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Black and white image of a tattoo artist inking a man's forearm

40 Best Tattoo Ideas for Men

Your body is a blank canvas and the best tattoo ideas will turn that canvas into a work of art. As such, you want a cool tattoo design that emanates with both personal meaning and visual allure in equal measure. Barring laser removal, this is a lifelong commitment and one that shouldn’t be approached haphazardly…not that it’s stopped plenty of guys from strolling into the nearest parlour and throwing caution to the wind. A quick word of advice: don’t be one of those guys.

When it comes to the best tattoo for men, some blokes know exactly what they want while others need a little guidance. Decisions like simplicity, size, content, and location on the body play a crucial role. Do you go with a simple tattoo on your shoulder, dress your entire back in ink, or opt for something in between? How important is it that the tattoo reflects your individual identity?

Before putting yourself under the gun, consider the following 40 tattoo ideas for men. On the list, you’ll discover everything from minimalist designs to full-blown arm sleeves to men’s tattoos with meaning to just plain cool visuals. Without further delay, let’s turn some flesh into art!

Small black and gray tattoo of open door with stairs to Jupiter
Small Tattoo | Image: Mischief Tattoo

1. Small Tattoo

Micro or minimalist tattoos are all the rage this year. If it’s your first or second time getting inked up, a small tattoo is probably the smartest way to go. Consider getting it in an area that’s easy to conceal, especially if you’re striving for a certain tier of discretion. However, they tend to stand out on fingers because of the lesser surface area. You certainly wouldn’t be the first person to save his tattoo for those who truly deserve to see it. Whatever your choice, the design and body placement choices are limitless.

Half body shot of Roman Reigns showing Samoan tribal art black and gray tattoo sleeve on his right arm
Roman Reigns’ “Samoan Tribal Art” Tattoo | Image: WWE

2. Tribal Tattoo

Tribal tattoos draw upon centuries of symbolism, tradition, culture, and masculinity. With their bold gradients and interweaving patterns, they also look quite cool. Should you get one, prepare to make a bold statement every time it’s revealed. This kinds of tattoo designs work best on the upper shoulder or chest, as is traditional.

Small black and gray tattoo of rose with thorny stem and three petals on a man's hand
Linework Tattoo of a Rose | Image: Evan Kim

3. Linework

Sometimes simple tattoos for men are the best ones. If you don’t want to overthink the whole process, opt for something simple and affordable and you’ll find the experience to be quite painless, relatively speaking. Linework designs allow you to show off something you love, without needing to dedicate an entire canvas to the piece. Look for those ones on your wrist, hands or upper neck.

Black and gray tattoo of a lion with yellow eyes wearing a crown on forearm
Lion Tattoo | Image: Image: Szalai “Tibi” Tibor

4. Lion Tattoo

Animal imagery can convey loads of meaning and a lion tattoo is certainly no exception. For men, it can signify leadership, courage, and nobility, among other things. You’ll see a number of these classic designs in pop culture, with this option being a favourite amongst celebrities, most notably with Ed Sheeran like Justin Bieber’s tattoos.

Close up on a wold design black and gray tattoo sleeve
Wolf Tattoo | Image: Shine Tattoos

5. Wolf Tattoo

A wolf is one of the coolest animals and it makes for one of the coolest tattoos, naturally. More than a choice visual, the mighty wolf symbolises ritualism, loyalty, guardianship, and instinct. This kind of design is generally seen on the upper arm, forearm or as a chest piece, as seen on celebrities like Halsey.

Side by side collage of mainly black and gray owl design with yellow eyes tattoo sleeve
Owl Tattoo | Image: Dario Castillo & Dark Age Tattoo Studio

6. Owl Tattoo

Being primarily a creature of the night, the owl conjures all sorts of ancient and mysterious vibes. They also represent infinite wisdom. With its close ties to the moon, an owl tattoo can also deliver subtle hints of feminine mystique. If you’re an enigmatic gent with a secret side, this might be the best tattoo idea for you.

