Fine line tattoos are everywhere. The minimalist style has been popping up on celebrities, social media feeds, in fashion magazines, and industry blogs for a few years now - making it undeniably one of the biggest recent tattoo trends.
The Trend: What are Fine Line Tattoos?
While fine line tattoos feel like a new trend due to their inescapable presence on social media, the first known examples date all the way back to Japan in the 1700s. The fine line style gained popularity in Europe in the 1800s, remained popular until the early 1900s and was favoured amongst the upper class and European royalty. Tattoo trends come and go and the popularity of fine line tattooing waned for decades. The 90s saw the style reemerge but it was only in the last 5 years or so that fine line tattoos seem to have exploded on your Instagram feed. This explosion in popularity is often attributed to tattoo artists like Dr.Woo, Bang Bang and Dragon who went from tattooing celebrities to becoming celebrities in their own right.
Fine line tattoos are delicate and subtle, small and intricate. They are incredibly detailed works of art made up of crisp, very thin lines with no use of gradations, shade or colour. The ethereal quality of fine line tattooing lends itself perfectly to geometric shapes, flowers, animals, fairies, fantasy, and astrological-inspired tattoos. By far the most popular design that employs the fine line technique is micro realism where the technique is used to create photo realistic images that are packed with tiny details. The thin line work of these tattoos is in stark contrast to the traditional bold style of the popular tattoo trends that predate it. The small size, daintiness and artistic nature of fine line tattoos give them a curated quality and lend themselves to people who may be intimidated by the size and boldness of tattoos in general. They are perfect for people looking for a more elegant option that, much like jewelry, enhances your overall aesthetic without creating a distraction.
The Tools: How are Fine Line Tattoos Achieved?
Fine line tattoos stand out because they look clean and simple and pack a ton of detail into a small scale. This requires a talented artist with strong technique and the correct tools to achieve a precise and flawless result. Many artists who specialize in the fine line style prefer to tattoo using a pen-style tattoo machine as opposed to a more traditional coil or rotary tattoo gun. Tattoo pens are motor driven and use needles that come in interchangeable cartridges. Because they are considerably more lightweight compared to other machines, they provide more stability. Increased stability means cleaner, sharper lines - the most important feature of a fine line tattoo.
Selecting the correct needle cartridge to use with your pen machine is also a key component to ensuring a exquisite fine line tattoo.The thin lines and detailed work of fine line tattooing require the use of super tight round liner needles such as one super tight round liners (01RL-ST) or three super tight round liners (03RL-ST). Another option are bugpin round liner needles such as 3 (10-03RL) or 5 (10-05RL) round bugpin liners. Bugpin needles are extremely narrow and perfect for executing precise line work. Their slow, steady ink flow will help achieve crisp, tight lines allowing for more control in the strokes.
REMINDER: It goes without saying that no matter the style or method of tattooing, proper equipment and workspace sterilization is necessary and the most important step in tattooing. Make sure your station is properly prepped and that you are using sterile gloves at all times. Be diligent and create good habits.
Like all tattoo trends, fine line tattooing will evolve and morphe as popularity for the trend ebbs and flows. New techniques will emerge that will push the trend in different and exciting directions. While trends are by nature considered to be short lived, the lasting appeal of fine line tattoos in all its varied iterations suggest that your Instagram feed will be full of tiny intricate tattoos for at least a few years to come. We look forward to seeing how the future of fine line tattooing will unfold.