Ultimate List of Tattoo Ideas – Inspiration for 2020
If you’re looking to get a new tattoo but struggling to whittle down the sheer number of awesome ideas, this comprehensive list of designs will help your quest for the perfect tattoo.
Gone are the days where you could only pick a limited tattoo flash off the wall at a tattoo parlor. Contemporary tattoo art features a kaleidoscope of ideas, styles, and types of ink application for you to consider and weigh up before making your choice.
Top tattoo artists command large hourly fees to bring the best out of your tattoo designs and ideas, and for some ink slingers you could wait up to two years before getting the chance to sit in the chair at their tattoo parlor. Take the opportunity to check out our gallery of the best tattoo designs in 2020.
Animal Tattoo Ideas
It’s quite easy to understand the allure of animal themed tattoo choices. Most animal tattoos come with their owning meaning, symbolism and style versatility that can be applied to body art design, while domestic pets – from the humble goldfish through to man’s best friend, the dog – all convey deeply personal connections.
1. Butterfly Tattoo
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A butterfly tattoo symbolizes freedom, change, and femininity. The versatility and allure of butterflies is multiplied by the fact they can feature in any color palette or tattoo style. A butterfly tattoo gives you the chance to personalize your design in combination with other elements, such as your favorite flowers and rainbows.
2. Eagle Tattoo
Check out the Top 73 Best Eagle Tattoo Ideas
One of the most enduring symbols of freedom, the eagle tattoo has gone from an American traditional staple to become one of the most popular contemporary depictions of photo realism, or garish new wave brightness.
Your eagle tattoo can be etched into any placement and surrounded by an amazing array of complementary images, from mountainous sunsets to windy beaches.
Your eagle tattoo can be etched into any placement and surrounded by an amazing array of complementary images, from mountainous sunsets to windy beaches. The feathers and wings provide superb chances to depict realistic or subtle shading, shadow and linework application to help your awesome ink idea flourish in color or black and gray.
3. Feather Tattoo
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For some, a feather tattoo is related purely to a love of birds. Others connect the feather symbolically to travel, freedom, the dreams of flight, and supernatural omens. No matter the reasoning for your feathery ink, there’s no doubt that there are brilliant opportunities for quality body art, with a feather equally able to act as the focal point for a tattoo, or complementary accentuating detail.
4. Lion Tattoo
Check out the Top 51 Realistic Lion Tattoo Ideas for more!
The King of the Jungle is a popular tattoo subject across the tattoo world. Lions represent self-control and discipline in Africa, are symbols of royalty and strength in Europe, and were central to balance in Ancient Egyptian civilization. A creature of beauty, force, power and charisma, lions are arguably realism tattoo’s most popular subject. Talented tattoo artists create majestic tattoos, from the size of a coin through to full back pieces, and ranging in ferocity.
5. Octopus Tattoo
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An octopus tattoo is often is a reminder that through different situations in life it’s best to be flexible to solve problems. The octopus is a mysterious, fluid sea creature that entertains and instills fear in equal measure.
The fluidity of the eight tentacles, fierce fathomless eyes and globular body in combination with the unique Octopus suckers provide tattooists the chance to create flowing tattoos, whether a strangling full sleeve, or slashing, abstract new wave design in vividly bright color.
6. Owl Tattoo
Check out the Top 63 Owl Tattoo Designs for more!
An owl tattoo is representative of wisdom and knowledge. In tribal cultures they are linked with death and the oncoming loss of life, while in Eastern mythology the Owl is considered good, protective Feng Shui. An owl design provides a range of feather types, luminous eyes and sharp claws, which when linked with its fearsome reputation as a nocturnal hunter make for versatile ink design choices.
7. Phoenix Tattoo
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A phoenix tattoo means regeneration, rebirth and new beginnings and is heavily linked to renewal by fire. The phoenix is spiritually connected to transformation, death, and rebirth, with a rising phoenix symbolizing an individual has braved the fire of difficult times but has survived and regenerated to start again in a better frame. The phoenix is a popular motif in Japanese tattoo designs and featured often in black and gray tattoos where shading and flowing lines can be effectively drawn.
8. Raven Tattoo
Check out the Top 111 Raven Tattoo Ideas for more!
