7 Tattoo Trends You're About To See Everywhere In 2019

Photographed by Beth Sacca.
Long before Dr. Woo, JonBoy, and their A-list clientele made dainty white dots and tiny crosses mainstream news, tattoos were already deeply ingrained in the fabric of history, discovered on the bodies of Egyptian mummies and an Austrian-Italian iceman now known as Ötzi. In those times, thousands of years ago, tattooing was thought to be used therapeutically, a kind of early form of acupuncture; today, it's much more popular for creating decorative body art.
Still, Ötzi and his pre-Common Era cohorts stand to prove that tattoos aren't a passing trend, but a constantly evolving art form. They are also not inherently "trendy" — but the kind of techniques, needlework, and ink used can be. In early 2018, for example, there was an undeniable spike in wrist tattoos; last fall, it was all about the fingers. 2019 has brought with it a whole new wave of ways to get a tattoo flooding our Instagram feeds, from unique body placements to bold, fresh color palettes.
Needless to say, it's becoming increasingly difficult to refrain from getting more ink in the new year. But where do we begin? We spoke with industry pros and scoured Instagram to track down some of the biggest tattoo trends we expect everyone to be asking for this year. Keep clicking for the raddest designs, placements, and colors to inspire your next tattoo.
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The Trend: Hand Tattoos

If you thought finger tattoos looked painful, try getting a hand tattoo. (As a general rule, the more bones there are in the area, the more painful the tattoo will be.) They're not ubiquitous just yet, but if Ariana Grande's recent celestial design from New York-based tattoo artist Mira Mariah is any indication, it won't be long before hand tattoos really take off.

"Top-of-hand tattoos are going to happen, but more often as a collage of small tattoos rather than a singular large image," Mariah says. She adds that there's one simple reason why the unexpected trend is bound to get buzzier, all Ariana Grande associations aside: "Tattoos are expensive, and people are going to want to see their pieces in their daily life more and more."
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Laura Martinez, co-owner of Fleur Noire Tattoo Parlour in Brooklyn, tells Refinery29 that, although hand tattoos are rad, they're a bit... bumpier to complete than other areas. She says to expect some additional time for you and your artist to figure out the specific placement with a ruler and stencil pen. "The skin isn’t flat on a hand; there are curves, veins, small muscles, bones," Martinez explains. "So you're not drawing a straight line — you're drawing the illusion of a straight line."

A perfect example of the illusion of straight, precise lines on an uneven surface is Madame Buraka's latest hand illustration. Although Buraka's work is intricate, Martinez reminds us that usually the tattoos that look the simplest are actually the hardest to execute. "There's zero room for error, and it's very time-consuming to create 'perfect' lines or circles on the human body," she says.
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Martinez emphasizes that, while hand tattoos might be growing in popularity, they aren't new. "Hand [tattoo] requests used to be mostly for traditional American style of tattooing," she says. Thanks to innovations in technology, new tools, inks, and a variety of styles, Martinez explains, people are able to consider more options they may not have before.

Toronto-based artist Jess Chen almost always includes colorful ink in her modern watercolor designs — and these leafy hand tattoos are no exception.
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f l o a t i n g

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The Trend: Imperfect Illustrations

If you follow Mariah, you'll know that her signature style is often made up of what fans refer to as elevated doodles or images that are scribbled in nature (and beautifully, at that). "My style is permanent to me, and then I reimagine it with new themes and add in elements and take them away," she tells us. "I like to think of my art as somewhere between a fashion illustration and a contour drawing."
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Mariah isn't the only one making these hollowed-out sketches popular: Chicago-based tattoo artist Keara McGraw has a similar approach to tattooing, often creating large-scale images that feature multiple pieces overlapping another.
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McGraw's designs are complicated in the best way, incorporating lots of lines and bursts of red ink.
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The Trend: '90s Ignorant Tattoos

Yes, that's right: You may not be familiar with the once-popular "ignorant tattoos" of the '90s, but you can plan on hearing a lot more about them this year. A post-ironic tattoo style inspired by street art and pioneered by French graffiti artist Fuzi Uvtpk, "ignorant tattoos" are perhaps the hardest tattoos to come by on the internet and, because the style inherently pushes against the standardization of art, are even harder to fully define. Nonetheless, it doesn't go without a few distinct qualities, like tongue-in-cheek, cartoon-like imagery mostly consisting of bold linework and zero coloration.

