Understanding Different Types of Traditional Tattoos

Traditional tattoos served as a form of expression for many years. They are historical and have specific meanings and common understanding. Some of the meanings of tattoos can be seen in the imagery used, while others have distinct meanings and symbols that show what a serviceman went through and their journey. Traditional tattoos have bold line work with reduced color shading, popular designs, and styles.

The practice of tattooing was picked from ancient cultures by the world’s sailors and explorers. There are various types of traditional tattoos, which include the following;


Tattoo flashes are designs that have a distinct meaning and understanding. Flash tattoos were drawn on the walls of tattoo shops to attract passing people. Some tattoo meanings can be seen in the imagery used, such as sharks, hearts, dragon skulls, and swallows. The symbols of these tattoos were an indication of the journey taken by a serviceman and their experiences.

Flash tattoo designs are done on sheets of hand-printed designs and serve as an outlet for artists to draw the pieces they would like to tattoo most. A tattoo flash also gives inspiration to customers and can point them to the tattoo shop.

Traditional Sleeve

It refers to a collection of traditional tattoos that cover a whole limb in the body. A sleeve is made up of several pieces that make up the larger piece of the artwork. In a traditional sleeve, there are small gaps of skin, and it is made up of different designs of various sizes.

Some sleeves are not restricted to a particular tattoo design or artist. However, traditional sleeves are completed by the same artist in some styles with a large design that requires a background.


A swallow is a bird that returns to the same nest after traveling over long distances in extreme weather conditions. The experience of a swallow is likened to that of a sailor in the sea. It is believed that the sailor will get a tattoo before they begin their journey and the other when they return home. This explains why sparrow tattoos are seen in pairs.

Swallow tattoos were seen as a reflection of sailing success. Each was acquired as an indication of the long-distance traveled by the sailor. There was also a myth that a sailor with a swallow tattoo would be spared from misfortunes at sea.


The imagery of a ship tattoo is another maritime theme that represents freedom. It was believed that once you sailed with such a tattoo, there could be no restrictions on holding you on the journey. Sailors are adventurous, and the symbol of a ship explains their discoveries and explorations.

The ship represented a home away from the current one and as a safe means of returning home for the sailors. The ship tattoo also shows the love of sailors to travel and their connection to the natural environment.


Traditional anchor tattoo designs often have banners of a person you adore who is within the scene. The tattoo can be paired with another traditional symbol to bring about a contrast. Just as an anchor prevents the ship from drifting away, an anchor tattoo represents the stability and grounding of a person’s attributes. The strong personality could be themselves or a representation of another person that they love. An anchor tattoo is among the symbolic designs with a literal meaning.

Traditional tattoos are popular due to their style. They celebrate art in a big way, and the design communicates a certain message. Some designs are more popular than others, but the classic imagery and style make them highly popular. Understanding the specific details you would like in a tattoo helps choose a style to suit your needs.

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