The Gothic aesthetic has persisted for centuries, and for good reason.
Rich and mysterious and completely void of the shallow or insubstantial, gothic imagery calls to mind a time and dimension that honors a more macabre grace.
From Dracula’s castle to the pages of Edgar Allan Poe, the modern goth combines the old with the sophisticated to form an altogether unworldly impression.
Anatomical skulls, shadowy ravens & crows, and ancient symbols are just a few gothic signatures. The world of Tim Burton offers an extensive trove of inspiration, as well as the films of Bella Lugosi, while weeping angels, skeleton keys, and ghostly cameos also compliment the gothic tattoo enthusiast. Lyrics and imagery from ruling 80’s goth bands such as The Cure, Bauhus, and Depeche Mode lend an understated but undeniably cool undertone to an already enigmatic presence.
Gothic tattoos can be worn wherever the wearer prefers, and often appear as accessories themselves: a wrist cuff, portrait between the shoulder blades, and moonlit night over Sleepy Hollow all give off the eerie appearance of a second skin, a mist that follows the tattoo wearer wherever he goes.
The beauty of gothic tattoos is that, much like the color black (arguably the unofficial gothic color), they never really go out of style. On the contrary, gothic tattoos wear like a timeless and well-tailored ensemble. They are both reflective of the past and indicative of the future to come. Here is no old fashioned relic from the past; the gothic soul is light years ahead of the average man. Almost…vampiric.
1. Gothic Sleeve Tattoos
Illustrate a full morbid scene with a Gothic sleeve tattoo. Since most Gothic tattoos use mostly black and gray ink, this is an especially great option for keeping costs low on a sleeve. Have some skulls cascade down your shoulder or using black filler draw a dark and sleepless night. If you don’t mind spending a lot of time in the chair, use the blackout technique to subtly bring other images to light. Or if you want to incorporate unblemished skin, think about a smoky effect to give the effect of a tattoo coming into being from the clouds. No matter what images you decide to go with, a Gothic sleeve will keep the spooky right at your fingertips.
2. Bestial Gothic Tattoos
Tap into nature’s terrifying side with a bestial Gothic tattoo. Some animals cannot help but inspire a shudder down your spine! Include a crow with an evil eye or a wolf baring his teeth.
These animals may not necessarily be evil, but they’re certainly not good either. Or you could think about amalgamating some animalistic features into your own being. Avian or bat wings look fantastic as a back piece that stretches out over the outer forearms.
You don’t want to use a lot of color, if any at all, in order to maintain the starkness of the piece, so depending on how long you want the piece to talk, think about using negative space to speedily bring your bestial Gothic tattoo to life.
3. Skeletal Gothic Tattoos
Strike a chill in people’s bones with a skeletal Gothic tattoo. Skeletons can’t help but be spooky so why not sprinkle some bones throughout your piece. Stack skulls atop one another or bring some back from the dead. Skulls are a great option for using negative space to illustrate the piece.
You can use just a few simple strokes to bring the skull to life or you can use the blackout technique with just a few spots of unblemished skin to reveal the visual. The piece can be as intricate or as simple as you want it to be, with the spooky vibe built right in.
Use dotwork to add shading and dimension or use the watercolor technique to drip down candle wax. Skeletal Gothic tattoos work great on any part of the body, but they lend themselves particularly well to the shape and curvature of the hands, knees, and shoulders.
4. Fantastical Gothic Tattoos
Take your piece to different dimensions of time and space with a fantastical Gothic tattoo. Find your inspiration in fantasy literature, film, or video games. Using the illustrative or the realistic style anything your imagination thinks of can come to life in your fantastical Gothic tattoo. Even a small mystical piece on the inside of your wrist can add just the splash of Gothic that you want.
Take a page from Satanic or Wiccan imagery or find your inspiration in pagan mythology. The demon goat head, also known as Baphomet, is an especially common image. A deity common in occult and mystical traditions, the ‘sabbatic goat’ is said to symbolize an equilibrium of opposites in its amalgamation of dualities. There is no longer a line that separates speculation from reality so let the image run wild!
5. Horror Inspired Gothic Tattoos
Inject a dose of the horrific with a horror inspired Gothic tattoo. Encapsulate a close encounter or invoke a double-take to Freddy Krueger-style being. The history of horror, inside and outside of film, is so fast that you’ll run out of room on your body if you decide to do them all.
Some of the best motifs in horror films include: clowns, Scream, Hellraiser, demons, vampires, and zombies. Anything that you wouldn’t want staring at you from the window late at night is fair game! Whether you want to illustrate a scene from your favorite horror film or bring to life a creature from your own nightmares, you’ll be sure to spook others with a horror inspired Gothic tattoo.
6. Architectural Gothic Tattoos
Pay homage to the original Gothic with an architectural Gothic tattoo. The Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is the most classic example of French Gothic architecture and its design works particularly well in the detailed linework style. Gothic architecture is known for its high ceilings and intricate stained glass designs, which also tend especially towards linework designs.
You can delineate either the outer construction with thick needles only, or include the details of the cathedral with thinner needles for added ornamentation. A gargoyle is also a great choice for architecturally Gothic tattoos, with its wide open mouth looking as if uttering a horrid cry. A grotesque is equally disconcerting, keeping a watchful eye from his dutiful post.
7. Linework Gothic Tattoos
Engrave yourself with a linework Gothic tattoo. Some of the most elegant examples of Gothic tattoos, lineworks have a simplicity to them despite their varying intricacy. This is also an especially great option if you want to incorporate any Gothic script in your tattoo. Whether you want a small piece on your forearm or your leg, or are thinking about an expansive chest piece, look through the work of some of the linework artists in your area.
No matter what image you’re considering, this is a great technique that adds a stylistic twist unique to its artist. Whether it’s a few thick lines or a number of thin details twists and turns, linework always brings the Gothic to life.
Gothic Tattoo FAQs
What is the symbolism of Gothic tattoos?
Gothic tattoos refer to tattoos whose imagery corresponds with the macabre. Gothic tattoos tend to symbolize the darker and spookier aspects of life, and so designs will frequently be done in black ink and grayscale.
Did you enjoy these examples of Gothic Tattoo but are looking for more macabre inspiration? Click on the links below for other excellent ink galleries: