If you’ve decided that the time has come for you to get a tattoo, but are uncertain where to begin the process, this gallery of tattoo ideas for men will give you a great foundation.
There are, of course, several very important decisions you should make before you ink up, because even if tattoos are no longer permanent, thanks to removal techniques, a tattoo is an investment, and should be considered carefully.
Your first big decision, outside of the actual tattoo, is finding an artist who charges reasonable rates and does excellent work that fits your personal style.
Ask friends, visit artist web sites and even actual studios to get a firm idea of the artist who will be right for you.
Your next consideration should be where you want your tattoo. Is it something you want to show off, easily conceal or reveal, or a more personal project that only you will see?
Your body will be your canvas, so it’s important to choose a portion of your anatomy appropriate to your art.
Back pieces are exceptionally well suited to larger concepts, which you may want to expand at some future date.
If you just want to start small, the bicep or the forearm are ideal for more contained show pieces, discrete emblems that can be worked into “sleeves”—either half or full—at a later time.
An important note to consider, whether you’re just getting your first tattoo or are a veteran of the process, is your nervous system.
Anywhere that the skin is thin—feet, hands, or clavicle—you will experience enhanced sensitivity. Concomitantly, in places where an abundance of nerves run close to the surface—upper inner arm, back of the knee, hip and groin area, and lower back—tattooing will be more painful.
That’s why it’s vital to choose a tattoo design and color scheme that are both meaningful and aesthetically pleasing to you. If you’re uncertain what sort of design you’d like, this idea guide and others can provide a sampling of images you might find attractive.
Other sources of inspiration are art galleries, art and mythology books, anthropological texts featuring body arts and crafts from other cultures, and even gardening books. Inspiration is everywhere.
This is a fantastic example of a realist tattoo. The crow is detailed in vivid shades of black through grey, with the outstretched wings featuring impressive shading of the feathers. The great layering of different shades making it look as if the bird is in mid-flight and hovering just above his hip.
This elaborate upper body tattoo mixes traditional elements, particularly the use of different written fonts to create separation amongst the ideas being expressed. Stars are another traditional tattoo type and are used here to good effect. The solid black of much of his right arm and the US across his chest is done flawlessly.
This tattoo is emblematic of the new wave method of tattoo that looks to build on abstract art concepts by using vivid, non-traditional colors with geometric patterns to create visually arresting tattoos.
This style of upper arm half sleeve is popular with beginners looking for some quality ink in the ‘blackwork’ genre. The foam of the waves blends traditional and Japanese concepts, creating rich contrast in shading and add depth to the heavier black and grey of the water.
This is a superbly detailed tattoo melding a range of concepts. The black and red color gives a trash polka vibe, while the bird’s head is rendered with amazing detail, as is the geometric flourish across his chest.
Nothing resonates quite like a classic American traditional tattoo; clean lines, limited but perfectly used patterns and color, and old school fonts make this a classic.
A fine example of the new school tattoo style, this work reminds of a postage stamp writ large. The piece uses the black and gray deftly to create primary detail, then splashes with color and shape to balance the image.
Sentimental images representing pictures of kids’ drawings, art, or photos are a developing style of tattoo.
Another realistic tattoo featuring funky traditional elements. A fine gauge needle has been used, subtly moving the art through a range of black and gray, while the thicker, black lines creates individuality for each image.
Bio-mechanical tattoos have been on the rise, reflected by society’s interest in AI, robotics, and genres such as steampunk. This example makes it seem as if the skin has been removed to reveal the machine underneath.
This tattoo of a heart combines neo classical theme with a realist execution. Once upon a time you would only ever get a heart with an arrow through it, now artists are able to express visions from within an anatomy textbook.
This beautiful piece looks as if a Renaissance artist has opted to use skin instead of the ceiling of a church. The amount of technique, shading, and rendering in this ink would add up to in excess of 30 hours work. It’s breathtaking!
