portrait of a beautiful young woman with dark fantasy makeup look, floating in a pool of green water
Photo: Banabila

Dark aesthetics is an assembly term for cultural movement and visual style characterized by a fascination with all things dark, macabre, and eerie. It is often associated with gloomy themes and philosophies. Dark aesthetics are inspired by various artistic sources: from classic dark movies and gothic literature to all things dark and moody. In visual arts, dark aesthetics are often expressed through dark colors, foggy filters, melodic music, and sad poetry.

Needless to say, these sub-cultures have unique values, aesthetics, and style, but they all share a common interest in the darker side of life. Ignited by my love for all things surrounding dark aesthetics, I've gathered a list of the top 10 most popular and inspiring dark aesthetics you'll want to experience yourself. Fingers crossed, my post will motivate you to learn more about the darker side of life.

aesthetic collage with things and outfit inspired by the gothic Aesthetic

1. Gothic Aesthetic

Let me begin with my favorite Gothic aesthetic, which is self-explanatory. Generally speaking, the Gothic aesthetic is based on appreciation and love of all things related to Gothic architecture, literature, music, and the dark, brooding atmosphere. This broad term can be sub-categorized into numerous gothic-based aesthetics centered around specific subjects like trad goth or pastel goth.

Gothic aesthetics also strongly impact the fashion world, with its dark, brooding style often incorporated into clothing, hair, and makeup styles. This style is often seen as dark, edgy, and rebellious and is associated with the counterculture of the punk and goth subcultures. 

aesthetic collage with things and outfit inspired by the dark academiaAesthetic

2. Dark Academia Aesthetic

If you are still present on Tumblr, you have seen compilations of visually pleasant imagery featuring the Dark Academia aesthetic. Dark Academia evokes a moody and atmospheric ambiance reminiscent of old, prestigious schools, universities, and old things connected with education. 

The visual style is characterized by rich, dark colors, such as deep burgundy, forest green, and midnight blue. Small elements and even texture are equally essential in creating the Dark Academia vibe, with vintage and worn leather-bound books, old-fashioned stationery, and study prompts. The furniture and decor often feature ornate details and classic designs influenced by Edwardian and Gothic architectural styles. 

aesthetic collage with things and outfit inspired by the witchcore Aesthetic

3. Witchcore Aesthetic

If you're obsessed with nature and the occult, you'll want to learn more about Withcore. This aesthetic is inspired by witches, dark magic, and supernatural occurrences. The witch is often seen as a symbol of feminine power with a core connection to nature and its elements. 

The color palette of the Withcore often consists of deep and rich hues, which can be found in surrounding nature: black, purple, green, red, and earthy tones. Accessories play a significant role in creating an atmosphere for the witchcore-inspired outfit or interior. Various gemstones, crystals, dreamcatchers, and talismans with dry herbs make an eye-pleasing, rustic look. 

aesthetic collage with things and outfit inspired by the grunge Aesthetic

4. Grunge Aesthetic

Grunge aesthetics refers to a style of music, fashion, and visual arts. The grunge movement emerged in the early 1990s and stayed trendy ever since (with its ups and downs). Grunge as an aesthetic is characterized by a gritty, DIY, and anti-establishment attitude that rejects mainstream culture. The style is often 'distressed' and thrifty, which looked unappealing to the early 90s glam.

To help you visualize the most distinctive features of grunge aesthetics, I'll use the phrase ''nearly new off-tune guitar''. If an image of a disturbed young adult in a thrifty outfit and a very romantic view of life appears before your eyes it, then my job here is done!

aesthetic collage with things and outfit inspired by the vampire Aesthetic

5. Vampire Aesthetic

If you think Gothic aesthetics sums up humanity's appreciation for all things dark and atmospheric, then you are wrong! Bram Stocker's Dracula and Interview with the Vampire only nourished our love for sexy vampire creatures...And that's how the vampire aesthetics dominated our easily impressed minds and Pinterest boards!

