Need More Ink? 2023 Tattoo Trends To Update Your Body Art

People have many reasons to get inked. Some people use tattoos as a form of self-expression, reflecting their personal style. Some use it as an outlet for gender expression. For others, it is a way to pay tribute to their loved ones or immortalize certain memories.

Tattoo trends have evolved over time, and various factors have contributed to this evolution. "One significant factor is the influence of celebrities and influencers," KC Wladichuk, tattoo artist and owner of Thirteen Hands Tattoo in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, told The List. "They have the power to make a certain style or design popular overnight." The economy is another factor. Wladichuk said that when people have disposable wealth, they are more likely to splurge on a new tattoo, but when the economy is down, people tend to opt for smaller, more affordable designs.

According to tattoo artist Leilani Rodrigues of Leilani Tattoos in Vancouver, there are other factors at play as well. "Technology and advancements in tattooing methods have also offered tattoo artists more possibilities and permitted the production of intricate and precise patterns," she told The List. Additionally, Alpi T., tattoo designer and founder of Tattoo Chronic, told us the internet age has played a role. "Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have made it easier for people to discover and share tattoo designs," she said, "which can lead to certain styles or themes becoming more popular."

If you are planning to get your first or next tattoo in 2023 and need some inspo, why not consider some of the most popular designs?

Neo-traditional tattoos

Neo-traditional tattoo designs are characterized by bold lines, bright colors, and a mix of traditional and modern elements. This imagery can range from skulls and roses to pin-up girls to nautical themes. In other words, the neo-traditional style is the updated version of the old-school classic American tattoo style. This allows for experimentation with border color palettes and more dynamic compositions.

While traditional American designs have a flat, two-dimensional look, neo-traditional tattoos switch it up a notch with intricate shading work that adds depth to the design and contributes to a more realistic appearance. KC Wladichuk explained that the aesthetic feel of the neo-traditional designs is the reason they're trending. "Neo-traditional designs combine the classic aesthetic of traditional tattoos with more contemporary elements. The overall look is both nostalgic and modern, which is why it is always so popular," she told The List.

With traditional American design, you are bound to a certain aesthetic with little to no space for customization. With neo-traditional designs, however, you are free to incorporate elements of pop culture, personal memories, or even imagery of your pet. "Many people are drawn to this style because they can work with their artist to create a unique design that reflects their personality and preferences," explained Alpi T. They are a great choice if you want to add a personal touch to your tattoos while simultaneously paying homage to years of tattoo history.

Anime and video game-inspired tattoos

The demand for tattoos inspired by amine and video game characters is on the rise. Anime is known for its use of bold colors to tell a story. Likewise, this tattoo style makes use of vibrant colors and detailed shading to create a three-dimensional effect. "The bold colors and distinctive visual styles of anime and video games can make for visually striking tattoos," Alpi T. told The List. "These designs often feature eye-catching colors, stylized characters, and intricate details that make them stand out."

And, according to KC Wladichuk, the major force behind this trend is millennials, thanks to their nostalgia for childhood memories. Many millennials grew up playing certain video games and watching anime. Now, as adults, they're choosing tattoos to remain connected with their inner child. "These designs allow people to express their love for their favorite characters and franchises," Wladichuk told The List. "Getting an anime tattoo is also a great way to show your love for this form of art." After all, having a tattoo of your comfort character, whom you may have believed you'd get to meet one day, doesn't seem like a bad idea at all.

These tattoos offer a lot of room for personalization and customization. "Fans can work with their tattoo artist to create a design that reflects their favorite characters, themes, or moments from these mediums," Alpi explained.

Microrealism tats

Microrealism is a tattoo style in which hyper-realistic images with intricate details are created. A direct descendant of realism, this is a relatively new tattoo style, and its popularity has been growing in recent years. As the name suggests, microrealism tattoos belong in the category of tiny tattoos that have become the favorite of Gen-Z and even some millennial celebrities. Drake, for example, has a microrealism tattoo in honor of late fashion designer Virgil Abloh.

"This style is popular because it allows for a great deal of creativity and versatility, and it can be used to create stunning portraits, landscapes, and other types of designs," Leilani Rodrigues told The List. Since they're small, they are less of a commitment and can be easily displayed or hidden as desired. While this trend is certainly popular in 2023, KC Wladichuk isn't very sure that microrealism tattoos are evergreen.

"It remains to see whether these tiny tattoos will hold up over time," Wladichuk admitted. This is because tiny tattoos tend to blur out as the skin ages. Since the beauty of the design lies in its precision, it might lose its realistic feel as the ink spreads.

Minimalist designs

Minimalist tattoos are small and elegant. They have seen a steep growth in popularity in recent years and will remain on trend in 2023. Such tattoos are often muted, featuring simple shapes and clean lines.

Many factors contribute to the popularity of minimalist designs. They do not require a lot of planning, unlike more elaborate designs. They also consume less time and less money, making them far more accessible. With the current state of the economy, it is no wonder that this style has become the darling of many. Another merit of this design is its size. These small tats can be inked almost anywhere on the body. "This makes them a versatile choice for people who want a small subtle design," Alpi T. told The List.

While you may think a larger tattoo to be more impactful, don't discount the power of these little designs. "Minimalist tattoos often use simple shapes and symbols to convey deeper meanings or emotions," Alpi explained. "These designs can be deeply personal and hold a lot of significance for the person wearing them." 

