Positive and masculine, realistic and expressive, the manly small tattoo is a perfect addition to any man’s ink collection, or the start of a venture into an artistic life of encouragement and drive. Appreciation is the key to success with a small manly tattoo design.
Small tattoos were once thought to be only for the female population. The size of the ink, the show of tolerance of pain.
However, as the tattoo industry is ever growing and more in the public eye with informative and interactive competitive television shows, the general population has a new understanding and appreciation for the art of tattoos. Meaning and artistic design is more closely appreciated than size among tattoo wearers.
Manly Small tattoos consist of many intricate and simple designs. They range from simple anchors and borderless crosses, to the more intricate Celtic, Japanese and Script designs. Typically, these tattoos are positive and encouraging, often ranging from religious quotations and symbols to that of specific well known positive enforcement nationalities, such as Native American, Celtic, and Japanese. Not to forget the most common of all, nature.
Most well liked and known manly small tattoos are often adorned on the upper chest (or pecs), upper back, wrists, outer shoulder, and neck of most men. These designs most commonly consist of skulls, anatomical hearts, crosses, Japanese lettering, Celtic designs, and religious messages such as Proverbs and Psalms.
1. Outdoors Tattoos
The following tattoos are great examples of how a talented artist can use a creative approach and turn these outdoors objects into beautiful works of art.
Few things are as powerfully bonded to ideas of independence and manhood than time spent in the great outdoors. The smell of fresh mountain air, sleeping under the stars and sharing beers around the campfire; trips into the wilderness have been where a powerful sense of camaraderie is formed for thousands of years.
Tattoos can be a great way to commemorate the importance of these forays into the wild for an individual, and what better way pay tribute to these trips than with some of the essential gear that makes them possible.
At the heart of every kit is the camping multi-tool, the hatchet. This versatile piece of equipment can be used to hammer tent poles, split wood and even open cans of food if someone forgot a can opener. Add a compass to guide the way and a decent backpack to keep it all together and you’re ready to head off into the woods.
2. Small Military Tattoos
Here are some examples of interesting military themed pieces.
War unfortunately seems to be an essential aspect of human nature: as the soon as the third caveman arrived on the scene a conspiracy was hatched against him between the first two. Despite the hellish nature of war and combat, this crucible is also where some of the greatest acts of sacrifice and bravery are born, and the men and women who step up and do their duty to their country forge powerful, life long bonds.
Many soldiers, sailors and aviators choose to commemorate their service and the sacrifices their fellow warriors made with tattoos. While plenty of service members choose to ink their branch or specific tours and operations on their bodies, some prefer less specific nods to their warrior lifestyle. Given the nature of war, often times these patriots choose to adorn their bodies with the tools of their trade: weapons. Whether it is a rifle, pistol or even an aircraft, these weapons of war are the objects that helped define their role in serving their country, and also make for great tattoos.
3. Small Nautical Tattoos
The following pieces are some great examples of nautical tattoos that draw from a number of traditions and styles.
The Western tattoo tradition began in the 1800’s when Captain Cook made several voyages to the South Pacific islands including Tahiti and Hawaii, observing the native populations and their striking full body suits and face tattoos. In fact, during one expedition Cook’s Science Officer and botanist Sir Joesph Banks received a tatau, as did many of Cooks deck hands and crew. They brought this tradition to the West and it quickly spread from port to port.
As time passed, tattoos became more and more popular among sailors, and as some seamen made their way to Japan, this stunning Asian tattoo tradition become incorporated into these nautical designs. In fact, it was the blending of Japanese tattooing with the traditional elements of European and American nautical life that led to the American traditional school of tattoos, perhaps most famously pioneered by Norman Keith Collins, better known as Sailor Jerry.
This inextricable bond between tattoos and the sea continues to this day, and the designs are not strictly confined to the bold lines and simple designs of the American traditional style.
4. Small Tattoos
Here are some great small tattoos that show off the versatility of these lovely little pieces.
Tattoos are a great way to express yourself, and as this lovely tradition continues to grow in popularity and acceptance globally, the people who choose to get permanent ink on their bodies become more diverse. It is no longer generally accepted that if you have a tattoo you are either a sailor or criminal; it once was. Now bus drivers, kindergarten teachers, even politicians can all enjoy the pain and pleasure of carrying their favorite art with them wherever they go.
As the group of people who get tattoos grows, so do the variety styles and designs. Now there are endless pages of flash to choose from, and thousands of talented artists to apply them, or create one of kind works of art for discerning individuals.
One trend that has gained popularity recently, with both men and women alike, is inking small tattoos on the body, either to be incorporated into larger designs or as standalone pieces. While big bold pieces will always be impressive, there is something to be said for small tattoos in visible places, as well as the mysterious effect that can be achieved by having a small piece just peeking out from above a shirt collar or waist band.
5. Small Dot Work Tattoos
In the hands of a talented artist the results of dotwork technique can be different and exciting, and here are a few great examples of what is possible with this popular style.