The classic vampire aesthetic is often associated with the gothic horror genre, featuring pale skin, sharp fangs, and a dark, brooding demeanor. In film and television, vampire aesthetics have been used to create a sense of danger and sexuality, often portraying vampires as charismatic figures who are both feared and desired. Add exquisite fashion, artwork, and stunning interior design to the formula for the ultimate understanding of vampire aesthetics.

aesthetic collage with things and outfit inspired by the goblincore Aesthetic

6. Goblincore Aesthetic

One of the most peculiar aesthetics I've stumbled upon on Tumblr. I even dedicated a month on my Tumblr page to this fantastic nature-based aesthetic. Unlike royal-looking gothcore, this particular style is far from being conventionally appealing. Goblincore appreciates those things that are not considered aesthetically pleasing to one's eye.

Think slugs and dirt, frog spawn and slime, and don't forget about the stars of Goblincore – grotesque folklore creatures goblins. Goblincore aesthetics is fresh, as it emerged in the early 2010s and was primarily inspired by the medieval and folklore themes found in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Guillermo del Toro, and the "Dungeons & Dragons" role-play.

aesthetic collage with things and outfit inspired by the plaguecore Aesthetic

7. Plaguecore Aesthetic

Plaguecore aesthetics is a visual and cultural movement that combines dark, gothic, and industrial themes with a strong focus on medical and biological imagery. Plaguecore aesthetics often feature images of decay and mutations, utilizing medical imagery of charts, lists, and diagrams. It also incorporates medical clothing and gear as fashion elements.

When it comes to music, Plaguecore often utilizes electronic beats and dark, brooding vocals that embody the mood of the subculture. I like to think of it as industrial meets ambient genre. Despite all the criticism, Plaguecore continues to grow and evolve, inspiring new generations of artists and creatives to push the boundaries of conventional aesthetics.

aesthetic collage with things and outfit inspired by the dark fantasy Aesthetic

8. Dark Fantasy Aesthetic

Like Gothic Aesthetics, dark fantasy bears a spectrum of smaller subgenres in its mystical hands. Aesthetics Fandom describes it as a ''fairytale without a happy ending''. The Dark Fantasy is characterized by a haunting and eerie atmosphere that evokes a sense of unease.

To get a better idea of this style, I recommend you rewatch (or better read) Coraline by Neil Gaiman and Pinocchio by Guillermo del Toro. Disney's Maleficent captures the dark, mythical atmosphere of this dark fantasy aesthetic very well. 

aesthetic collage with things and outfit inspired by after hours Aesthetic

9. After Hours Aesthetic

If everything is pretty much clear with Gothiccore and Vampire Aesthetic After Hours might look more abstract. After Hours is an aesthetic based on an inner feeling you get when visiting abandoned places and streets that are usually crowded during the daytime. It is hard to describe, as everyone will find something personal and intimate about this weird sense.

I remember getting the After Hours vibe in my school when walking those long, empty corridors after 6 pm. I found a mention on the Aesthetics Fandom about the long-lost, abandoned websites, game servers, and blogs evoking the same uneasy feeling.

aesthetic collage with things and outfit inspired by Vulture Culture Aesthetic

10. Vulture Culture Aesthetic

And, lastly, a few words about the vulture culture or taxidermy subculture, based on the preservation and appreciation of insects, animals, and their remains. It is necessary to underscore that Vulture Culture works only with those specimens that have died from natural causes. The Vulture Culture is inspired by the natural decay, and the role vultures play in cleaning up the ecosystem.

The Vulture Culture goes hand in hand with the witchcore, gothcore, plaguecore, and other subcultures tightly connected with nature and the occult. It encourages individuals to find beauty in all aspects of life and to see death not as an end but as a part of the larger cycle.

Wrapping Up...

Exploring the growing trend and learning more about darker aesthetics as a lifestyle choice for some people was incredibly interesting. If you find yourself looking on the dark side of life, not fitting in the traditional boundaries, then I suggest you keep your research. Hopefully, my blog post highlights the ten popular dark aesthetics that will inspire you to incorporate some of these beautiful styles into your lifestyle.