Chicano Tattoo Style

Chicano Tattoo Style

Chicano style tattoo is popular among bikers especially of Spanish origin. The term itself refers to Spanish-speaking Latin American descent. The Chicano style tattoo designs in most cases are used to represent the loyalty to family, gang, organization, women and God. Chicano tattoo is usually very meaningful and represent different element from culture, neighborhood, emotions, culture and memories.

Chicano style is usually represented in black and gray color, fine lines, detailed and soft shading. These two colors are the primary color of original Chicano style. In most cases, they incorporate realistic portraits, cultural, religious, gang symbols and lettering.

Most Chicano tattoos were created in prison but made famous in Los Angeles by Chicano street culture. This tattoo is very influential; it has helped create and inspire many different tattooing styles from realism and portraits to black and gray tattoos.

These tattoo designs resembles mural and cars paintings, however they have their main specialties. Real Chicano tattoos are done with black link. Religious themes and girls portraits are drawn with fine lines while bold shadings are used for lettering, usually the person first name, Spanish words or “locas”.

Contrary to what many people believed, Chicano tattoo is not limited only to Mexican and Latin American people, tattoo lovers from USA, Europe and Asia also loves this type of design and tattoo artist from various origins favor this style. The two most famous Chicano style tattoo artists are the California masters Jun Cha and Steve Soto. The famous Italian tattoo artist Antonio Macko Todisco is also an expert in this design.

Chicano style tattoo is very beautiful and will definitely blow your mind when done right with black and gray as tattoo sleeves.

Chicano Tattoo History

The history of Chicano tattooing can be traced back to Pachuco gang culture of the 40s and 50s in Olden day California, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. Chicano tattoo were originally created by hand with a sewing needle dipped in India ink. Nowadays, this type of tattoo design requires excellent tattooing skills and professional tattoo machine; they are still not common in our daily life. The original Chicano themes are the Virgin Mary, Christ and women.

These tattoo designs mostly consist of the Pachuco cross tattooed between the index finger and the thumb. It was once used as a sign to identify gang members and also to show solidarity to the gang. As at the time, these tattoo designs signify crime and violence for outsiders, but for those in the inner cycle, Chicano tattoos is a symbol of loyalty to the family, community, women and God.

Chicano tattoo established itself as a definitive tattoo style with the “cholos” in the 60’s. The original color of these tattoo designs is black and gray because they were the most accessible ink color in prison (the tattoo originated from prison). Chicano tattoos were further refined on the streets of Los Angeles between the 70’s and the 80’s. In the street of LA, this type of tattoo design was further developed from the many different Chicano mantras such as “My happy life, my sad life”.

Chicano Symbols and Designs


  • Religious

Jesus, Virgin Mary and Angles are very popular symbols in Chicano tattoo. The praying hands, heart with thorns and Pachuco crosses are also very well represented. The pachuco crosses were inherited from gangs and mostly tattooed between the forefinger and thumb.

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  • Clowns

Chicano tattoo use actual clowns with graffiti style or clown make-up to represent words like “Just keep smiling and cry inside”. You can as well see two comedy masks which represents the sentence such as “laugh now, cry later” in Chicano designs. The clowns in the Chicano design are associated with games symbols which signify life gambling.

Clown face/mask tattoos common among gang members have the following meanings:

  • “My happy life, my sad life”
  • “Smile now, cry later”
  • “Laugh now, cry later”
  • “Play now, pay later”

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  • Bandidas

Women are important symbols in the Chicano art; Virgin Mary, Mexican women, even American icons such as famous singers or actresses can be seen in Chicano tattoo. Girls in Chicano tattoo are mostly associated with skulls, guns and dollars to represent success and futility of life.

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  • Low riders

Popular American cars are popular symbols in Chicano tattoos as well as in Chicano art in general.

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  • Lettering

Chicano tattoos are well known for their iconic elegant lettering which are usually combined with realistic portraits. Sometimes, they are alone with some embellishment. The letters are often bold in order to create impact or fine elegant script to add softness. These letters usually represents family names, neighborhoods, areas and Spanish words.

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  • The Eagle

Eagle is a popular symbol in Chicano tattoos. It is an Aztec symbol which stands for warrior. It can as well use to represent freedom and other personal meanings.


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