Tattoos for Men

Tattoos for men. Whether black or colorful, bold or elegant, let’s get down to the point and agree that we love tattoos. I am certainly attracted to well-executed ink and recognize work that is both a flattering size and on an attractive body part. Are you wondering what makes a tattoo attractive? This is a matter of artistry, symbolism, the confidence to wear the piece chosen, and the environment.

Getting a tattoo is a personal decision. The images represent self-expression. There are no set rules that we need to follow when deciding on the work for us, but it is important to recognize that pieces can look out of place when they aren’t carefully considered. Whether you’re tossing around ideas for your first tattoo, or if this is your seventh, a little thought and planning can go a long way.

Have you recently admired some work, to the point of calling a parlor?

Before hopping on the tattoo bandwagon, ask yourself a few questions. Which images best suit your personality? Which body part will the tattoo look best? And, why are you getting the tattoo in the first place?

Sometimes, the best way to make a decision is to jump into the planning phase and consider all of the options. When it comes to tattooing, jumping in means looking at pictures and talking to artists or others with tattoos. Some people, however, need a bit more information first. This article is a one-stop-shop for all things tattoo-related, tattoo ideas for men which may help you decide on the ink that will best fit your idea and your lifestyle.

Where should your tattoo go?

It’s common to decide on the “where” before settling on a design. After all, designing a particular region of the body may be the reason why some men consider tattooing themselves in the first place. We all know (or heard of) someone who has painted themselves with sleeves, bands or single pieces to show off muscle definition, especially on biceps or calves.

Also, ask yourself if the tattoo placement will pose a problem later. This includes dress code restrictions at work. The neck and forearm are two common areas where tattoos may be inconvenient, depending on your profession. Less common locations including hands, knuckles and face will pose a greater issue for more people.

A few popular body parts are the upper arms, shoulders, chest and calves. The ribs, back, and top of feet are also hot spots. These areas are also easy to cover up when the occasion calls for a formal appearance.

While all tattoos hurt, pain tolerance is another factor when considering placement. Some tattoos will hurt more than other. Here is a list of the most painful tattoo locations from Inked Magazine:

  • Hands (especially knuckles)
  • Feet
  • Knees (especially the back)
  • Elbows
  • Armpit and inner arm
  • Chest and sternum
  • Ribs
  • Head

These are areas where the skin is thinner and needles hit closer to bone. The lack of fat and muscle means less cushion and more pain. Nerve endings that are closer to the skin’s surface only add the how much each needle is felt. Is the pleasure of seeing the tattoo afterward worth the time spent clenching your teeth while getting it done? If not, choose a place less painful.

Are you getting a tattoo for a symbolic reason?

tattoo-for-a-symbolic-reasonEagles represent strength and freedom while an open rose may mean beauty or love. Tattoos can remind us of a time, an event or a person. The image may reflect a job or career path. Either way, the desire to get the tattoo for some people stems from a place of symbolism instead of style.

Tribal designs

Tribal tattoo designs for menOne popular design chosen by men is the tribal pattern. A famous example of one that extends across the chest, shoulder, neck and arm belongs to the actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He explains that the tattoo symbolizes his family and culture, protection and a warrior spirit.

Tribal designs are commonly seen on arms, in the form of half or full sleeves. Like The Rock, many men stretch these artworks across their shoulders, chest, and back. Tribal patterns represent communities within Polynesian, Egyptian and African cultures, in addition to others. Historically, ink markings embedded in the skin may have denoted rank or position, beliefs (including religious affiliation) and family lineage.

tribal-tattoosAs tattoos become more of a trend, it is common to see tattoo artists and wearers mix patterns from different cultures and incorporate other artistic forms of expression. Flowers, animals, celestial bodies, mythical creatures and geometric shapes may all be added to more traditional lines and shapes. Some designs surround names or special quotes.

Tribal tattoos are generally done in black ink and sometimes alternate between thick black patches and thinner lines.

Celtic knots



Men with strong ties to Irish, Scottish, English or Scandinavian descent may opt for Celtic patterns. The Celtic knot is a popular, ornate and elaborate piece that makes for a handsome tattoo. In general, Celtic patterns resemble spirals, chains and woven lines that lack beginning and end.

Celtic-tree-of-life-tattooThe Celtic tree of life is one symbolic representation of the connection between all life. Seasons, life and death, religion and spirituality are all meanings hidden in the depths of Celtic tattoo.

A couple popular other examples include intricate shamrocks, ornate crosses and pentagrams. Many of these examples (like the pentagram and cross) date back to early pagan and Christian cultures. These tattoos are typically black and gray but sometimes people add hints of color, like green.

Asian artwork

Chinese-and-Japanese-calligraphy-tattoosWe’ve all seen Chinese and Japanese calligraphy tattoos. Obviously, symbols that represent words should be checked by a trustworthy source before getting tattooed (unless you can read Chinese or Japanese yourself). What we may not realize is that images also have set meanings in Asian culture. It may be important to be sure of the meaning behind the tattoo you’ve chosen, especially if the image will draw emotions from others who see it.

Chinese-and-Japanese-tattoosTattoos of snakes, koi, dragons and cherry blossoms are artistic and beautiful but also deeply symbolic. Each of these is a benevolent (positive) image that represents wisdom, courage, strength, protection and the elements. Many times we will see mixtures of these images, like Koi swimming through water. Other times the image may be in an awkward contortion, such as the snake eating its own tail. The snake eating its tail is a symbol known as Ouroboros, and represents recreation in Indian culture, as well as Greek and Egyptian cultures.

Asian tattoos are normally seen with lots of colors. Of course, blacks, grays, and shading techniques can also be used, and the color will depend on each individual’s personal preference.

