For as long as skulls have become a popular tattoo element, they are deemed as symbols of mortality and death. These have gained popularity generations after generations of bold aesthetics. But skull tattoos are more or less misunderstood. They are not just a symbol of morbidity. There are also some lighter and optimistic designs for a skull tattoo.
In general, skull tattoos could have various meanings. These all depend on how the skull was depicted. It also has a lot to do with the wearer. They can manipulate the meaning of their tattoo design. It could have a different meaning depending on how you look at it.
Brief History of Skull Tattoos
Perhaps the oldest symbolic meaning of skulls was obvious: death. This may have begun when the skull and crossbones were used in entrances of Spanish cemeteries. The tradition began many centuries ago. As the symbol spread with Spanish culture over the years, so was the negativity surrounding the skulls and crossbones.
Nonetheless, the symbol became more popular when it was used by pirates on their flags. These were popular around the 17th and 18th century. These flags were used as to terrorize and spread fear among anyone who sees them. It became a warning that if they cross these pirates, they would be killed. Until now, pirates are often connected to the skull and crossbones logo. Even tattoos inspired by these sea bandits are accompanied by the symbol.
The skull and crossbones logo is still being used as a way to denote whether a substance is poisonous. You can see it on chemicals that can be toxic for any living creature.
It is no surprise skulls are associated with death. However, the meaning is becoming more and more positive these days. While it is still more connected to death, the vibe is more positive.
Meaning of a Skull Tattoo
A tattoo can mean differently from one person to another. A skull tattoo is not an exception. Each person can give a different meaning to their tattoo, regardless of whether it is the general meaning or not.
Then again, many tattoo enthusiasts get a tattoo with a specific meaning. They research it online and then find a design that suits their taste. If you are one of those persons, here are the general meaning of a skull tattoo:
- Life cycle
- Overcoming death
- Changing from a past life
- Overcoming a tough time
They say that a skull tattoo, depending on how it is depicted, has a different meaning. So, a skull tattoo design with wide, gaping, and hollow eyes often means death. Then again, you can have a different point of view towards the symbol. It could mean that you are not afraid of death and that you accept it as a part of life.
For some, skulls can be inspiring. It can be that they have almost died (say of an accident or a disease) but they were able to overcome it. This is a great way to remind you that life is short and that we should always be careful and live life to the fullest.
Many people also deem the skull as a symbol of rebellion. In a way, this is indeed a perfect design for them. It could mean they have rebelled and faced tough times before but now they have overcome it and changed.
Common Variation of Skull Tattoos
Skull tattoos are mainstream design so it is no surprise there are common variations out there. These designs can inspire your next ink or you can have them if you find the perfect one.
- Sugar skull tattoo – This certain design is derived from Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration. This is the biggest symbol of the celebration. These skulls are usually decorated with colorful palettes, swirls, dots, and flowers.
- Bull skull – This design is rather popular in Texas and Western side of the United States. This is often used to symbolize strength, courage, and agility.
- Skull and crossbones tattoo – As previously mentioned, this is the most popular logo associated with skulls. It is often linked to death, poison, and pirates. Those who want a pirate-themed tattoo could definitely acquire this ink design.
- Grim Reaper – The grim reaper or the angel of death is usually depicted as a skeleton in a black hooded robe. As a tattoo design, this could symbolize the circle of life, courage, and even good fortune.
- Rose and skull tattoo – This is pretty much one of the traditional tattoo designs. It includes a classic skull with a rose on its mouth. This is a popular design that symbolizes the duality of life and death.
- Skull and serpent – Yet another popular traditional tattoo design. This includes a skull and a serpent, often slithering in the skull. This is known as a Gothic symbol that represents knowledge’s persistence even after death. The serpent is often the symbol for intelligence and skull for death.
- Celtic skull tattoo – In Irish and Celtic culture, the skull is deemed as the seat of the soul. As a tattoo, a Celtic skull is known to represent portals of new understanding, power, and transience.
Skull Tattoo Designs for Men
For men, the typical tattoo designs are manly: bold and edgy. The designs are also more complicated than usual, with various designs that highlight the element well. They are often black and white but many designs nowadays are also colored. Here are some designs that men would want to have.
- 3D skulls – These are pretty hard to do, considering that making a design 3D requires immense skills. This is known as a modern tattoo technique and includes highlighting and shadowing to give the impression of being real. For tattoos, you can create a photo-realistic skull tattoo that looks real and hollow.
- Adding elements – This could include one or more elements in addition the skull. For example, a black and white 3D design of a girl’s portrait with a skull beside it. You can add silhouettes of butterflies or birds flying around. Each element has a different meaning which could come together to give a deeper symbolic meaning.