A black raven represents the duality of good and the bad. It can represent death, darkness and destruction, but is also a symbol of rebirth, recovery, renewal and healing. In Norse theology Odin’s ravens symbolized mind, thought, and wisdom, and the bird is often cited in ancient mythologies for its intelligence.
In the US, the Raven is perhaps the most recognized poem written by Edgar Allan Poe, whose work embraced the Gothic. Poe’s haunting prose and poems make a wonderful subject for body art enthusiasts.
9. Snake Tattoo
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Snake tattoos are some of the most powerful images in the tattoo world and are extremely versatile in the way they are depicted on the wearer’s skin. A serpent offers subtle value symbolically in a variety of American traditional tattoos or offer opportunities to work in painstaking detail with color, scales and fang. A snake tattoo will never fail to garner reaction from those viewing them, from the curious and impressed through to those who think you’re mad to get that type of ink.
10. Wolf Tattoo
Check out the Top 63 Wolf Tattoo Ideas for more!
Another tremendously versatile animal theme, a wolf tattoo traditionally symbolizes loyalty, strength, and instinct. They make powerful ink designs in a range of styles and forms, with new school ideas like geometric tattooing and photorealism being explored alongside pieces looking to test the boundaries of color and flow in wolf concepts.
Once solely the realm of women’s ink concepts, the flower tattoo is now a massively influential and exciting design element used as standalone art, or complementary piece of a bigger design. Flower tattoos can now be depicted in any application, color, or bloom. it’s truly just a matter of finding the right one for you.
11. Flower Tattoo
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In contemporary tattoo art there are myriad meanings and application styles dedicated to getting the most out of your flower tattoo idea. From traditional tributes of roses to mom in ink, to sprawling kaleidoscopes of mandalas, or even the transcendent beauty of cherries in bloom, flower tattoo designs can lead a piece of body art or be a key complementary facet. In bright color, subdued black and gray, or thick black and bold, there’s a flower idea that can hit for everyone.
12. Cherry Blossom Tattoo
Check out the Top 101 Cherry Blossom Tattoo Ideas for more!
Cherry blossom tattoos are a staple of Japanese irezumi – they’re known as sakura – and are becoming more heavily used in western style tattoo. The cherry blossom symbolizes beauty and fragility, and are symbolic of early spring in Japan. Unlike other flowers, the cherry blossom is most often used to support a central design concept rather than be the focal point, as they can be made small or large, be linked into cherry tree designs, or etched as solo petals flowing on the wind.
13. Lotus Flower Tattoo
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The Lotus flower (or Padma) is regarded as a symbol of purity enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. The opening of the lotus flower petals are symbols of spiritual awakening and the expansion of the soul. The lotus is a popular tattoo for devotees of Eastern religion and meditative practices such as yoga. Make sure when you research a lotus tattoo to learn about the colors, as different hues have different meanings you can apply to your body art.
14. Rose Tattoo
Check out the 50 Traditional Rose Tattoo Designs for more!
If you’re a tattoo artist in the States and you can’t etch a quality traditional rose, then you’ll be looking for a new gig in a hurry. Traditional roses are used to signify, amplify and commemorate love and beauty, and can be incorporate into numerous different style application. While American traditional roses are usually red, bold black, or grayscale variations, neo traditional ideas such as blue, bright hues and the abstract have begun to creep into the scene.
15. Sunflower Tattoo
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Sunflowers are a welcome tattoo design because they symbolize strength and joy; tall and bright, they constantly stretch towards the sun. Linked most often with summer, the sunflower is a personality design concept that brims with positivity and good energy. They offer plenty in design options too – ranging from beautifully etched single needle works, through to vivid splashes of watercolor yellow flower and stolid green stems and leaves.
Different Tattoo Styles
Once upon a time not long ago, you had two options: picking tattoo flash from the wall of an artist’s studio, or letting the artist go freehand with only a simple sing needle tattoo machine. The development of tattooing as an art form, coupled with improvements in machinery, ink and needles, has seen the craft explode with new styles and technical applications.
16. 3D Tattoo
Check out the Best 3D Tattoo Ideas for more!
3D tattoos are becoming a hugely influential genre in tattooing due to the brilliant look you can achieve with a quality idea, and a tattooist with the artistry to see it come alive. 3D tattoos lead the new wave because they can influence the depiction of every style and build on tradition with new interpretations. A 3D tattoo can be tagged practically anywhere on the body, provided there’s space to achieve the look and effect you want.
