Tattoo artist Todd Bailey talks tattoo trends, inspirations and finding his style

“I’m seeing that becoming a trend — pulling away from social media, and seeking inspiration from real people in real time,” iconic tattooist Todd Bailey tells us  

With almost 20 years experience in the scene, few tattoo artists are as sought-after as Todd Bailey.

As the owner and operator of Sydney’s award-winning Thirteen Feet Tattoo studio, Bailey has amassed over 100,000 followers on social media, thanks in no small part to his signature style.


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A post shared by Todd Bailey (@toddbaileytattoo)

Below, we caught up with the legendary tattooist for a chat about tattoo trends, finding inspiration and how “tattooing is like cooking; you have good and bad ingredients.” 

HAPPY: What are you up to today?

TODD BAILEY: I’m in Vietnam on an inspiration and discovery trip, immersing myself in the culture and history it has to offer. 

HAPPY: Tell us a little about where you live, what’s the scene like? 

TODD BAILEY: I’m from Sydney, Australia. The tattoo scene is very progressive and healthy in Sydney.

There’s also an abundance of high quality artists from all different cultural backgrounds, which has created a real fusion of styles when it comes to tattoos. 


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A post shared by Todd Bailey (@toddbaileytattoo)

HAPPY: In a nutshell, give us ten words that sum up tattoos in 2024.

TODD BAILEY: Powerful, creative, bold, impressive, technical, colourful, cultural, inspiring, inclusive, big and small.

HAPPY: Can you share some insights into the current state of the tattoo culture in Australia? How has it evolved over the years?

TODD BAILEY: The industry in Australia has come leaps and bounds in the past 10-20 years. It’s really opened up as far as types of clientele and standards – it’s now a much more inclusive space. 

Tattooing isn’t just a criminal enterprise these days. It’s become a much more progressive and art-based industry instead of just a hard knocks type deal.

When I started tattooing it was very different. I support the change as it makes for a much safer and art positive environment to work in.

HAPPY: What are some of the most notable shifts you’ve observed in the types of clients coming in for tattoos compared to when you first started in the industry?

TODD BAILEY: The clientele has shifted in a big way since I started. In my experience, back in the day there were quite a few gang related and criminal clientele.

I’m not saying all, but a good amount. It was still sort of underground, so it attracted people like myself looking for different ways to express themselves as an individual. 

HAPPY: As someone with a decade of experience, how have you adjusted your approach to tattooing to meet the changing demands and preferences of clients?

TODD BAILEY: I’m coming up to 20 years in the industry. It’s been a wild ride. Technology has really changed things for us – we went from books, paper and pencils to iPads and iPhones, and Instagram which has also really changed the game.

It’s really quite extraordinary when you think about it. These days, you need to be the full package, and you’re held accountable for everything you do, which is fine by me – I always try to have integrity with my work and attitude. 

HAPPY: Could you highlight some of the standout trends that have dominated the Australian tattoo scene recently?

TODD BAILEY: The standout trends of the last five years would have to be large scale black and grey tattoos, without a doubt. 

Fine line tattoos have also had a big boost. Tattoo trends tend to be quite circular, so we’re seeing a resurgence of fine line tattoos which were highly popular in the 70s, 80s and 90s. 


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HAPPY: Are there any specific tattoo styles or motifs that have emerged as particularly popular among clients lately?

TODD BAILEY: Pop culture styles and motifs, as well as pattern and geometric (stipple work) has been a very popular style to hit the western world. It’s been part of Indigenous cultures for thousands of years, but we’re now seeing this become part of popular culture. 

HAPPY: How do these contemporary trends compare to the classic styles that have been popular in the past?

TODD BAILEY: Tattooing is like cooking – you have good and bad ingredients. Some things go together, and some things don’t. You can have the wrong ratios of ingredients which brings out the wrong taste.

Tattooing is the same. Some things work together, and some things don’t – it depends on a lot of factors, including skin type, needle type, part of the body. As a whole, I think each style has its own place in tattooing – i’m neither judge nor jury.

HAPPY: Are there any unique or niche trends within the Australian tattoo community that you find particularly interesting or exciting?

TODD BAILEY: I enjoy seeing the talented artists of today using imagery from the past, and putting their own modern spin on it. It’s super interesting.

Personally, I’ve been working on a project mixing Australian native animals and fauna with traditional oriental backgrounds. Australia has such an abundance of unique and interesting flowers and animals, which has really inspired me. #Aussiental, I call it. 


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A post shared by Tristan (@drawingmonkeystattoo)

HAPPY: Where do you draw inspiration from when staying updated on the latest tattoo trends and techniques?

TODD BAILEY: My clients and coworkers are my source of inspiration, and keep me up to date on trends. I’ve moved away from social media as far as following trends – it just becomes too much.

I’m seeing that becoming a trend within itself actually – pulling away from social media, and seeking inspiration from real people in real time. 

HAPPY: For aspiring tattoo artists, what advice would you offer on finding their own style and staying true to it while also staying relevant in the industry?

TODD BAILEY: For young aspiring artists, my advice would be to work your arse of – be the first one in and the last one out each day. Learn about tattooing. Learn to tattoo everything.

Practice multiple styles,  do walk-ins, and above all, treat your customers with respect. Why? Because if you want a tattoo career, it’s not just all about you. It will humble you and it will make you appreciate your life and your customers.

HAPPY: As an artist, how do you balance honouring traditional tattooing techniques with incorporating new and innovative elements into your work?

TODD BAILEY: I’d say learning multiple techniques throughout my career helped me adapt with new and innovative styles. I like using bold lines with a realistic element, as far as shading goes.

Using good references and also making sure the tattoos are done right, to ensure it’s going to look good over time. 


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A post shared by Todd Bailey (@toddbaileytattoo)

HAPPY: Lastly, what makes you happy?

TODD BAILEY: Being the co-founder of Thirteen Feet Tattoo, which enables me to tattoo everyday, to support my family, to pass my knowledge onto the younger generations, and learn from the younger generations.

Just being part of a good group of people that have the same goals as me – good and decent people doing good tattoos – that’s what makes me happy.