Getting Into Sci-Fi New School Tattoos With Carl Schwartz

Carl Schwartz
InkMatch talked with Carl Schwartz so you could read the story of how he transforms pop culture sci-fi characters into vibrant, custom tattoo designs.

The InkMatch team recently had the pleasure of chatting with Carl Schwartz, a talented tattoo artist from the “Chicagoland” area. Carl shared some fascinating insights about his experience with new school tattoos.

Here, you’ll learn about Carl Schwartz’s journey as a tattoo artist, how he found inspiration for his works, who made the biggest contribution, and how he helps his clients get the best possible tattoo.

We believe that by the end of this article, even if you’re not considering a new school tattoo yourself, you’ll be inspired to revisit (or maybe discover for the first time) the vast universes of science fiction, like Star Wars, and superhero comics from Marvel and DC.

Introducing Carl Schwartz

Introducing Carl Schwartz

Carl Schwartz is an outstanding tattoo artist, but he is also a man with a bright soul. Tattooing isn’t just a job for him — it’s a source of joy. As a huge Star Wars fan, Carl goes the extra mile to create the best possible Star Wars tattoos for his clients. “Star Wars was the biggest fandom I’ve been into,” he says.

Big illustrative designs feed my art nerd soul. Bright new school tattoo art is like the whole foundation of my career, and no matter where my style travels over time, I’ll always love this style.

— Carl Schwartz on new school

With over ten years of experience, Carl has honed his skills in visualizing vibrant, new school tattoos that stand out from the crowd.

His favorite tattoo subjects include the following:

  • Video game character portraits or symbols
  • Comic character portraits
  • Black-and-gray or color roses
  • Super weird sci-fi compositions

As Carl said himself, “I’m always excited when I get to make Star Wars or Marvel tattoos, and it blows my mind all the time that this is my job. Thirteen-year-old me would be stoked.”

Showcasing Carl Schwartz’s works

While Carl currently focuses on the new school style working at Sapphire Studios, he’s also skilled in fine line and illustration. Doing cartoons was always Carl’s main jam, but he grew to love black-and-gray tattoos as well, and that’s actually how he met one of his best friends! But we’ll delve into that story a bit later.

I still can’t help but wonder how I got so lucky to be a part of something so incredible. I walked in right when they’d just changed the name to Sapphire Studios. Kim Morgan, the new owner, started to build this incredible studio that I and several other talented artists now call home. To see what this shop has grown into over the years is amazing and humbling.

— Carl Schwartz about Sapphire Studios

Carl Schwartz on Inspiration for Sci-Fi Tattoos

Carl Schwartz on Inspiration for Sci-Fi Tattoos

During our meeting, we asked Carl about his approach to sci-fi tattoos, so, what exactly does it take to make a modern pop culture masterpiece?

According to Carl, the first and most important step is to find quality references.

Finding a good reference can be challenging sometimes, especially if you don’t have a clear photo on which to base the tattoo. And even then, just copying a reference isn’t enough. You wouldn’t want to look like you’re doing the same thing that’s been done over and over and over again.

— Carl Schwartz to InkMatch

This approach is fundamental among artists. You don’t have to go far to get basic ideas — you can find everything on Pinterest or just by googling. But Carl suggests thinking beyond clichés and taking inspiration from movie still frames.

Still frames are individual images captured from a movie. Artists and animators study still frames to get a better grasp on storyboarding and composition, but tattooists can benefit from them too, by using them as a reference for their stencils.

Carl Schwartz’s tattoos of popular characters

Carl doesn’t simply replicate the reference, light and color theory plays an important role in his work. He injects his artistic vision by tailoring the color scheme to his signature palette. “I have my own color palette that I like to use pretty consistently. I’d go into Procreate and mess with lighting, adjust the image a bit, and just change it up from what’s already been done and what’s already out there,” he explains.

This manipulation, according to Carl, helps bring the mood together in a certain way.

I put my reference onto the mockup of the assigned body part so that everything kind of lines up and sits right. And then I know what I’m fully working with. Finding the balance between warm and cold tones can really bring the characters to life and create the proper environment. The whole aesthetic of it is inspiring to me.

— Carl Schwartz to InkMatch

The Great Force That Influenced Carl Schwartz 

We’ve talked about where you can get ideas for tattoos, but where did Carl himself get his ideas from? As you might have guessed, this man is closely connected to Star Wars. I think the biggest fans have already been able to connect all the dots.