Side by side collage of phoenix tattoo with the left image coloured and the right image black gray
Phoenix Tattoo | Image: Jurgis Mikalauskas & Niki Norberg

7. Phoenix

If you’ve overcome harsh obstacles in life, the phoenix could very well be your personal symbol of choice. A mythical firebird with roots in both Greek and Egyptian lore, it rises from the ashes to signify rebirth. A common tattoo design for men, this motif has been seen across bodies for decades, just try and avoid whatever it is that Ben Affleck went with.

Big coloured tattoo of a dragon on a man's back
Dragon Tattoo | Image: JinQ

8. Dragon Tattoo

Is there anything a dragon doesn’t symbolise by this point? Whether you’re a fantasy junky or someone who just likes the idea of awesome fire-breathing creatures, consider becoming the boy with the dragon tattoo. These designs best suit arms, backs and chest areas.

Black and gray tattoo of a long arrow striking through a compass on a man's arm
Compass Tattoo | Image: Thomas Acid

9. Compass Tattoo

When it comes to top tattoo designs for men, the classical compass goes overlooked and underrated. It can represent the thrill of travel, the journey of life itself, or both concepts at the very same time. You’ll find this common design across arms, legs and shoulders as the symmetrical shape lends itself well the more awkward body parts.

Big coloured 3D tattoo of a diced human face on a man's back
3D Tattoo | Image: Arlo Tattoos

10. 3D Tattoo

Cool tattoos for men don’t get much cooler than a well-executed 3D ink job. 3D tattoos transcend regular ink work and are considered their own art form. However, this is also a design that can go awry when left in the wrong hands. For that reason, you’ll want to seek out a truly skilled tattoo artist before going all-in on the optical illusions.

Solid black tattoo of two nautical stars on a man's chest
Star Tattoo | Image: SHANJI

11. Star Tattoo

One of the best small tattoos for men, the star design is becoming more popular than ever before. Symbols of protection and guidance, stars represent the idea that you will always be looked after. Some also use it to remind themselves that they will always shine. This artwork works as either a standalone image or in accordance with a broader tapestry. The decision is yours.

Black and gray tattoo sleeve of a stylized woman's portrait on a man's arm
Portrait Tattoo | Image: Alo Loco Tattoo

12. Portrait

One way to honour a special person in your life is by getting a meaningful tattoo portrait of his or her image permanently embedded into your flesh. Or you can take the Steve-O route and put a giant portrait of yourself on your back. Actually, it’s probably best you don’t take that route. Why? Because you’re not Steve-O.

Black and gray lettering tattoo of the words 'Design is thinking made visual'
Lettering Tattoo | Image: Heartbeatink

13. Lettering

The best lettering tattoos for men cut straight through the metaphors to exhibit direct significance and meaning. Unmissable in their appearance, they are bound to pique everyone’s curiosity. Just remember that the style of script, font and meaning matters as much as the letters themselves.

Side by side collage of two different black and gray skull design tattoo sleeve
Skull Tattoo | Image: Fredao Oliveira & Jurgis Mikalauskas

14. Skull Tattoo

Thanks to the creative talents of tattoo artists across the world, a trend that could have died out decades ago is going as strong as ever before. We’re speaking of the ubiquitous skull tattoo, which takes many shapes and forms.

Black and gray tattoo of an angel holding a cross on a man's arm
Religious Tattoo | Image: Niki Norberg

15. Religious Tattoo

According to legend, Judaism and Islam frowns upon (if not downright forbids) tattoos as they as they are viewed as a mutilation of God’s creation. Ironically, many classic designs are born from religious themes too. Buddhism and Hinduism have given rise to iconic pieces like the Om symbol or the hand of Buddha. The cross tattoo, in particular, is a perennial favourite.

Black and gray tattoo of one hundred US dollar bill design
Money Tattoo | Image: Eugene Novohatsky

16. Money Tattoo

Money represents a fair few concepts like ambition, prosperity, wealth or even a stand against the power of the mighty dollar. A money tattoo definitely makes for a choice visual, which can make a powerful statement. If, however, you’re just trying to show off how much cash you have in your bank account, we can’t say we’re big fans.

Big black and gray tattoo of an angel covering a man's whole front torso
Angel Tattoo | Image: Jun Cha

17. Angel Tattoo

You don’t have to believe in angels to get yourself a quality angel tattoo, though it certainly doesn’t hurt (the belief, that is, not the tattoo). One of the best tattoos for boys or girls, the unisex design best fits large scale areas, so look for a back piece of chest design to make this one work.

