Shoulder tattoos look great on both men and women, but like fashion, there are certain styles and types of tattoos that work best on men.
In this article, we cover some of our favorite shoulder tattoo styles. Read on to learn what they mean and which one you should get.
1. Dragon Shoulder Tattoo
Dragons symbolize power, wisdom, and strength. Men drawn to powerful imagery, and wanting to express themselves as powerful being, will be naturally drawn to a dragon tattoo. For a shoulder tattoo showing life and vigour, you could choose a Japanese or Chinese-style dragon — their elongated and snake-like bodies will look amazingly unique wrapped around your chest, trap muscle, and bicep.
2. Eagle Shoulder Tattoo
Eagles represent freedom. For Americans, it’s also a deeply patriotic symbol of pride and strength. The design of an eagle tattoo depends on the person’s reference. If you choose this design, you can get your tattoo artists to extend the wings around your bicep and across the chest to a stunning effect.
3. Shoulder Blade Tattoo
Shoulder blade tattoos aren’t too common, so if you’re looking to stand out they can be a great choice. Your shoulder blades can accommodate a big tattoo with room for lots of detail. One of the most fitting tattoo designs for the shoulder blades is wings. Most designs and styles will work great here. For a striking effect, you can ask your tattoo artist to extend the feathers or wingtip to the back of your arms.
4. Shoulder Tattoo for Black Men
Shoulder tattoos look great on all skin colors, but if you’re a black man, it’s a good idea to consult a tattoo artist who has experience tattooing black skin. They’ll have more experience and insight into what kind of tattoo will work best for you. Tattoos can age differently on dark skin tones compared to lighter skin. Some ink colors and shades won’t look as lively on darker skin tones, even when fresh. Additionally, dark skin tends to scar more easily. These are different things to consider which any good tattoo artist will know about and advise you on.
5. Tribal Shoulder Tattoo
Tribal tattoos reached peak popularity in the ’90s, and still remain as one of the most popular tattoo styles. The curved and thick lines are ideal for a shoulder tattoo because they can follow the natural curves of your shoulder. 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 resulting tattoo will not disappoint.
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 cause the least amount of pain.
7. Religious Shoulder Tattoo
Most men choose the shoulder for a more meaningful tattoo. Religious symbols are often associated with strength and a powerful belief in God. Getting this type of tattoo on your shoulder symbolizes a strong faith. There are several design options to choose from: a dove of peace, a simple cross, or a sacred heart.
8. Celtic Shoulder Tattoo
The Celtic design shoulder tattoo features striking knots and symbols. The line and circular shapes help the tattoo follow the contour of your muscles. 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
Tattoos are part of Polynesian culture and 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. Maori tattoos reveal details about their tribe, achievements, status, and family. For most Maori men, the shoulder is a favored area to have a tatoo placed.
10. Small Shoulder Blade Tattoo
It can be painful to have your shoulder blade inked. 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 ends around your bicep area. Since there is a smaller space for this design in your arm, it will look excellent when paired with another shoulder tattoo. Most Polynesian men choose to be inked in these areas. When getting a quarter sleeve and shoulder tattoo combo, it is important to look for an experienced tattoo artist who has the skill needed for this task. He must be able to execute the design well because the upper arms have curved sections resulting from bones and muscles. The goal is to have the design move with your body too, and only a very skilled tattoo artist can do this.
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. Many Christian men choose angels as a tattoo design to symbolize 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 want a complex and detailed tattoo should consider a design that extends across their back and shoulders. If you already have a sleeve tattoo, choose similar elements from that and have your tattoo artist continue the design. If you do this, it can give your final tattoo a more connected look. But, if you are not sold on the idea, the back and shoulder area are great options for a narrative tattoo from your favorite stories, family, or religious images.
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 stretching from your bicep to the chest.
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 whatever style. Since the skull tattoos consist of circular patterns and curved elements, it is well-suited for the shoulders. Additionally, you can transform your skull shoulder tattoo into 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 primarily used for navigation by sailors and travelers since they were visible at night. Nowadays, having star tattoos symbolize guidance, especially in the darkest times of your life. A good option is to have a trail of star tattoos stretching from the trap muscles down to the chest.
20. Clock Shoulder Tattoo
As clocks tell the 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 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 with choosing a colorful design that will look equally striking. If you have a complicated and elaborate shoulder tattoo, colors can create different elements and make the design stand out even more. In fact, Japanese-style tattoos come with many colors, giving the tattoo designs a dynamic and distinctive look.
22. Upper Back Shoulder Tattoo
Upper back shoulder tattoos are well-known worldwide because they highlight men’s back muscles and broad shoulders. Since 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.
23. Flower Shoulder Tattoo
For men who like classic flower tattoos, roses are the best choice. These flowers have been the favorite of many since the early days because they represent both the challenging and beautiful parts of life. The rounded shape of a rose flower fits the shoulder area because it suits the curve of your muscles.
24. Geometric Shoulder Tattoo
Geometric tattoos have been increasing in popularity in recent years because of their cool and sleek appearance. Minimalistic and futuristic, they are perfect for people who want a simple shoulder tattoo that can show off their bold personality.
25. Badass Shoulder Tattoo
The character of a badass tattoo depends on the wearer’s personality. Some men choose a skull, tribal design, or weapon, while others prefer an eagle or a bird of prey. All these make an intimidating and powerful tattoo. The most popular choice is the soaring eagle that is about to attack its target. It looks fantastic as a shoulder tattoo because the artist can spread or extend the wings for more drama.
26. Wolf Shoulder Tattoo
Wolves are pack animals and apex predators. However, the “lone wolf” is a concept commonly depicted in body art. The wolf tattoo is a reminder of struggle, but that there will always be people who thrive on struggles and challenges. Wolf tattoos can be gentle images, or they can also be teeth-baring and ferocious. Either way, a wolf tattoo always stands out.
27. Compass Shoulder Tattoo
A compass tattoo is filled with meaning. It can denote direction or being true and faithful. It can also stand for determination. It is a multifaceted tattoo that can be executed in various designs and sizes. It can be a fun tattoo to place at the back of the hand, or on the arm. On the other hand, a large compass design is open to embellishments, colors, and even whimsical designs.
28. 3D Shoulder Tattoo
3D tattoos can be surreal and inspired by Dali or Escher. These can be interpreted in geometric 3D, or in a sci-fi context. One of the most common 3D tattoos is that of an object or an animal leaping 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.
Shoulder tattoos do not hurt as much as tattoos in other body parts. The shoulders have thick skin and fewer nerve endings, along with relatively thick muscles. A person having a tattoo on the shoulder will usually experience only a low to moderate level of pain.
Unless there is a 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.