The Ultimate 145+ Best Skull Tattoos in 2021
A skull tattoo idea invariably represents death, decay, and the inexorable passing of time – but can also examine the duality and intertwining of life and death.
The skull is also commonly taken as a symbol of death, danger and destruction, while in outlaw culture the skull is a symbol of alienation and rebellion, a totem for those outside and on the fringes.
The following 145+ cool skull tattoo ideas demonstrate the best in skull design, showcasing inspiration you can use to apply to your next piece of body art.
1. Sugar Skull Tattoos
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The Calavera, candy skull, or sugar skull, is recognized worldwide and attractively links to the Mexican Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos).
These over-the-top candy skull designs are a fixture in Mexican culture, less fatalistic than their anatomical counterparts but carrying the same visceral qualities along with increased rates of artistry.
Calavera imprints and cartoon skulls are often more creative and original than the typical skull and crossbones. Additionally, the sugar skull tattoo often include flowers, abstract line-work, and other traditional tattoo flourishes.
2. Hand Skull Tattoos
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Hand Skull tattoos are growing more prevalent in visible body art such as candy skulls or realism design ideas.
Gnashing teeth are a frequent centerpiece of a man or woman’s skull hand tattoo – the bone structure often creates intense detail.
For some a skull hand tattoo revels in the incorporation of macabre elements like flesh and blood, or strikes an old-school note by focusing solely on the skeletal facial structure rather than symbolic meaning.
3. Traditional Skull Tattoos
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The The is a shape that not only connects instantly to human recognition, but it exemplifies death and peace all at once. is a basic symbol humans are hardwired to recognize.
The or is prevalent in traditional ink and often thought of as a symbol of mortality amongst different cultures of the world – as is the for those with a life on the seas.
When used in traditional tattoos brings about themes of death, inevitability, and the cycle of life.
4. Wolf Skull Tattoos
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People seek wolf tattoos for a multitude of reasons, most of those being cultural meanings or personality traits of the canine.
Wolf skull tattoos provide an interesting alternative to fully formed creatures by focusing on the dead skull.
Some believe wolves are vicious and to be avoided at all costs while others find them majestic, protecting each loved one in their pack with great cunning and ferocity.
5. Skull Tattoos for Men
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The skull is one of the few tattoo ideas that have never gone out of style.
Naturally, tattoos are meant to tell a story, to explore the depths of one’s personality for all of the world to see, whether it’s a pirate’s jolly roger or a culturally important tribal skull.
A skull is the perfect visual tale, with freedom for you to get creative with the skull tattoo design elements and application style.
Think about pairing up your skull tattoo with other dominant or meaningful symbolism. A skilled tattoo artist can construct elaborate, detailed works of art from simple ideas.
6. Bull Skull Tattoos
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The uncompromising strength of a rugged steer is magnificently captured in bull skull tattoo design.
These assertive creatures have been revered for their virility among Native Americans and colonial cowboys alike. In essence, these intimidating powerhouses stand for an authoritative presence and tremendous confidence.
Rodeo fans absolutely love these deadly oxen, while Astrology buffs may get a similar thrill from the animal’s kinship with the sign of Taurus.
7. Small Skull Tattoos
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The small skull tattoo is a classical tattoo designs in modern body art.
Symbolizing mortality, immortality and the dramatic interplay between life and death, skull tattoos embody the shadow side supremely beloved by tattoo enthusiasts worldwide.
Small skull tattoos remind the wearer and the world that all beings are part of the cosmic cycle of life and death, whether it’s a solo skull or design incorporating a serpent, bird, butterfly, or pirate flag.
8. Simple Skull Tattoos
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Ancient civilizations often implemented the skull symbol and tattoo to mark “the change” from living to the afterlife.
Early Christians believed the skull to represent the human shell left behind after the soul departed, while the Kabbalah held the skull as a sign of rebirth and hope for a loved one passed away.
The now-famous painted sugar skulls of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrate that the festivities don’t end just because the body does.
Today skull tattoos are worn in a number of styles and fashions, from anatomically precise to Gothically decadent. Many opt for the skull tattoo idea to symbolize triumph over death or adversity, and rebellion in the face of life’s rules.