One of the biggest inspirations for Carl was Ralph McQuarrie, a legendary concept art designer for the Star Wars universe.

The Great Force That Influenced Carl Schwartz

The work of Ralph McQuarrie

McQuarrie’s illustrations often employed dramatic lighting and shadow effects, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue. Carl drew inspiration from McQuarrie’s techniques to create a similar atmosphere in his tattoos.

One of Carl’s favorite creations is a tattoo with a Stormtrooper underneath a Darth Vader mask. “This tattoo helped push me up a notch. It motivated me and showed me I could do more styles than just new school,” he mentioned.

Below you will see how this tattoo was born and how it ended up. As Carl mentioned in his social media, “Most of the time my tattoos start as rough marker drawings on top of a stencil and I just kinda have fun from there. It always amazes me to see how these things start, compared to what they turn into. Sometimes it’s fun to just see the transition from stencil to tattoo.”

Star Wars-inspired shoulder tattoo by Carl Schwartz, from a stencil to final

The Power of Confidence

Artists like Carl occasionally encounter people in their careers who don’t have the same creative drive and come to them with designs that are too dull and clichéd. There is nothing criminal about clichés, yet Carl isn’t afraid to gently nudge clients toward a more creative approach.

Carl working with other styles

Here’s a case Carl shared with us regarding this matter:

Creative Darth Vader tattoo made by Carl Schwartz

Creative Darth Vader tattoo made by Carl Schwartz

Clients often come in with basic ideas for tattoos. I remember this one Darth Vader piece — the guy just wanted a simple mask and some lettering. I explained, ‘Hey, I can create something truly awesome with this, or we can do the basic design, which will be fine, but it won’t stand out. It’ll look like countless other Vader tattoos.’

So I offered a more creative approach, and we ended up having a great time collaborating. I feel incredibly lucky with all the clients I’ve had recently who allow me to really take their ideas and run with them.

— Carl Schwartz to InkMatch

The Struggle With Black-and-Gray

Have you seen the Nickelodeon series “Avatar: The Last Airbender”? In this story, there was a mention of how it was difficult for each of the masters of the four elements to study an element opposite to the one they were born with or to which philosophy they were not adopted.

It is the same with artists. It was quite difficult for Carl, as a master of saturated colors, to work with black and gray tones. But he still stepped out of his comfort zone, and it kind of grew on him. “I’ve grown to leave doing black-and-gray stuff. But it actually helped me develop the styles I truly wanted to pursue,” he admits. “I’m truly thankful to all those clients who insisted I do their black-and-gray work even though I swore I wasn’t the best fit! I appreciate the trust they placed in me.”

A black-and-gray sleeve made by Carl Schwartz

A black-and-gray sleeve made by Carl Schwartz

One day, a client named Blake came to Сarl and ordered a massive black-and-gray sleeve. For some reason, Carl just said, “Sure, why not?” They worked on it for three years, and during that time they became good friends, and they still talk to this day.


This concludes our conversation with the talented Carl Schwartz! We hope that his story of the journey into sci-fi tattoos has inspired you.

The InkMatch team would like to express thankfulness to Carl for his time and interesting insights on new school tattoos. As we bid farewell to this story, here’s a little advice from Carl in case you are interested in getting a tattoo in his favorite style. 

“Do your research. Don’t just look up tattoos of your favorite character. Look up paintings, digital art, and even movie stills. See what’s out there before settling on a generic idea.”

If you liked Carl’s story, check out the interview with his colleague from Sapphire Tattoos – Sam Chase!


🚌 What Are New School Tattoos?

New School tattoos are bold and rad. They feature vibrant colors, thick lines, exaggerated proportions, and cartoonish elements. This style is somewhat similar to pop art.

🦄 What Kind of Tattoo Can I Get in the New School Style?

Anything fun and eye-catching works! Animals, video game characters, superheroes – ideas for new school tattoos are unlimited.

🎬 Is It Okay to Tattoo Movie Characters?

Absolutely! Tattooing movie characters is more than fine, and many new school tattoo artists love bringing your favorite characters to life. It’s a total ink match if you and your tattooist share a common interest, just like Carl Schwartz loves Star Wars, for example.

🖋️ Who Are the New School Tattoo Creators?

Carl Schwartz is a famous tattoo artist who loves to work in the new school style. However, in our catalog, you can filter over 100 more new school tattoo artists and separate them by region.


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