Mariah is banking on the retro style to gain mainstream appeal in 2019 — she credits the sudden interest in campy, normcore fashion trends (for example, this year's Met Gala theme is "Camp: Notes on Fashion") for what she expects to be a popular year for the ignorant revival. "I'm imagining lots of kitschy plays on prison tattoos, old-school stick-and-pokes, and just tattoos that almost make fun of tattoo imagery we've seen too much of," Mariah says. "I love tattoos with a little sense of humor."
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Fuzi once explained to Complex that the look he's best known for is a free-flowing artistic style with zero constraints, something that's "naive, but pure." The best way to know what an "ignorant tattoo" is — and whether or not you want one — is to check out the work that's being done by artists like Mick Hee and Galen Leach.
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Leach puts his own twist on the ignorant style: Most of his work is comical and satirical to tattoo imagery some might find to be cliché. (For example, Leach once tattooed a bold pair of pants on a client's calf with the phrase, "This too shall pants.")
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The Trend: Ear Tattoos

Some of last year's biggest beauty trends revolved around the ears — specifically, piercings, with trendy spots surfacing month after month until our whole ear, from the daith to the rook to the lobe, was covered in sparkly jewelry. Now, some tattoo enthusiasts are ditching their earrings for ink.

Hannah Kang, tattoo artist at New York's Nice Tattoo, tells us that she's recently done in-ear tattoos for a couple of clients and, statistically speaking, more people are requesting the placement since it's such a fresh trend. In other words, most people haven't even considered the spot... until now.
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Ear piercings are generally a breeze, but Kang says the area is deceptively hard to tattoo. "It is a more difficult tattoo to execute due to the location; stencils and small lines are very difficult to apply because of the tiny area," she says. "Because the ear is made up of cartilage, the ink does not settle as well as it does most other parts of the skin." Still, if done properly, the end result can be beautiful and unique — just look at Chen's vine-like lines that weave from the lobe to the back of the ear.
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Kang says that pain levels in the ear depend on the individual, but it's generally not as painful as nerve-concentrated areas like the ribs, joints, or neck. "It is definitely a tougher and more exposed part of our bodies," she says. If you do have a low pain threshold, opt for a micro tattoo in the area — it'll require a thinner needle than one used in traditional tattoos.
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A mariposa lily, thanks Jonathan!

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The Trend: Detailed Florals

Mariah puts it simply: "Floral bouquets will always be cool." Still, she's expecting to see more detailed takes on the popular designs. "I'm hoping to see a lot more unique floral arrangements with fruits and others parts of nature worked in," she says.

Here, artist Amanda Wachob creates a perfect example of our 2019 expectations. Wachob tells us this particular stem was inspired by a photograph her client took, hence the detail.
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Kang says that artists might prefer floral designs because of the flexibility of the lines and shape — including when it comes to ears. "[The flexibility] allows me to change the shape of the design according to each client's ear shape," she says. "I think the floral design is also very befitting of the area since it is delicate and beautiful."

Not into the in-ear trend? Colorful petals look just as good on the upper arm.
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Flowery art and illustrative designs blend together seamlessly, says Wachob. If you're looking for inspiration, she recommends checking out some Korean tattoo artists: As it turns out, a lot of the floral influence — and tattoo designs in general — has been coming out of Korea lately, including the recent rise in dainty and delicate drawings.
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The Trend: Bigger & Better

Wachob mentions that smaller pieces of art are popular right now, but so are bigger and bolder pieces of work — though most likely not for first-timers. That said, these aren't the kind of large-scale tattoos you might be used to seeing: Instead, artists like Chen, Wachob, and Brooklyn-based tattooer Rachel Finelli are pros at creating tattoos that cover more surface area without oversized bloated and overwhelming. They may be big, but the effect is still delicate and dainty.
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A lot of people might describe Wachob's art as bold, but tattooed with a light hand; no matter how big or small, the needled lines look like brush strokes. Her designs are often collaborations with a client, but they're almost always colorful, abstract, and romantic in appearance. "I put a lot of thought into what I create," Wachob says. "I try to make each piece as special and unique as possible." This shoulder tattoo, for example, was a reimagined version of a painting by 18th-century botanical illustrator Pierre-Joseph Redouté.
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Chen often swaps out intricate detail for realistic florals, lots of extra-long lines, and a rich color palette. Scroll through her Instagram feed and you'll notice the artist is a pro at full-body artwork, often creating designs that stretch from a client's neck to their heels — and yet not one looks unnatural or out of place.
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The Trend: Anything-But-Black Ink

While black-lined tattoos will never go out of style, some artists recently reimagined their best art in a range of colored ink, including white and red. This is nothing new — remember Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber's white-and-red hearts? — but we should expect the bright trend to get even bigger this year.
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Mariah confirms that red ink will have a real moment, but we're guessing that a range of other shades will be en vogue, too, like a palette of blues. A team of artists at Cowgirl Tattoo in Portland are spearheading the trend in a whole portfolio of vivid fine-line work.
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Seoul-based tattoo artist Gong Greem is also redefining how we largely think of tattoos. Forget the black ink — the majority of the artist's work favors colorful doodles (the needlework looks exactly like the texture of a crayon) and a wide range of primary colors, like red, blue, and yellow.

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