Over the course of the five thousand or so years that humans have been tattooing each other there have been quite a few different styles that have come and gone. The first documented tattoo was found on a frozen corpse in the Alps known as Otzi Man who had several series of lines, dots and crosses tattooed that coincide with points of stress on the body and have been theorized to perhaps be some ancient form of natural medicine.
Since these prehistoric origins, we have seen everything from the vibrant colors of Japanese body suits to the intricate face tattoos of Maori warriors, all the way to new school pieces inspired by comic books and anime. One recent trend that is continuing to grow has more to do with the style of application and less with the images and designs depicted.
The dot or stipple work style has been gaining traction in the tattoo world thanks to how different it looks compared to more traditional shading techniques, and the variety of images and textures that are able to be executed with this painstaking process.
6. Animal Tattoos
The following are some great examples of animal tattoos that utilize a number of different styles and techniques.
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend; inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read”. While this quote from the unforgettable Groucho Marx is a clever play on words, it doesn’t change the fact that is true: dog is man’s best friend. Many people choose get tattoos that commemorate the special bond they form with a pet, whether it is a dog, cat or hamster, but these are not the only reasons people choose to get animal tattoos permanently inked on their skin.
Other people choose tattoos of animals that they feel have powerful traits. Some people already see these traits in themselves while others believe permanently branding these creatures on their body will imbue these traits in themselves. Still other people decide to get animals tattoos for more aesthetic reasons, and the majesty and beauty of the animal kingdom provide them with ample material to draw from.
7. Small Abstract Tattoos
Here are some great examples of tattoos that use a more abstract and imaginative approach to this permanent art form.
Tattoos, like all art forms, are limited only by imagination and the skill of the artist doing the work. This means that any number of concepts, designs and techniques can be utilized to create these stunning works of permanent body art. When examining the practically endless amount of tattoo work available on the internet one becomes immediately aware of the sheer volume and variety of the tattoos that people have adorned their bodies with.
Some people have full body duplications of impressionist paintings tattooed on their back, while others commission artists to accurately recreate black and white portrait photographs of deceased loved ones in a photo-realistic style. The possibilities truly are endless, and for some a more abstract approach is what best suits their taste and sensibilities: whether this means loose, gesture like drawings or broad swaths of vibrant color is up to the client and their artist.
8. Black and Gray Tattoos
Here are some two fantastic examples of tattoos that vary in style and application but stay true to black and gray ink.
9. Black Work Tattoos
The following pieces are some examples of how, with a clever design and a talented artist, no color is necessary to create interesting tattoos.
As we have seen, there are endless ways to express yourself through the incredible medium of tattoos, and some people deal better in extremes. For these people, color is out of the question; for these people even gray wash is too watered down. Only black is bold enough to express the unambiguity of their aesthetic. Thankfully, in the world of tattoos, black work is a style that has been around forever and there are many talented artists who specialize in these stark designs.
Small Manly Tattoo FAQ’s
How much does a small tattoo cost?
Tattoos can be a bit tricky to price, since every tattoo is different and artists’ rates can vary greatly based on a number of factors. That being said, we will give loose guidelines on how much these small tattoos should generally cost.
First off, most if not all tattoo shops have a minimum cost. For many shops this is around $50 USD—give or take—so even if you just want a small circle on your thumb that might only take 30 minutes to complete, expect to pay a shop minimum, and don’t even bother trying haggle this standard fee.
The next major factor in determining price is the artist. Is the artist in high demand? How long have they been tattooing? Are they regularly featured in magazines and other tattoo media? All of these effect price, with some of the best artists charging hundreds of dollars per hour as well as often having their own minimum fee that might be different than the shop’s. For these high end artists, even small tattoos may cost upwards of a thousand dollars.
Long story short, these prices can vary greatly, so the first step is heading to your local shop, finding an artist whose work you like and making an appointment for a consultation.
Do tiny tattoos last?
Short answer: no. Long answer…maybe. Small tattoos are great, and can be well executed depending on the artist and the design, but the pieces that use fine lines and subtle shading will never last as long as other pieces that utilize larger areas of skin, bold lines and saturated color. Often the ink can “fall out” of these small designs, or sometimes bleed together, slowly turning into a blob over time.
The human body’s immune system sees tattoo ink as a foreign body and it is actively trying to push out, dissolve or absorb it as soon as the needle hits your skin. This means that the bolder the lines and color and the larger surface area the better the chances of a piece standing up to the test of time. “Bold will hold” is an old tattoo maxim that rings as true today as it did back in the days of Sailor Jerry.
This is not to say that small tattoos are pointless. A good artist can still achieve a high level of saturation that gives these small pieces a better chance of holding up, it is just important—as with all tattoos—to consider what the piece will look like 5, 10, 20 and 50 years down the line.
They are permanent after all.
Enjoy these tiny tattoos? Check out the links below for some other useful galleries to aid in small sized ink inspiration:
- Coolest Small Tattoo Ideas
- Top 47 Bad Ass Small Tattoo Ideas
- Awesome Small Tattoo Designs
- Small Nature Tattoo Ideas