Top 43 Simple Line Tattoo Ideas [2020 Inspiration Guide]
Sometimes overlooked as too basic, the geometric design world is open to an unbelievable amount of history and symbolism.
Most simple line designs are derived from basic tribal designs, though some seek out modern inspiration in the form of minimalism.
These tribal designs were often given to signify a life event or to mark the passing of a rite to advance your standing in the community. The marks were placed in specific locations so that other who have gone through the same rite could immediately see who and what standing you were.
Not unlike today’s tattoos. Today we look upon people with tattoos to be one of a special kind. Choosing the right geometric design for you and choosing the placement carefully will speak volumes with simple clean lines.
But don’t feel you need to go tribal. You can absolutely make your own design, or trust a skilled artist to create one for you. Turning a phrase or a memorable word into a geometric design makes your message stand out from the crowd.
If your placement is a good one, geometric shapes can even enhance your body’s natural contours, making musculature look deeper, or angles of the body sharper.
Simple line designs allow you to showcase the unique you with simplicity, freshness, and deep symbolism. Which one is right for you?
Simple Line Tattoo Ideas
This is a minimalist series of simple line tattoos. There’s not much to them. It would be interesting to find out what the rationale behind them is, given that they look like three random lines only sharing the same length. The line work is crisp and clean.
A well delivered line tattoo mixing up fine, single needle work in contrast with clean black fill. The main image is reminiscent of computer circuitry or those peculiar fonts you find in design programs. The highlight of the piece are the twin flowing black lines rolling up the arm then swinging over the shoulder to link with other work on the subject’s chest. The artist has shown exemplary skill in keeping all the lines clear, fresh, and tight.
Have you ever used an old school computer mouse with the ball underneath that you can take out and clean? This is the tattoo version of the housing, complete with cord attached. If it glowed in the dark it could also pass for a power up symbol for a cosmic battery. It’s a beautifully etched line tattoo featuring excellent pattern fill. The TV snow effect in particular looks effective against the black and negative space.
Sharp, angular line work, matched to corresponding pockets of fine, black needle box fill. It’s a simple line tattoo that works well traveling the subject’s lower leg. The use of crisp right angles creates a great sense of shape and scale, while allowing for the chance to implement another style of tattoo in the future.
This symbol resembles a transformer logo or the personal brand of legendary basketballer Kobe Bryant (RIP Mamba). It’s an interesting black line tattoo opting for thickly colored in single needle work. It has that cool, smooth sheen that usually equals a lot of painstaking, time consuming tattooing. Like how the thinnest of the linked lines carries on down the subject’s arm and out of shot.
If you’ve ever had serious surgery, your surgeon might have drawn up an incision line onto the affected area in sharpie before you went under for the anaesthetic. These twin minimalist tattoos are the ink version of surgery drawing, perfectly bisecting the back of the patient’s subject’s leg from behind the knee down to the Achilles tendon. They’re simple line tattoos that match well and effectively draw the eye.
This minimalist scorpion looks bad ass. It’s a clean, clear small tattoo (it benefits from having perfect skin to etch on) that let’s the awkward angles and shapes of the reptile be key style elements rather than color or shading. A set of eyes would be handy for the scorpion however the ink in this piece is delivered with skillful black outline work. There’s also the option to fill with bright color or more traditional shading should the subject wish to build on the work at a later time.
Another interesting leg tattoo melding work across both upper and lower leg. The thick lines are well executed, with the bubbles and dots forming a cool border image that fits the central idea. The thin, black support line is also useful in providing depth and contrast to the flat black main ink. Unfortunately the lower image cuts off, there looks to be a cool, negative space flourish on the subject’s calf muscle worth taking a closer look at.
This is a nicely etched black band tattoo. The subject and artist have created a slightly different stylistic expression by separating two differing bands with similar spacing across the wrist, and just below the forearm. It give the piece a simple, almost tribal vibe while incorporating alternating bands of black and negative space in a pleasing fashion.
