Image Source: Getty / Mike Coppola
As far as tattoo trends go, fine-line designs remain undefeated. The minimalist style first began gaining traction a few years ago with artists like Dr. Woo and JonBoy etching itty-bitty tattoos on A-list stars like Hailey Bieber, Zoë Kravitz, Yara Shahidi, and Hilary Duff, and the ink style is only growing in popularity.
Unlike the thicker and heavier-looking traditional tattoos that predate them, fine-line tattoos have become the go-to style for anyone looking to add a dainty or tiny design to their collection. Though still impactful and stunning, fine-line tattoos are typically much fainter by comparison to other tattoos due to their thin-line work.
If you’re considering getting a fine-line tattoo, keep reading to learn more about the ink style from two tattoo artists.
What Are Fine-Line Tattoos?
Fine lines don’t just look different from other tattoo styles — they’re technically different, too. “A fine-line tattoo is done with a single needle or a really thin grouping of needles to create a really fine outline, as opposed to the traditional bold outline seen on tattoos of past generations,” Ilia, a tattooist at High Hopes Tattoo in NYC, tells POPSUGAR.
You can get a variety of designs using the fine-line style, but the most popular are realism tattoos, which were a big trend prediction in 2020. “[They’re] the most known for their fine-line tattoo style as they typically include a ton of tiny details.”
Ultrafine tattoos are often compared to jewelry and really shine in places where you typically accessorize, like the wrist, the fingers, by the ears, the neck, and so on. They’re widely loved because they “add to, but don’t distract from, the rest of your ‘look,'” Ilia says. Pobi, a tattoo artist at Ink & Water in NYC, adds: “Fine-line tattoos are a great choice if you’re looking for dainty, delicate tattoos.”
Fine-Line Tattoos vs. Traditional Tattoos: What’s the Difference?
The biggest different between fine-line tattoos and other traditional tattoo styles is the look of the artwork — they’re typically more subtle and delicate.
Though both hurt the same amount and take equally as long to do, the healing process is very different. “The tattoo will not scab nearly as much,” Pobi says. “When a thicker tattoo heals, it is typical for the tattoo to scab over during the healing process; however, you will not notice this as much with finer-line pieces.”
How Long Do Fine-Line Tattoos Last?
A key difference with fine-line tattoos is a matter of longevity. “They require more frequent touch-ups throughout their lifespan due to the small diameter of the needle not being able to pick up or deposit large quantities of ink,” Ilia says. “Bolder, more detailed tattoos tend to hold up better over time simply because of the amount of ink in them and the body’s inability to break down the pigment as quickly.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to exactly how long your fine-line tattoo will last. “Everyone’s body is different, and it will really all depend on a variety of factors on how the tattoo will heal,” Pobi says.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because of how faint the lines are, these tattoos are typically easy to add on to or modify if your tastes change or you just feel like changing things up. Another bonus: “Fine-line tattoos are also super easy to hide or overlook in conservative work environments,” Ilia says.
Placement Is Important With Fine-Line Tattoos
You should put a lot of careful thought and consideration into any tattoo placement, but that’s especially true with fine-line designs. “For the best immediate and long-term outcome, you’d want the tattoo to be somewhere that doesn’t experience a lot of friction or damage from your environment,” Ilia says.
Another important thing to note is that your fine-line tattoo may change slightly after it heals. “They never look quite as fine and dainty as they do on their first day” Ilia says. “Depending on your unique physiology and lifestyle, the tattoo can either fade significantly or spread to a width that you didn’t anticipate.” Though this happens with all tattoos, it can be more obvious because of the delicate nature of this style.
Are Fine-Line Tattoos Always Small?
Size matters with fine-line tattoos as well. “It can be harder to do much larger-scale pieces, like a full sleeve, with just a single needle,” Pobi says. Less is more here. Ilia adds: “The more you try to fit in, the higher the chance the piece will look too busy or muddled with age.” So keep it small and simple.
When in doubt, just chat with a professional tattoo artist who specializes in this delicate ink style.