Mushrooms have evolved in symbolism and meaning over time. When you were a kid, they were whimsical and cute, something out of cartoons like “The Smurfs.”
They made you think of fairies and gardens and storybooks or perhaps simply food. The book Alice in Wonderland popularized the red and white mushroom icon, tying the image in with rabbits falling down holes and little girls growing to three times their normal size.
However, mushrooms have taken on a more psychedelic approach over the years. They’re more commonly known for their natural psilocybin, a drug that will give you hallucinations and visions. Along with LSD, mushrooms became a staple of mid-century drug culture, appearing on tie-dye shirts, tabs, and smoking accessories.
No matter what mushrooms may mean to you, they make excellent images for tattoos, especially small ones. There are many options for color and cartoon-like line work. A small mushroom on the wrist or ankle is fun for a flash of color. Larger pieces including mushrooms often have the classic Alice in Wonderland theme, complete with the iconic hookah-smoking caterpillar or Cheshire cat.
Images of mushrooms invite further creativity for you and your artist. Due to their hallucinogenic qualities, some people might want to see where the mushroom image takes them. They may want to include animals, patterns, names, or anything else they identify with the mushroom. The possibilities for this tattoo are endless.
1. Gilled Mushroom Tattoos
One of the most characteristic representations of a mushroom is its underbelly of gills. There are a variety of mushrooms with gills so you have many different options for the perfect portrayal. Gilled mushroom tattoos can be done in simple black ink with limited linework or using greyscale shading. If you prefer a more lively look splash some color on your fungi like the sixth piece shown. Using linework, gilled mushroom tattoos give your fungus precision and dimension. And since gills are seen from underneath, it offers a great opportunity to play with perspective.
2. Dotwork Mushroom Tattoos
I love the idea for dotwork mushroom tattoos because it gives off the sense of a spore cloud coming back together, like a visual synecdoche. Pointillism, or dotwork, is done using a series of dots to form an image. Dotwork mushroom tattoos can be done using thick or thin needles depending on the size of the points.For a crisp look it’s best to use a thin needle, though this process takes longer due to needing more individual dots to make up the image.
Dotwork can be used to compose a majority of the mushroom tattoo like in the third piece, which uses only a singular line to distinguish the cap of the mushroom. Or utilize dotwork as shading like the fourth piece, with strong linework delineating the outline of the mushrooms and surrounding vegetation.
3. Psychedelic Mushroom Tattoos
Pay homage to hallucinations with a psychedelic mushroom tattoo. Even before Alice in Wonderland, mushrooms were known for their perspective shifting properties and these examples don’t hold back. Consider dark purple or red colors to give the mushroom tattoo an evil or poisonous vibe.
The second piece is a fantastic example of dissolving linework, giving the mushrooms a hallucinatory feel next to the expanding pupil. Explore the realms of the strange and unusual with a fantastical mushroom man. Nothing is off limits once the line between reality and imagination starts to disintegrate.
4. Illustrative Mushroom Tattoos
Illustrative is the most common style you’ll encounter with tattoos and with it comes a myriad of options for your piece. Illustrative mushroom tattoos can range from cartoon mushrooms to scientific illustrations.
If you’re leaning towards realism, the last two pieces pictured offer great examples of greyscale shading to convey a lifelike presentation. Or for something a little more two-dimensional, refer to some scientific illustrations for inspiration like the fifth or second pieces shown. Cluster the fungi together or space them out, with the option to include various different species or focus on your favorites.
5. Small Mushroom Tattoos
While the largest organism in the world is a mushroom, your mushroom tattoo doesn’t have to follow suit. Without branding yourself as the funnest guy in the room, incorporate a few small mushrooms into a larger sleeve like the fourth traditional mushroom tattoo.
For a cute mushroom tattoo to bring you good look, consider the simple line and dotwork style of the second piece, whose minimalism makes for the perfect little addition. Or if you prefer the style of scientific illustrations, exhibit a small assortment like the first piece. I adore the linework on the third piece depicting a Turkey Tail. What’s especially neat about that piece is that the name of the mushroom comes from the meaning of having several colors, while the piece itself utilizes black ink and is still able to convey the fluidity of the mushroom.
6. Animals with Mushroom Tattoos
Include another side of life into your mushroom tattoo with a member of the animal kingdom. Whether you’re adding mushrooms as a side piece to a larger image like the third piece or going for a more natural depiction of the wildlife on the Earth’s floor, there is unlimited potential.
Use color to make your animals and mushrooms stand out and induce a psychoactive feel. Or toe the line between realism and caricature like the mushrooms on top of the hermit crab shell. The added incorporation of the little speech bubble is such a good touch.
7. Mushroom Tattoos with Skulls
On the other end of the spectrum, include a skull with your mushroom tattoo accent the deterioration and decay that fungi inhabit. The empty spaces of a skull make for the perfect framework out of which your mushrooms can blossom out of.
The rippling waves of the second piece pictured is an especially great effect that can be used to depict literal disintegration. Adding a skull can also give your mushroom tattoo an evil or deadly atmosphere, a not-so-subtle reference to one of the most well-known qualities of mushrooms.
Mushroom Tattoo FAQs
What do mushroom tattoos symbolize?
Mushrooms are known for being a symbol of good luck. In addition to their connotation with nature, they may also represent degeneration, rebirth, and prosperity.