A cool black line calf tattoo that makes me want to slip the Tron remake into the DVD player (people still use them right?). The balance between black stripes and larger fill patterns gives this tattoo a broader, longer aspect that makes better use of space than it would if it were only short lines and chunks alone.
This deer is a clear, simple line tattoo. If the piece was 80% smaller, you could say it was a perfect, minimalist piece of body art nestled snugly on the subject’s chest. It’s not though, it’s a massive stag stretching from collarbone to stomach! Hopefully, this work is only an outline and will be built on during another sitting or two. The opportunity to turn this piece into a masterful animal realism tattoo seems to great to just let it sit there, like an unopened kid’s coloring book. If he gets it shaded in a similar fashion to the top hat wearing skull on his inner forearm, the result will be mint.
A cool, vertical maze style flits through this series of fat line, thin line single needle tattooing. The artist has captured quality contrast across the awkward hamstring/calf area. You could almost drop Mario down the chute at the top and follow his rappel down to where our favorite plumber hits the finishing square at the bottom before moving on to the next screen.
Trash Polka meets minimalism. This is a cool concept tattoo (if this art was on canvas at a converted loft in the Meatpacking District then this comment would be more biting) that looks like a drunk person rolled in, grabbed a tattoo gun and red ink, then slashed a terribly blurry red stripe across the real artist’s work. To make this piece work, the underlying simple line tattoos needed to be done skillfully, which is certainly the case for the black lines. This ink would prompt lots of questions, most likely from small children wanting to have a crack at coloring it in.
A cool, multifaceted, minimalist heart tattoo with french fries for valves (this could be mine irl). Like the inch perfect placement on the chest and clarity of single needle line work. It’s the right type of interesting image, size, and shape that the heart could be left alone while the subject adds other body art around it and doesn’t affect the message.
Love the technical application within this seemingly simple line tattoo. The scale, balance, and pattern is exceptional for the subject’s forearm – it’s a perfect use of space – and has been placed so the art would remain unaffected by movement. The three different delivery styles – thin black line, very fat black line, and the difficult dot work TV snow technique are all etched with precision. The contrasts complement each other within the pattern, while the sensible use of negative space breaks up and balances out the busy image.
This is a crisply drawn EKG heart monitor tattoo. This version is a standard EKG image however others go further with recordings from their own monitor readings tattooed near the heart. These life affirming tattoos serve as reminders to live life to the fullest and not take anything for granted, because when the blood stops moving and your heart ceases pumping, the line goes flat and it’s over. Given the subject has a massive chest scar, I think he knows more about this phenomenon than many others would.
Alternating C patterns in negative space and varying black thicknesses make for an eye catching tattoo. Only quibble would be that the single, thin lines may be a bit short in length and could give the image a different perspective if longer. Sometimes with black fine needle tattoo work you’ll need a touch up to the fill the big black spaces. Color can occasionally drop out or look a bit faded next to other sections.
This tattoo is clever although the right angle, very fine black lines heading nowhere down the arm are a bit strange. A curved or straight line to join them up would make it a bit more closed off and finished. No fault can be found with the rest of the ink though – it’s crisply delivered with good, simple line patterns. The solid black diamond allows them to change direction sharply.
The effects of this black on negative space tattoo are fantastic. The use of geometric and mandala ink principles create a futuristic maze and killer lower forearm sleeve. The tattoo has delivered perfect black fill throughout, which is a surprisingly difficult technical application to get right.
This minimalist bear tattoo looks wicked. The key to it is the ability for the bear to look emotionally ambiguous. The bear could either be patiently waiting, extremely disappointed, or a variation in between based on your mood when you observe the tattoo. It’s a well crafted piece of tattooing to create this kind of sensation in such a small, spare piece of body art.
The mix of geometry and solar system work well in this simple line tattoo. The large variety in circles – ranging from small dots intersected with straight lines through to the central negative space at the middle – allow for different shape and fill expressions throughout. This effect helps the piece look almost like a small child’s solar system mobile hanging from the ceiling. It’s very cool!
