155+ Traditional Tattoos, Their Meanings and Best Placement Ideas

Traditional tattoos are some of the oldest styles of tattoos, starting all the way back in 1911. Although these tattoos are not very fancy or stylish, they have a rich history and every tattoo tells a story about you and the artist who made it for you.

So, if you are someone who is completely new to tattoos and is thinking of getting their first tattoo, or you are a veteran tattoo enthusiast looking for some Old school traditional ink, this guide is just the thing for you. Here we will go over various designs that you can opt for, as well as different placement options, meanings for different types of tattoos, and what you should do before, during, and after getting a tattoo.

But before we start with things like aftercare and meanings, let’s first take a look at some cool and stylish designs for old school Traditional tattoos.


155+ Amazing Traditional Tattoo Ideas

Traditional tattoos are a culmination of different art from all over the world mixed with washed out colors to give a somewhat ancient look similar to ancient Japanese Tattoos. The look is so iconic that regardless of its similarities to Japanese tattoos, they are instantly recognizable. But with an art form that is so old, the amount of designs to choose from can be downright dizzying.

So instead of you looking for the design that is right for you, let us show you our favorite traditional tattoo designs. Here are over ten unique traditional tattoos that you can get.

  1. Sharks

Sharks are some of the scariest animals in the ocean; their razor sharp teeth and heightened senses make them quite the unstoppable sea predator. And it doesn’t help that there are so many movies showing these animals as the perfect killing machines. However, sailors just hate to love these amazing killing machines.

This tattoo of a shark doesn’t just look cool, but it embodies strength and resilience in the face of adversity. The washed-out colors and the overall orange tint give this tattoo a very classic look. Show your love for the sea and your resilience with this tattoo that looks like it was made by the great Sailor Jerry himself.

  1. The Grim Reaper

The grim reaper is one of the oldest embodiments of evil and death. From cartoons to movies and even comics, the Grim Reaper is an infamous character that has instantly recognizable for their black robe and oversized scythe. While most grim reaper tattoos represent death, some even represent courage and even good luck in some cases. But this grim reaper tattoo is not so much scary as it is colorful and cartoonish.

Old school traditional tattoos have an incredibly cartoonish vibe to them thanks to the vibrant colors and somewhat exaggerated design. The inclusion of colors like red, green, and yellow make the tattoo really stand out. At the same time, they make the grim reaper a lot less threatening; even though they are a harbinger of death.

  1. The Hawk And The Skull

Hawks are also very famous traditional tattoos that people tend to get thanks to their very cool design and what they represent. Hawks symbolize honor, power, passion, and energy, whereas skulls represent death, mortality, and evil.

The design of the tattoo looks incredible, and the use of various colors really brings out the intensity of the tattoo. Colors like yellow, black, white, and dashes of red add a washed-out look to the tattoo and bring it that amazing old school traditional look. As for the placements of this tattoo, it will look great on forearms and even shoulders or your back.


  1. The Sailor

Sailors were some of the first people to get tattoos, and many credit them to the increased popularity of tattoos in the United States. Their services on the sea not only contributed to necessary trade around the world, but they were walking advertisements for art that was at the time considered taboo.

Pay homage to the first to modernize and normalize tattoos, with a tattoo of them. The tattoo features washed-out colors of red and black that really brings out the unique look of the tattoo. It is also a fairly small tattoo, so I can go on your arms or your legs.

  1. Serpent

Among hawks, sharks, and panthers, snakes are also some of the most famous tattoos that someone can get. One of the sneakiest and deadly hunters on land, snakes are some of the coolest tattoos that you can get with immense symbolic meaning. While some interpretations of snakes represent new life or rebirth, others can also refer to evil intentions or malicious intent. Some snake tattoos also represent the danger and power of the wearer.

This tattoo is a lot more stylish than most other snake tattoos but is also a lot more terrifying than the other tattoos. The colors are bright but not very vivid, yet match the aesthetic of the overall tattoo perfectly. For placements, the tattoo is quite small but will look best on the arms or the neck.

  1. These Amazing Tattoo Sleeves

Tattoo sleeves are often too expensive and too much of a commitment for most people getting a tattoo but are just the thing for people looking to ink their entire arm. So if you are looking for a great tattoo sleeve to get, you might have just found your pick.


Although this is technically not a single tattoo, we still couldn’t help but add these sleeves to this list. The artist’s choice of smaller tattoos fits the overall aesthetic of the sleeves, and the smaller tattoos also gel together to make a remarkable sleeve.

  1. Ship With Open Sails

Ships are quite a rare sight to see when it comes to tattoos. Not a lot of people tend to get ships as a tattoo, especially seeing all the other alternatives that they have available. However, ships in this particular style of tattoos (traditional tattoos) are very special, seeing how the grandfather of old school traditional tattoos was also a sailor and started on ships.


