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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.
Eyeliner is the most popular permanent makeup tattoo.
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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 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.

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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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Discuss this Article

croydon
Post 3

@pastanaga - That's one of the things that people need to think hard about before they get a "tribal" tattoo. Many traditional tattoo artists will be happy to give people from all cultures some of their tattoo work, but the design has to be negotiated properly.

The Maori, for example, have particular symbols for certain professions and tribes and, while it's fine for an outsider to take a Maori tattoo in general (as long as it's done respectfully), they aren't going to be happy about someone randomly getting a tattoo that announces them as a member of such-and-such tribe, and rightly so.

It isn't great when the average person does this, but it's even worse when someone in the public eye does it. It's essentially the same as stealing someone's intellectual property and then completely misconstruing it, often unintentionally in a racist way. If your hope is to show a love for a particular culture that doesn't happen to be your own, then be careful about how you do it.

pastanaga
Post 2

@browncoat - I actually would prefer to go the other way and get a tattoo that is done with more ancient techniques, when they actually carved the lines into the flesh rather than using a needle. It would create a beautiful groove, like sculpture, as well as leaving the ink. It was very dangerous, because the wounds would almost certainly get infected back in those days.

Some people do still get tattoos done this way or scarification which is somewhat similar. I like the idea of it, but I've never loved anything enough to want to tattoo it on myself and taking the symbols of the tribes that used to do this is too much like appropriation.

browncoat
Post 1

If you're thinking about getting a tattoo make sure you have a look at a range of different styles before you decide on what you want. There are some gorgeous types out there now, like watercolor tattoos, pointillism tattoos and even traditional oriental tattoos.

I think most people associate tattoos with that old fashioned sailor-style cartoon kind, which can also look very good, but a decent artist won't be limited to that. That style originated back when tools weren't as precise and images needed to be simple and bold or they wouldn't be legible.

These days a very good artist can put almost anything you please on you, up to and including tattoos that look completely realistic.

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