Shoulder tattoos are a prime spot. It is a relatively large area; the term “shoulder” referring to the area from the flat shoulder blade on the back to the area just below the collar bone. Two things make the shoulder an optimal place for a tattoo. Firstly, it is a rather large area, so big pieces fit well, including things like portraits. The other reason it is a good spot is because the shoulder is easily covered, but just as easily exposed. Because of the ease of coverage, people feel free to be a bit more creative with shoulder pieces. All you really need to cover it is a t-shirt and you are good to go. But if you are looking to be a bit flashy, throw on a tank top and leave your brilliant piece of art out for people to admire.
GREATEST SHOULDER TATTOOS
The spiderweb tattoos are often found on elbows, but also work quite well on the shoulder. This piece is a non-tradition web, with sweet red webbing fanning out from the center. There seems to be a Latin style girl there as well. I like the way it incorporates the soft colors, giving over a real feminine look. The girl is done in a very classic style as well, making this a fun piece. Although, some of you are probably saying “what tattoo?” at this point. With her pale skin and white hair, the subtle colors really pop.
64. Round About
Because the shoulder joint is a ball shape, it is a great place for rounded out designs. This tribal crab design wraps around well right on the muscle there. It follows the natural body lines and has a nice, clean look to it. The voided zodiac sign for cancer in the middle is really the most noticeable part. I’m not ashamed to admit it took me a while to realize it resembled a horseshoe crab. Had to put two and two together there.
Because of the wide, flat plane at the top of the shoulder, it is a good place to put a bit of text. There is plenty of room to write the message without it feeling cramped or having to run around to a different part of the body. I like the look of this typewriter font and all lowercase letters. Rarely does a person opt for such a simple form of writing. No big flowing letters or Gothic script here. Just a simple message, straight and to the point. It is a nice way to show off a line from your favorite book, like this one here.
62. Fun Fonts
The different planes and shapes of the shoulder area are great for the creative layout of pieces. Here the phrase “Love Never Fails” is written in a very cool cursive font. It trails up around the collar bone and ends at the cool star/heart design at the top of the shoulder. The simple black gives it a stark look and the little areas of no shading in the letters make them really stand out. I like how it looks very classic in the wording but also very modern with the abstract design at the shoulder cap. Who says you can’t have fun with shoulder tattoos?
The versatility of shoulder tattoos can be seen in this piece. This amazing sunflower tattoo is simply beautiful. The head of the flower on the shoulder cap follows the circular design and that top leaf floats just below the collar bone, again following the bodies natural lines. The stem of the flower continues down along the long part of the arm, incorporating more of the sunflower design there. Perhaps the absolute best part of this tattoo is the realistic use of color and shading. It is an absolutely stunning piece, but I may be biased as sunflowers are my favorite.
This incredible piece is called a mandala. Mandala literally means “circle”. We’ve already established the circular or rounded designs work exceedingly well as shoulder tattoos. This is a good depiction of that. Even with the center of the mandala not located right on the shoulder cap, it still draws you in. This mandala has a kind of flower type design which works well with the dark grays and blacks. I especially like the dotted, pointillist look of it. It gives it flair without all the flash of bright colors.
59. Amazing Eagle
The shoulder cap also lends itself to some pretty cool non-rounded designs. This eagle, for example, is awesome! I love the depth and detail in the feathers and wings is very well done. The talons really look like they are ready to scratch out some eyes. This piece seems to wrap around the entire shoulder area, using up that piece of canvas in a really cool way. The shading behind the eagle gives it a little bit of a raised look as opposed to just a flat two-dimensional piece. For more really cool bird tattoos, check this out.
58. Wing It
One of the most popular shoulder tattoos is that of wings and the idea that a person could sprout them and simply fly away. The idea of flight is one that appeals to a lot of people. Having the freedom to soar up above the clouds and be light as a feather would be an incredible feeling. The wings can take on many forms themselves. Some could have angel wings, bird wings, bat wings, or even skeletal wings.
One of the most popular shoulder tattoos for women is the large flower. Here a hibiscus is in full bloom in a brilliant fuchsia. The color on this really does pop, especially with the inky black tendrils behind it. I also like how there are pink tendrils and mini-flowers mixed into it. Why stop at just the flower. The lines and dots pull it all together and make for an incredibly interesting tattoo. Flower tattoos are pretty popular for women just about anywhere, so check out this link if you want to see more.
