The chest is certainly one of the most intimate regions of the body and most readily celebrated in terms of physique; housing the heart but also acting as a kind of barrier against the outside world.
It makes sense to want to etch something equally complex and eye-catching, and fortunately there is a treasure trove’s worth of awesome tattoos designed with the chest in mind.
From scripture calligraphy to 3D renderings of Superman’s emblem blazing beneath one’s shredded shirt of flesh, the tattoo wearer can be as traditional or unique as he wishes. Celtic scales and tribal patterns are a perfect choice for the man who views his chest as body armor, with additional crosses and animal symbols representing the powerful talismans of our ancestors.
Dramatic black and white Gorey-esque ravens swooping and diving their way down to the navel give a nod to our Gothic forefather Edgar Allan Poe, while Steampunk upper armor designs evoke a particularly cool futuristic allure.
Sometimes the design doesn’t have to be grand in scale; outlines of one’s home state inked above the heart make an equally significant impression.
1. American Traditional/Neo Traditional Chest Tattoos
These chest pieces reflect many of the standard images associated with the American Traditional style, such as an old-style ship, banners with specific mantras embedded, roses, eagles, swallows, and a centralized burst of colour. We see in our examples many pieces relying on the image of ships—a symbolic association with the many voyages an individual may take in life.
Many of these pieces went outside the boundaries of the classic American Traditional style by blending with new approaches to realism, simple black line work, and animals not often depicted in old school ink. There are a variety of emerging hybrid techniques that expand on colour, content, and style.
2. Realism/Photorealism Chest Tattoos
Exceptional modern images utilize colour and pop with surrealist visions, such as the depiction of an atomic bomb, a heart wrapped in barbed wire, or a mermaid lazing about on shore. Others appear to keep the story personal, literally inking them close to the subject’s chest.
Massive, intricately shaded pieces show off train yards, movie scenes, and even the seductive depiction of a hula dancer. Examples such as these are often tattoos of people or situations important to the individual sporting the piece.
3. Greco-Roman Classical Chest Tattoos
This style of tattoo is a lot like having a painting on your body, and as a chest piece it demonstrates the same characteristics as art. Many of the chest pieces in this section have taken drawings from ancient art pieces Greek mythology and philosophy to act as a storytelling canvas.
Smaller pieces bring minute realism such as a tiny face poking out through puzzled skin of a long gone philosopher to effectively show off the artist’s technical skill and sublime sense of tattoo placement.
4. Steam Punk/Bio Mechanical Chest Tattoos
Steampunk style tattoos add mechanical flair and technical innovation to the world of flesh art. A Utopian future mixed with the industrial past conjures images of Gothic style clocks, metallic flowing cogs, and a fashion sense that consists of multiple straps and belt buckles.
Chest tattoo wise, these pieces can be complex and intensely detailed, applying techniques such as heavy shading, lettering, and precise lining. Even if you are going for a small chest tattoo, say covering the surface area of a pectoral muscle, you are still looking at longer sittings, a different pain threshold and perhaps even multiple sessions.
5. Geometric Chest Tattoos
Geometric style pieces appeal to the minimalist and consumers looking for body art that will not rely on conjecture.–It is easily definable without explanation. Geometric chest pieces take abstract art to the next level, relying on tremendously precise curves and line work to tell a multi-dimensional story.
Straightforward applications don’t mean that pieces are not complex though, quite the contrary. Those looking to get a geometric piece done seek the comfort of accuracy, not the bursting zest of many of other styles demonstrated throughout this article.
6. Japanese Traditional
Japanese Traditional style chest pieces rely on several elements of the surreal, as well as strictly precise lines. They can sometimes look geometric due to the shading and often-selected background pattern complementing and strengthening the main scene. Some pieces will stick with a black outline, while others go for some outrageous use of vivid color to create a more garish display.
7. Black and Gray Chest Tattoos
These chest tattoo examples show off a range of black and gray technical ink. Some offer flat black text, blackout color or thick line inspiration, whereas others opt to use more traditional gray scale shading and saturation to create effective skulls and Native American headdresses.
8. Gothic Chest Tattoos
Gothic style is to tattoos as sharp teeth are to vampires; one just can’t exist without the others. Gothic style pieces have existed and thrived as art on flesh for decades, as the popular tropes f grow throughout elements of popular culture every day : castles, moonlight, skulls, gargoyles, skeleton, monsters of all kinds, etc.
This style is generally darker in theme and application, requiring a heavy amount of shading and thick black ink in order to establish the proper tone. Gothic can even blend with other styles to heighten previously unexplored dimensions, such as the American Traditional Gothic pieces shown in this section which utilize the classic use of shading, realism, and precise line work.
9. Animal Chest Tattoos
Animals are constant in all style of tattoos, and thus, transcend their own categorization. In this section – there are various styles of art applying realism, as well as blends of Gothic, tribal chest pieces, and even geometric styles.
Animals are often representation for many people and their specific experiences in life, whether strong or sensitive. Lions are generally associated with courage and strength, wolves with a sense of loyalty and wanderlust, and elephants with strength, power and commitment.
10. Surrealism Chest Tattoos
Surrealism tattoos -possess dreamlike qualities and often vibrant associated colours,. Scenes in this section show off ambient space shots and ventures at sea, enhanced by the surrealist shades of bruised purple, aquamarine, and bubblegum pink (good examples)!. Surrealist pieces have more originality t-than American Traditional, as the popularity of the theme has has flourished within the past 10-15 years.
Chest Tattoo FAQs
Do chest tattoos hurt?
In general, yes, it is likely going to hurt–but the amount depends on several factors. Your level of pain tolerance, if you already have multiple tattoos, or if you have excessive fat and/or muscle on that specific area is important to consider.
It will also depend on the size and detail of your piece, so be specific with your tattoo artist while enquiring about placement.