30 Most Badass Shoulder Tattoos for Men

There was never any debate that tattoos were only for men. Tribal tattoos were worn by both men and women and in some cultures, it’s the women who tap the tattoos on men. Today, anyone can have a tattoo, and wear it with aplomb and pride. However, like fashion, there are styles and types of tattoos which work best on men, if only because of the message or the projection needed to pull off the design.

Below are thirty tattoos that work well with all kinds of men, for different reasons. These tattoos convey deep, thoughtful messages, or are themselves the message. Although tattoos do not have a particular sex, these tattoos are specifically designed for men.

1. Dragon Shoulder Tattoo

Dragons are the favorite types of tattoo for men for many decades because this mythical creature symbolizes power, wisdom, and strength. Men love how a dragon tattoo looks powerful on them. These kinds of tattoos are also a flexible option as they can be used in many different art styles. For a vigorous shoulder tattoo, you could choose a Japanese or Chinese-style dragon as their elongated and snake-like bodies will look amazingly unique wrapped around your chest, trap muscle, and bicep. 

2. Eagle Shoulder Tattoo

The design of an eagle tattoo depends on the person’s reference. Most men love this type because it can represent their masculinity, and it gives them a lot of options for a design. It could be an eagle skull, a tribal or weapon design. For some, an eagle or a bird of prey makes an intimidating inking but a very powerful one. A soaring eagle about to attack looks excellent as a shoulder tattoo. The tattoo artist can make the wings tapered to span around the bicep and across the chest.

3. Shoulder Blade Tattoo

Shoulder blade tattoos are one of the most uncommon placements. That’s what makes them stand out for a lot of tattoo enthusiasts. You can choose a big tattoo with many details because your shoulder blades are part of your back. One of the well-known designs for shoulder blade tattoos is wings. You can customize the design of the wings, added with the different art styles and realistic details with black and white shading. Most tattoo artists make the feathers extend more to the back of your arms. It looks striking and appealing that way.

4. Shoulder Tattoo for Black Men

The shoulder is a popular area for tattoo placement, especially with black men. The reason is that tattoos in this area represent strength and power. The most favorite designs include family tributes, lions, and religious symbols. It is crucial to consult a tattoo artist first who has experience tattooing black skin before getting a tattoo on the shoulder part. Remember that tattoos can age differently on dark skin tones compared to light skin. Some ink colors and shaded won’t look lively as well with darker skin tones, even when fresh. Plus, dark skin tends to scar more easily.

5. Tribal Tattoo

It reached the mainstream during the ’90s. This tattoo style and design stay popular even today. The curved and thick lines are ideal for a shoulder placement tattoo because they appear like ‘moving’ with your body. The tattoo artist will use your muscle to guide where the lines of your chosen design should be placed and shape the inking tattoo to match. The result of the tribal tattoo will definitely look striking and masculine. 

6. Small Shoulder Tattoo

It is true that your shoulder is an excellent area for larger tattoos, but small designs will also look great. You can choose many designs like geometric symbols, a simple but meaningful tattoo like a cross, or a one-word inking from your favorite quote. Additionally, smaller design tattoos take a little time to apply, making it the best choice for a first tattoo since it will be least painful on your part. 

7. Religious Shoulder Tattoo

Most men choose the shoulder for a more meaningful tattoo like a religious design ink. It can be associated with strength and a powerful belief in God. Getting this type of tattoo on your shoulder will show how strong your faith is and the foundation it gives into your life. When it comes to the design, there are several options to choose from: a dove of peace, a simple cross, or a sacred heart. 

8. Celtic Shoulder Tattoo

The Celtic design and style for a tattoo feature striking knots and signs. It makes even perfect if you place it on your shoulder. The line and circular symbols help shape the tattoo around your muscles, which means the overall design won’t look static on your skin. Celtic spiral designs also convey a deeper meaning. Some believe that it represents the union of the physical and spiritual world, eternity, and the sun’s life-giving energy.

9. Maori Shoulder Tattoo

In Polynesian culture, tattoos are part of their tradition, especially with the Maori people of New Zealand. Maori inking is called ‘ta moko,’ and its origin involved applying ink using chisels rather than needles. Today, many Maori men are tattooed with modern tools to make the process less painful and smoother. The nature of Maori tattoos can reveal details about their tribe, achievements, status, and family. For most Maori men, the shoulder is a famous and most traditional area to put a tattoo on.

