The Day of the Dead, often confused with Halloween, is an important Mexican tradition celebrated from October 31 to November 2. In those days, the Mexicans honor the dead and believe that they visit the world of the living. This event is very important to them and they spend all that they could for it.
In fact, the Day of the Dead, or Dia de Los Muertos, is so important to them that it became an inspiration for a more permanent commemoration- tattoos. Today, the world may not celebrate the tradition along with the Mexicans but the Day of the Dead tattoos are becoming more and more popular.
Main types of Day of the Dead Tattoos
Day of the Dead tattoos had, without a doubt, been thriving for a long time. It has traveled around the world and made its mark. Usually, though, when we take something and introduce it to the world, different artists put their personalities into the tattoos and come up with entirely different tattoos that are no less beautiful.
Thus, the different types of Dia de Los Muertos tattoos are born.
The traditional artworks done in honor of the Day of the Dead features the ‘Lady of the Dead’ goddess. Traditional Day of the Dead tattoos are not an exception. Due to that, if you look at traditional Day of the Dead tattoos, you will see the almost identical faces staring back at you.
That does not mean that traditional Dia de Los Muertos tattoos are identical, though. Even before, people will change or add something on the tattoo to make them more personal. Usually, they add dates to commemorate an important person they lost.
Sugar skulls are pretty much the same as the traditional Day of the Dead tattoos. The main difference is that sugar skulls are… skull versions of the Lady of the Dead. They are literally the goddess sans the flesh and other details present in a traditional Dia de Los Muertos tattoo.
The empty skulls, given the fact that they are the materialization of actual death, represent the recognition of death. Sugar skulls tattoos are mostly done in grey and black. Of course, you have every right to change things up. Just bear in mind that different colors carry different meanings.
You can easily personalize a sugar skull tattoo by including important dates, like in traditional Day of the Dead tattoos, on the design and putting other images or adding more skulls.
This type of Day of the Dead tattoos are extremely personal. True to its name, self-portraits are tattoos based on the actual face of the person you lost that you want to commemorate through your tattoo. To get a self-portrait tattoo, just take the picture of the person you want to be tattooed on your skin to an artist.
The only bad thing about self-portraits is that some people may find it too extreme to have a picture of a dead person permanently drawn on your skin. It’s all just a matter of perspectives, really. Oh, and you would want to go to a very good tattoo artist. There’s nothing worse than a self-portrait tattoo that doesn’t actually look like the person you want to memorialize.
Just like the name suggests, hybrids are combinations of different types of Day of the Dead tattoos. Usually, hybrid tattoos feature a combination of traditional and sugar skull tattoo- half of it the face of the goddess and half an empty skull. Some are a half self-portrait and half sugar skulls.
You can combine any aspect of the other three types of Day of the Dead tattoos. Go for a self-portrait with sugar skull as half of the face then add the intricate designs involved in a traditional Day of the Dead tattoo for good measure.
Hybrid tattoos are basically a very free form of a Day of the Dead tattoos. You can literally do everything you want. You can make the tattoo as small or as big as you want.
But this freedom comes with responsibility. Mainly, you have to make sure that the tattoo artist can deliver. You want adventurous but stunning Day of the Dead tattoos and not some crazy tattoo filled with meaningless clutter.
Popular Day of the Dead Tattoos and their Significance
Like other kinds of tattoos, Day of the Dead tattoos come in different variations and designs. A lot of the designs give a tattoo not just aesthetic appeal but also specific meanings and are, most of the times, symbols for something.
If you are looking for inspirations for Day of the Dead tattoos, it will help to know the more popular designs just to give you a general idea about them. First and foremost is the goddess. Like we have stated earlier, the Lady of the Dead is the primary symbol of the Dia de Los Muertos.
A tattoo design with the goddess holding a skull is quite popular. There are times when the Lady of the Dead is drawn only in black and grey to give the design a more eerie look. Some of the times, the goddess is drawn with a sombrero (a hat with wide brim, usually made with straw or felt). These tattoos tend to be more colorful and depicts the Lady of the Dead in a more cheerful light.
Another kind of tattoo featuring the Lady of the Dead celebrates the Day of the Dead, which looks at death as not a bad thing but instead just a step towards rebirth. This tattoo, dubbed ‘In the Presence of the Goddess’ shows the goddess in a particular way- with her hands holding her face and with a sewed up mouth.
There are times where the Lady of the Dead is shown as the queen of Autumn on a Dia de Los Muertos tattoo. These tattoos utilize the red color of autumn with leaves that portrays death hand in hand with rebirth. There are also tattoos where a face of a girl is superimposed to the face of the Lady of the Dead.
Day of the Dead tattoos does not exclusively exhibit the Lady of the Dead. There are also tattoos with just skulls. A popular one is known as the ‘Painted Skull of the Dead’ which features a skull with vibrant colors. It’s generally seen as a more fun representation of Dia de Los Muertos.
Another prominent figure on the celebration of the Day of the Dead is the mariachi bands. Because of this, mariachi bands are also popular design in the tattoos. There are tattoos showing a mariachi with a guitar, dead and in the form of a skeleton, which signifies the commemoration of the dead loved ones.
There are variations where the mariachi is shown in a happier setting. Actually, mariachi is often times used to paint the Day of the Dead as a fun celebration instead of a somber one. There are even tattoos that are done for the dead but for an undying love instead.
The Day of the Dead Lovers Tattoo are exactly like that. Some couples get matching tattoos of skeletons on their forearms. When the couple put their forearms together, the skeletons will look like they’re embracing each other.
The colors used in a Day of the Dead tattoo and their meaning
Traditionally speaking, Dia de Los Muertos tattoo is done in black and shades of grey. Nonetheless, you can also get a tattoo filled with vibrant colors. Along with the different expressions depicted by artists through the faces and skulls, each day of the Dead tattoo can carry a different meaning and story.
The most common color used in Day of the Dead tattoos, mainly because it is the tradition, is black. This color signifies death. In Aztec mythology, the color black implies the void.
White, on the other hand, embodies innocence, a spirit’s purity, and hope. Each splash of indigo or purple marks the pain one feels because of losing someone. This color, in Catholic symbolism, bears the meaning of suffering and grief.
Yellow and orange are the opposite of purple and indigo. They represent marigold, light, and sun. The colors pertain to a message of hope, it means that a person can rise up again after grief.
In a Day of the Dead tattoo, red stands for blood and true love. Sometimes, red is also used to symbolize the sacrifice of Jesus. Lastly, pink is used to represent celebration.
Ideal Placement for Dia de Los Muertos tattoos
Day of the Dead tattoos, especially traditional ones, are very complicated. Their main features are faces or empty skulls, and most of the times they are full of details that make the tattoos come alive. For that reason, Day of the Dead tattoos are often quite large.
This limits the parts of the body where you can put Dia de Los Muertos tattoos. Really large ones can only be placed on your torso, most of the times on a person’s back. Some tattoos can fit on shoulders, arms, thighs, legs, and feet.