This is the classic Irezumi style sleeve piece. The key is the detail within each image, a richness and clarity of linework. Japanese Irezumi are famous for blending beauty of flowers or waves with beasts such as dragons, serpents, or koi.
An interesting and relatively new style of tattoo art is ‘dotwork’. The artist creates geometric patterns, tribal designs, and images by clustering dots to form patterns. It is difficult and intense process often using just a single needle. When done correctly like this one, the results are mesmerizing.
Another time-honored sentimental form of tattoo denote membership to armed services divisions. In this piece, his service tattoo features text that denote where he ‘belongs,’ while the spare use of color references the US flag and helps it stand out.
This tattoo combines new style with elements of tribal tattoo, and geometric style to create an arresting image. The deftly detailed symmetrical patterns are highlighted by the solidity and realism of the owl. Also note, the thick black triangular and circle pattern providing a central anchor to the image, it was likely done before the rest but is still important.
Watercolor tattoos such as this blue fox almost seem magical when executed perfectly. It’s important to make sure you engage a tattooist who specializes in this style for best results. Make sure only highest quality ink is used to keep the watercolor clarity going for the life of the tattoo.
A lifetime of art on skin. This is the plan for hardcore enthusiasts. There are fantastic portraits, such as Marilyn Monroe, amplified by a variety of Chicano style elements. One thing is certain, these are old tattoos, but were so well done they haven’t diminished with age.
A classic geometric tattoo, the thick black lines form pattern after pattern interlinking. The surprising elements are the dotwork ‘bolts’ giving contrast to the heavy black.
This ink adapts bio-mechanical method to do a sketch style tattoo. The skin is made to look like chiseled away skin, leaving the stone tablet of Roman influence below.
A full back piece using new techniques with different gun speeds and gauges to improve upon the portraiture style. It mixes intense realism with a larger than life aspect from the use of the back as canvas. Being able to create so much detail in comparatively broad brushstrokes are a true art form, as is using the space not tattooed as a defining characteristic of the work.
A beautiful mask inspired version on the Japanese Irezumi tattoo.
A brilliant take on the realism theme. Different shading techniques combine with clean lines to create a large city back drop and serious depth to the piece.
This a great, unique adaption of the sketch theme – it can be either a part of someone’s notebook, or a piece from someone’s treasure map.
A classic sketch tattoo, this artist makes an engrossing image from a seemingly casual sketch, cleverly uses different shapes to make the ink pop, and the doodles an interesting frame for the dog.
This shoulder tattoo is made to focus on the seeming detail at the center of the image, but it’s just from using solid black. An extremely clever creation.
Another new school classic this tattoo uses it’s over the top range of color to make it an electric piece of art.
Polynesian tribal tattoos are almost a religion. Beautiful patterns made with chisel and metal to exacting standard create beautiful rendered patterns that just seem clearer than other ink designs.
These are fun tattoos mixing trash polka – remember the black, red avant-garde aspect – with the classical north American theme like the sugar skull, swallow, and old lady.
Wolf tattoos are a popular expression of animal realism, using different strokes from the gun to create a beautiful blend of gray shading into no ink, which makes the fur seem real and provides perfect facial structure.
A new school take on a geometric classic. It takes skillful tattooists to be able to create such flowing, yet crisp lines. Each line is crafted to complement the others, making a tattoo you expect to be colored not need it.
This tattoo is the definition of trash polka. Weird, disconnected images in black and red made purposely to look disorganized.
This sleeve is a flawless example of new school art. Any of the Tarot cards done individually would be great tattoos, but creating simple borders flanked by elegant roses make it a seamless, beautiful expression.
Is this Jack the Ripper, or Sherlock Holmes? This art recreates a Victorian theme through masterful use of shading – you could think it was drawn with a painting trowel rather than a tattoo gun. On top of that, the detail of Big Ben is a sharp contrast to the woozy nightscape.