56. Go Tribal
Tribal tattoos are super popular on the male side. This may be a throwback to the old Maori and Samoan looks. The tribal look with all its dark lines and random patters does create a very masculine feel. It looks like it belongs on a warrior. This particular piece follows the entire scapula from the base of the neck to the rib cage. Unlike a lot of tribal pieces, this one is not filled in which is a really cool look. It sweeps and flows with the body contours so well it just seems to belong there. For a look at more tribal designs for men and women, click this link.
55. In Memorium
Sometimes the message you are trying to convey is simply, “I miss you.” My sister wears this tattoo in honor of our grandmother. Its angel wings and halo depict exactly how we felt about her in life, and how we continue to feel about her. I love this piece because it is so simple with the shaded wings. There is also a bit of white to give it some depth and small color in the halo. The best part about it is our grandmothers name written in red, her favorite color. We still love you grandma, nothing will change that.
I really love this one. The design in so simple. Its not crowded with a bunch of line work or color, or much of anything really. Its got a real clean look to it. I love the outlined fox and the deep darker shadows behind it. This one is fun and feisty!
53. Red Tribal
As tribal tattoos go, this one is really neat. It has a crustacean creature look to it. With all the spikes and prongs, it looks like an incredibly angry shellfish. I love the red shading in it instead of most the solid blacks. It gives it depth and texture. I love the length of it, showing that shoulder tattoos can easily stretch from the neck to the elbow.
52. Beautifully Abstract Shoulder Tattoos
This piece is absolutely beautiful. The Thoreau quote about dreams and the light airy colors give it such a dreamlike appeal. The outlines of the roses look incredibly fragile. I love that it covers so many styles, with the quote, the flowers, the water colors and the pointillist background behind the roses. It is simply gorgeous. The quote itself is incredibly powerful.
51. Bug Out
Just because the shoulder area makes a huge canvas does not necessarily mean that a large tattoo has to go there. Here are three little critters, two butterflies and a dragonfly. The lack of color is not usual in most butterfly tattoos, but here it is a nice little contrast to the usual. They seem to be frolicking on her shoulder. It is a happy little tattoo, minimal and cute. For more small fun designs, click this link.
Dark Side of the Moon comes immediately to mind when I see this one. The dark inky triangular prism and the splash of color refracted through it is such a cool effect. The bright rainbow like tendrils of color go so well together. Triangle tattoos, like anchors, tend to signify being grounded, having a solid base on which to stand. The dark shading behind the colors makes them look like they really reach out. It is a wonderful mixture of dark and vibrant.
Shoulder tattoos are perfect for skulls. This one sits with the skulls rounded part right on the shoulder cap, surrounded by Lei flowers. The skull is so hyper-realistic it almost looks real. The shading makes it just dark enough to look like old bone. Alternatively, the flowers being done only in read is a nice touch. It makes the darker shades in the skull really stand out. All in all, his is an incredible piece, I wish I were able to see the other sides of it and get a look at the whole picture.
Dandelion tattoos have become more prevalent lately. The idea of leaving a weed behind and becoming more beautiful might be one of the reasons for the surge. This simple black ink tattoo shows the dandelion seedlings turning into birds and flying away. They are free at last, taking to the sky and no longer grounded. One of the coolest things about this little piece is the shading in the dandelion itself. It does look incredibly like the little ball of fluff it is meant to portray.
47. Can You Smell It?
Okay, so maybe I’m showing my age here, but I remember when “can you smell what the Rock is cooking” actually meant something. Or maybe it didn’t. I’m honestly not sure. What I am sure of is that the dude has one of the coolest shoulder tattoos. It is a Samoan piece that signifies his heritage. The designs are magnificent. I almost hate to admit that I don’t know much about their significance, but if you want to learn more about Samoan tattoos, take a gander at this page. Of course, if you are built like this dude, you can pretty much get whatever you want. He could have unicorns and rainbows and it would still look cool. I’m glad he went with Samoan though.
This tattoo has a dark whimsical look to it, much like most of Alice and Wonderland, on which it is based. The March Hares clock is the main centerpiece. The painted red roses from the Queen of Hearts’ garden are also represented, dripping the red paint off of them as though their painting was recent. The quote is a dead giveaway as to the origin of this works idea. “We are all mad here,” says the Hatter. What I like most about this tattoo is that it has a literary theme as well as alluding to Disney without all the cartoon like bright colors and princesses. It reflects back to the book, which was a truly dark piece of reading.