Ships like the one in the tattoo symbolize perseverance in the face of adversity, or they can represent the free will of a person. The choice of colors and overall design makes this quite the calming tattoo, and it is a rather small one as well. The tattoo can go well anywhere on the body but will look best on the arms or the legs.

swallo and compass tattoo

  1. Swallow and a Compass

The swallow and compass are some of the most common designs that people get, but they are also two designs that have very similar symbolic meaning as well. The swallow is a symbol of happiness and love, whereas the compass is a symbol of guidance.

Both of these tattoos are simply brimming with positivity and color. With the use of bright colors like blue, red, and yellow, the tattoo not only looks incredibly calming, but it is simply beautiful to look at. Thanks to the 2D nature of the tattoo, it doesn’t require much detail and can perfectly fit on small spaces like your hand and neck, or can go even better on your arms.

traditional tattoos

  1. Ouija Board

Ouija Boards were created sometime in 1894, and have quite the cultural influence. From inspiring a genre of movies on its own to becoming a staple of most sleepovers, Ouija boards have had quite the cultural influence. And while they are not a common choice for traditional tattoos, they can make quite the good looking tattoo.

Although this tattoo does not come with the board, it does come with the triangle lens that comes with the Ouija board. The choice of colors by the artist makes the tattoo incredibly vibrant, yet very creepy in its design. The eye at the forefront of the triangle makes for a somewhat unsettling tattoo.

traditional tattoos

  1. UFO Abducting A Cow

The UFO abducting a cow is one of the funnier traditional tattoos that you can get. One of the oldest tropes in movies, the UFO abducting a cow is and has been for a long time the first sign of aliens attacking the earth. Why do they abduct cows? Who knows?

The bright and silly designs of the tattoo make the tattoo look all the better and much more pleasing to the eye. Not only does this make for some good ink on your arm, but the goofy tone of the tattoo can also make for a great ice breaker. So whether you believe in extraterrestrial life or not, you can’t deny that this tattoo really makes for a great tattoo overall.

  1. Vibrant Flowers

Sometimes all you need as a great tattoo are a simple yet elegantly designed bouquet of flowers. While most flowers are very feminine, wildflowers symbolize someone who doesn’t conform to regular rules of society. Combine the vibrant colors of this bouquet along with its symbolic meanings, and you have at your hands an amazing traditional tattoo.

The tattoo is quite large, and can make for a great addition to your arm, or can go great on your forearm. The combination of colors like blue and red make for a not just a great tattoo, but can act as a glimpse into yourself for other people.

traditional tattoos

  1. Gramophone

Gramophones are some of the oldest music players that used vinyl to play music. These devices carried a very antique look that looks nothing short of amazing. Gramophone tattoos show an affinity for or a deep appreciation for music. But this gramophone is particularly special since it is in the old school traditional style.

The use of vivid and dark colors really brings this tattoo to life and puts it into a league of its own. While many think that these tattoos are very cliché, these tattoos are classics and very few and far between. Show your love and appreciation for all kinds of music with this amazing gramophone tattoo in all of its traditional glory.


Meanings and Symbolism for Tattoos

Tattoos other than just looking cool on your body, have much deeper implications. Tattoos are so much more than just fashionable art that you wear; they are messages and glimpses into yourself for people to see. A tattoo can tell a story, or send a message, better than any form of written text.

Although some tattoos have rather simple meanings like gramophones, headphones, and recorders can show that you have immense love for music, other tattoos can hold much more complex meanings. Tattoos like the swallow and the compass can have dual meanings finding love in the most unlikely places and how love will lead the way.

So before you go about choosing your tattoo, be sure to take into account the symbolic meaning behind the tattoo. Not only does it add more emotional value to the tattoo, but it can also make for a great conversation starter.

Placement for Tattoos and What They Tell About You

Every tattoo tells a story about you, it can refer to a personal experience, a story, or a feeling that you have hidden. However, where you choose to get a tattoo can sometimes say more about you as a person than your tattoo itself.

Tattoos are incredibly expressive forms of art that you can get anywhere on your body, but where you get your tattoo can prove to be a lot more interesting than the tattoo itself. So to help you get a much better tattoo, here are all the different meanings of tattoo locations.

  1. Neck

The neck is one of the most popular places for people to get tattoos, especially girls. The front of the neck, while rare, shows that the person is tough and is much like an open book. The nape, on the other hand, is a great place for a tattoo as they can easily hide it with their hair. The lower backside of the neck represents that the person isn’t afraid to make risky or brave decisions.

