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Popular Tattoos Designs

Updated on January 15, 2009
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney is an expert on piercings and tattoos, with experience in the body modification world.


There are many different types of tattoos and tattoo designs that you can choose from whether you pick something off of a flash from the walls of the tattoo shop or you have something custom designed. But, if you think about it, even custom designs are typically all based on some major theme that is seen in hundreds and thousands of other tattoos.

Even if you hand design a flaming dragon with a koi wrapped around it, you've got two main designs that are both really popular- the dragon and the koi.

And, random scibbles and black lines can easily be miscontrued as tribal or Celtic, even it it's not the intention of the tattoo.

So, even when having a unique, custom piece, your tattoo is generally going to be based off of some other idea that just may be a popular tattoo design.

But, anyway... Below, you'll find just a few of the more popular tattoo designs in history and in the present day time.

  • Stars

No matter what type of star you get, whether a basic nautical star, pentagram, shooting star, or any other pointed star, they all can have different meanings. But, looking back, stars are typically a sign of hopes and dreams, but at the same time nautical stars where the symbol of protection and guidance especially for sailors trying to make it home safely. Depending on the type of star the actually meaning will vary, so when choosing a star tattoo you may want to check out what a shooting star generally represents, but at the same time you can give anything your own meaning.

  • Hearts

Heart tattoos have gotten more elaborate with time, but generally speaking they can mean love, lost love, failed relationship, freedom, spirit, bravery, and betrayal. Many times you will find hearts with wings, swords, or some lettering wrapped around the heart.

  • Wings

Wing tattoos are really popular among women, but I have seen wings on men as well. Typically, they stand for freedom and aspirations. Generally, wings are placed in the nape (back of the neck) or the back.

  • Dragons

Dragon tattoos are more popular among men than women, but believe it or not the meaning can vary greatly between the sexes. Typically, men symbolize dragons as strength, courage, and power, whereas women tend to symbolize dragons as protectors, creator, and strength. But, of course because there are many different types of dragon tattoos, the meaning will vary. Common dragons include Chinese dragons and tribal dragons.

  • Koi

Of all the animal tattoos, koi fish are probably one of the more popular. Recently, within the past several years, they have gained the majority of their popularity. Common Koi have Kanji floating around them, or a Koi/dragon morphing conglomeration. Koi tattoos can symbolize luck. masculinity, power, and courage.

  • Skulls

Skull tattoos are wide and varied in design. Popular skulls include the Sugar Skull (Mexican Day of the Dead Skull), but for the most part, most skulls are just the old school type skulls. Generally, skulls can mean, protection, strength, overcoming a death or tough time, and remembrance.

  • Butterflies

Butterfly tattoos are VERY common among teenage girls. Many times they are surrounded by flowers or tribal as a part a tramp stamp, but that doesn't mean that young girls are the only ones with butterflies tattooed on their bodies. Butterflies can represent a change in your life, freedom, or luck.

  • Flowers

You may think this is just a common girl tattoo, but many men get flower tattoos as representative remembrance. Depending on the type of flower and even the color of the flower, you will find the meaning of the actually tattoo will vary. For example, the lotus flower can represent new beginnings or an enlightenment, whereas roses can mean love and passion. As for the color of the rose, now that greatly varies the meaning. You can find a list of the meanings of the different colors > HERE

  • Crosses

Crosses are not always a religious symbol, although typically that is the reason behind the tattoo, but there are really many different types of crosses that can vary per person on the meaning. Common crosses include tribal crosses, celtic crosses, and Christian crosses.

  • Kanji

Kanji tattoos are pretty popular among many types of people, but when you get a Kanji tattoo, you want to make sure that it truly reads what you think it does. You don't want a Kanji tattoo to read, "I kiss monkey butts" when you thought it meant, "Live to fight another day." The more common Kanji symbols that people get tattooed can include, honesty, truth, wisdom, power, courage, love, loyalty, and faith.

  • Lettering

Lettering can be a tattoo on its own, or it can be a part of a bigger tattoo. When it comes to lettering there are so many types of fonts and styles that you can opt from, so your options are near limitless. Many people get names and/or initials of their children, pets, friends, and family. It's not uncommon for military to get the names of their platoon members who have passed tattooed on their body; in this case it's a symbol that you've got to be careful and life can be taken away quickly. It's not uncommon for songs, bands, and other life phrases to be tattooed as well.

What tattoo do you want?

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Tattoo Designs

So, as you can see, there are a number of popular tattoo designs that you can choose from and base your tattoo off of. It is just always recommended that you have your own meaning and symbolism behind your tattoo, as that is what will make your tattoo different from everyone else's.