45. Disney Returns
And here is little Alice herself. Also clearly not from the Disney version of the tale, but the literary version by Lewis Carroll. This is one of the original illustrations from the book itself, with the cool sketchy looking art work. It was originally a charcoal or graphite pencil drawing and transferred really well into ink. Little Alice stands poised as if waiting. Waiting for what? Maybe for the madness to end. She really had a bad go of it, that Alice. Also, I love the detail of the shadow on the “ground” as if the sun were behind her, shining on her little blonde head.
44. Cherry Lips
One of my most favorite shoulder tattoos is this blossoming tree. I originally thought it was a cherry tree but I don’t think that’s right. Really, I know nothing about trees, I write for a tattoo website. At any rate, this is one beautiful piece of art. I do at least know that it is Asian inspired! The dark trunk is shaded with lighter browns to give it a photo-realistic look. The little blossoming flowers are adorable and must have taken quite a while to get just right. If you look closely you can also see shadows of the branches that would be behind the foremost ones, as if it were indeed a real tree. So much life and depth in this piece!
This design incorporates the round style found in a lot of shoulder tattoos with some more angular shapes. The ring of flames(?) surrounds a seven sided star. Inside the continuous seven pointed star is a crescent moon with four more little stars. This is a piece that clearly has meaning for the wearer. I’m at a loss as to what it stands for, but hey, sometimes thats how tattoos go.
42. Curling Tribal
Here is an example of a typical tribal piece. It is dark and rounded, coming to points at the ends. It is a much smaller tribal than some of the others, being focused on mainly the shoulder cap itself.
41. Hindu Elephant
As mentioned before, the scapula, or shoulder blade is a great place for large pieces. It doesn’t get much larger than an elephant, right?This elegant Hindu inspired elephant sits neatly on the shoulder blade. The designs are incredibly well done and the minute details on the elephants skin are amazing. It is a truly beautiful piece, strong but feminine.
40. Fly High
Hot air balloons are fascinating designs for tattoos. The idea of the balloon itself opens a door to be as colorful or as whimsical as you wish. I’ve seen them in everything from grey scale to brilliant watercolor. This one stands out with its muted blues and pinks. It has a very traditional look to it. The design has incorporates an anchor as well, perhaps to signify that even though a person has their head in the clouds doesn’t mean they also can’t be grounded. I also like the minimalist background with the small clouds and birds.
An ambigram is an image that portrays a word one direction, but when turned on its head spells another word. In this case the word is the same, making it a palindrome ambigram. The word is done in dark flowing script and can be read either direction. Whoever Jasmin is, he must really love her to get such a large dark piece on his shoulder. For more imaginative name tattoos, click here.
38. Gone Batty
Animals are very popular, and are often portrayed in shoulder tattoos. Sometimes regal lions, elephants, or….bats. This piece has a huge full moon in the background, formed by some masterful shading work. Same goes for the night sky. Then there are the bats, the large one is hyper-detailed, almost realistic looking. The rest of the colony behind it has less detail but is still clearly defined. It certainly does appear as though there is a whole group of bats on its way. Cool, but creepy.
37. Double Up
Most shoulder tattoos are confined to just the one shoulder. Here, however, she chose a small design she liked and put one on each shoulder. The image of the bow is popular among women, but they do make really cute tattoos. She has also incorporated stars, one of the most popular shapes in tattoos. The little bows are brilliantly shaded in a soft red, very feminine and dainty looking.
36. Simply Stated
Here is an incredibly simple design. Unlike most shoulder tattoos, the cap is left blank and worked around, exposing a round ball of untouched skin. The rest of the shoulder is lined with dots in a repeating patter, possibly signifying a sun. Though the individual pieces are small, and getting smaller as they move away from the circle, it does cover a large area. It is done perfectly in all black, which gives it a look of possibly belonging to an ancient civilization.
35. Sea Life
Shoulder tattoos are for pretty much everyone. Just because you don’t have an arm, doesn’t mean you can’t rock a cool and unique shoulder tat. Here is a bottle nose dolphin tattoo on an amputee (or maybe he was born that way, I’ve no idea). This tattoo is a really cool idea and a way to make his shoulder stump more appealing and have a little bit of fun with it at the same time. Embrace your body, it’s the only one you’ve got.
This rose is a Victorian styled high detail piece. The scrolling around it is amazingly well done, as is the rose itself. The shading and detail is simply awesome, right down to the water droplets on the rose. Usually when there are flowers in a tattoo there is a bit of color because, after all, flowers are colorful. It’s kind of their thing. This one lacks all color but still manages to be incredibly beautiful. That is the power of detail.
Shoulder tattoos can also be a good place to showcase a classical style tattoo. This one looks like it was done back when tattoos were still taboos and strictly naval. In a word, it is traditional. Well, the style is. The skull is cool because it is missing some teeth, and the rattlesnake through the orbital hole is a really nice touch. I love the little action lines around the rattle itself.
