People have strong feelings about tattoos. For some, it can understandably be too much of a commitment—there are enough internet memes of ink gone wrong to scare any ink-shy person. For others, new ink is an outlet for self-expression. Celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and Rihanna have all made the art a signature part of their personal style, and, as tattoos have become more normalized, so have millions of us plebs.
If you're one of today's many tattoo lovers, you'll probably start the year by adding a few new designs to your collection—or at least, some inspiration. To help you out, we tapped three tattoo artists to predict the most popular tattoos of 2023. The biggest trend of all, according to our findings? Individuality.
"In my opinion, social media is actually taking away from the creativity of individual artists. Pinterest is the place for reference photos now, and a lot of them look the same," says Brooklyn-based tattoo artist Jaz Paulino. "No shade if you have a Pinterest tattoo, but from an artistic perspective, social media is a blessing and creativity curse,”
That being said, the pros say TikTok and Instagram are amazing resources for finding artists that speak to you. “Social media makes it easier for people looking to get tattooed to research their artist and make an informed decision if it’s the right artist and studio for their tattoo,” says tattoo artist David Bernier. “Tattooing is a historically gate-kept industry, and social media allows people to find their community within it and share experiences, techniques, and lots of other information that was previously vague or just unavailable to most.”
Ahead, explore the nine coolest tattoo trends of 2023, according to the pros.
Until now, one of the biggest things holding people back was the idea that a tattoo would stay on your body forever. Yes, you can get the ink removed, but the process can be expensive and painful. Enter next-gen temporary tattoos.
“I think that Ephemeral tattoos and other forms of temporary tattoos will [continue to be popular] because it gives people a chance to try something new without fully committing,” says Aja-Noelle Poe, a tattoo artist for Ephemeral, a made-to-fade tattoo company. The brand’s work is meant to slowly disappear over 9 to 15 months, making it only a short-term experience.
Even just a few years ago, more people were looking for tattoo placements that were more hidden. This year, however, we're embracing more prominent ink. “I think as tattoos continue to become more commonplace, people will be venturing into more visible territory,” says Bernier. “I’ve started seeing some really cool ear compositions, which makes sense as it is a part of the body already often adorned with piercings.”
On a similar track, Paulino is happy about the resurgence of what she calls "lower back snacks" in terms of placement. "Lower back tattoos, and back tattoos in general, are having a comeback, and I'm here for it,” she says.
Last but not least, this year, we can continue to embrace the rise of the sticker sleeve. “The sticker sleeve concept is very popular and doesn't seem to be going anywhere. The ability to put a plethora of random images or complimenting images on a sleeve seems to be the major trend that everyone is on right now,” adds Poe.
Bring On the Color
Don’t be afraid to play with different hues—and don’t think that certain shades are only for certain skin tones. “Black and grey is timeless, but the options for colors are absolutely limitless,” says Paulino. “I personally get a lot of requests from my fellow melanated peeps for color tattoos because they have been wrongfully convinced that they cannot achieve their desired final look. It's important to me to be a resource for my community and educate where I can.”
Traditionally, someone would pick one tattoo style and stick to it for all of their designs. Now, according to Bernier, you should expect to see more experimentation. “I think a lot of people who get tattooed are veering away from sticking to a singular style,” he says. “Nowadays, people often seek out artists for their specific style, and if you get tattooed a lot it can result in an eclectic collection with variety in styles and aesthetics.”
All About Nostalgia
Nostalgia is the current force driving for almost every trend happening in 2023. Just like low rise jeans are popping back into fashion, nostalgic ink is also coming back, too. “I think nostalgia is currently a prominent theme in tattooing. Much like in fashion right now, it seems like a lot of the imagery that was considered 'trashy' when it emerged now has a chic, modern feel to it,” says Bernier. “It’s also exciting to see these classic designs reimagined and created using modern technology and equipment that wasn’t available only a few years ago. I had a client request a modern take on Pamela Anderson’s iconic barbed-wire armband—like, come on!”
Both Paulino and Bernier called out illustrative blackwork—a style that doesn't use any grey or shading—as something they think will continue to be popular into 2023. “Artists have found a way to give edge to a design with hints of blackwork that is so dope,” says Paulino. Similarly, Bernier says blackwork is a timeless style for people who prefer a bolder tattoo and it is here to stay.
There is a true art to making ink jump off the skin, and Bernier predicts that people will not be afraid to play with more textures this year. “I’m talking chrome, drippy, liquidy, glassy, etc. It’s like in Spongebob, everything is chrome in the future, tattoos are no exception,” he says. “I feel like I’ve been seeing more wet-looking designs like a yassified watercolor tattoo.”
Within the dozens of different tattoo styles there are truly endless design possibilities. But what you might see more of this year, are designs that don’t depict anything in particular at all. “On a small or large scale, abstract shapes, lines, and dots can look really chic and mysterious as tattoos,” says Bernier. “I love seeing pieces that really flow with the body where the artist clearly took a lot of time to customize the design to the client.”
Cyber Punk and Cybercore
“South America is leading the way when it comes to the cyber punk trend. One of my personal favorites is Frida Sedgwick. Her work transcends cyber punk with feminine touches and badass designs,” says Paulino.
Bernier is also seeing more of what he is calling "cybercore." The designs are sharp, abstract, and look like what he describes as death metal brand logos. “I think this style goes back to the nostalgia theme, taking something from the past and making it modern,” he says.