What Are the Different Types of Tattoos?

A permanent makeup tattoo being applied to a woman's eye area.
Permanent lipstick is a cosmetic tattoo applied to the lips.
Many people have tattoos depicting pictures or designs with special meaning to the individual.
Woman with tattoos on her arm and back.
Identification tattoos may be used to identify a certain person.
A tattoo machine.
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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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Decorative tattoos that are applied by professional tattoo artists are generally the most common types of tattoo, and these are usually much safer and more attractive than amateur tattoos. Some individuals, particularly women, may also choose to get cosmetic tattoos, which enhance their facial features. Although identification tattoos were once common amongst prisoners and slaves, these are now usually only used on domestic animals. Unintentional tattoos can also occur when a dark substance gets into an open wound, such as a cut or scrape, and these are notoriously difficult to get rid of.

Generally, when a person thinks of the different types of tattoos, professional tattoos usually spring to mind. These types of tattoos are usually applied to a person's body with a tattoo gun. This instrument quickly forces a tiny needle into the surface of the skin and deposits ink underneath. Professional tattoos are usually placed on the arms or the shoulders, but they can be placed anywhere on the body, including the stomach, back, legs, and face, as well as inside the mouth.

While a professional tattoo is usually applied by a licensed tattoo artist, an amateur tattoo is not. Although these may be applied using a professional tattoo gun as well, they can also be made using just a sharp object, such as a needle, and some ink. These types of tattoos are usually not as safe as professional tattoos, since they may not be sterile. Unsterile tattooing instruments can lead to dangerous infections.


Another common type of tattoo is the cosmetic tattoo. Women usually get these tattoos to enhance their natural looks, particularly on the face, and they are often referred to as permanent makeup tattoos. They can be applied to define the eyebrows or lips, for example.

Identification tattoos may also be used to identify a certain person or animal. Although it was once a common practice to tattoo slaves, prisoners, and outlaws, this is rarely done anymore. Today, identification tattoos are generally reserved for domestic animals, such as dogs. These tattoos are usually applied on an inconspicuous spot, such as the ear, while the animal is under anesthesia.

It is also possible for a person to get an unintentional or accidental tattoo. These are often referred to as traumatic tattoos, and they occur when a dark substance, such as ash or dirt, gets into an open wound. When this happens, the skin heals over the substance, causing it to remain there permanently. Removing these types of tattoos is very difficult, and most doctors attempt to prevent them by washing the affected area thoroughly.


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