9. Flaming Skull Tattoos
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Few things offer a more defiant symbolic meaning message than the famed flaming skull, made prominent to signify one’s fearlessness in the face of death and at the prospect of their own demise.
Traditionally depicted in tattoo art as a grinning death’s head or grim reaper embellished by flames, from there the many themes and styles vary according to personal taste.
10. Japanese Skull Tattoos
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Japanese tattoos have enjoyed an interesting and volatile history that has led to some impressive creations in modern tattoo.
Skulls have famously been used to represent a huge spectrum of themes revolving around death, growth, and life itself.
Japanese skull tattoos are unique in that they are respected and revered as a form of positive remembrance for deceased relatives and ancestors, or in folklore to represent the spirits.
11. Unique Skull Design
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Skull tattoo art reminds us that despite everything there is but one certainty and one future waiting for us.
A unique skull tattoo doesn’t need to be a broody reminder that everyone dies but can be symbolic of your appreciation for life itself.
By accepting the inevitable an individual can truly enjoy every moment of life to the fullest, including the sentiment expressed by a beautiful symbolic tattoo.
12. Lion Skull Tattoos
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The skull of a lion tattoo is a deeply symbolic icon depicting themes of strength, wisdom, and death.
The skull is a classic tattoo subject for many reasons, but it’s the fact that such an image conjures immediate feelings of fragility and mortality that draws so many to it.
Animal skull tattoo ideas provide a reminder that while life is a journey, it does have its end.
13. Dragon Skull Tattoos
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Dragon skulls are symbolic of power and the idea of wanting to have the strength of an iconic creature that has captivated and scared people in equal measure throughout history.
Ferocious, brave, and daring, there is nothing about the flying serpent that can be considered weak in Western culture.
The dragon has many meanings in different cultures for a tattoo artist such as strength, fearlessness, wisdom, and generosity.
14. Fox Skull Tattoos
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The fox is a universal symbol of slyness and mischief, the creature recognized as cunning, intelligent, and resourceful.
Fox lore has existed for generations, and the fox has become a popular personality in fables, fairytales, and stories.
Often depicted as untrustworthy or sneaky, the fox has retained his position as a beloved villain for centuries. A fox skull tattoo will almost certainly signal his owner’s mischievous yet lovable nature.
15. Skull Tree Tattoos
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The common tattoo motif combining a dead tree and a human skull represent the link between life and death.
This duality comes in many forms but usually involves a dead tree that takes the shape of the head of a skeleton, often incorporating a badass bird, flower or butterfly as part of the ink.
Many wear the skull tree tattoo to confirm their acceptance of death. One day, we will all pass on from this earth, and the life that goes on will feed on our remains.
16. Owl Skull Tattoos
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In owl skull tattoos, the owl’s eyes are often sharp and forbidding looking rather than wide and wise. These tattoos make excellent chest or even torso pieces — especially with the wings spread at full span.
An owl skull tattoo is impressive whether in color or black and white, no matter the size; it also looks edgy as a forearm tattoo.
Another stunning concept would be the skull of an owl itself. With its gaping eye sockets and curved beak, owl skulls can make a rebellious statement.
17. Skull Back Tattoos
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Playing up oppositional balance is a popular take on skull tattoos.
Many go for the black and gray design with sophisticated black and gray or colored roses drawn around-a perfect embodiment of beauty and decay, of a struggle between good and evil.
You can always aim for the traditional approach that entrench skulls around the idea of death itself, or even the sugar skull tattoo from Mexican culture.
These time-honored pieces can show the world how you’re overcoming a change in life, how you’re evolving.
18. Tibetan Skull Tattoos
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Referred to as Kapal, the Sanskrit translation of a skull or begging bowl, Tibetan skulls have been used in sacred Hindu and Tantra Buddhist rituals for thousands of years.
Tibetan skulls carry a deeply poignant meaning, that of the soul’s ascent to another incarnation and cycle of life. The skulls are carefully collected, prepared, and consecrated, with rich jewels, carvings, and metalwork applied as decoration.
Tibetan monasteries would then employ the skull as a bowl to hold offerings of wine and cakes to the ruling deities.
19. Skull Sleeve Tattoos
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Skull sleeve tattoos carry serious energy alongside retro flair. They also can signify Mexican heritage by being tied to the Day of the Dead.
