I love tattoos. I know, everybody loves tattoos since Miami Ink and Inked and the biker culture was reignited by guys like Orange County Choppers. (Fun Fact – I did an image of the Lincoln bike for their site years ago.) But I’ve loved tattoos a lot longer. See, my dad was an Army man and had a tattoo. Lots of his friends had lots more tattoos. I saw them as a way to show pride in accomplishments or as a visual biography.
As such an almost ritualistic art form, getting the right tattoo can be incredibly difficult. How do you find one that will represent what you want? Will it fit with your personal style? Does it really speak to you and about you? If you’re not very artistic (and I am not) you may want to look at some tattoo flash. Flash is tattoo jargon for pre-drawn tattoo designs. You’ll often see books of them in any tattoo parlour. Ideally, the flash should show you what styles your artist is capable of. So, each shop will have different flash. But you can’t go to each and every shop hoping to find something that you will recognize as being in the right vein for you. That’s where the free tattoo design sites come in handy. Here are some that I think could be the best.
The only real drawback to this free tattoo design site is that it’s in French. Now, I can read a little bit of French, but even for someone who doesn’t, this site is very easy to get around in. That’s the beauty of tattoos – they aren’t language dependent.
With over 2500 designs on the site, broken into 6 categories, you are bound to find something you’ll like. At the very least you’ll find something to take to a good tattoo artist to give them some idea what you are looking for.
Completely free and with some very cool features. There are a few hundred free tattoo designs to look at here, but expect this site to grow exponentially. The designs are crisp and clear. You can use the Virtualizer to get an idea of what it might look on you, or where best to put it. You can download and print high-resolution images of the tattoos to take to your artist.
The tattoos are mostly suited for black work, but they are just as eye-catching as any colour work that I’ve seen. Really, check it out. You will get some great ideas here!
Seems that the word tribe and its derivatives are very popular in tattoo circles! Tribal Shapes has a fairly large collection of, well, tribal shapes. The tribal tattoo genre is defined by its use of broad black strokes and stylized images. These tattoos pay homage to real Maori and other tribal tattoos. Most often, tribal designs are 2 dimensional in nature, but there are a few 3-dimensional ones out there.
Tribal Shapes also host a large number of Kanji characters. Kanji, “…are the Chinese characters that are used in the modern Japanese…”, according to Wikipedia. On a personal note, I would beg you to NOT get a Kanji tattoo, unless you are a native reader of Kanji and have a tattoo artist who is a master at scribing in Kanji. Do you really want to end up with Japanese people laughing at you?
If you’re looking for some genuine old school flash, this is the site. The drawings were originally done in the late 1970′s. There is definitely a 70′s vibe or outlaw feel to a lot of these designs. Some are really neat renditions of sailor style tattoos. You’ll also see some that tend more towards the stoner side of the 60′s and 70′s. Still, you might get some free tattoo design ideas, even from them.
For some ungodly reason, there are tattoos here featuring Nazi swastikas. At one time, those kind of tattoos were favoured by outlaw bikers. No one even remotely associated with MakeUseOf.com approves of Nazism. Please try to think of it as more of a historical perspective of tattoo trends.
This site out of the U.K. is more of a community site, with forums, photos and flash. Unfortunately, the flash part costs about $19 a year to join. But you only need to join to get full size images of the flash. If you want, you can go through their entire catalogue and see the smaller images to get ideas. The gargoyle is an example of how small the images are, but how they are still useful.
Of course, the photos of tattoos sent in by community members are free to view. This will also give you some excellent ideas, however, it’s not a good idea to get a copy of someone else’s custom tattoo. That’s just poor tattoo etiquette.
Where do you go if you need to get inspired for a tattoo? Tell us in the comments.