Chicano Style Tattoos - Designs, Ideas, History & More

Written by: Jason White

The Chicano Tattoo movement is one of the most famous styles in the world of tattooing. Despite most of Chicano artists’ drawings being monochromatic, they retain a voluminous and memorable look. Chicano tattoos are done on body parts which provide the artist a large canvas, such as the chest, back, hips, forearm, and arm.


One of the most well-known tattoo trends is the Chicano Tattoo style. Despite the fact that Chicano artists’ designs are typically monochrome, they yet have a vivid and distinctive appearance that makes them instantly recognized.

Chicano tattoos are frequently applied to parts of the body like the sternum, shoulders, back, and arms, that offer the artist a broader canvas to work with.

This is accomplished because these designs frequently demand a large enough surface to fit all the detail in due to their being so complex.

Due to this, it can be difficult to find ‘simple’ Chicano tattoo designs. Even the most simple, smaller designs of this style are filled with vast amounts of detail.

Heavy black inks and slick colors of gray are frequently used in Chicano designs to create shadows and rigidly defined outlines.

These dark, dismal images are frequently created using themes and symbols in high contrast illustrations. 

Brief inscriptions, depictions of clowns (the Masks of Comedy and Tragedy are frequent), and portraits of young women’s features are often prevalent in this particular style.

Religion, specifically Christianity, is also sometimes depicted in these designs, e.g., the Christian cross. Additionally, weapons are also sometimes displayed, e.g., guns.


Mexican immigrants who came to the US in the 1940s are said to have influenced the Chicano style. Americans used the derogatory slang terms ‘Chicano’ and ‘Chicana’ to refer to immigrants from Mexico.

Later, people of Mexican descent inherited these words, and by the 1960s, they were widely used.

At this time, the ‘Chicanos’ were designing and donning tattoos with effect, and it finally developed into a well-known look that everyone would recognize.

The Chicano society’s financial position improved as a result of the integration of the Chicano population into the American military.

This ultimately, and unintentionally, assisted in the growth of the Chicano tattoo artistic movement.


  • Drawings often made in deep black inks and smooth shades of grey
  • Creates shadows
  • Well-defined contours using fine lines
  • High contrast drawings
  • Theme of images is often gloomy
  • Short inscriptions and images of girls’ faces are also characteristic.


Modern Chicano tattoos often use Santa Muerte or “Holy Death”, which is the image of a woman decorated with national ornaments and skulls. As for the portraits, they are usually young and defiant-looking ladies with guns, masks, and outfits.

Common themes also include skulls, weapons (a reference in the origin of the style), crosses, and other religious images.

Often, Chicano tattoos have one to two words or dates that represent a significant event.


The exact origin of the word “Chicano” is unknown, but it is believed to be a close-sounding word to “Mexicano”.

The Chicano style of tattooing arose from criminal Latin American gangs in the 1950s who would use body ink to fiercely proclaim their belonging to a particular group. Some have tried to portray Chicano with meaning — about the futility of being and high justice.

For a long time, Chicanos tattoos were a privilege of the criminal elite, but today, one does not necessarily have to be a gang members or a criminal to be able to get one.

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