My suggestion is that you don't go searching for tattoos online or at the tattoo shop and fall in love with one design, but never have a meaning for it.

I've done that- love the design but know if there's no personal meaning know in the end I'll hate it, so I've tried to make up meanings for designs. That's just not the ideal way to pick a tattoo that will be permanently inked on your body.

You don't want to end up hating something that you've paid good money, so pick your design carefully.


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    • profile image

      tara  7 years ago

      hi im thinking of getting a tattoo of a tattoo about the war saying that we are at peace in writting can any one tell me where i could find any pics giving me some ideas please ?

    • mhuze profile image

      mhuze 7 years ago from USA

      I wouldn't mind a little bity teeny one. But, I am chicken. My husband's also afraid I may start liking the tatt trend too much. :/

      Love the pics!

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      It will depend on your pain tolerance.

    • profile image

      kita 8 years ago

      i have a tattoo (very sore:P) on the back of my neck. it says nanny but id love to get the star and wings over it anyone now how sore it would be?

    • tattoo_design profile image

      tattoo_design 8 years ago

      cool hub I was really suprised at liking the stars, not my scene but very cool looking.



    • profile image

      8 years ago

      i hav 12 tattoos. it doesnt have to be chineese that you put on your body. i hav ancient greek for peace, prosperity and long life on my left arm. i also like to put a symbol of my hometown there. i have a fleur-de-lis because i'm a st. louisan and im also 50% french

    • profile image

      ARNEY 8 years ago

      OMG!!!!!!!!!!! THOSE STARS ARE LIKE SO CUTE I THINK THAT WILL BE MY NEXT TAT ................ YOU KNOW.............. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! KEEP THE GOOD WORK UP!!!!!!!!!!

    • deestew profile image

      deestew 8 years ago from Kentucky

      Good information. I am interested in getting a star for my next tattoo. This provided helpful information.

    • Headstonecity profile image

      Headstonecity 8 years ago

      love tattoos. but I hate it when people pick ones from the wall in a tattoo shop. lame!

    • profile image

      Tattoo Stories 9 years ago

      Great Hub! I'd also like to suggest dragonflies which is one of my favorite tatoo designs.

    • NIKADE profile image

      Nikade Etimide 9 years ago from Nigeria

      great hub, but i feel tats might result in skin problems because of distortions, maybe it may result in partial evolution due to adaptation

    • bldskr29 profile image

      bldskr29 9 years ago from South Carolina

      great hub! I have 2 tattoos . They both have great meaning to me. My 1st tat is on my right shoulder blade and is a rose with my children's names. The 2nd is on my left arm (deltoid area) it is a pink ribbon (for breast cancer) with the words: Hope, Faith, and Courage. In the years to come, as I get older, I will surely have stories to tell my children and grandchilren about the meaning of my tattoos.

    • profile image

      dafla 9 years ago

      Nice hub, but I hate tattoos. I won't even go out with a man who has a tattoo. I can't imagine mutilating your body like that. So many older people I know regret now that they ever got one. They don't look nice once your body sags.

    • cowgirljess profile image

      cowgirljess 9 years ago from Nor Cal

      Great hub, I love tats, I have two and want more. My next project is my sons birth foot prints on the tops of my feet, a german scripture on my ribcage, and a forearm band. Eventually I will have a partial sleeve and something on my neck behind my right ear.

    • waynet profile image

      Wayne Tully 9 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      Tattoos that seem to fit what I like are the stuff of demons and other fantasy creatures, I have designed many for some local tattooists and sold a few on ebay too and it's interesting to see what tattoos people want from your poll above, I want a dragon design right on my shoulder, I have designed it myself and have the tracing to go with it, but so far it has been priced quite high, maybe I can get it done in stages!

    • laringo profile image

      laringo 9 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

      This is a good Hub for someone like me who has been contemplating for a long time on getting a tatoo. The artistry in the tatoos shown is beautiful. Thanks for the great Hub. I gave you a thumbs up.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 9 years ago

      Thanks Witney!!

      I LOVE tattoos!! GREAT Hub!! Any kind of body art, that has meaning and is a deep, well thought out extension of the person, is beautiful!!

      Thanks for sharing!!

      Blessings always, Earth Angel!!

      P.S. I'm the one who voted Koi!!

    • profile image

      mikeq107 9 years ago

      Whitney05 Great Hub!

      Have a lot of friends who have done this , but not moi, prefer paint lol

      But good informatiom well laid out!!!