Flaming skull tattoos are a fine alternative to the standard skull sleeve designs, and the eye sockets also leave lots of room open for expression, or a lack thereof.
In the end, the facial features can be fine-tuned to your liking. Any size is an acceptable possibility, and it is quite easy to get carried away.
20. Skull with Top Hat Tattoos
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The top hat wearing skull is a figure of nebulous origins who has tap danced through the centuries and multiple regions, representing a devil-may-care attitude about death’s demise.
Featured in artwork and cultural festivities, the “gentleman skull” has made appearances in Haitian hoodoo rites, the Mexican Día de Muertos, cigarette advertisements, jewelry designs, nightlife promotions, secret society emblems, and even a James Bond film.
21. Octopus Skull Tattoos
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The octopus skull tattoo is a powerful, dominant image with focus on deep and complex character that others struggle to decipher.
The octopus and skull tattoo is usually formed by the dead skull forming the base of the octopus’s body and the tentacles emerging from the skull.
The design needs a big canvas to be most impactful, so this is a wonderful tattoo for someone looking for a large statement piece.
22. Realistic Skull Tattoos
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Humans around the world have implemented the skull into various rituals and aesthetics, a symbol of mortality and the grotesque beauty of our own anatomy.
While there are many tattoo styles and interpretations of the skull, from Gothic romance to the pirate flag, often it is the realistic skull depiction that strikes the most dramatic note.
23. 3D Skull Tattoos
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3D tattoos are bold, unique, and seek to highlight the theme of the tattoo.
Skull tattoos can mean several different things. Some gravitate toward the skull because of the natural association this figure has to death or darkness.
Others may choose the skull because they have experienced the very worst life can offer. The skull could symbolize the fact that a part of them died with this experience, and the image is a reminder of that.
24. Skull and Rose Tattoos
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Skull and rose tattoos meld two of traditional tattooing’s most enduring images. The beautiful rose flower against the bony visage symbolizing death and danger.
The skull and red rose as a tattoo idea represents duality – the polar opposite positions within a given idea. Life versus death. Health versus decay. Good versus evil. The celebration from the birth of something new as enemies or obstacles have been defeated or cast aside.
Skull Tattoo FAQs
Skull tattoos invariably represent death, decay, and the inexorable passing of time – but can also examine the duality and intertwining of life and death.
The skulls and roses pairing follows this path: decay and beauty, life and death, and; good and evil.
So, if a skull symbolizes the end, then the rose ushers in a new beginning.
Picking them apart, a skull is commonly taken as a symbol of death, danger and destruction. Then, a rose is the ultimate symbol for love, beauty and passion. Such that when their paired off, it can also just be a simple offering of love for the dearly departed.
In outlaw culture the skull is a symbol of alienation and rebellion, a totem for those outside and on the fringes.
A Calavera is an artistic representation of a human skull used in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead and the Roman Catholic holiday All Souls’ Day.
The term is most often applied to edible or decorative skulls made from sugar, clay, or plaster, however they’re also a prominent choice in tattoo art.
Female versions of the Calavera skull tattoo are known as La Catrina.
While contemporary skull tattoo design incorporates death and mortality at some point, the truth is, skulls can symbolize everything from celebration of life to serving as a way to ward off evil spirits.
Ancient Mayan ceremonies featured elaborate crystals skulls imbued with mystical powers, and ages-old Native American rituals used the skulls of humans and animals in righteous ceremonial dances.
Hindu art beautifully illustrates an incarnation of Shiva with a necklace made of skulls. Instead of death, the skulls represent time itself, and the immortal God Shiva outlasting the short lives of the mere mortals he encounters.
In the Renaissance time period skulls were a tribute to earth’s delicate nature. Every one dies, the nature of life is only a temporary one and skulls reminded people that chasing greed will eventually come to an end.
Under alchemical symbolism, skulls were an icon of higher intelligence, consciousness, forethought and judiciousness. They are what separated mankind’s brilliant mind from that of the irrational beast.
During the Mexican Day of the Dead, sugar skull tattoos have taken lively symbol of being one to celebrate the lives of lost loved ones. They are a tribute to those that have passed.
Last but not last, skulls can mean a significant life change. Combine them with a red rose and you have the perfect idea of the duality between good and evil It’s an interesting way to showcase the contrast and balance of life.