All about the sketchy tattoo

What exactly is a sketchy tattoo? What are the characteristics and motifs associated with this style reminiscent of sketches?

What exactly is a sketchy tattoo? What are the features and motifs related to this style reminiscent of sketches? Complete explanations and examples from La Bête Humaine!

Simple definition of the sketchy tattoo

The term « sketchy tattoo » derives from the word « sketch, » which refers to a drawing, draft, or outline. It relates to a style that specifically emulates the look of a freehand sketch or draft.

The sketchy style is characterized by broken lines, visible brush strokes, ink splatters, and shadow and light effects created with cross-hatching and stippling techniques. The underlying idea is to give the impression that the artwork is in the process of being created or that it has been rapidly sketched onto the skin.

Technical characteristics of sketchy tattoos

Specializing among other styles in sketchy tattoos, tattoo artist Peter Galt adds: « It’s not a drawing that’s been refined to its fullest, but it can still exist on its own. » What does the artist enjoy? « Keeping the spirit of a sketch, a rough side, with visible construction lines. » For him, the sketchy style allows for « pimping » an ordinary motif: « It truly brings dynamism to a piece that would otherwise be very basic. »

« The sketchy tattoo plays with contrast in lines, juggling between thick and thin lines« , explains the tattooist. « Sketchy doesn’t involve shaded gradients as seen in realism, for example. Generally, it’s done with small hatches that mimic this effect« , he elaborates.

Does sketchy mean black and grey?

Color or black and grey for your sketchy tattoo? Both, of course! Black and grey sketchy tattoos will directly remind one of pencil or ink on paper; whereas colored pieces will evoke colored pencils or even markers.

Note: the use of color in a predominantly black and grey tattoo can highlight certain details or convey a particular emotion. « Personally, I work more with black and grey, where I can integrate a few touches of color« , Peter Galt decisively states. « It produces a result that resembles watercolor. »

The most popular motifs in sketchy tattoos

The saying holds true for all tattoo styles, and sketchy is no exception to the rule: you can get anything tattooed in a sketch or draft form! However, Peter Galt tempers, « One could say that Disney truly launched the sketchy style. » He uses the example of Stitch, « a very endearing character, very graphic too, perfectly suited to the sketch style.« 

Beyond the mere confines of the American company, it’s the entire pop culture that has found its way into sketchy. « We see a lot of influences from video games, manga, or anime« , lists our tattoo artist, « but also from much more adult realms like shibari » [Japanese bondage of a sexual or artistic nature].

Tattoo artists specializing in sketchy tattoos

They have made sketchy their favored playground on skin. La Bête Humaine introduces you to some of the essential artists in the field… with a proudly subjective selection:

And in Paris?

At the Parisian tattoo studio La Bête Humaine, there are two who have made sketchy one of their preferred styles:

Here’s how to get inked by them, step by step:

  1. You contact Bro by email or on Instagram, or Peter by email or on Instagram. You can also drop by our Parisian studio directly to discuss your project with us!
  2. To better guide the artist, you can review their flashes and ask them to reinterpret one for a truly custom design. You may also send them some reference images, tattoos you like, and ideally, a photo of the area to be tattooed.
  3. Once the appointment is set, the artist gently shaves any potential hair or fuzz from the area to be tattooed and then disinfects it.
  4. After printing the stencil, the artist will align this printed overlay with your skin.
  5. Everything’s ready: your tattoo artist takes out their inks and tattoo machine (dermograph) and starts tattooing you!
  6. When your session is over, you follow all the usual tattoo care procedures: cleaning with an antiseptic solution, applying ointment, etc.
  7. Touch-ups may be necessary after any tattoo. If so, you return to see your tattoo artist, generally a month after the initial session!

Want some examples? Check out some of their creations in the gallery, just below!

La Bête Humaine: practical information

Our tattoo studio is open every day except Sunday, in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. To submit your project and book your session with one of our resident or guest artists: