70 Meaningful Traditional Tattoo Designs


The traditional tattoo, also known as the classic American tattoo design, is slowly making a resurgence. Designs such as swallows, roses, daggers, skulls, and even panthers are coming back as tattoo designs, showing up on the skin of those who enjoy the romantic and classic style of tattoos – Giving off a much more authentic and instinctive vibe, instead of sticking to traditional and mystical looks.

One of the best things about this tattoo style is that it is mostly tied to American culture and patriotism. Once again, this fulfills the demands of so many tattoo enthusiasts and artists – Not just those who live in the US, but in places like Europe and Oceania. These designs have been around for so long and will be here to stay for a long time. A lot of traditional tattoo designs actually carry a cool look to them.

Traditional tattoos also go by another name – Sailor Jerry or ‘old-school’ tattoos. They are designs which are highly-loved by so many people, and are very trendy, even in this decade. There are also some neo-traditional tattoos out there that put together the old style of flash art, all the while utilizing some brand new techniques. America was late to adapt itself into the tattoo culture, but the patriotic and traditional style will certainly not go away anytime soon.

Swallow birds are considered to be an old-school tattoo design, and highly traditional to boot. This is a tattoo that has been around for many decades now. It’s also a design that suits both men and women. The swallow tattoo is often accompanied by other designs, either from the artist and wearer’s own imagination, or inspired by nature. This is the reason why traditional tattoos are highly unique. Much like other birds in the wild, the swallow is mostly associated with freedom. But depending on how they are depicted in the tattoo, the swallow gives off a different vibe than most.

Types of Traditional Tattoo Designs                                                                                                           

The traditional tattoo is something that has been around for so long now, and there’s a reason why this is so. If you have studied American history, or even world history at some point during college, middle school or high school, then you’re probably aware of what happened during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The event that took place there isn’t really important to the topic, but the location is – That’s because an American Navy man named Norman Collins learned about several tattooing techniques used by skilled Japanese tattoo artists.

The traditional tattoo was the result of Collins combining his own American vision with these Japanese techniques. He used striking colors to create these traditional tattoo designs, and designed a machine that could bring in many colors into his works.

During the war era, soldiers would sometimes get themselves a tattoo on a whim, not caring about what other people would think when they see the design. The reason for this is quite grim – These men didn’t even know if they were going to survive the next time they go out to battle, so they got themselves whatever type of design for their tattoo.

The most traditional tattoo designs are Native American symbols, mermaids, pin-up boys, pin-up girls, birds, eagles, anchors, hearts, navy and army symbols, as well as flowers and daggers. You can pretty much adapt any tattoo design into the traditional style. If you want a traditional tattoo, then go look for an artist who is good at what they’re doing.

  • Moth Tattoo With Skull: This is a tattoo that combines two common tattoo designs: A skull and a moth (or a butterfly). The colors used for this tattoo are so bright, that they tend to send out a very strong message to the wearer. Traditionally, both moths and skulls symbolize personality, intensity, as well as the path between death and life. Skull tattoos aren’t meant to be colorful (unless it’s a sugar skull tattoo), which makes sense since death isn’t exactly something to be celebrated. The shading in this tattoo, along with the lines, is very subtle. It suits women who aren’t looking for a stereotypically feminine tattoo design.
  • Sailor Woman Tattoo: A sailor woman, drawn in a pin-up girl style, is as traditional as you can get when it comes to tattoo design. Sometimes the artist likes to enhance the woman’s facial features, even giving her a bit of a blush, accentuating her femininity and innocence. Even though the sailor tattoo isn’t depicted as a sex symbol, the beauty of the woman in the design will still compliment anyone who chooses this look. A tattoo can do that to anyone, especially when they are placed in the right position.
  • Anchor Tattoo With Roman Numerals: You can choose your favorite number to be written in the form of Roman numerals. Roman numerals aren’t exactly a popular design in regards to tattoos, but they still look cool as a design, not to mention this numerical system has been around since ancient times. And the anchor in this tattoo represents steadfastness, and a beacon of hope.
  • Rose Tattoo: Roses are always a great tattoo design, but little do people know that each rose color actually carries a different meaning. For instance, a yellow rose symbolizes optimism and friendship. Yellow is a color associated with joy, and sometimes power and wisdom. You can add in dark green leaves spread across her forearm. This style looks so much better as a tattoo, than its real life counterpart.
  • Dagger And Rose Tattoo: The combination of these two tattoo designs are meant to symbolize immortality, or the concept of life. A dagger tattoo design can show up by itself, or accompanied by several other representations, and there’s always a different meaning depending on which object it’s paired up with. Roses, meanwhile, are supposed to signify life and love. The colors and the details of this type of tattoo are akin to the traditional style of tattoo. it could be either a feminine or masculine look.