Tribal and cultural tattoos

Tribal and cultural tattoos are the earliest forms of tattoos, backed with centuries of history and no sign of going anywhere in 2023. In the olden times, these tattoos were used to cement one's affiliation and loyalty with a tribe or community. Nowadays, these tattoos can be used to express a person's heritage or ancestry. 

"These tattoos have been a popular trend in the industry for decades. As with other trends, there may be a cyclical rise in demand for these designs as they come back into fashion," Alpi T. told The List. KC Wladichuk agreed, saying, "Regardless of where the tattoo is placed, tribal tattoos are extremely popular. They have huge cultural significance, and the current generation is proudly re-rooting themselves by reclaiming these designs."

During the 16th and 17th centuries, indigenous tribal tattoos were considered barbaric by European colonizers. Later, when tattoos became more popular and accepted in the western world, tribal designs were seen as more acceptable, but this led to the appropriation of these tattoos. Oftentimes, the people getting these designs were ignorant of the symbolism and significance. Reclaiming your culture and heritage through tattoos is beautiful; however, cultural appropriation is never a good look. 

Sticker sleeves

Sticker sleeve tattoos are made up of a collection of smaller, individual tattoos that are placed together to create the appearance of a full sleeve. The name comes from the fact that they actually look like little stickers on your skin. "Sticker sleeve tattoos are often characterized by their playful, whimsical style, with designs ranging from flowers and animals to cartoon characters and pop culture references," Alpi T. told The List. "This can make for a visually striking and eye-catching tattoo."

KC Wladichuk told us that sticker sleeves are growing in popularity because "they are a quick and easy way to get a large number of tattoos on a budget." Like minimalist designs, the popularity of sticker sleeves is a welcome change in making body art more accessible. "This can be a more flexible and affordable way to achieve the look of a full sleeve tattoo," Alpi confirmed.

Sticker tats allow for a high degree of customization, as people can choose designs that are meaningful to them or that reflect their personal style. Sticker sleeves can also be developed over the years. Miley Cyrus is a great example of how you can grow your sticker sleeve over time.

Ignorant tattoos

Ignorant tattoos feature simple linework with no color or shading. These simple designs often look like doodles and are believed to have been inspired by '90s-era graffiti artist Fuzi, who initially brought ignorant style art to the streets before expanding it to the world of body ink. Contrary to the current trend of placing tattoos in discreet places like behind the ear, ignorant style designs are proudly displayed on clearly visible areas like the arms, legs, or neck.

Ignorant style designs originated as a counter to super meaningful tattoos. They poke fun at the idea that tattoos need to be packed with hidden meaning and symbolism. This style works against traditional tattooing norms and appeals to people who want to challenge the status quo and rebel against conventional ideas of what a tattoo "should" look like. "Ignorant style features street art designs that are deliberately made to look like they were done in someone's basement," KC Wladichuk told The List. There is nothing to be thought of, no design to be carefully crafted, no symbolism to be hidden — just a plain old doodle. No stress!

"Ignorant style designs are a relatively new trend thanks to the likes of Kim Kardashian's ex-boyfriend, Pete Davidson," Wladichuk confirmed. Celebrities like Harry Styles and Dua Lipa also have ignorant style tattoos, as do many of their fans. 

Abstract tattoos

As the name suggests, abstract tattoos are designs that don't recreate any specific thing, word, or date. They typically call for a mix of colors, lines, and shapes and have a natural flow that can be interpreted however the viewer may please. "Abstract designs may incorporate a wide range of styles and techniques," Leilani Rodrigues told The List. "They are popular because they are very customizable and encourage a great deal of creative expression."

According to KC Wladichuk, the demand for abstract tattoos is on a steep increase because getting this design feels like getting a piece of art etched onto yourself. "Abstract designs are for the art collectors. So many melty interesting designs have been popping up", the tattoo artist revealed. "Some of these pieces are an ode to famous painters like Dali and Picasso." This style is also perfect for people who are tired of traditional tattoo styles and are in the mood to experiment. 

Abstract can be subtle or bold, and they can incorporate another style of tattooing — negative space. "Negative space tattooing is a form of abstract style that fills in the background and leaves empty space to capture the essence of the painting. This particular abstract style is a great fit for experimenting," Wladichuk told us.

Hand-poked tattoos

We expect to see many hand-poked (aka stick-and-poke) tattoos in 2023. "This technique involves using a needle and ink to create a tattoo by hand, rather than using a machine," Alpi T. told The List. "It can create a unique, handmade look."

Just because it doesn't call for a tattoo machine, this doesn't mean that it's a simple process that can be done at home. Hand poking is a unique style that is usually done by artists who specialize in the form. Since this is done by hand, there are some limitations when it comes to designs. Mostly, hand-poked tattoos contain carefully placed lines and dots that form simple, elegant designs.

As Leilani Rodrigues told us, hand-poked tattoos have their fan following for a variety of reasons. "They are frequently less painful than conventional tattoos," she explained. "This trend is [also] popular because it can generate delicate, precise designs with a particular feel." Hand-poked tattoos do take more time than the usual method, but that can make for an incredibly cathartic experience for the wearer.