here are some tattoo portfolio ideas to get you going: 

1. Create a professional website

First off, a  website is a must-have for any business, and it’s especially important for a tattoo artist. Your website should showcase your portfolio of work, services, and prices, as well as provide contact information. You can also use it to accept bookings and appointments. If you don’t have a professional website set up, you’re leaving money on the table. 

2. Use social media

Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are great ways to connect with potential clients and showcase your work. While you don’t have to spend all day every day on your social media, keep in mind that many clients find their tattoo artist exclusively on Instagram, so making sure your profiles are professional and up-to-date is critical. 

3. Create a blog

Another great element of a website that we recommend tattoo artists implement is a blog. Again, this is another area where you don’t have to spend too much time, but just putting in a little effort can go a long way. 

If you’re not sure what you would do with a blog as a tattoo artist, a blog is a great way to share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with your clients. You can also use it to showcase your work and give tips and advice to your clients.

4. Make videos 

In today’s day and age, video content is where it’s at. Yes, even with tattoos.

While tattoos should certainly be photographed using professional tattoo photography ideas, don’t miss out on video content. You can make videos of your work, behind-the-scenes footage, and even live streaming of your sessions. To do this, you can use your social media (i.e. Instagram live or create a story). 

5. Use a photo editing app 

Speaking of professional tattoo photography ideas… We also highly recommend investing time, energy, and possibly even some money into photographing your work. 

While snapping a pic on your iPhone can work to some extent, we think strategies like this can only get you so far. Investing in a good photo editing app will help you to make your photos look even better. You can use it to adjust the brightness, contrast, and color, and to remove any blemishes.

We wouldn’t recommend going overboard with this—you don’t want to alter the photo to the point that the tattoo is no longer recognizable— but those little changes can make a big impact.

6. Create a brand/cohesive feel 

Just as your tattoos themselves should have a certain style and feel, so should your website/portfolio.

Don’t forget, you’re trying to attract a specific customer with your portfolio/website. In order to do this, there should be a look and feel that would be attractive to that audience. 

Consider things like font, colors, images, and logo. 

7. Make your portfolio user-friendly 

And lastly, but equally as important as all the other points, your portfolio and website should be user-friendly and easy to navigate. For instance, if you offer different styles of tattooing, make sure this is separated out on your website (i.e. if you offer makeup tattooing then have a whole section to makeup tattoo ideas on your website). 

If your potential client can’t find what they are looking for, or they’re struggling to navigate to different parts of your website, chances are, you’re going to lose them before they even have the opportunity to discover your creative tattoo ideas.

It’s time to share your creative tattoo ideas

Are you feeling inspired to come up with creative tattoo ideas? Don’t worry if you’re still struggling. Sometimes it just takes one spark of inspiration, and suddenly, all the ideas come flooding in. You don’t need to force it. They will come. 

In the meantime, don’t forget to get your tattoo artist website all setup and ready to display those wonderful ideas once they start coming in. 

As mentioned, having a professional website can be the difference between a robust client base and crickets. 

If you need help with tattoo portfolio ideas, check out Format’s wide range of professionally-designed templates that will have your website looking top-notch in no time. 

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