Your Guide To The Trash Polka Tattoo Style


Headphones Trash Polka Forearm Tattoo @mr__ink__tattoo

Is minimalism not your thing? Do you love bold tattoo designs with lots of detail that test the limits of creativity? The chaos of the trash polka tattoo style places contrasting elements center stage. Keep reading for eye-catching artistry to inspire your next tattoo design. 

What Is Trash Polka?

The trash polka style of tattooing burst onto the body art scene around two decades ago in Germany. Graphic designers, Simone Pfaff and Volko Merschky, combined their artistic styles and translated this onto the skin. 

Custom Tattoo Design says that Merschky describes his created tattoo style as,

“realism and trash; the nature and the abstract; technology and humanity; past, present, and future; opposites that they are trying to urge into a creative dance to harmony and rhythm in tune with the body”.

Skull And ‘Fearless’ Leg Tattoo @franckrudyy

Key Elements Of A Trash Polka Tattoo

One of the key elements of a trash polka tattoo design is the juxtaposition and clash of opposites. A design done in this style can be confusing and beautiful, expressing a multitude of different ideas and components. 

Realism is a popular element in trash polka,

“These pieces also focus on photo-realistic images or commonly portraits coming from cinema, fashion and horror movies. Next to them are graphic elements such as large black and red areas, brush strokes, paint stains, and geometric or abstract shapes,”

Tattoo Stylist
Grunge Theme Trash Polka Full Back Tattoo @tattoojimbo

For example, a realistic trash polka tattoo can have a hyper realistic wolf against a backdrop of things that don’t relate to the animal, such as geometric shapes and broad, chaotic brushstrokes.

While the rules of this style of tattooing may be limited to enhance the freedom of the tattoos, one of the key elements is the limited color palette used. By only using gray shading, red, and black ink, the contrast is prominent. 

Eagle Trash Polka Shoulder Tattoo @naturezatattoo

Meaning Of Trash Polka Tattoos

There is not really one set meaning behind trash polka tattoos, as there are so many options when it comes to the elements involved. However, there are a few key themes that are present in many, if not most, trash polka designs. 

One theme inherently in this tattoo style is contrast and opposing forces. Realism mixed with broad brushstrokes, and flowing lines and shades against geometric shapes. This speaks to the ancient Chinese symbol of Yin and Yang. Opposite sides push against each other and exist in harmony.

Spartan Solider Trash Polka Arm Tattoo @xukitattooart

First Class Tattoos says of the colors used in these designs,

“The word most associated with this art style is aggressiveness, which stems from the art depicted and the saturated red and black color palette.”

Of course, much of the meaning of a tattoo rests upon the images used as well as the personal relationship the tattooee has with them. 

Abstract Trash Polka Upper Arm Tattoo @artcollectortattoo

The Best Placement Ideas For A Trash Polka Tattoo

These tattoos are bold and feature many elements, often with realistic designs. Due to this, larger areas of the body are best for trash polka designs.

“​​To fit all the splashes, dots, lines (thick and thin), as well as portraits, and give them the space to heal well and keep their longevity, anything smaller than medium will add another layer of challenge to these already complex designs,”

Tattoo Stylist

So, the bicep or full arm, the shoulder or back, the thigh, and the chest are all great placement choices for a trash polka tattoo.

Lion Trash Polka Sleeve Tattoo @raiane.morini

If you try to squash many details and elements into a smaller design to fit on a small placement area, such as the ankle or wrist, it may not age well. The trouble with micro realistic tattoos is that the lines can fade into each other, blurring and distorting the image.

The best thing to do is have a conversation with your chosen tattoo artist. A professional tattooist will be able to advise you on where your tattoo design will look the best.

Dark Trash Polka Half Sleeve Tattoo @tofu.tattoos

How Do Trash Polka Tattoos Fade?

One of the best things you can do to make sure you get a trash polka tattoo design that lasts is to get tattooed by a professional tattooist. An experienced tattoo artist is way more likely to place the ink on the correct skin layer (dermis) than someone who is not a professional.

It is essential to insert the ink correctly, because if the ink is too shallow the tattoo will fade faster, and if the ink is inserted too deep the ink can blowout.

Once you walk out of a tattoo studio with your brand new trash polka tattoo, there are a few key things to do to ensure the longevity of your ink.

There are different stages of the tattoo healing process – it is essential to support this process by washing your fresh tattoo with fragrance-free soap, moisturizing your skin, staying hydrated, and keeping your ink out of the sun. 

Get your guide to the tattoo healing process and learn how to look after a new tattoo below.

Viking Theme Trash Polka Leg Tattoo @thesacredink_viareggio

Who Should Get A Trash Polka Tattoo? 

This style of tattooing is perfect for those who want to go bold and expressive with their tattoo design. With the strong colors and layered images, this is not a style for the tattoo minimalist. 

Due to the eye-catching and striking elements of this tattoo style, trash polka tattoos are ideal for extroverts who don’t mind being the center of attention and being asked about their body art. 

Samurai Trash Polka Arm Tattoo @luizpaulo_mancini

If the popularity of fine lines and minimalism in the tattoo culture of today are not your thing, embrace the chaos of the trash polka style. The juxtaposition of opposites and broad flashes of red provide an in-your-face tattoo that is hard to ignore.

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