The Land of the Rising Sun. Japan has an incredible history, one that has fascinated those in the West for centuries. Only reopening to the West in 1853, Japan has long represented an intriguing and mysterious culture; a land of samurai and shoguns, warring factions battling for land and honor. Perhaps nothing more perfectly captures this enigmatic land than the geisha.
Geisha played an important role in Japanese society, and while there is no denying the carnal origins of their cultural role, these aspects were soon overshadowed by the more wholesome duties of hostess and entertainer. Geishas were often well-educated and many were well trained in the arts, notably calligraphy, painting and the mastery of musical instruments.
In the world of modern tattoos, the painted visage of the geisha has come to represent grace, beauty, and femininity, all while offering the artist a motif that can be incorporated into a wide range of interesting styles, designs, and concepts.
Black and Gray Geisha Tattoos
This is an interesting design that uses a very limited color palette to create a unique, geisha inspired tattoo. The line work is bold and consistent, creating a simple, clean outline for this piece with no superfluous lines added. The clouds that form the bottom of the tattoo are interesting: the artist chooses to use well-applied stippling instead of the more traditional Japanese style that favors saturated blacks with gray shading. The limited incorporation of color, in the red symbol as well as the jewel on the girl’s face, is an interesting choice that adds just enough color to catch the eye without overpowering the simplicity of the design.
Color Geisha Tattoos
Here is another simple tattoo that perfectly captures the shape and form of a geisha. The limited line work creates the outline for this piece, while the use of negative space and a limited color palette to illustrate the cherry blossoms—a common them in Japanese art—on the kimono is subtle and tasteful. The use of green ink in the obi, or sash, is interesting, contrasting nicely with the pink in the kimono and it is an example of some of the vivid color schemes that are used in these decorative outfits. The positioning of the girl, facing away, is also interesting, as is the incorporation of a book, a nod to the education the geisha receive.
This design takes elements of illustration, particularly modern Japanese animation, and incorporates traditional Japanese elements to create a striking tattoo. While the line work is clean and precise it is the vivid colors that set this tattoo apart. The bold colors and excellent saturation capture the complex patterns that are often worn by these Japanese hostesses without looking too busy or inauthentic. The face of the girl is also interesting in its design: very limited use of lines is employed, capturing a demure expression without any unnecessary features. Finally, the clouds at the bottom of the piece are typical of classic Japanese tattooing and help to firmly anchor this piece in the long and beautiful tradition of Japanese body art.
Here is another full-color piece that blends traditional Japanese design elements with a more modern animation style. The geisha’s face, as well as the snake, are reminiscent of anime illustrations, calling to mind the seminal cyberpunk film Ghost in the Shell, while other elements are more true to traditional Japanese tattoo work. The incorporation of the waves using black and gray shading as well as the chrysanthemums keep this piece firmly grounded in this tattoo tradition. This piece is a great example of how modern and traditional elements can be successfully fused into a one of a kind design.
Delicate Geisha Tattoos
This is a gorgeous piece that takes elements of Japanese designs and incorporates them into a fusion of ideas to create a beautiful tattoo. The cat mask is part of a tradition that was born in Shirone City as part of a celebration of the town and the people in it and has become a common element in many geisha tattoos. The line work in this tattoo is impeccable, using an understated approach to capture the face of the woman, who appears to have more western features. The peony, known as the “king of flowers” in Japan, is a common tattoo element that is expertly applied here, utilizing delicate stippling to capture the light texture of these lovely flowers.
This is an interesting design that uses limited line work to create a fierce warrior geisha. The limited color palette in this tattoo is interesting; the use of black and gray as well as bold red line work help to set this piece apart from other geisha inspired designs. The black and gray shading helps add depth to this piece while staying true to the understated and subtle aesthetic the artist creates. This piece is a good example of the variety of designs and concepts that can incorporate geishas as well as demonstrating that a broad color scheme isn’t necessary to create a captivating tattoo.
Dreamy/Surrealistic Geisha Tattoos
Here is another geisha design that appears to draw inspiration from the cyberpunk aesthetic and the illustration styles made popular in Japanese animation. The artist uses fully saturated black ink in conjunction with negative space to create the contrast that defines this piece. It is also an interesting compositional choice, the way the artist uses a single bold line to create a frame for the face, only to break out of the boundary with the pins in the geisha’s hair. The frame, bold black ink, and the simple hatching used for the shading give this piece the feel of a lithograph portrait, which contrasts intelligently with the concept of a cyborg geisha.
This horror-inspired design uses a photo-realistic approach to create a grotesque geisha monster. The gray wash and shading in this piece are excellent and perfectly create the gradation in tones that create depth and texture in the tattoo. The use of negative space in the falling flower petals is also an intelligent design choice that adds contrast without distracting from the focal point of the design. It is also impressive that the artist is able to incorporate the essential elements of a geisha—specifically the hairstyle and hair-pin—that leave no doubt about the subject matter despite not having any of the more recognizable features associated with geisha. This is an impressive design that demonstrates the far end of the spectrum of what geisha tattoos can be.
Here, the artist uses the geisha as inspiration for a design that takes elements of the trash-polka style to create a one of a kind tattoo. There is a lot going on in this piece. The geisha is expertly captured using fine line work and smooth black and gray shading, while the intricate patterns in her kimono use bright colors to perfectly recreate these ornate outfits. The incorporation of layered patterns as well as red ink is typical of trash-polka designs and captures the collage-like feel of this unique style. The line work used to create the undulating patterns is excellent and starkly contrast with the more classic illustration style used in the geisha.