10. Small Shoulder Blade Tattoo

The shoulder blade area can be painful to put a tattoo on compared to the other parts of your shoulder, like the bicep. That is the reason why most men choose a smaller tattoo in this placement. Matching shoulder blade tattoos are the best choice to consider, like a sparrow or double stars. They are well-known options as they add symmetry and balance to the overall design. If you want to emphasize your broad shoulders and back muscles, shoulder blade tattoos are a great way to start it. 

11. Polynesian Shoulder Tattoo

In Polynesian heritage, tattooing in men is a sacred and traditional right of passage. Polynesian tattoos consist of curved lines with solid black shapes and geometric symbols. They have a unique and distinctive appearance, as well as rich with cultural meanings of Polynesian heritage. The designs and styles themselves are created from nature-inspired and protective symbols. One of the most popular is the wave design, which they believed to increase and preserve a person’s life force or ‘mana.’ Shoulder tattoos and armbands are traditional in Polynesian cultures too. 

12. Tiger Shoulder Tattoo

Tigers are prevalent tattoos for men as they represent fierce, active, and powerful predators. Tigers are also considered a significant symbol in Asian culture; that’s why they are primarily tattooed in the Chinese and Japanese art styles. A tiger looks impressive on your shoulder as its striped body can be curved to fit around the muscles. The result is a realistic tattoo that is full of movement. 

13. Quarter Sleeve and Shoulder Tattoo

A quarter sleeve tattoo does not tend to extend as far as a full or half sleeve tattoo, ending only around your bicep area. Since there will be less space for this design in your arm, it will look excellent when paired with another shoulder tattoo. Most men in traditional Polynesian chose to be inked in these areas. It is important to look for an experienced tattoo artist who can adapt to your design and not warp the overall look because the upper arms have curved sections from your bones and muscles. The goal is to have the design move with your body too, and only a good tattoo artist can do it for you. 

14. Angel Shoulder Tattoo

An angel is an excellent choice for a shoulder tattoo. Yes, it can have a religious meaning, but it can also symbolize a person’s ‘guardian angel’ who protects them from danger or a loved one who has passed away. Still, many Christian men choose angels as a tattoo design to show their faith. The most well-known choice is the archangel Michael, who is the leader of the army of God.

15. Black Shoulder Tattoo

Men who aim for a complex and detailed tattoo should consider an ink that extends across their back and shoulders. If you already have a sleeve tattoo, choose similar elements from the existing tattoo and have your tattoo artist continue the design further. If you do this, it can provide your final tattoo a more connected look. But, if you are not fond of the idea, the back and shoulder area are great options for a narrative tattoo from your favorite stories, family, or religious tribute for a meaningful design. 

16. Lion Shoulder Tattoo

A lion represents power, confidence, and strength, which is why this tattoo design is popular and loved by men worldwide. You can adapt a lion ink and design in several ways, from the art patterns to the position of your design. Try a roaring lion profile with its head to stretch from your bicep to the chest for the shoulder part. 

17. Shoulder and Half Sleeve Tattoo

A half sleeve ink extends from the shoulder to the elbow. A badass choice for this type of tattoo is a knight’s armor, complete with plate, scratch details, and chainmail. You can choose to add your family crest as personalized and cool details. It’s not a typical design as it speaks to the hero inside you and will constantly tell you to live up to the knight’s bravery, integrity, and values.

18. Skull Shoulder Tattoo

Skulls are one of the most flexible tattoo designs. From the Gothic skulls to Mexican sugar skulls or even realistic anatomical skulls, they still look great in every tattoo style. Since the skull tattoos consist of circular patterns and curved elements, it suits well on the shoulder placement. Additionally, you can effortlessly adapt your skull shoulder tattoo to make a badass skull sleeve ink. 

19. Star Shoulder Tattoo

For men looking for simple but meaningful and striking tattoos, stars are a good choice. Stars were usually used for navigation and visible at night, that’s why it conveys guidance, especially in the darkest times of your life. For most people, the stars represent their faith in God too. A better option for a shoulder tattoo is a trail of several stars that stretch from the trap muscles down to the chest. 