A nicely worked line tattoo. There’s not much to it – a squiggle and some little half moon stripes – but it allows the image to change when you look at it based on different perspective. This ink shows that even in small works there are visual tricks available to provide a piece with more creativity and individuality.
This small black band tattoo is well delivered ink on skin. There’s great clarity of line around the subject’s forearm that should hold up well over time. The sun image is reminiscent of a popular brand or Australian sun screen, but hey, it works from a tattoo perspective as well.
An EKG tattoo of a motorcycle in side profile with fine black line running across the forearm. It would look vertical when the subject’s arm is straight. This style is more often adopted for inner forearm work or cursive but is effective for a tattoo of this sort.
This series of intersecting lines is an interesting small tattoo. There’s likely a mathematical connotation to the piece (not sure the Mason conspiracy theory quite works here) but from a pure ink perspective it mixes simple color and varying line lengths to make an eye catching inner forearm tattoo. It could almost be mistaken for scratches of normal pen ink tagged on the arm accidentally.
Such a cool tattoo mixing up handwritten cursive script and the funky little boat named Imp. This is likely a shout out to someone important to the subject and carries a deeply personal vibe. The tattooist has etched brilliantly to give the piece character and verve while also sticking to a minimalist principle. Really like the small bowsprit inked a little blacker and thicker than the rest of the simple line Imp, while the slight notches on the sails also add personality to the boat.
This minimalist great white shark foot tattoo is an awesome shape. The fin work in particular looks wicked and does well holding the black, fine line in such an awkward position on the inside foot between ankle and arch. Not putting in eyes or gills could be considered a mistake; they could be etched into the image in a way that sticks to the minimal ethos yet still adds style within the shark’s frame.
This is not a dot to dot found in activity books. It’s a clever representation of the Sagittarius linked constellation from the Zodiac. The dot/line combinations in this tattoo are simple but executed clearly and correctly. The constellations are hugely popular expression for lovers of body art and astrology, behind only the various Zodiac symbols themselves in number.
This is a much more stylized EKG type lower forearm tattoo. It’s clean, fresh, and uses sharp black line needle to make a nifty small tattoo. The incorporation of the waves into each end of the bicycle tyres is really well done – this curvature gives the image a strong sense of innovation and balance, even if you’d break your neck trying to ride it.
The addition of eyes and a better defined body helps finish off this great white shark tattoo. It’s a great point of comparison to the earlier image. There’s still an emphasis on minimalist, small line tattoo but the extra couple of lines work to create solid, realistic detail and a more polished piece of body art.
Sometimes a simple small line is all you need to create a cool ink impression. This single clean line down the left hand side of the subject’s neck may as well be a Picasso print – it covers a visible area in an eye catching fashion. Who knows what the line symbolizes – it could represent nothing at all – but what it does do exceptionally is make you ask questions of yourself, and if given the chance, the subject too.
This is a cracking single line, fine needle tattoo of the Parisian skyline. Paris is a good choice – a city full of single level buildings or unremarkable boxes would be nowhere near as epic. Most of the famous tourist attractions are in action. There’s the the Louvre Pyramid (aim for at least a two day pass), Ancient Egyptian Obelisk (a real one not a copy), the Moulin Rouge windmill (I highly recommend the late session provided you don’t stay somewhere with a curfew), the Basilica Sacre Coeur (best view of the city at night), Notre Dame (killer gargoyles), The Eiffel Tower (pointy) and the Arc De Triomphe (hugely underrated view and museum). All of these sites are packed onto a cleanly etched simple line tattoo, it’s just a shame Jim Morrison’s grave site isn’t tacked on to the end!
The simple black border. You’ll find it in any basic design app, but rarely tagged onto someone’s skin. This is a neatly delivered tattoo. There’s good flecks of negative space and over edge black ink through the image giving the border a rustic sensibility. For a tattoo of this style it works slightly better as a concept than a clean, boxed up border that’s come straight from a laser printer in flat black line. Also like how the lines taper off and end with nothing at the bottom right hand corner, like an escape route for freckles.
