Home » 34 Incredible American Traditional Tattoo Design & Ideas

34 Incredible American Traditional Tattoo Design & Ideas

Are you looking for a classic tattoo that makes a bold, attention-grabbing statement? Look no further. The classic American Traditional tattoos in this article are sure to inspire you. These tattoos depend on using red, yellow, blue, and green from the color palette to make up most designs. The designs are all unique and distinguishable by their heavy black outlines. Popular themes include nautical, animal, floral, scenic, pin-up girls, and skull designs.

American Traditional Tattoos

In this section, you’ll find extraordinary traditional American tattoo designs. The man who is the inspiration behind American traditional tattoos is Norman Collins (a.k.a. Sailor Jerry). His distinctive style is clear in each of the 34 images shown below. Still, you can incorporate other elements and make the designs more personal to your taste.

#1. American Eagle Tattoo

American Eagle Tattoo
Source: Instagram

The eagle is a symbol of American patriotism. The bird is symbolic of freedom, power, and reverence. A tattoo having an eagle is equally popular among men and women. It looks best when created in classic tattoo style. American service members and others who want to honor the American dream and fight for justice adorn these tattoos with great pride.

#2. Desert Scenery Tattoo

Desert Scenery Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Much of the Unites States Western and South-Western region has significant desert areas. Thus, tattoo designs showing a desert scene are pretty popular. You’ll see imagery of cacti, sand, and the sun, among other elements in these designs.

#3. Ship Tattoo

Ship Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Ship tattoos often combine with a shark, anchor, and tropical scenes. Seen above is a classic Sailor Jerry ship tattoo. Essential clues to give away its signature look are the ship’s galleon-look with billowing sails. Also, the flag at the very top can never go unnoticed.

American traditional ship tattoos remind you of cartoons because of the part-animated imagery. Yet, the essential dose of 18th-century history is mixed in so that the look is adventurous.

Tattoo enthusiasts go for this style of tattoo for its romanticized depiction. These highly accurate tattoos take you away from the daily stressful life far into the peaceful seas.

#4. Traditional Halloween Tattoo

Traditional Halloween Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Halloween originated in the Celtic culture, wherein folks in costumes would ward off ghosts. In diversified, mainstream American culture, this spooky holiday is pretty popular, too. It’s celebrated on 31st October each year, wherein kids dress up in scary-themed attire and go out trick or treating in the neighborhood. The above tattoo is a classic take on Halloween. Seen in the image are the jack-o-lanterns (carved pumpkins) in a comical, animated appearance. The colors used for the tattoo are in line with Sailor Jerry’s American traditional tattoo look.

#5. Rose Tattoo

Rose Tattoo
Source: Instagram

The Rose flower is the universal symbol of love — won or lost. For ages, it has stood for being a sign of the most significant level of passion. The irreplaceable beautiful flower shows the balance between emotion and beauty. The red, green, and black depictions are in line with American traditional ink.

#6. Upper Arm Ship Tattoo

Upper Arm Ship Tattoo
Source: Instagram

In the above ship tattoo, you can spot a typical, classic tropical scene. Furthermore, there is the inclusion of birds in the backdrop and a flower and leaf emblem right at the bottom. This version of the ship has a single flag at the top. The upper arm is a suitable placement because the tattoo requires larger space to look great. 

#7. Heart Tattoo Saying “Mom”

Heart Tattoo Saying “Mom”
Source: Instagram

The heart is a universal symbol. It stands for love. The banner-type technique is excellent if you want to express your love for your mom or other family members. This design is an Old School technique that sailors used. They aimed to have their loved ones in memory while they sailed the seas away from home.

#8.Full Frontal American Traditional Tattoo

Full Frontal American Traditional Tattoo
Source: Instagram

The above tattoo has a lot going on. First, it’s the perfect way to honor being American. In this extensive piece, you can spot the ship as the central element. Other elements surrounding the vessel include the eagle, roses, and a couple of pin-up girls. The strict use of only the typical Sailor Jerry color scheme makes this tattoo stand out.

#9. Lighthouse Tattoo on Bicep

Lighthouse Tattoo on Bicep
Source: Instagram

In this tattoo, too, the sea and paradise theme is used as usual. That was the traditional American theme back in the day, which till today is popular. Classic American tattoo techniques are everlasting. The placement is on the bicep, which makes sense given that lighthouses are vertical in shape. Other suitable body placements include the thigh.

#10. Skull Tattoo

Skull Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Skull tattoos are among the trendiest tattoo choices worldwide. When you add the traditional American design feel to them, they become a substance of timeless beauty. The skull symbolizes death, but you get a whole new meaning when you ink it in the classic Sailor Jerry technique. In line with the symbolism, “death,” the importance now becomes deeper to imply “live life to the fullest.” Hence, a reminder to the tattoo wearer to follow that rule. More so, the classic Sailor Jerry symbolism of a skull tattoo has to do with adventure, warriors, strength, and vitality while you’re sailing.