32. Don’t Be Koi
The Japanese Koi fish is another popular image for tattoos. Usually the fish itself is portrayed in vibrant colors and surrounded by even more stand out hues. This one is a bit of a take away from that because the fish is hardly colored at all, just a little blue shading in some of the scales. The color is present in the water and the lotus flower, though, so it still has the classic koi feel to it.
31. Color Pop
The is a new take on the typical tribal. It seems to be a Maori or Indian inspired design. That piece in the middle looks like a mandala with a sun at its center. The spaces in the design make it interesting to look at and the subtle hints of blue spaced throughout it are an unexpected surprise. I’m glad he chose to leave the color to a minimum. Too much color would have really taken away from this one.
30. Abstract Watercolor
If you are into color, something like this may be for you. It is a mixed watercolor bloom, complete with running colors. It looks as though the longest bits of color trailing down the arm create a stem for this unusual flower. There also appears to be a leaf worked into it. It is a super original piece, situated on the front of the shoulder and trailing down past the elbow. The absence of hard lines is what makes this one, it really does look like brush strokes.
People tend to get tattoos to signify things they enjoy. This man chose the movie Boondock Saints. I mean, it’s a really good movie! He’s taken the tattooed hands of the brothers and put them, and their pistols, on his chest/shoulder region. It’s pretty cool to see a tattoo withing a tattoo, right? I like that he even included the Rosary beads. Nice!
Bio-mechanical themes are also popular in tattoos. The style especially lends itself to shoulder tattoos in my opinion. The ripping and rending of the skin to show the robotic elements underneath just seems plausible at a joint. This is one of the simpler bio-mechanical designs, with little color and detail, but it is still a fun piece.
27. Sweet Dreams
The dreamcatcher is quickly becoming one of the more prolific tattoos, especially for females. There are many different forms and styles for these, so it is easy to customize them to the wearers liking. This one has a sunflower incorporated into it as the netted part of the dreamcatcher. Again this piece has no color, but it works here. For more cool dreamcatcher tattoo ideas, click here.
26. Mandala Flowers
If color is what you want, it’s hard to go wrong with a mandala/flower combination. This design uses the symmetry of the mandala and the engaging colors of most flowers. Combined they make something that really pops and draws the eye. It is the perfect piece for someone who loves bright and vibrant colors.
Not all shoulder tattoos need to have one element. Why not an eerie landscape? This piece is done, again, in blacks and greys, with the moon coming out of the shaded night sky. The manor looms over the whole piece without being overpowering. Together with the tree on the other side it does a really good job of blocking out this scene. Add in some old headstones and a few bats and you have an eerily beautiful piece of art.
24.Long and Chunky
Here is another large Maori/Samoan tribal piece. This one is formed into a quarter sleeve, extending from the neck, across the scapula and shoulder cap and down almost to the elbow. It has a thick, chunky pattern, with the line work done as voids. It looks as if each little separate panel has its own design. There is even one with the continent of Africa in it.
23. Small Stars
Tracing the collar bone to the shoulder, this little tattoo is one you just can’t look away from. There is something appealing in the little trail, dotted with large, dark stars of varying size.
Who needs the whole world in their hands when they can have the whole galaxy on their shoulder? This is a really neat tattoo, done in what looks like all dots. Even though it is all done in the same color, it still gives the illusion of swirling movement. I really like that white ink was used to dot the celestial bodies throughout.
21. Love of a Child
If you want to display the name of your loved ones, such as your children, get creative with it. This tattoo is actually my friends and she has the flowering vine etched from the back of the shoulder around to the front of her arm. If you look closely, you should be able to see the letters of her son’s name, Stephen, hidden in the colorful vines. This is such a cool piece and I’m glad she has allowed me to share it.
20. Trailing flowers
Another way to utilize the shoulder area is with a cascading piece that runs from the neck downward. This piece features cascading flowers and is simple yet incredibly beautiful.
Shoulder tattoos don’t always need to make sense to everyone. For instance, I have no idea what this one is, but it’s cool. Clearly it means something to the wearer but whatever that is escapes me. Still, it’s interesting.
18. Minimal Lined Art
Whether big and bold or small and simple, shoulder tattoos can handle the job. This lined out ink is so simple, but so fun. The little cloud, feather and stars are just too cute. It’s another one of those tattoos that you just have to appreciate for its simplicity. Tattoos with feathers can sometimes get pretty complicated. Don’t believe me? Look at these.