- Skull tattoos and diamonds – Or you can choose from rubies, emeralds, onyxes or any other precious stones and gems you like. You can put the stones around the skull or embed it on one of the skull’s hollow eyes.
- Skulls with a crown – Crowns often represent power, dominance, and royalty. You can add it with a skull tattoo and pay attention to the details.
3D styles are now common with regards to bad-ass masculine skull tattoo designs. Since it has the impression of being a real skull, the effect is more surreal and terrifying.
Placement Ideas for Skull Tattoos for Men
You can put your design anywhere you like. However, the bigger the tattoo, the more bad-ass it looks.
With that, skull tattoos for men would look absolutely awesome on the back or chest. These are areas with enough space to create 3D and complicated designs. Artists can also spend more time creating the details. There is also enough space to play around the design and give it a background or add more element.
Apart from the chest and the back, the arms are also popular. Most men tend to have full, half, or quarter sleeves.
Nonetheless, bigger tattoos take more time to complete. It could take a few sessions to actually finish the design.
Skull Tattoo Designs for Women
Skull tattoos does not necessarily have to be morbid and ghastly. They can also be made to look delicate on women. Here are some tattoo designs that will make you want to have one.
- Skulls and flowers – This is actually a common theme. Flowers could either be an added element and placed on an eye. Just as with a traditional tattoo, it could also be held in the mouth. But it can also be a background of sorts for a more girly vibe. You can choose from many different flowers such as roses, lilies, poppies, carnations, and more.
- Sugar skulls – Given their decorations, sugar skulls are perfect skull tattoo designs for women. You can make them as colorful as you want. Decorate it with flowers and swirls and make it as girly as you want.
- Bedazzled skull – Diamonds are girls’ best friend so why not incorporate them on your tattoo? Instead of just one giant diamond, make your skull tattoo look glamorous with more diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires.
- Cartoon style – How else could you make a terrifying tattoo look a lot less terrifying? A cartoon style tattoo would be the answer. Instead of making hollowed circle eyes, you can turn them into heart-shaped, pink eyes. You can also add bows, eyelashes and more to make them look girly and quirky.
- Watercolor style – This would be the best coloring for a girly skull tattoo. Watercolor style tattoo is basically adding colors with a quality much like with a watercolor. Those are rather lighter and washed out. You can choose this as a background or add splashes of “watercolor” on the skull.
Tattoo Placement for Women
Since women tend to go for delicate and subtle looking tattoos, their tattoos are rather smaller. Here are some great placement for these smaller tattoos:
- Base of the neck
- Inner forearm
These areas just have the right amount for a subtle or minimalist tattoos. Apart from that, they also make the tattoos look sexier and sensual.
If you want a more complicated tattoo but don’t want a large one, you can have it on your chest, upper or lower back, thighs and your legs. Nonetheless, the sternum and rib tattoos are getting more popular for women these days. You can definitely make a tattoo design that will suit your preferred placement.
More Skull Tattoo Design for Everyone
Skull tattoos can be very versatile. You can create more designs with them to suit your personality and your style.
You can create a skull design with a butterfly or any sort of moth with flowers. Quotes can also be added on your design. Just be sure that it fits your design so everything will fit together.
It would be better if you have it in 3D or pay attention to the details. Doing that can create a certain vibe you want. It could be creepy, nostalgic, scary, or even sad.
Traditional tattoo style is still definitely in. There are a whole lot of traditional tattoos with skulls as the subject. As previously mentioned there is the skull and serpent and skull and rose. You can also try a skull in an aviator’s uniform.
If you want a more unique approach, you can try to create designs that can have a double meaning. Or you can substitute the skull with something that can mean “deadly.” For example, Snow White’s apple is poisonous so you can try creating an apple that is actually a skull underneath the peel. Creative tattoo designs are the best way to make a one-of-a-kind tattoo.
Finding a Tattoo Artist
The most important part of getting a tattoo is finding the artist who will do it. You will need a person with expertise on the certain style of tattooing you want to have. Say, you want a 3D tattoo. It is essential to find an artist that is excellent at doing this certain style. This is one of the hardest techniques so not everyone can actually do it.
The result and the look of your tattoo will depend on the artist you have found. In order to find the best one, you should look into their portfolio. This is where you can see their work.
If you know someone with a certain tattoo similar to what you like, you can ask them where they got it. Recommendation from people you know makes it easier to find a reliable artist.
When looking for a tattoo artist online, you should read through the reviews they had. These are unbiased opinions of their former clients.