17. Geometric Tattoo
18. Lettering Tattoo
Check out the Top 73 Tattoo Lettering Ideas for more!
There will always be room for traditional lettering tattoos while there are languages to be interpreted, milestones celebrated, and lost loved ones to commemorate. While methods of ink delivery have changed the messages largely remain the same. Whether you wish to ink the name of your newborn child, a shout out your mom, or even transcribe a bible verse or benediction, a lettering tattoo provides the means to get your message permanently etched into skin.
19. Minimalist Tattoo
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A minimalist tattoo is not necessarily simple. While tending to be small and spare minimalist ink is often put together with painstaking detail and thought for elements beyond just the tattoo itself. A smartly designed minimalist tattoo could be as simple as three lines, but have a dozen different possible meanings based on the tattoo viewer, the angle of the subject’s arm, or how the piece links with other pre-existing tattoos.
20. Traditional Tattoo
Check out the Top 103 American Traditional Tattoos for more!
American traditional tattoo originated with the work of Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins, whose flash tattoos took body art to the forefront of counterculture. American traditional tattoos are a mix of images that stretch further back than the 20th century. They are laden with symbolic meanings, drawn up uniquely with bold black outlines, and feature a limited color palette. The rapid development of machine and needle technology, added to the creativity of neo traditional color and ideas, builds on the bedrock of old school style.
21. Trash Polka Tattoos
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Trash polka is one of the fastest growing tattoo styles due to its freedom of expression, outlandish verve, and the sheer audacity of trying to link themes that have little in common. They’re easily recognizable for the disparately manic elements; red, black and white ink, abstract images and/or script with ink splatters, smears, smudges, and other odd patterns in and around the central design.
22. Tribal Tattoo
Check out the Top 57 Tribal Tattoo Ideas for more!
Tribal Tattoo designs are many and varied although most feature use of heavy black ink and a commitment to detail. In Polynesia – where the modern word tattoo originated as tatau – these symbolic designs and rite of passage can differ markedly between tribes and islands. While examples such as the Maori Ta Moko are the first type of tribal ink that comes to mind, tribal design can also refer to Norse, Celtic, or even Filipino cultural body art.
23. Viking Tattoo
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Vikings, and Norse mythology in general, offer an endless supply of tremendous tattoo design ideas. Their larger than life Gods and fearsome warriors, massive long ships built for plunder and trade, complex symbolism, superstition, and rune lettering are all lurid opportunities for body art enthusiasts to create images in color, linework, or black and gray.
24. Watercolor Tattoo
Check out the Top 103 Watercolor Tattoo Ideas for more!
Watercolor tattoo is a poetic way to display variation and less easily defined color. It’s a technique usually etched by experienced professionals who understand the value of using fine quality ink in a different fashion. Watercolor designs are striking for their use of brush strokes, paint splatters, and dripping paint effects, and often combine color with more solid linework to display faces, animals, fish, and abstract wildlife.
25. White Ink Tattoo
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White ink tattoos are often a high risk, high reward strategy as standalone body art. They’re a highlighting and finishing staple, but when paired with blackout ink to create a chalkboard effect can be quite spectacular. These are the most surefire examples of working quality designs into innovative applications. There’s a growing trend of purely white ink tattoos, but it remains to be seen how these types of images will hold up over time.
Cool & Meaningful Tattoos
Symbolism and meaning have been central tenets of tattooing going back to the Ancient Egyptians in antiquity. The body art most important to individuals and cultures always has layers of meaning representing an idea greater than the art itself. Tattoos being cool is a much newer phenomenon linked to artists like Lyle Tuttle and Don Ed Hardy.
26. Arrow Tattoo
Check out the Top 47 Arrow Tattoo Ideas for more!
Arrow tattoos show great range (pun intended) in meaning and symbolism, depending on the numbers of arrows used and the way they are positioned. For example, a single arrow means protection, while a quiver of them represents the strength of a group. Most often arrows are depicted in simple black linework or utilize subtle blacks and grays for geometric design or more complex shadow and shade application.
27. Compass Tattoo
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Traditionally, compass tattoos were inked by sailors looking for protection. They served as guides on ocean voyages and symbolized a yearning for home and that which was left behind. From modest flash tattoos of the past the compass has grown a formidable tattoo genre, symbolizing travel or wanderlust, and often incorporating realistic detail, accompanied by maps, clocks, or other geographic tools.