17. Lacy Lady
When it comes to tattoos, a good way to add some depth is with a simple textured pattern. This one is totally transformed by the lace backing the flowers. What would have been a cool piece otherwise is really brought to life with the backing texture. Lace is a really cool idea for a tattoo. It is timeless and pretty and will never go out of style. Especially when paired with some cool leather clothing, right?
16. Paint It Paisley
Another cool textured look for shoulder tattoos is paisley Paisley is a pattern that can be used for a number of different things, it’s not just for hankies anymore! This one uses the paisley to hold a colorful little dragonfly. The color is really brought out by the darker, simply lined background piece. Really gives the paisley a bit of substance.
15. Hibiscus Tribal
What happens when a woman gets a hold of a tribal tattoo? Something like this happens and its magnificent! This is a hibiscus flower, but instead of bright colors to make it pop, it is done in dark tribal style ink. The voids in the color give it texture and movement making it a really intriguing piece.
14. Notes on Scale
Music can be incorporated into almost any tattoo and on almost any part of the canvas. Music is truly universal. Here it is shown with a simple scale and notes. What I like most about this one is the imperfection of it, as if it were drawn by the hand of a child music prodigy. It doesn’t have that clean, streamlined look to it. This effect keeps this tattoo from being to plain and boring and gives it something unique.
If scaring the living wits out of everyone you know is your objective, this is the look for you. This tarantula tattoo is not only creepily large, but also eerily realistic looking. The shadowing underneath gives it a 3 dimensional effect that makes it look as if you could reach out and pet the beast. It gives the illusion of being ready to simply walk away at any moment.
12. Celtic Armor
Another cool skin ripping idea for shoulder tattoos is the idea of the armor underneath showing through. I like this idea because armor can be intricate in its own right and comes in a lot of incredible styles. You are able to customize your particular armor to suit you, much like real armor in the past. This piece showcases a Celtic shoulder plate, including straps to hook it to the chest and back plates. That attention to detail is just awesome.
11. Star of Love
This tattoo is really one of my favorites of the group. It has a star, I freaking love stars. It also has a cool effect, as if the skin itself were made of rock and has been chipped away in the shape of a star to show the truly important things in life underneath. Love is inked in red making it stand out as the most important of life’s necessities.
10. She Robot
Bio-mechanical shoulder tattoos are not just for those of the male persuasion. Here is a woman rocking a really neat bio-mechanical piece. The covering skin appears to be mostly ripped away showing off all the cool detailed robotics. For more bio-mechanical pieces, go to this page.
9. Deep and Dark
This shoulder and chest piece has so many cool elements to it. I can’t focus on just one. The dark black fill in on the shoulder with the lighter design work is probably my favorite part. It seems to have a partial mandala peeking out from under the inky blackness. The leaves are full of symbols of peace and enlightenment. Finally, the Sanskrit writing is just a phenomenal addition.
8. Undersea World
Squids, first off, are weird. Like, gross weird, but this is actually a really cool tattoo. I love the tentacles and the soft colors. While it isn’t as bright and vibrant as some of these octopus tattoos, it’s still pretty cool.
I don’t know why I find this one so intriguing. It literally looks like someone slung a large ball of ink at his arm and it splattered. For some reason, I really dig it. I think it could be because of the care and attention to detail taken while inking each individual bit of splatter. It’s just really cool. You really don’t see many like this.
6. Line Design
Sun and shoulder tattoos seem to go together quite well. This one is a Filipino design and is done in simple, exact lines. There really isn’t much to it at all.
What better way to show your love for travelling than with a unique tattoo like this. The globe and compass are accented with actual passport stamp designs. Its a cool way to save a memory because each design includes a date, and many have the country visited. Better than a photo album!
This sort of style is certainly picking up steam…okay, that was a terrible pun. However, this geared steampunk tattoo is decidedly not terrible. It seems to be the inner working of a clock, which is a cool way to look at time.
3. Lace strap
When you want to be a bad ass, but still want to keep that feminine appeal, you should opt for something like this. This lacy strap is a beautifully complex piece with a bit of geometric design mixed in. It can double as a classy strap on those strapless dresses too.
Photo-realistic tattoos are amazing because they look exactly like someone took a photo and embedded it on your body. This one shows an incredible look at a mother and baby elephant.
1. Name Linguistics
This is a standout piece because, while it clearly says “Jennifer,” it is written in such a way as to look like Arabic lettering. It is a cool way to alter a simple tattoo into something fabulous.
Limited Time Offer (click photo)