  1. Forearms

Forearms are possibly the most famous part of the body for tattoos, and for a good reason. It is one of the most exposed parts of the body, it has ample room for different types of tattoos, and it looks great on both men and women. Tattoos on the forearm mean that the person is tough and strong, but if the tattoo is not fierce or edgy, it means that the person is tough on the outside but is actually quite sweet on the inside.

  1. Chest

The chest is a very special place, as tattoos near the chest mean that they are very important to the person. Chest tattoos also have different meanings for both men and women, as men with chest tattoos are very confident, whereas women with chest tattoos mean it as a symbol of love or a romantic gesture.

  1. Arms

Tattoo on arms also has very different implications depending on the size of the tattoo. If there is only a single tattoo on the bicep or a half sleeve above the elbow means that the person still wants a career or a regular job but wants to show off his creative side. Full sleeves, on the other hand, mean that the person doesn’t have a typical job and rather likes to live life on their own terms.

  1. Fingers

Fingers are not a very common place for tattoos, due to their somewhat negative reputation. That said, people who have finger tattoos are unique and very bold for their different choices in tattoos.

  1. Thighs

Thighs are a very common tattoo among girls and hold quite the symbolic meaning. These tattoos are often very sentimental and mysterious, seeing how thighs are usually not exposed.

What to Do Before, During, And After Getting a Tattoo

Getting a tattoo is not necessarily easy. Not only do you have to go through the painful process of having to choose your tattoo and artist, but you will also have to do research on what placement is best for the tattoo that you want and not to mention the incredibly tedious aftercare. So to help make your journey a little easier, here is a checklist of what you should do before, during, and after getting a tattoo.


Before getting a tattoo, you should always do proper research on where you are getting a tattoo from. While some Tattoo salons or independent artists will charge less for creating your tattoos, they may do so at the cost of necessary sanitary conditions. So choose your artist wisely, as that amazing tattoo might lead to you contracting a serious disease. 

Finally, on the day of your tattoo, it is best to keep a light stomach and not consume too much water, as too many breaks can break your artist’s flow.


If you have a complicated tattoo that may take several sessions, then you should wear something comfortable like trousers or short; seeing how you will be sitting in a chair for quite some time. You should also keep some tattoo etiquette in mind, like not taking breaks every 10-15 minutes, don’t be drunk, don’t bring friends, shower before sitting, don’t micromanage the process, don’t negotiate or criticize the price, or not showing up for your appointment, among many things.


Once the artist finishes with your tattoo, be sure to leave them a tip for their efforts if they have fully met your expectations or more so. The tip can be 10-20% of the price of the bill or you can negotiate a price for the tip with your artist.

Once you get your tattoo, it’s time for you to take care of your tattoo. Aftercare for your new ink is possibly the hardest part of getting a tattoo, seeing just how careful you have to be. You have to keep your fresh tattoo away from the sun as it will start to fade, keep away from seawater as it can cause irritation and infections, keep clear of the water as bacteria can infect the open tattoo, and finally, avoid unnecessarily touching your tattoo as it might create more problems for you.

You will also have to moisturize where you got your tattoo at least two times a day, and wash your tattoo with soap and water to keep clean while moisturizing it.



  • Will I Feel Pain As I Get A Tattoo?

Seeing how getting a tattoo involves multiple needles piercing your skin at the same time, there will be some pain involved. However, you will feel a slight ticklish feeling as artists tend to give their customers anesthetic before starting. 

  • Is It Normal For My Tattoo To Bleed As The Artist Pierces?

A small amount of blood is very normal in almost every piercing, and some areas bleed slightly more than others. But if you feel that there is too much blood, your artist may be doing something wrong and you should ask her to stop. 

  • Is It Necessary To Tip My Artist?

Customers tip their artists when they feel like their artists go above and beyond their expectations. And since tipping is a gesture to show just how much you appreciate the artist’s work, you don’t need to tip an artist who didn’t meet your expectations. So if you feel like it, you can give them a tip that is 10-20% of the entire bill. 

  • For How Long Do I Have To Keep My Tattoo Covered?

You can take off the first bandage that your artist gives you within/after 24 hours. After that, you will provide aftercare and shield it from the sun and water. You will continue to do this for at least two weeks. 

  • Where Should I Get A Tattoo If I Still Want A Traditional Job?

In certain fields, tattoos can look a little unprofessional, which is why most people avoid visible parts of the body for tattoos. You should avoid the forearms, hands, neck, ears, face, and even feet in some cases. Other than, the body parts mentioned before, you can get a tattoo anywhere.

Tattoos are some of the best forms of body modification there is. But with all of its great designs and deep symbolic meanings, there are also hours of finding the right tattoo, choosing the right place to get it, and choosing the right artist. This guide aims to help ease some of the problems that you might be facing, and we hope this will help you with your tattoo journey.