The chrysanthemum is a special flower in Japanese culture, often associated with the sun and long life thanks to their gold color and medicinal properties. As a result, they feature heavily in traditional Japanese tattoos; however, this piece is far from traditional. Here, the artist expertly uses black and gray ink to create an interesting design with the face of a geisha at the center of a flower, her hands sprouting from the stem. The artist is able to create contrast without the use of much solid black ink thanks to the level of detail in the dense, fine line work that forms the leaves of the plant and the simple, understated design in the face of the geisha. This is a beautiful design that undoubtedly holds special meaning to the wearer.
Japanese-Style Geisha Tattoos
This is a great example of how geishas are represented in traditional Japanese tattooing. Here the artist uses bold line work and expert shading to capture the geisha above and the samurai below, as well as using black and gray shading to create spirals and swirls that are a quintessential aspect of this style. The application of color is vibrant and fully saturated, contrasting with the dense blacks and gray wash that form the background for the piece. This full-sleeve, or nagasode, is a testament to the artist’s skill and mastery of the style as well as the wearer’s dedication.
This is an interesting design that incorporates several elements that are staples in traditional representations of geishas but adds a cyberpunk twist. The black and gray line work, most notable in the fine lines that make up the hair, as well as the fully saturated black ink, form the outline for this piece, with negative space creating contrast. The panels of the face opening set this piece apart from other geisha tattoos and may be a nod to the Japanese sci-fi B-Movie “Robo-Geisha”. The gradation of tones in this tattoo is excellent and adds to the illustrative nature of this design while maintaining elements of realism: notice the whip shading that adds a layer of texture in the top of the hair. The subtle use of white ink in the eyes is also a clever choice and helps complete this excellent, cyborg geisha tattoo.
Large Geisha Tattoos
This stunning, full-back piece is a great tattoo that incorporates elements of traditional Japanese tattoo work while utilizing some illustrative techniques more common in modern designs. Immediately obvious is the excellent level of detail in the geisha’s kimono, with the artist using an expert gradation of colors to capture the shadows falling over the folds in the fabric. The clean line work throughout the tattoo is excellent, while the use of wisps of smoke as well as the white in the cranes—both common elements in traditional work—to create negative space lets the design breathe a little and creates a more pleasing composition.
Realistic Geisha Tattoos
This artist opts for a more photo-realistic approach to creating this stunning geisha portrait. The expert use of black and gray shading, as well as sepia tones, perfectly captures the face of the woman without the need for solid line work that might detract from the delicate nature of this piece. This expert application allows the artist to create a tattoo that is reminiscent of the traditional Japanese ink paintings known as soibuko-ga, while the realistic execution of the cherry blossoms, mountains, and wildlife in the background work well to frame the face and improves the overall composition of this stunning tattoo.
Tattoos of a Geisha with a Fan
Tattoos of a Geisha with an Animal
Tattoos of a Geisha with Flowers
Tattoos of a Geisha with a Mask
Tattoos of a Geisha with a Parasol
Tattoos of a Geisha with a Skull
This is an interesting piece that uses a skeleton to create a morbid homage to the geisha. The line work and black and gray shading in this piece are excellent, alternately creating the bones of the skeleton and the smooth way the fabric falls over the hand creating different angles and shadows. The artist perfectly captures the shimada, or traditional haircut, using dense, fine line work as well as negative space to create the highlights that add contrast and further define this quintessential element of geisha designs. The use of red ink adds an interesting splash of color that works to break up the monochrome scheme and helps the entire piece to pop.
Tattoos of a Geisha with a Sword
Here, the artist uses a more illustrative style to create a fierce warrior geisha. The bold line work is expertly applied and uses an understated sensibility to capture the look of determination on the geisha’s face. The limited use of color is also a clever design choice here, adding a bit of flare in the cherry blossoms on her kimono as well as the flush on her face, helping to give this geisha a more lifelike complexion without overpowering the simplicity of the design. The way the artist incorporates smooth black and gray shading to recreate how shadows fall over the folds in the fabric is a testament to their skill and adds a layer of depth that helps to set this excellent tattoo apart from similar designs.
Traditional Geisha Tattoos
This is an interesting design that uses American traditional elements and pairs them with an abstract composition to create a geisha tattoo that is half Sailor Jerry and half Picasso. At the center of this stunning, black and gray full-back piece is a geisha holding a parasol, a classic motif in Japanese tattoo work. However, that is where most similarities with traditional design end: coiled around the geisha is what appears to be a multi-headed dragon with a stylized face on either side of the female figure. The bold line work and smooth shading help to anchor this piece in American traditional designs and allow the artist to go wild with the other elements while maintaining the classic sensibility of the style.
This beautiful piece looks like it could be pulled straight from Sailor Jerry’s flash wall. The bold line work is exceptional and creates the foundation of this wonderful representation of a classic American traditional geisha. The fully saturated black ink increases contrast with the negative space in the design and helps the vibrant colors to jump off the skin. The flowers and patterns on the kimono, as well as the subtle use of color and shading to capture the expression on the figures face, are expertly applied and are a testament to the patience and skill of the artist.