28. Couples Tattoo
29. Cross Tattoo
See more about - Top 57 Cross Tattoo Ideas
30. Crown Tattoo
Check out the Top 99 Crown Tattoo Ideas for more!
31. Dragon Tattoo
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32. Family Tattoo
Check out the Top 63 Family Tattoo Ideas for more!
33. Infinity Symbol Tattoo
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34. Mandala Tattoo
Check out the Top 63 Mandala Tattoo Ideas for more!
35. Moon Tattoo
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36. Name Tattoo
Check out the Top 57 Name Tattoo Ideas for more!
Name tattoos are some of the most popular sentiments anyone can get inked on their skin. When you think about your children, loved ones, or even the remembrance of deceased people special to you, written name tattoos are immensely important and well worth the permanent commitment.
37. Semicolon Tattoo
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38. Simple Tattoo
Check out the Top 63 Small Simple Tattoos for more!
39. Skull Tattoo
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40. Small Tattoo
Check out the Top 51 Awesome Small Tattoo Ideas for more!
Small sized tattoo art and simple ideas can be equally monumental as those extravagant full back pieces or full sleeve tattoos. There are countless designs, color palettes, and technical ideas to utilize, and a well-drawn small tattoo can be placed just about anywhere. mountains, trees and more. Don’t let their small size fool you, the meaning behind each etching can be enormously profound to the person who wears the ink.
41. Tree of Life Tattoo
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The Tree of Life represents the interconnected nature of the world and is a popular cultural archetype on almost every continent. All life on earth falls under the eaves of this mystical tree. The Tree of Life provides a physical representation of the divine nature of all life, how it links and grows together, which is why in many tattoo depictions the roots and branches connect within a border circle.
Where to Get a Tattoo
Some tattoo placements are eternal. The upper bicep, inner forearm, wrist, chest, and back have been popular areas for ink for as long as people have been getting tattoos. Over the last two decades, as tattoo culture become more popular in wider society, previously taboo placements such as the hands, fingers, neck, and face, are being used for body art and self expression.
42. Chest Tattoo
Check out the Top 87 Men’s Chest Tattoo Ideas for more!
Chest tattoos have risen in popularity with tattoo enthusiasts because they provide equally for larger pieces, while offering smaller body art options linked to personal sentiment. Near or over the heart tattoo pieces will display the deep feelings or beliefs of the wearer. Memorial tattoos and religious images are often found on the chest, while it’s large surface area and connection to the side, ribs and belly allow for big, illustrative pieces to take center stage as well.
43. Hand Tattoo
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44. Face Tattoo
Check out the Top 89 Face Tattoo Ideas for more!
In antiquity, face tattoos were the realm of slaves and criminals marked by owners or branded for their transgressions. Later, western civilization was exposed to other cultures utilizing facial tattoos as culturally significant body art – such as rites of passage, tribal seniority, or prowess in battle. Contemporary face tattoos move closer to other body decoration styles as celebrities and everyday people challenge convention with highly visible ink.
45. Finger Tattoo
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Finger tattoos don’t always work with the success of tattoos located elsewhere. They can become fuzzier or the color put into them will drop out or not show as brightly, even shortly after they’re first tattooed. It’s important you’re aware of possible complications and plan for accordingly. The use of predominantly black ink and frequent touch ups are two methods to ensure your finger ink looks better for longer.
46. Forearm Tattoo
Check out the Top 71 Forearm Tattoo Ideas for more!
47. Leg Tattoo
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48. Neck Tattoo
Check out the Top 39 Best Neck Tattoo Ideas for more!
49. Shoulder Tattoo
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50. Sleeve Tattoo
Check out the Top 107 Sleeve Tattoo Ideas for more!
51. Wrist Tattoo
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Tattoos for Men
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If you’re looking for the best of the best when it comes to manly ink, remarkable talent paired with an insane level of creativity leads to jaw-dropping body art that pushes the limits of what’s possible. Some designs might even make you reconsider the idea of what’s truly professional and what’s amateur when it comes to tattoo innovation and application.
