Black and Grey Tattoos: The classical art style that took 2014 by storm

Home » Blog » Black and Grey Tattoos: The classical art style that took 2014 by storm

  • Black and grey as an art medium has been around for centuries, and in the tattoo world we are in the midst of the biggest movement of black and grey tattoos we have ever seen.  Single needle black and grey is no longer only for inmates and gangsters.  It has evolved into a beautiful artform that is one of the tattoo styles that took 2014 by storm.


    A quick history lesson; black and grey tattooing actually started in jails and prisons, mainly on the west coast of America.  Like most things this came out of necessity.  Inmates didn’t have sophisticated tattoo equipment or actual color ink for tattooing.  What did they do?  Tattooed with a safety pen and burned paper as their “black ink”.  When the inmates got out, their new ink (art) was wildly popular among their gangster friends.

    As evolution tends to do, this taboo art form was now growing in popularity on the streets and needed the new demand met.  “Goodtime Charlie’s Tattooland” was the first commercial tattoo shop that was solely dedicated to the first new style of tattooing since the electric tattoo gun was invented – single needle fine line black and grey.  Some popular tattoos involved expressing the street or gangster life that people experienced everyday in East Los Angeles.

    Untitled design (1)

    Flash forward 30 years and the style and demand has never been bigger.  Tattoo artists have expanded the original style and added a modern twist.  We are now seeing full body suits of exclusively black and grey.  The once taboo style that was truly only associated with Hispanic gangsters is now one of the hottest styles in the tattoo culture.  We now even see sub styles within the bigger over arching black and grey style.  Tattooing greek statues has become a mainstay in every one of those sub styles.

    inklocations blog black grey tattoo stat

    One of the most widely tattooed pieces is the Pieta` by Michelangelo. Pieta is traditionally most seen in the Catholic culture so the transfer to the Hispanic culture and in turn the black and grey style of tattooing has been a logical one. With her smooth face, overall beauty and the ability to tattoo it anywhere on the body; it doesn’t take long to realize why this is such a popular piece.

    Another popular piece from the Renaissance era to be transferred into the tattoo world is the famous St. Michael archangel piece.  This piece is a classic battle between good and evil; a subject we can all relate to.

    Outside the statuesque style of black and grey there is also the widely popular black and grey realism style that takes a picture or portrait and perfectly transfers it into a tattoo.  The detail and craftsmanship this art form takes is something to be admired and the list of artist able to do it has increased in recent years.

    inklocations blog black grey tattoo jun chaIn 2014 we began to see full sleeves, back pieces and even a few full body suits of exclusively black and grey work.  This style of tattooing is no longer limited to inmates and gangsters.  Young executives, moms, you name it are now proudly showing their love for the black and grey art form. A few black and grey exclusive artists that took 2014 by storm are: Lil B, Jun Cha, Carlos Torres, Josh Duffy, Noah Minuskin and Niki Norberg. You can find plenty more across the InkLocations website here.