Ink Big: Six Tattoo Styles Trending in Israel

Most people who get inked do so to express their unique style, but in Israel, some tattoos have, well, made their mark on the locals.

Tomer Appelbaum

Portraits of “Breaking Bad” anti-hero Walter White, stormtroopers, Lego figures and optical illusions are just some of the designs that made it onto Inked magazine’s top 10 tattoo trends for 2014. But if you stepped into your average Tel Aviv tattoo parlor – or wandered around the stalls of Israel's second annual tattoo convention last week - and ask what's hot, you would get very different answers.

Of course, most people who get inked do so to express their unique style, or to enhance their individuality. Unfortunately, when it comes to stylistic choices – whether it’s the latest limited-edition shoe that sneaker-heads are sweating or the latest Ombré hair shade that celebs are sporting – trends, including tattoo trends, tend to rub off on others. And in Israel, some tattoos have also, well, made their mark on the locals.

Inked employees at Tel Aviv tattoo parlors might roll their eyes when asked what’s popular, (after all, they don’t want to engage in cookie-cutter inking for the unimaginative), but their bemusement doesn’t negate the fact that some tattoo styles have emerged as trendier than others in Israel – where, until not long ago, tattoos were taboo because of the Holocaust and also biblical restrictions.

So, without further ado, here are six tattoo styles that are trending:

1. Color me water

“It doesn’t exactly work like that,” says Bar Shachar of the Kipod tattoo studio when asked what tattoos are saturating the market. “It is a question of styles that become famous and then everyone wants them, whether they realize it or not.” At the moment, one such standout is the watercolor tattoo, where, thanks to technological advances, the ink apes the look of lush brushstrokes of watercolors. It just wasn’t possible to create a watercolor-feel on flesh a few years ago, says the 25-year-old, whose left arm is covered in a black watercolor tat of her own (strategically placed to cover the Peter Pan she got when she was 13).

Bar Shachar of Kipod Tattoos and Piercing sports her very own watercolor tattoo. Photo by David Bachar

2. For real?

Along with the watercolor trend, another style made possible by improved technology is the realist tattoo. No stylization, no cartoon-like exaggeration, just good-old modern realism. Just imagine a realist painting. Now imagine it on your body. 

A man whose back is covered in tattoos, including photo realist ones, at the tattoo convention last week. Photo by AFP

3. East meets the Middle East

Maybe it’s the Israeli post-army trips to India. Or maybe it’s just globalization and the fact that we are all glued to Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Whatever the reason, says Gilad Meyer of Psycho Tattoos, ink inspired by the Far East can be found on many an Israeli. Whether it’s a Hindu “Om,” Chinese lettering or a Japanese-inspired dragon, this trend has taken off in recent years, he says. Meanwhile, Shimi Ben Uzia of Fetish Tattoos, says it’s not just eastern inspiration, but that the Internet age has allowed tattoos to cross borders, wherever they originate. “If someone sees something cool in Germany they want it here now,” he says.

Artists tattoo people's backs at Tel Aviv's second annual tattoo festival, June 6, 2015. Photo by AFP

4. Black magic

Tattoos are, if anything, tribal, and have been since man first decided to commit sharp metal implement and ink to his skin. In 2015, the trend is in “black work,” all-black tattoos ranging from Maori patterns, to geometric patterns, to blocks of black on skin. Current tribal patterns have grown more refined, though, and rarely will someone come in asking for that oh-so-’90s black ring around the arm. When they do, Shachar counsels against it. “A shopwill convince you not do it, because it’s really over,” she says.

An example of black work. Photo courtesy of Fetish Tattoos.

5. The writing is onthe arm

Another hot trend, say tattoo artists, is text on the body. “The writing can be in any language, but it’s mostly in English, because it has more beautiful fonts,” says Ben Uzia. People also ask for biblical passages, verses of poetry and Latin phrases such as Carpe Diem  - seize the day - and Veni, Vidi, Vici – I came, I saw, I conquered - are among the most common. Beware of falling prey to a Google-translated gibberish tattoo, though, lest you want to become fodder for Internet laughs. Remember, this ink is not indelible.

If you got a text tattoo, what would it say? Photo courtesy of Fetish Tattoos.

6. ‘I’ll have what she’s having’

Certain tattoo tropes are timeless: There’s the rose, the butterfly captured mid-flight just above the hip and the anchor on the arm. But when big-name celebs show off a new tattoo – like Rhianna did with stars on her back and neck, says Ben Uzia – customers ask for that, too. Still, Meyer insists, there really is no such thing as tattoo fashion. “There is no average. We are in Israel, and every person has their own opinion.” That’s true – unless, of course, someone else spouted that opinion first.

Butterflies are tattoo classics. Photo courtesy of Fetish Tattoos.