Insights and Trends Tattoo Placement - United States
The two biggest tattoo placement trends in 2019 in the US are increases in ear tattoos and hand/finger tattoos. Other placement trends include increases in back-of-the-neck or spine tattoos, side boob / ribcage tattoos, and side hip tattoos.
Increases in Ear Tattoos
- With 2018’s focus on ear-related beauty trends (like piercings, etc), the 2019 rise of ear tattoos is not surprising. Laura Martinez, famed celebrity tattoo artist at Fleur Noire in New York, noted in December 2018 that face tattoos were coming into flair. She notes these aren’t the “scary prison tattoos that might come to mind … but rather dainty stars, beauty marks, and freckles” in tattoo form.
- Ear tattoos have been gaining in popularity with the rise of many celebrities showing off “classy tiny tattoos on their ears.” Some of these are Miley Cyrus and Rihanna, who have made these tattoos go “from virtually non-existent to trendy, seemingly overnight.”
- For ear tattoos, tattoo artists use very thin needles to “adorn the lobe, helix, or outer ears” by hand. This area is very difficult to tattoo properly, however, warns New York’s Nice Tattoo’s Hannah Kang. Because of the heavy-cartilage make-up of the ear, these tattoos can be tough to execute, as the “ink does not settle well” like it does on other parts of the skin. Kang also says that these are not as painful as those on “nerve-concentrated areas like the ribs, joints, or neck,” and that this type of work requires a much thinner needle than traditional tattoos.
- GateCity Tattoo notes that face (ear) tattoos have become increasingly popular in 2019, however, the types of tattoos that can be executed there make a huge difference in someone’s choice to place them there. Additionally, they state that some people cannot even consider these types of tattoos because of their jobs, because of the amount of possible pain involved, and because of the restrictive size of the area.
Increases in Hand & Finger Tattoos
- Tattoo placement on the hand is not a new concept, as these have been done for years in traditional cultures like those in India, however, with the increases in “innovations in technology, new tools, inks, and a variety of styles,” they have come into fashion in 2019.
- The beginning of the initial hand tattoo trend for the US was 2015 and 2016, some experts say, after Rhianna revealed her “shhh” finger tattoo. The major upswing in this trend happened in 2019, though, as “people started to really look at the hands and fingers as acceptable canvases for mainstream tattoos.” Micro-finger tattoos especially have been spotted “all over Instagram, as well as on the hands of celebrities like Beyonce, Ariana Grande, and Lucy Hale.”
- Experts note that hand tattoo placement “is slowly moving the needle of public acceptance, so expect to see more men and women with decorative hand tattoos soon.”
- Tattoos on the hand have been increasing, though most often, they are a small collage of images rather than just one single image. One popular example is Ariana Grande’s tattoo, which is a “celestial design from New York-based tattoo artist Mira Mariah,” which has created quite a buzz. PierceOfArt states that hands provide “a good space for an intricate design,” and predicted that tattoo collages “are set to be big, instead of one big placement on the hand.”
- Getting a hand tattoo perfect can be troublesome for some tattoo artists since there are many bones in the hand to disrupt the smooth flow of ink. The skin on the hand is also bumpy and curvy, which also makes it harder to get these right, according to Laura Martinez, co-owner of the Fleur Noire Tattoo Parlor in Brooklyn, New York. She says it’s not like drawing a straight line, it’s “drawing the illusion of a straight line.”
- Minimalistic hand tattoos are some of the most popular, according to one expert. They also state that hand tattoos – that can be seen nearly all the time (except when wearing gloves), are a “powerful way to express your personality, beliefs, and passions” to the world. GateCity Tattoo notes that these very-visible tattoos are not kosher in many workplaces, even in today’s highly-tattooed society, and that this has restricted this trend in some ways.
Increases in Back of Neck & Spine Tattoos
- In 2019, Pinterest’s Newsroom noted that searches for “side neck for guys” and “elegant spine tattoos” increased 953% and 787% respectively.
- Along with an increase in tattoos on the spine, has come an increase of tattoos on the back of one’s neck. These are considered “one of the most highly demanded tattoos of the year” by one expert because they fit into the “slightly visible and slightly hidden” space on the body. They’re easy to hide (if hair is long, collar is high, or scarf is worn), but also easy to show off.
- Although likely very painful to place, “spine tattoos are also seeing a surge in popularity.” These have ranged from very simple line-type or dot-work tattoos to highly-complex and detailed artwork.
Increases in Side Boob / Ribcage Tattoos
- In 2019, Pinterest’s Newsroom noted that searches for “side boob tattoos” increased by 2337%.
- The “very feminine placement” of the side boob (or ribcage) tattoos is causing a “rise in popularity” for this tattoo placement location. The Finery notes that these tattoos are “more discreet than hand, leg, or lower arm tattoos,” and that they highlight the “natural curve” of the body, especially on a woman.
- These tattoos have grown increasingly popular, especially in areas where they can be shown off for longest (like hotter states with longer summers). These are also especially intriguing for those who wish to show off these tattoos while in their undergarments.
- These tattoos are ultra-versatile as there is lots of real estate on both sides of the body, and they can be visible, party-visible, or completely hidden, depending on the clothing of the tattooed. WordyBuzz notes that the best thing about one of these tattoos is that “it’s not always in the limelight.”
Increases in Side Hip Tattoos
- Ecemella notes their top tattoo placement trend to be the side hip tattoo. They call these “extremely sexy and trendy.” While, WordyBuzz notes that their number one pick for “hottest tattoos” of 2019 are the “side hip tattoo trend that you’re about to see everywhere this year.”
- Cosmopolitan notes that side hip tattoos are very popular, like the phonetically-spelled word in red ink on Kylie Jenner’s hip, or stick-and-poke style tattoos with minimalist designs. They also note that script lettering, fine line artwork, flower-based art, colorful works, feminist messages, foreign words, cat artwork, watercolors, angels, message-based works, and abstract art are favorites for side hip tattoos for 2019.
- JonBoy, a celebrity tattoo artist based in New York City at Moxy Times Square says that “peekaboo body placements [will be] everywhere” in 2019. These include back of the neck, side boob / ribcage, and side hip tattoos.
To identify 2019’s trends in the US in tattoo placement, we scoured what industry and media experts stated were the most identified trends. We used all 2019 articles from January through November of this year to ensure we were culling the most popular trends. Notably, we used two December 2018 sources as they included predictions for 2019 from experts – all of which were proven through the other research. Each trend was identified by multiple experts, and their information was synthesized into the five trends presented. For each trend, we've also included what industry and/or media experts have stated about the trend, or included notable tattoo artists discussing the trend, where available. Notably, we could identify very few major thought pieces written by tattoo artists / industry experts (we found two of relevance and they were included); most of the information publicly available came from articles that included interviews or quotes by artists and industry experts, so this is the bulk of what we provided.