Also See:

 Meaning of  Traditional Tattoo Designs

Plenty of traditional tattoo designs come with a symbolic, straightforward, and sometimes patriotic theme to them, showing off a person’s love for their own country. The designs back then were also simple and straight to the point.

Nautical-themed tattoos, for example, could mean that the wearer is a sailor or just has a strong love for the ocean. Or maybe the wearer loves to travel around by boat. But at the same time, other nautical traditional symbols such as stars and compasses could mean that the wearer wants to stay the course, and make it back home safely.

Roses are another common theme in traditional tattoo designs. Apart from hearts, they’re supposed to represent romance and love. Birds like swallows are also another popular design. Birds in general represent freedom, or the wearer’s desire to find out where they truly belong in.

Of course, there are some other traditional tattoos out there that did not contain any common symbols. It’s entirely possible that these designs were picked for the same reason why people choose tattoos nowadays: Because they carry a specific meaning to the wearer, or just because they loved the look of them.

The appeal of traditional tattoos have never changed, and a lot of people actually use them as a tattoo design. However, this time, there are dozens of other symbols to choose from. Nowadays, pop culture icons have been drawn in traditional style to be used as a tattoo. These include characters from popular films, cartoons, or even superhero symbols. Tattoos with banners on them, all which carry specific slogans, often sport edgier messages compared to their counterparts from back in the day.

And there’s also been a huge change when it comes to the design. Nowadays, the images used for traditional tattoo designs are more disturbing and morbid. For example, you could have a pin-up girl tattoo but her face and body are decaying, as if she was a zombie from the 1920s. Heart tattoos are now replaced with another heart that looks very much like the one that we have in real life. Traditional tattoos are still popular, but there’s so much room open for the artist’s creativity and self-expression without messing up the original style.

Placement Matters With Your Traditional Tattoo

The correct spot will surely make your tattoo look the best, all the while strengthening your physique in the best way possible. It’s important to find an ideal placement in regards to tattoos: That’s because the positioning of your tattoo can either make or break it. For instance, a tattoo with movement and curvature, such as the traditional tattoo, is probably the best on a flat, wide surface of your body like the thighs, the legs, and the arms. A tinier tattoo will not be noticed when placed on the same area. The width of your overall design must be one of the deciding factors in regards to where you want to place your tattoo in.

The forearms are probably the best spot where you want to place the traditional tattoo, since it’s so easy for you to put in the extra needed pressure for a crisp and dark tattoo. Having a tattoo in this area signifies that the wearer is tough and physically strong. Plenty of people actually do like to wear fake tattoos in that spot, so they can test it out in case they want a much bigger traditional tattoo design. They will be able to see if they’re okay with showing everything off, even while they only have a plain t-shirt on. The forearms are also the best place for a script or lettering tattoo, since there’s enough spacing for you write down a horizontal phrasing.

A traditional tattoo design on your back shoulder looks amazing. Women tend to go for this place when getting a traditional tattoo, since it does tend to complement their small shoulders. The same area contains plenty of spacing as well, which makes it the best spot in case you want to get yourself a bigger tattoo.