20. Clock Shoulder Tattoo

As clocks show time, they are said to symbolize life and death when inked as tattoos. It’s a meaningful reminder that your time on Earth is limited, and you have to make the most of it every day. Since the clock has a powerful meaning to people, they are most likely to pair it with other symbols. For example, clocks and flowers could symbolize the transience and beauty of life. At the same time, clocks and owls represent the gaining of wisdom. Like any other circle and spiral designs, clocks look excellent on your shoulder, especially on the curve of your shoulder joint. 

21. Colorful Shoulder Tattoo

While black ink is the most popular one for shoulder tattoos, there is nothing wrong if you choose a colorful design too and still look equally striking. If you have a complex and extensive shoulder tattoo, colors can create different elements and make the design stand out even more. In fact, in Japanese-style tattoos, they traditionally associate many colors, giving the tattoo designs a dynamic and distinctive look.

22. Upper Back Shoulder Tattoo

Upper back shoulder tattoos are well-known for men worldwide because they highlight back muscles and broad shoulders. Plus, as the back is a flat, wide part of the body, it is ideal for complex and large designs. The most popular choice are Celtic symbols, animal motifs, and tribal tattoos. As your shirt covers your back, you can hide your ink and be creative as you desire.

23. Flower Shoulder Tattoo

For men who like old-school and classic tattoos, roses are the best choice. These flowers have been the favorite of many since the early days because they can represent both the challenging and beautiful parts of life. The rounded shape of a rose flower fits the shoulder area because it suits well the curve shape of your muscles.

24. Geometric Shoulder Tattoo

Geometric tattoos have been increasing in popularity since the beginning and in recent years because of their undeniably cool and unique look. Minimalistic and futuristic, they are perfect for people who want a simple shoulder tattoo, yet it can show off and stands out their personality.

25. Badass Shoulder Tattoo

The character of a badass tattoo depends on the personality of the individual. Some men choose a skill, tribal design, or weapon, while others prefer an eagle or a bird of prey. But all these make an intimidating and powerful inking. The most popular choice is the soaring eagle that is about to attack its target. It looks fantastic as a shoulder tattoo because the tattoo artist can spread or extend the wings for a more astounding look. 

26. Wolf Shoulder Tattoo

Wolves are pack animals and they are the apex predators in their area. There is also the concept of the “lone wolf,” which is commonly depicted in body art. The wolf tattoo is a reminder that there is always a struggle, and there will always be those who thrive on struggles and challenges. Wolf tattoos can be gentle images, or they can also be teeth baring and ferocious. Either way, the image of a wolf always stands out.

27. Compass Shoulder Tattoo

A compass tattoo is ripe with meaning. It can denote direction or being true and faithful. It can also stand for determination. It is a multifaceted tattoo and can be in many forms and sizes. It can be a fun tattoo at the back of the hand, or on the arm. Drawn large, it is open to embellishments, with plenty of variations to play with. 

28. 3D Shoulder Tattoo

3D tattoos can be surreal and inspired by Dali or Escher. These can be in geometric 3D, or in a sci-fi context. One of the most common 3D tattoos is that of an object or an animal getting out of a cage, or organs inside an open wound. There have also been some ambitious attempts at the “Labyrinth” stair scenes, complete with a David Bowie visage.

29. Hand Shoulder Tattoo

The unique quality of hand tattoo is that it is a dynamic placement. The hands are almost always moving, and if planned properly, the tattoo can also move with the hands. For some, the hands are a place to put small tattoos. If done correctly, these can be cute, and meaningful. For a larger tattoo, the image can span both shoulders including the hands. If there is a need for more space, the wrists can also be used.

30. Quote Shoulder Tattoo

Not all quotes can have meaning. Sometimes, it’s just a load of gibberish. However, some of the best one-liners or stanzas have been put in tattoos. There is power in words and especially when the words are in ink put to skin. As quotes, these don’t need to be placed prominently on the shoulder, biceps, or chest. Not surprisingly, there are plenty of quotes inked on the sides, right under the armpit. You can print any quote on any part of your body.


Do shoulder tattoos hurt?

Shoulder tattoos do not hurt as much as tattoos in other body parts. The shoulders has thick skin and fewer nerve endings, along with relatively thick muscles. A person having a tattoo on the shoulder will usually have only a low to low-moderate level of pain.

Will a shoulder tattoo stretch?

Unless there is rapid muscle and fat development, the skin will not stretch as much, and the tattoo should hold its shape. The shoulders are not noted for thick fat or visceral fat, and the tattoo shape and form should hold for a long time.