For any man getting a tattoo for the first time, it can be a pretty daunting experience. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be. By starting small and going with a simple design, you’ll slowly ease your way into body art, possibly with one of the best tattoo ideas for 2020.
While the pain from getting a tattoo might be temporary, the ink on your skin is definitely permanent.
Everyone man knows this, yet most men still tend to think big when it comes to their first tattoo.
Bigger the better right? Not exactly.
The truth is, smaller sized tattoos and simple designs can look just as good. Not to mention, downright masculine and manly too when done right.
There are countless design ideas to go with from anchors to mountains, trees and more. Even the outlined shape of a camera can have a major significant meaning to a lifelong photographer. Or how about a simple globe for the man who flights around the world in a constant search of adventure.
To help you get creative, I’ve put together a collection of 70 small simple tattoos for men. Understand, these aren’t the most interesting designs in the world, yet their simplicity and uncomplicated nature makes for great inspiration. Don’t let their size fool you, the meanings behind each can be enormously profound!
Small Tattoo Ideas
This funky little message in a bottle plays on traditional elements to create the beach scene. While only small it uses smart shading, along with sharp fat lines to create a strong image.
This minimalist tree is on the tiny end of the spectrum. It’s simple but effective, using a single needle and the work would have been finished within minutes.
This piece is another interesting little tattoo. By giving the image a border, the artist worked within its constraints to create a nice realist scene, with smart shading helping create different facets of earth, forest, and mountains, and shifting line work giving the river flow.
This is a simple but effective geometric tattoo. It’s a skillfully drawn, single line that would’ve taken a good eye to maximize the sharp angles
Another fresh, clean, geometric pattern. The symmetry of this little piece stands out, with the interlocking star at the center being the key part of the artwork – it’s simplicity effectively shows the more complex total the longer you take it in.
This is an unnerving take on a new wave tattoo. The noose features great line work that really pops off the skin, complemented by a font imprint that really stands out – it’s almost like a bright neon sign in a shopfront, but spooky.
This a very cool miniature armadillo. It’s a unique small realism piece that uses its own shape and the part not tattooed in a geometric pattern to make the armor lock together.
A quintessential minimalist bit of ink. It could mean anything, or nothing. But the lines are sharp, well drawn, and placed with precision on the forearm. It’s most definitely a conversation starter.
This is a very clever little tattoo, playing the solid colors of blue-black off against the almost abstract shading to create a series of peaks, with clean lines supporting the changes in shape.
A brilliant piece packing the elements of a large tattoo into small sizing. There are three separate stages – the sun and fluffy cloud-chute created by excellent shading, then crisp rope lines themselves joining to the jumper, who almost looks like an origami person. Top-drawer work!
Ironic tattoos can be a little hit and miss, but mug life is a good way to be, no matter what’s in your cup!
Thick black from a wide gauge needle creates a dominant triangle. The tree here is deftly drawn, using the lines in waves rather than shading and shadow. This image gets more intense the longer you look at it.
This small tattoo features elements of the sketch style combined with geometric ingenuity to create a nice group of mountains, and the solo lines above and below the core piece support nicely without having to do too much.
Sometimes the simplest tattoos are the most arresting. This small piece is reminiscent of old school tattoos from antiquity. Ancient cultures like the Scythians, Picts, and Thracians had this type of tattoo method, often getting inked in manhood and war rituals.
This piece is an excellent example of the blackwork style. No shading, likely a single needle, but rendered with clarity because of a great shape complemented well by the position of the raven across his ribs.
Going in to the 20th century sailors were the most likely profession to get tattoos, particularly merchant seamen going long distances hauling freight. These days anchors such as this one are tattooed more in homage, rather than as a professional benchmark. This is a tricky blackwork version.
Feathers are a popular type of small tattoo. They’re great at being able to convey an artists’ skillset, particularly for shading and linework.
This one is funky. It’s like the challenge you would have to do by closing your eyes and trying to draw a person’s face without taking your eye off the page. The tattooist probably didn’t do that, but it’s a very clean continuous line.
This is a relatively simple idea, but very precise in execution, with a bevy of triangles laid down using a narrow gauge. The freshness of the work results in a great symmetrical pattern.
A cool take on the arrow, it’s a surprising tattoo mainly because of its length. The arrow is straight, the black sharpens the lines, and the shading free image makes it rest well along the inside forearm.
A paper plane echoes the concept of a minimalist tattoo message. Small, simple, but readily identifiable it’s a nice, unique piece.
This tattoo would most definitely be on the upper end of pricing for a small tattoo. Dotwork tattoos are extremely time consuming and painstaking pieces of art, but they deliver an interesting image in contrast to regular shading or pattern usage.
Of the mountains designs we’ve looked at here this is by far the most minimalist, with just a few simple lines linked together to form a range
You’d struggle to find a better example of the minimalist method, a single lonely wave. This would be literally 5 minutes work and would most likely come under the studio’s shop minimum pricing, unless they have a flash day sale or promotion.
This one stands out a bit more, the simple line of pale blue waves contrasting with the black/gray of the shark’s fin to form a cute, small image.
Fire emoji. This is a badass traditional American tattoo. It’s a fine example of clean, black lines, and a deft piece of needle work by the artist. The is the type of piece to show off your old school sensibilities.
There aren’t many tattoos of Nessie, but this one is cool. A solid black monster contrasts with the line work used to create the shadow off water.
Japanese calligraphy is difficult to pull off but this version excels. It truly reflects the traditional Japanese art form and looks like it could have been freshly drawn with cut quill and fresh ink. This is understated but extreme quality tattoo art.
This solid, small chest piece delivers a symmetrical pattern. It’s using a Nordic rune theme to create its style. It would be interesting to see what the piece translates too.
Biomechanics meets realism. The effective use of shading to highlight the lack of tattoo in places as well as create detail makes the makes the piece a standout. It’s a flawless but of design reminiscent of metal knucklebones.
It’s hard to describe black as a vivid color but this Japanese calligraphy almost makes the piece looks fake. It’s delivered well enough to believe it could have been painted on by a master with horsehair paintbrush.
This is very well drawn. The small scale of this piece adds luster to the excellent self-containment. There’s great depth in the image, and the elements of line work and shading work well together.
Small Tattoo FAQs
How much is a small tattoo?
Small tattoo pricing can range from the shop minimum of $50-$80 for the smallest designs – two square inches or less, to around $200 for an hour for more complex work.
Highly skilled, in demand artists can charge up to $500 per hour, while apprentices and less skilled artists are as little as $75.00 per hour.
How much does a small chest tattoo cost?
Chest tattoos range in price from $400 for small scale ink, while intricate chest pieces can cost as much as $2000. Again, the skill level and demand for your artist will dictate the price.
In both cases a 15% tip is the average, but 20% for quality work is usually recommended.