You must also remember how the same tattoo design will end up looking like if you have your clothes on. A tattoo doesn’t look great if paired up with a fancy ball gown or a wedding dress. You don’t have to hire a good makeup artist to conceal it, and just get the tattoo on your limbs, sides, and the front of your torso. And at the same time, a cool-looking tattoo on your legs could look a tad bit silly, depending on where your shorts or skirt cut it off. So if you don’t like wearing jeans or leggings, then this is another thing that you should consider first.

Traditional Tattoo Preparation Tips                    

A couple of days before you can go into the shop to get your tattoo done, make sure to eat well-balanced meals that contain lots of protein. Do not drink any alcoholic beverages, or take pain relievers two days before the appointment, and two days after. This is because pain relievers and alcohol could thin out your blood and leave your skin feeling dehydrated, making your tattoo bleed a little bit stronger during the process and slow down the healing.

Eat a big breakfast or lunch before you head over to the shop. Sometimes a tattooing process could take hours, so bring some snacks or water with you. You’re actually allowed to take a short break for a while and eat the snacks that you brought during the appointment. Tattooing can weaken your immune system, especially if you have a large piece which could take several hours to complete. So it’s very important to keep yourself hydrated and get those blood sugars up with delicious snacks.

Dealing With A Painful Traditional Tattoo                   

Tattoos are always painful. It’s almost considered a rite of passage to experience stinging pain when you get a tattoo. There are so many ways for you to prepare yourself for a tattoo, so that you can ready yourself for the pain ahead. But there are still some spots out there that hurt more than the rest of the body. For instance, you won’t feel too much muscles or fat in between your skin and your sternum. Tattoo needles just pass through the epidermis, the topmost layer of skin, going straight into the dermis, which is the second layer. This is where you can find those connective tissues. Even though the needle won’t go deep after that, the less fat and muscle behind it, the more pain you will feel.

In total, the areas of the body that will be the most painful are those that carry plenty of nerve endings. Areas such as the palm of your hand, as well as your fingertips, are highly sensitive, so it’s so much painful to get a tattoo in these spots. Acquiring a tattoo in these places in which the bone is found after a thin layer of skin also hurts more. This is the reason why rib tattoos or ankle tattoos tend to hurt more. So getting a tattoo on fleshier portions of your body, like the arms or the back, hurt much less.

Frequently Asked Questions On Getting A Traditional Tattoo

  • What are some of the do’s and don’ts before getting tattooed?

Always get a good night’s sleep and eat a decent, high-protein meal first before you step into the shop to get that tattoo done. Make sure you’re all showered and cleaned up as well. Do not put on perfumes or colognes, since this could cause skin irritation. Be on time for your appointment or come a bit earlier if possible. Don’t take painkillers, recreational drugs, or drink alcohol a few days before the appointment. Your artist will not give you a tattoo if you’re inebriated, and they’ll forfeit your deposit as well.

  • How do I know if a traditional tattoo is the right one for me?

Of course there’s no difference between a good tattoo, and a bad tattoo. Throughout the years, plenty of people tend to feel upset because they want a meaningful tattoo with plenty of significance – But they are unable to find one. And at the same time, they’re still unsure what others will think and feel about the tattoo that they got. You’re the only person who will decide if the tattoo is good. Make sure to think carefully about the design that you want, since this is something that would remain on you for the rest of your life. A traditional tattoo design can carry plenty of meaning, or it could only be on your body because you like the design, and it looks good on you. Both will work either way, as long as you’re happy and content with what you have. Always have a lengthy discussion with your artist about the design that you want and let them do their work.

  • Do I have to stop my medication before getting tattooed?

Each type of painkiller medicine is very unique. And at the same time, all medical conditions are unique as well. They all have their own set of side effects. So it’s very important that you and your artist talk about your current condition and tell them the type of medications that you take, so you can get the best outcome for your tattoo. Another important figure you have to talk to is your doctor, and ask them if it’s okay for you to get a tattoo or not.

  • How hard are they to care for?