Tattoos for Women
See more about - The Top 79 Tattoo Ideas for Women
While thirty years ago it may have been surprising to see woman wearing visible tattoos, thankfully times have changed. An entire subset of the ink industry caters to tattoos for women. Some people may still think of butterfly and flower tattoo when it comes to women’s ink, but the following gallery demonstrates that these stereotypical assumptions about female tattoo design no longer hold true. Skull tattoo, dagger, or dragon are all fair game when it comes to a woman’s body art, and they don’t have to be a small tattoo design either: with sleeves and large chest tattoos just two placements gaining popularity for feminine tattoos.
First Tattoo Ideas
Are you looking to get your first tattoo but are not sure where to start or what to do? Here are 7 simple pointers that can help:
- Choose something you won’t regret – Choose a design and placement that will remain relevant in 20 years. Personal milestones, your star sign, family name, and commemorating a loved one or pet are eternal ideas that won’t change, as are the topics you love.
- Smart Small – Don’t be afraid to start with a small tattoo, you can always go bigger after learning about your taste for tattoo art (and the pain that comes with it)
- Choose the right artist for your idea – Take the time to choose carefully, work out your budget, and talk to them before sitting in the chair for your first piece. I guarantee you that artists have seen everything, and can help you through the process
- Think of future ink – If your first tattoo is just a stepping stone to bigger things, consider if your placement will hinder future tattoo plans, like sleeve tattoos or full pieces on the chest or back
- Learn about color and style – Understand the differences between line tattoos, black and gray, and color body art, so that you won’t be surprised when they change with your skin
- Tattoo health – Learn about tattoo aftercare. Knowledge is sensible, and smart for a commitment like tattoo
- Have fun – Your first tattoo is scary, exhilarating, and exciting. It will be over quicker than you think
Tattoo Idea FAQs
For ink collectors the coolest tattoo ever is either your next tattoo or your last one. In terms of design, it’s up to your sensibilities, interests, budget, and where you wish to place the tattoo.
If you’re looking for signature tattoo artists and their coolest body art designs, then research the work of masters such as Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins, Sarah Gaugler, Kat Von D, Oliver Peck, Paul Booth, Mark Mahoney, Freddy Negrete, Don Ed Hardy, Scott Campbell, or Nikko Hurtado.
The most popular tattoo themes tell universal stories in ink on skin. Hearts, skulls, roses, ships and anchors form the basis of American Traditional tattoo, while in Japan, dragons, flowers, snakes, waves and clouds make irezumi irresistible.
Memorial tattoos, lettering and script related ink are also hugely influential as are a range of animal themes such as butterflies, lions, wolves, and pets.
Some tattoos you should never get are simple: racist and hate speech, sexist and violent language, or cultural tattoos that aren’t part of your history under no circumstances are ok.
Others are a little different as it means you need to exercise common sense: never get a lover’s name, try to predict the Super Bowl winner, or get ink when you haven’t had spell checked or translated properly from a trusted foreign language source.
Also, never get a highly visible tattoo on the spur of the moment, or one that drops the F or C bomb. Cover ups and laser removal are quite expensive.
Women’s tattoos often feature script or lettering to mark celebrations or loss, while traditional images such as butterflies, flowers, hearts, stars, and astrological symbols retain their popularity. As for placement, tattoos on the wrist, hip and shoulder blade are the most inked options.
With the increase in wider societal acceptance more examples of sleeve tattoos, and those on the forearms are proving popular for women looking towards more detailed designs.
Guys tattoos often start with small, simple ink examples then work up to large ideas. The most popular guys tattoos feature strong animal concepts such as the lion, wolf, phoenix, or dragon. Guys tattoos can also feature script or lettering to commemorate milestones or memorialize lost loved ones. Sleeve tattoos are also hugely popular, while cultural ink such as tribal tattoos or concepts of nation are also being depicted more often.
The least painful areas to get inked are the big fleshy bits well away from sensitive points where nerves travel close to the skin. The upper arm is often tagged for first time tattoo subjects for its comparative comfort, while the inner forearm below the elbow is generally bearable. As for the legs, the front of the thigh is not too difficult, and combined with its size makes a popular spot for large pieces, while the back of the calf can also be considered easy to put work into.
The most painful areas to get tattooed are those where there are plenty of nerve endings just under the surface, but not much flesh or fat below the skin. The armpit is considered one the most painful areas to get inked, along with the bony spots such as the elbow, patella, feet, spinal column and hands. The sternum part of the rib area is painful, while the point of the hip and the area around the kidneys can also be hard to get tattooed if you have a low pain threshold.