Kitsune are iconic entities from Japanese lore that exist as wise foxes with shape-shifting abilities. Tattoos that feature these enigmatic and bold creatures are said to represent both trickery and friendship.
Beyond Japanese mythology, foxes are well-versed in their connection to folklore and legends from many different backgrounds.
Kitsune literally translates to fox in English, but the term is much more descriptive of the illusive and magical nature of these forest-dwelling creatures. The tail of the Kitsune is said to reflect the magic within the animal, and those with many tails are said to be far wiser than those with a single tail.
Kitsune are commonly represented with up to nine tails, and their Japanese-themed imagery is distinctly beautiful and unique. The brilliant color schemes and sharp, abstract styling is both aesthetically pleasing and highly detailed. Many Kitsune are depicted with a skull attached to the top of their head like a hat, which is more indicative of the trickster nature within the shapeshifters.
The symbolism behind a Kitsune tattoo has many potential interpretations that are each unique to the wearer. It can be either good or villainous, but the overall nature of the image is about wisdom, strength, and magic. These creatures can bring both good luck and horrible misfortune, so their duality is popular amongst those who respect that reality is never one-sided.
1. Kitsune chest and side tattoos
The examples above depict the range of opportunities chest and side tattoos present artists when inking a Kitsune tattoo. With such an interesting animal to utilize, artists can focus on various parts of the fox to incorporate into the large canvas and play with angles, saturation, body shape, and contrasting support to reach the desired effect. These Kistune show off different focal points – such as the tail, face, or full body of the fox- then surround the core of the body art with deft displays of shading, fill color, patterns, and associated images, such as flowers, skulls and other animals.
2. Neo traditional and abstract Kitsune ink
Neo traditional skin art is built on development of the traditional fundamentals of clean lines, solid color fills, smart area placement, and effective small etchings such as hatches, hashes, curves and dots. Where the new wave comes in is dialling up creativity and innovation regarding the color palette, background fill, and use of shading.
The examples above brilliantly detail changes to traditional delivery. Gone are solo head shapes in brief, flat color, instead the art adopts vibrant, bright shaded ink, a variety of supporting patterns (and Japanese shade principles), and a wicked array of unique facial detail emphasizing teeth, muzzle, and whiskers.
3. Black and Gray Kistune tattoos
Kitsune tattoos make for quality explorations into traditional black and gray ink. Their face, tail, shape, and richness of fur allow encourage different fill options and shadow from light gray scale saturation through to heavy black, wide needle delivery.
Many broader tattoo styles can also be adopted, such as animal realism, dot work, or even single needle fine line principles, to make effective pieces differing in size and shape. The examples above also demonstrate how important the use of negative space is in construction of these tattoos, often becoming the key contrasting element in shape and flow.
4. Kitsune leg tattoos
These Kitsune leg tattoo examples demonstrate the unique space available. They’re crafted with good flow, and an emphasis on sharp lines and vivid colors. As the fox is such a sleek choice of animal, leg tattoos provide opportunity to thicken and fatten the full piece with various technical fill colors and patterns. Again, the Japanese influence is evidenced by clean sections and quality background shading options such as waves, clouds, smoke, and contrasting patterned flower support.
5. Kitsune line tattoos
While most of these Kitsune tattoos will be filled and shaded, the line work is deployed stylishly in their current state. The artists have, for the most part, opted to ink thicker, broader lines. The ones most likely to remain in line form are more attuned to variety in fine line needle and contrasting technical applications rather than shadow work, with black ink fill used to contrast negative space and scale each piece.
6. Kitsune half sleeve tattoos
Kitsune sleeves inevitably follow the traditional Japanese blue print of surrounding the focal image with flat color, negative space relief and segmented background shading. Some don’t stray from the arm, while others move fluidly on to the chest and shoulder, creating fine body art through clever manipulation of space and scale.
7. Traditional Kitsune back pieces
There is literally no style, size or shape that can’t be made to look effective when folded into a full back tattoo. The unique use of color – both in foxes and surrounding ink – create a wonderful chance to explore different hues complementing or opposing the central fox image. The Kitsune in these tattoos range from stylish, heavily detailed creatures, to those etched in expansive negative space or single pale color matched with technical line work.
8. Colorful Kitsune Sleeves
The key to these full Kitsune tattoo sleeves lie not in the snaking fox images at their heart, but in the technical applications designed to support each animal. It’s practically impossible to build an arm sleeve using a fox only alone, so the artists reach deeply into their kit bag. There’s fantastic flat color fill or classical technical Japanese gray shade. The more daring pieces try to incorporate crisp line work hatching or negative space to achieve a flowing piece of body art surrounding a more
Kitsune tattoo FAQs
What does a kitsune tattoo mean?
In Japanese mythology Kitsune (the Japanese word for fox) served as messengers between humans and the spirit world. They’re often able to see through through deception clearly to the heart of a situation, while also turning the tables on their counterparts.
In Nordic and European cultures the fox is linked to deceit but also quick thinking and action, while the most common traits associated with the fox are cunning and heightened perception. Foxes are often seen as tricksters, being able to innovate through tough and unusual circumstances with courage.
Like what you saw from fantastic foxes, but want to see more? Click on the links below for other inspirational galleries.