Celestial bodies

celestial tattoos designsThe different phases of the moon, the sun, clouds and stars are all representative of traditional and trendy designs. The sun and moon are polar opposites, representing masculinity and feminity, light and dark, openness and mysteriousness (respectively). A tattoo of a sun and moon together is also a different way to express yin and yang.

celestial-tattoosThese tattoos are normally done in both color and black and white. They are sometimes part of a larger, more intricate design, and other times set apart by themselves.

Maritime and nautical tattoos

Maritime-and-nautical-tattoosThere are too many reasons for why people love the ocean that it would be hard to count them all, and the plethora of maritime tattoos is the proof. Compasses and knots usually attract navy, fishermen, and other types of sailors. Waves and marine life may catch the attention of general ocean lovers, environmentalists, and marine biologists. And sometimes, a combination of images will attract anyone who appreciates the deep rumbling thunder heard on the coast.

Maritime-and-nautical-tattoos-ideasWhether you have a desire to navigate the seven seas, grew up by the ocean, or feel a sense of peace whenever at the beach, a maritime or nautical tattoo will represent the significance. Ships are also famous and the root of creativity for those who wish to mix their love of the sea with other hobbies or interests. Here is a beautiful idea for a mixture of maritime symbols.

What is the deal with sleeves?

sleeves-tattooTattoos can be addictive, and before you know it one may turn into two which may eventually result in a sleeve. Partial and full sleeves are definitely statement pieces that will attract attention. The question is, do you want this type of attention?

Some professions require tattoos to be covered. Lawyers and social workers, for instance, have an image to uphold, and ink peeking from under the cuffs of a suit jacket or sweater won’t fit the bill. Unfortunately, warmer climates and summer months may make hiding these tattoos hard to do. Are you on a career path where exposed ink may pose a problem?

A budget may be another consideration for those interested in these larger pieces. Sleeve tattoos are expensive. The exact cost will vary from designer to designer and image to image, but a full arm tattoo can range between $1,000 to $2,000.

It is a financial obligation, but also a time obligation. This type of job usually takes between 10-20 hours, and sessions are broken up over multiple days.

Consider the time and financial commitments required for this type of work. It is important to be 100% certain that tattoo is the right one for you before beginning.

Leg tattoos are like sleeves but attract less attention.

leg-sleeves-tattoosIf a large tattoo is what you want but you’re unsure of a potential problem in the future, consider a leg tattoo instead. Most jobs that prohibit visible tattoos also require pants in the workplace. Also, jeans are comfortable to wear year round, and many men prefer pants over shorts for many occasions anyway.

The budget and time constraints will still need to be considered but if this isn’t a problem, go for it!

Additional ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Symbolism, location, and budget are all good places to begin when considering a tattoo, but maybe you’re not ready to think that far ahead. That’s no problem. Why not play with ideas? Here is a random list of tattoo ideas that are among the most popular among men.

Phoenix tattoos

phoenix-back-tattoosThese fierce birds symbolize death and rebirth. Some people choose the phoenix to represent a period of change, a battle involving health, or an epiphany. It may also represent acceptance, especially after a period of sadness or loss.

These are visually appealing tattoos and usually come in a myriad of colors. A simple black and gray will also look stunning, especially when the tattoo artist has a handle on shading techniques. These are intricate images that usually take up a lot of space and look great on the back torso.


Crosses-tattoos-designCrosses symbolize Christianity in addition to other beliefs and are among the most popular choices for men (regardless of religious affiliation). These images can be simple or intricate, small or large, alone or mixed with other images.

crosses-tattoos-with-wings1. Traditional crosses represent Christ’s sacrifice, death and rebirth. These can be extremely powerful pieces and are sometimes seen with angel wings, alongside Bible verses or hanging off rosaries.

tattoos-of-ankh-crosses2. The ankh is a cross with a tear-like drop at the top. This is a symbol from ancient Egypt and one that is seen on tombs, artworks and jewelry. The ankh literally means “life”. It is common to see tattoos of ankh crosses by themselves or with other Egyptian symbols.

celtic-crosses-tattoos3. Celtic, tribal and Aztec crosses are extremely ornate and artistic representations of the traditional cross. Each culture also has their own meanings for this symbol.

Birds and Feathers

birds-and-feathers-tattooWhile they don’t always represent Native American culture, it’s safe to assume that feather tattoos will 9 times out of 10. Native Americans revere birds and associate these creatures with spirituality. They are also viewed as creatures of freedom, courage and wisdom. Variations of feathers dangling from dream catchers are very popular ideas.

Of course, the feather can also represent other cultures. For example, Polytheistic religions associated the feather with their sky gods.

Some birds have special meanings associated with them. The eagle elicits feelings of power, bravery and courage. Sparrows, another popular bird, symbolize loyalty, sacrifice and love.

Quotes, titles and song lyrics

quotes,-titles-and-song-lyrics-tattooIs there a line from a book that speaks directly to you? Does music inspire you? A current trend in tattooing is the incorporation of favorite lines, quotes, words and song lyrics.

This is also a way to make a statement without ever opening your mouth. There is nothing quite like the power behind a short and simple expression. Especially those that make people think about a bigger picture.


sugar-skulls-tattoos-for-menThey may look dark but skull tattoos can be bright, happy and beautiful tattoos. In Mexico, the sugar skull represents loved ones who have passed on. This is why they are popular images during Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). They are usually paired with beautiful colors, flowers and artistic, geometric shapes.

Minimalist tattoos

minimalist-tattoos-for-menClean lines, simple pictures and solid shades are the core of the minimalist tattoo. These are for men who want a little ink without an overpowering image. They are also elegant, stylish and very trendy.

One unique minimalist idea is the single line tattoo. These can be as simple as a straight line or as intricate as an entire landscape made up of one continuous stroke.

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