#11. Skeleton Hand & Hearts Tattoo

Skeleton Hand & Hearts Tattoo
Source: Instagram

The above tattoo has the traditional colors green, black and red. And, the classic use of hearts and skeleton hand makes this a timeless all-American-themed tattoo. Also, credit goes to the playing for adding to the American traditional theme. 

#12. Love “Family” Tattoo

Love “Family” Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Back in the day, and even today, when sailors set out to sea, many would get inked with a heart tattoo. They would get their spouse, mom, or other loved one’s name tattooed within the design. Being away from home for extended periods meant these tattoos gave them comfort, energy, and a reminder that they’d soon be back home to their families.

Also Read: 15 Beautiful Medusa Tattoo Designs & Ideas With Meaning

#13. Plants Tattoo

Plants Tattoo
Source: Instagram

The natural environment is another famous American traditional theme. The imagery of a plant in a pot among various other plants and leaves made for heavenly tattoo options.

Also Check: Gladiolus Tattoo: 28 Unique Designs You will Love

#14. “I Believe” Quote Tattoo

“I Believe” Quote Tattoo
Source: Instagram

American traditional tattoo designs come with a variety of quotes. “I believe” is one of them. The common emphasis of all the quotations you’ll see is love, positivity, freedom, and power to achieve. The quotes align with the American dream, which states that each individual can achieve anything in life if they believe in themselves, work hard, and remain honest.

#15. Woman In Battle Tattoo

Woman In Battle Tattoo
Source: Instagram

The above bicep tattoo shows a woman in a helmet. American traditional tattoos emphasize the role and strength of women in American culture and history. Getting this tattoo will align you with the American value that all are created equal. The opportunities for men, women, and all others are equal in this incredibly free nation. 

#16. Classic Betty Boop Tattoo

Classic Betty Boop Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Betty Boop is a sexually attractive woman wearing a skimpy dress that often says boop-boop-a-doop in American animation. Her curly hair and big eyes are mesmerizing. But, what makes a tattoo of her so special? Well, she represents freedom, boldness, and breaking cultural barriers. The wings add depth to that meaning. Above all, she’s pretty, innocent, and entertaining. Both guys and girls like to have Betty Boop tattoos.

#17. Evil Clown Tattoo

Evil Clown Tattoo
Source: Instagram

The evil clown represents the harsh reality of life. More specifically, that individuals aren’t what they appear to be. A clown face could mean things are not how they seem, as each of us is wearing a mask in one way or another. A tattoo such as the above can be for paying homage to your favorite villain. Or, it could be a method of countering your fear of clowns. In summary, the devilish (evil) clown represents restlessness, chaos in the world, and the deception people create.

#18. Ship In A Bottle Tattoo

Ship In A Bottle Tattoo
Source: Instagram

A ship in a bottle tattoo implies various things. These include good luck, new journeys or beginnings, home, honor, and a troubled past. The vivid colors in the above piece are aligned with the paradise scenery of American traditional tattoos.

#19. Captain America Tattoo

Captain America Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Captain America symbolizes freedom, justice, and the American way. So when we think of this classic American superhero, the star-spangled banner comes immediately to mind. Further, when we think of American traditional tattoos, Captain America springs to mind as the ideal option.

#20. Panther Tattoo

Panther Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Ferocious panthers are a famous traditional tattoo style. The classic American panther is black, and its depiction includes its sharp claws, angry eyes, and blood-red mouth. Unfortunately, the head of the panther is all you’ll mainly come across. The look, though, is still scary, aggressive, and brave.

The ideal placement for the panther tattoo can be one of the many incredible options. For example, you can have it inked on your entire back or chest. You can also consider it for your upper arm, full sleeve, or shoulders.

To get the tattoo design right, the artist must get the classic details right. This includes sketching the teeth and claws sharp enough, sparkling eyes, and proper placement.

#21. Scorpion Tattoo

Scorpion Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Scorpions tattoos are more prevalent among men than women. The meanings associated with scorpion tattoos include intimidation, fear, strength, protection, and loyalty.

#22. Subtle Rose Tattoo On Forearm

Subtle Rose Tattoo On Forearm
Source: Instagram

The Rose in its subtlest form can look as meaningful as a typical red one. Light colors and expert shading techniques in the above tattoo bring out the best in the forearm tattoo.

#23. Cactus Tattoo

Cactus Tattoo
Source: Instagram

The above tattoo’s placement is on the outer side of the forearm. Traditional tattoos emphasize the American desert; the desert cactus plant stands for maternal love, warmth, and protection. Thus, this tattoo will always be visible to onlookers rather than the wearer.