Such a smooth flowing Koi. This line tattoo is completely contradictory to the the classical Japanese Irezumi style. They are usually packed with bright color and detailed scales, and surrounded by shadow work, waves, or other animals. In this small tattoo though, it’s a series of beautifully flowing single black lines, augmented with just a tiny dusting of fine dotwork highlights. Both the idea and tattoo itself have been brilliantly displayed.
This is a cool tattoo to look at. The decision to make each half similar in shape, but slightly skewed in delivery creates a great looking piece of art. It almost gives the impression of a propeller in motion. The spacing and balance are the key to a piece that is otherwise solid, yet unspectacular. It’s a series of well crafted black lines of various thicknesses working in opposition to one another.
There’s two separate small tattoos in this image. The first are three short hash lines on the outer edge of the hand, while there’s also a trio of dots on the subject’s wrist. Both of these tiny tattoos wouldn’t make it past the shop minimum price at a good studio. Shop minimum is usually in the vicinity of $50-$80 and is deployed for tiny tattoos that can get stuck in a short period. There’s not much to describe, but take note that edge of hand tattoos can be notoriously tricky to keep hold of the ink. Clarify with your artist before commencing whether a touch up for edge of hand work is part of the initial price, or extra due to the awkward nature of the ink’s placement.
A wicked variation on the Tree of Life tattoo using capillary like lines in contrast to slightly more traditional leaf shapes. It’s another futuristic twist on ‘natural’ body art. The coolest aspect of this tattoo are the parallel lines representing the tree trunk – everything else in the tattoo plays off these straight, simple lines to form an arresting, well executed piece.
Love the crossover between geometric and fine line needle tattooing. The coruscating diamonds of various sizes all radiate from that small, centre point inside the dotted circle. It’s an epic piece of line tattooing that displays great detail and concentration from the artist. It’s also beautiful placement on the inner forearm.
This ink is similar to the one previous but lacks the uniformity of shapes or the sheer total amount of lines. It’s also cool to look at though. The scissor-type cross lines with diamonds attached standout – they creates a nice contrasting shape to the larger, longer, and broader diamonds of the upper part of the tattoo.
Cheeky. This a great tattoo. It’s a well delivered minimalist concept in a slightly normal than larger size placed on the left shoulder. Both butts are simple, well crafted curvature supported by similar spine and shoulder blade expressions. The right angle background creates depth and angle for the humans to show well against, even if they don’t have hair. The choice to use a small sun in distinct dotwork style is an excellent added touch.
Despite being a diamond full of angles, the way the lines have been arranged gives off a flowing impression akin to waves or curving lines. It’s a deft simple line tattoo. The decision to keep the lines from being uniform – no two are angled the same or display the same thickness – make the pattern within the soft diamond border a lot more interesting and natural – like the individual contours of a leaf or bark.
This is a cool abstract minimalist bull. Love the fact it’s a single line. It’s like those challenges you do during team icebreakers where you’re asked to draw a face with your eyes closed but can’t lift the pen off the page. This one is done quite artistically but you can still appreciate the core animal motif at the heart of the tattoo.
This is a killer whale tattoo (actually, it’s a blue whale, but you know what i mean). There’s no need for fancy bells and whistles, the big mammal is drawn in simple, waving lines designed to work together in forming a flowing outline. The choice to intentionally ‘slip’ with one of the inner lines makes the work less crisp but more endearing, which was precisely what it was put there for. You’ll struggle to find a minimalist tattoo delivered with this degree of skill – it’s a talent just to make this difficult piece look easy.
A simple black band tattoo (the bit at the top is a bracelet) featuring what is essentially three lines, given the negative space middle patch is just as important in sizing out art work as the colored parts are. It’s not an earth shattering piece, but it’s clever and crisply delineated.