Saving up for a tattoo isn’t always easy. You have to save up loads of cash for it, and allot time into taking good care of it and keeping it looking good as new. Even though you need to take care of your tattoo right away after you leave the shop, you need to keep it moisturized practically every single day, to stop it from fading or getting damaged. After you first get your ink, you have to clean it a couple of times a day using mild, unscented liquid soap. Keep the area as clean as possible. Make sure to always use clean towels, bed sheets, and clothes. Wash your hands before touching your tattoo. Don’t let it hit direct sunlight, and don’t take hot showers, don’t soak for too long in tubs and swimming pools, until your tattoo is fully healed. Do not rub, scratch, or pick on your tattoo while it heals. Don’t wear any clothes that could do the same. Picking on your tattoo’s scabs could result in ink loss, or even infection. And you should constantly rub aftercare lotion on top of your tattoo, to stop it from drying out.

  • Will my tattoo fade?

Time can change everything, and tattoos are no exception. But when you take care of it properly, you can lessen the fading and keep your tattoo looking as good as new for many decades.

The Cost Of Getting A Traditional Tattoo

Depending on the artist or the shop’s rules, a tattoo is charged either by the hour, or by the piece. Designs that become complete in more than four hours are often charged by the hour. Meanwhile, small ones are charged according to the piece. The final price of your tattoo will also be determined by the style, the positioning, the subject, the colors used, the size, as well as how detailed it is. Each artist does have their own set of hourly ratings, so be sure to give them a call or visit them at their shop to do a consultation and learn how much do you have to pay for a tattoo made by them. They don’t mind sending you an email or talking to you through text messages or a phone call, but it’s still accurate to get a price quotation when you meet in person. The quotes not done in person are considered estimates, and the artist could potentially change the pricing if they wish to do so.

Of course, a nicely-done tattoo doesn’t come cheap. You won’t exactly get whatever you paid for, and because a tattoo is on your skin forever, you must know exactly what you’re getting. Going through with the cheapest quote will risk you leaving the shop with a poorly-designed or poorly-made tattoo, or really bad linework. And what’s worse is that a cover-up tattoo is much more detailed, meaning you need to shell out a huge amount of cash. Always keep this in mind if you’re planning your budget for a tattoo.

Traditional Tattoo Maintenance Tips

So you have finally managed to get yourself some brand new ink, and it’s looking pretty nice and fresh. The research that you’ve done, trying to find the perfect tattoo design, and hiring the most talented tattoo artist fit for the job, has definitely paid off. And once your tattoo has completely healed, you can now show it off to your family and friends. But this brings the question: Do you stop taking care of your tattoo after it has completely healed? Of course you can – It’s permanent ink after all, and you can now leave it as it is. But if you don’t keep it well-maintained and looking new, it could start fading away into nothing.

Naturally, there are still a couple of things you can do in order to keep that tattoo of yours looking very vibrant and good as new. Every person out there has their own self-care routine. And if you happen to own a tattoo, then you need to include the same aftercare regimen into that daily routine. You have to keep your tattoo well-maintained and lovely, and luckily, this isn’t too hard of a job. Here are two of the most important tips you have to remember if you want your ink to look just as good as the day you got it.

Keep your tattoo far away from the sun as possible. The sun sends out UV rays, which can fade out any pigmentation or ink that it hits, and the ink in your tattoo is no exception here. Try not to expose your tattoo towards the sun, as much as you possibly could. Put sunblock on your tattoo when you go out and get one that contains a high amount of SPF. You can also wear some clothes that specialize in blocking the sun’s UV rays. All you need to do is to cover up your tattoo, and you’re all set.

Apply the prescribed aftercare lotion to your tattoo as much as possible. As much as possible, buy a traditional aftercare lotion to your tattoo instead of relying on other creams like ointment. That’s because an aftercare lotion is specially created for tattoo care, and is loaded with natural moisturizers, such as grape seed oil. Grape seed oil keeps your skin moisturized and soft and locks out the sun’s rays as well. It lets your tattoo show off its stunning colors for a very long time.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here