#24. Fish Tattoo On Chest

Fish Tattoo On Chest
Source: Instagram

Sharks and other fish tattoos are common in traditional American tattoos. The colorful fish shown in the above image has several exciting features. First, its angry look shows the sharp ferocious teeth ready to prey on other sea creatures. Second, the color palette consists of dark, vivid, and bold ink. Finally, with a tattoo design of this specification, you won’t have to worry about fading-related issues for a long time.

#25. Bright American Traditional Tattoo

Bright American Traditional Tattoo
Source: Instagram

If you want your next tattoo to be bright yet use the least number of colors, the above option is excellent. The wearer’s natural skin tone works to depict the drawn woman’s face.

#26. Owl Tattoo

Owl Tattoo
Source: Instagram

An owl tattoo is attractive and meaningful. It signifies seeing the light during the darkest times. In short, owls can symbolize vision and hope. Owl tattoos are attractive options for both men and women.

#27. Full Back Dragon Tattoo

Full Back Dragon Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Dragon tattoos have a considerable fanbase based on their aesthetic appeal. They are incredibly popular in traditional American designs. The reason for the popularity is their Asian origin, which transcends with the sizeable Asian diaspora in the United States. Dragons are long, thin, and snake-like creatures with clawed hands.

Japanese artists inspired Sailor Jerry. He, thus, fell in love with the physical characteristics of dragons.

As per Eastern culture, Dragons are kind and noble creatures with a great deal of wisdom. They symbolize good luck, too. Sailor Jerry’s color palette for the dragon tattoos added depth to the meaning. Dragon tattoos in his style are associated with nobility, courage, and fierceness.

#28. Dancing Betty Boop On Orange Rose

Dancing Betty Boop On Orange Rose
Source: Instagram

Adding creativity to Betty Boop-inspired designs can turn things around. For example, in the above tattoo, she’s posing on an orange rose. Her dress is red, so an orange rose makes sense! Also, it’s a sexy theme, so the woman’s shoulder is the perfect body placement for this tattoo.

#29. Bold American Eagle Full Back Tattoo

Bold American Eagle Full Back Tattoo
Source: Instagram

Words aren’t enough to describe the above tattoo. If you’re a true patriot, this design deserved to be on your entire back or front.

#30. Tropical Paradise Scene Tattoo

Tropical Paradise Scene Tattoo
Source: Instagram

A tropical scene is a famous American traditional design. Typically, such designs feature the sun, birds, palm trees, and mountains, styled with a flower emblem at the bottom. The colors are usually soft, soothing, and natural. The emphasis is on the setting sun and tranquility of the ocean.

#31. Cherries Tattoo

Cherries Tattoo
Source: Instagram

The cherry is more than a tasty, juicy summer fruit. A cherry tree symbolizes the zest for life. Further, it is associated with immortality and the elixir of one’s life. The juice of a cherry fruit represents reincarnation.

#32. Sword Piercing Through The Skin

Sword Piercing Through The Skin
Source: Instagram

The above tattoo of a dagger piercing through the skin means betrayal, loss, and danger. Yet, the meaning can also extend to include bravery, sacrifice, and protection. Having this tattoo prominently on your inner forearm is a reminder of all these great virtues.

#33. “Pin-Up” Or “Diving” Girl

“Pin-Up” Or “Diving” Girl
Source: Instagram

The idea behind shark tattoos is what this deep-sea mammal stands for. A shark is an inspiration to many because of its strong ocean predator abilities. But, like tigers and other powerful animals, sharks attack fiercely. So when you traditionalize a shark tattoo in Sailor Jerry style, the outcome is more comical than fierce. That’s the reason such shark tattoos have immense popularity.

#34. Shark Tattoo

Shark Tattoo
Source: Instagram

The idea behind shark tattoos is what this deep-sea mammal stands for. A shark is an inspiration to many because of its strong ocean predator abilities. But, like tigers and other powerful animals, sharks attack fiercely. So when you traditionalize a shark tattoo in Sailor Jerry style, the outcome is more comical than fierce. That’s the reason such shark tattoos have immense popularity.


Getting one of the above American Traditional tattoos is the perfect dose of patriotism for those with American roots. In this article, I’ve shared 34 trending American Traditional tattoo designs. If America inspires you, you’ll have found inspiration in the above designs, too. 

About Author

Jonathan Corby "Jonny" is a guy who is passionate about Tattooing and successfully running a Tattoo Studio in NY. Through my journey as a Tattoo Artist I have made unforgettable memories. This irrational poetry and sense of freedom of art on skin has given a blissfull experience to my life. Each Tattoo has a story behind it; Lets share one!