Tanuki Tattoo Melbourne prides itself on being able to fulfil any clients needs, no matter the style and this is especially true with traditional tattooing. With almost 100 years of tattoo experience amongst our team, all of our artists have a love for traditional tattooing, and in the case of a few of our artists, perfecting the art of designing and applying traditional style tattoos has become their sole artistic purpose. We always have traditional flash on hand, ready to be tattooed and we accept walk ins 7 days a week. Alternatively, we also offer all clients the opportunity to have a free consultation with an appropriate artist to talk about creating a bespoke design to suit their needs.

A female tattoo artist sits at a reception desk preparing for a walk-in tattoo

What Is A Traditional Tattoo?

Often referred to as “American Traditional”, traditional tattooing refers to tattoos done in the style which made tattooing popular in America in the mid 1800s, to the mid 1900s. A style born out of necessity, the early tattoo tools meant that details had to be communicated in a fairly basic way. Following on from this, the popularity of tattooing among travelling circus folk or military personnel meant tattoo designs had to be created in a way where they could be completed at pace. This is what paved the way for the bold lines and colours, as well as the pepper shading that has become synonymous with traditional tattooing. This clientele also influenced the subject made available which is why carnival culture, americana and military symbols still to this day remain the stalwart content of the style.

Origins and Evolution

The journey of traditional tattooing actually goes back quite a bit further than its roots in America, and can be traced back to English circuses in the late 1700s becoming the centre of tattoo culture for Europe, before English explorers spread it across the globe, most notably to America.

The mid 1800s saw the boom of railway travel in America which enabled circuses to reach more towns. Circus attractions and tattooists met and formed a network. Then in 1891, the first electric tattoo machine was patented making both receiving, and performing tattoos a much easier task. Following this, the two great wars, and most notably the second, led to soldiers and sailors queuing up to be tattooed with the emblems of their experience, and their home.

Artists like Sailor Jerry Collins, Doc Forbes, Bert Grimm and the like took the opportunity created by this new influx of clientele to help push the art form towards where it is today. This snapshot in time was the catalyst for what defines traditional tattooing even now.

Image of a new tattoo on a mans arm. The style of the tattoo blends realism style with an artistic flair. It is black and grey and also red colour.

Common Styles and Symbols

Traditional tattooing’s most common styles and symbols are born from its aforementioned origins. Swallows, ships, anchors and a multitude of nautical elements were designed to appeal to the sailors coming into port, while eagles, skulls, daggers, american flags etc were made to appeal to the homesick soldiers of the time. Post war, symbols of freedom such as gypsy girls, beautiful women, roses, birds, gambling and hot rod paraphernalia became the staples of the late 40s and early 50s.

These days, with the quality of both tattoo artists and their equipment, the possibilities for what can be communicated in a traditional style are almost endless, giving lovers of the style the ability, through a talented artist, to tell their own story while still retaining this vintage aesthetic.

Image of a wrist with a fresh tattoo of three little stars in fineline style

Traditional Tattoo Artists

Matt Beckford is Tanuki Tattoos main drawcard when it comes to traditional tattooing. His application is amazing, but beyond that he has a genuine love for the style to a point where he has focused his career around designing and executing beautiful traditional tattoos. With a very broad body of work, anything from full backs and fronts to small pieces of flash all fall within his realm of capability.

Neo-Traditional Tattoos

Defining Neo-Traditional Tattoos

Neo traditional tattoos came about as a reflection of a modern artist’s ability to both design and execute more complex designs, based on the principles of traditional tattooing. In its infancy, neo traditional tattooing described traditional tattoos with “more”. More details, more line weights, more textures and more depth. This is achieved by tattooing with a broader colour palette multiple line weights and varied styles of blending and shading. 

Since then it has evolved into its own style entirely, and in a lot of instances, leans quite heavily toward realism tattooing in its style. Whereas traditional tattoos flaunt stylising their subject matter, neo traditional tattoos rely on anatomical correctness and creating the illusion of depth and form, while still relying on solid linework to create their structure. Stylistically, they are often more in line with works from the “art nouveau” movement, primarily those of Alphonse Mucha, and 18th and 19th century scientific illustration by artists like John James Audubon. This broad mixture of influences means it has become a style where any subject matter can be portrayed. In saying that, animals, florals, fluid ornamentals and the human form are the most common.

Tanuki Tattoo’s Neo Traditional Tattoo Artists

Whether you want a bright bold colour American traditional tattoo, or a subtle soft black and grey neotraditional tattoo or anything in between, the team at Tanuki Tattoo Melbourne is more than capable of making your ideas a reality. Head over to our artist portfolios and see what our team has to offer






How Much Does a Traditional Tattoo Cost?

Pricing Factors

One of the beautiful things about traditional tattoos is they can be engineered to fit any budget, any size and any position on the body. We can cater anything from a full front or back, to a small gap filler and anything in between. For the more adventurous customer we also offer our “get what you get” tattoo gumball machine, which has a variety of palm sized traditional designs for only $150.

Getting a Customised Quote

Quoting traditional tattoos is quite straightforward, and even though we encourage all of our potential clients to take advantage of our free consultations, most of the time an accurate quote can be given remotely. If you would like a quote for your tattoo, please fill out our online enquiry form or feel free to message us on Instagram.

Do Traditional Tattoos Age Well?

Longevity and Healing

Of all the styles that you can choose for your tattoo, traditional tattoos have the best chance of longevity. The irony is, some people think because many of the older traditional tattoos they come across will often look smudged, blurry or even have a blueish appearance that modern traditional tattoos will do the same. This could not be further from the truth and most of the design choices that make a tattoo fit the traditional description, such as bold lines and generous use of black and solid colour, are also engineered to improve its longevity. Combine that with advances in modern inks, needles and aftercare practices mean the likelihood of your tattoo looking good for many years to come is very high.

Aftercare Tips

We have structured aftercare regimes for our clients who decide to heal with or without second skin. These aftercare instructions will also be provided to you on the day you’re tattooed.

Image of a new tattoo on a mans arm. The style of the tattoo blends realism style with an artistic flair. It is black and grey and also red colour.

Best Traditional Tattoo Artists Melbourne

No two artists are the same, and that’s particularly true when it comes to traditional tattooists. From composition to application, every artist’s language is different when it comes to creating and executing traditional tattoos, it’s important to make sure you choose an artist that shares your taste and vision. Make sure prior to organising your appointment to thoroughly peruse an artist’s portfolio, and have as much reference material and information relating to your piece as possible. Our resident traditional tattooers at Tanuki Tattoo Melbourne, all have individual styles and approaches to their work. You can find their portfolios here: Matt Beckford and Julian Fletcher.

Book Your Traditional Tattoo at Tanuki Tattoo Hawthorn

Now that you’re armed with information, head on over to our booking page and let our team do the rest. Send us your ideas, reference material and any further questions or queries you may have. If there is a story behind the tattoo, we love hearing those as well and often these backstories are a huge help with the design process and also with helping us guide you toward the perfect artist for your piece.