Side by side collage of two different black and gray tattoo of stylized musical notes on a man's forearm
Music Tattoo | Image: Pechschwarz Tätowierungen & Inkfinery

18. Music Tattoo

Whether you’re a musician, enjoy a particular artist, or just enjoy listening to some tunes, musical-inspired tattoos provide a wealth of design ideas. Some popular choices include sheet music notes and iconic album imagery. The world of music brings forth an endless bounty of cool tattoo ideas for men.

Side by side collage of two different black and gray tattoo of an arrow one on a man's forearm and one on the spine
Arrow Tattoo | Image: Yen Liu & Grunge Tattoo Studio

19. Arrow Tattoo

It doesn’t get more straightforward than an arrow tattoo, which lends itself to various sizes and looks good pretty much anywhere on the body. Traditionally known as the hunter’s weapon, arrows also depict direction, strength and resilience. Perfect for those visionary men, arrows are symbolic for various reasons.

Side by side collage of two different black and gray tattoo of a single stylized feather
Feather Tattoo | Image: Daniela Giorgione & Frank Carrilho

20. Feather Tattoo

Despite its somewhat simple veneer, a feather tattoo can offer layers of both personal and universal meaning. It’s no surprise that this tattoo design is wildly popular among modern men. Feathers symbolise many concepts – freedom, flight, lightness, courage and strength. The choice of bird for your feather does make a significant difference to the output, so make sure you pick a feather type which can portray your vision. 

Side by side collage of two different coloured rose tattoo designs with the left image featuring a rose on each hand and the right image two roses on a man's chest
Rose Tattoo | Image: Matt Webb

21. Rose Tattoo

You could probably care less about receiving flowers in real life, but when it comes to the best tattoo designs for men, a striking rose definitely makes the cut. Not only can it deliver rich colour and 3D potential, but it comes rife with symbolic associations. A design best popularised in traditional tattooing, the rose artwork has transcended all genres and is now a staple for those looking to get inked.

Side by side collage of two different black and gray crown design tattoo on a man's arm
Crown Tattoo | Image: 7 Mag Tattoos & Dr. Woo

22. Crown Tattoo

Are you king of the castle and master of your domain? Then prove as much by getting a crown tattoo, which remains popular among men for obvious reasons. Depicting royalty, there are few other visuals which make as powerful a statement as the crown. Conor McGregor has one sitting pride of place, so if that’s good enough for you, go for it.

Black and gray tattoo of a stylized Mercedes-Benz car on a man's arm
Mercedes-Benz Car Tattoo | Image: Niki Norberg

23. Car Tattoo

The bond between certain types of men and certain types of cars goes back to the dawn of automobiles and transcends mere description. Sometimes, only a tattoo will suffice. Well, that and the actual car. Whether it’s your first car, a reminder of a loved one, or you’re just an auto-head with a love for vehicles, car designs are born classics.

Black and gray lettering tattoo of the word "Love' on right hand and 'Family' on left hand
Family Tattoo | Image: Stanislav Gromov

24. Family Tattoo

What better way to show love to your heritage, parents, or siblings than with the ever-popular family tattoo. With the family by your side, you can literally wear the love for your family and upbringing on your sleeve. Whether that means a portrait, phrase, symbol, coat of arms, family tree, or something else is for you to decide. This is a tattoo with meaning behind it, and the best thing is, you’ll never get asked what it means!

Black and gray tattoo of a scorpion on one side of a man's chest
Scorpion Tattoo | Image: Ricardo Van ‘t Hof

25. Scorpion Tattoo

With its sharp pincers and poisonous tail, the scorpion doesn’t exactly make for a welcoming or approachable image. On the other hand, you can always play up its astrological associations. No matter what, you’re getting a cool tattoo. Another great example of traditional tattooing at its best, scorpion tattoos have become popular thanks to their bold, black linework and solid shading.

Black and gray lettering tattoo of the words 'Never give up' on a man's arm
Meaningful Tattoo | Image: Tattoo Art Club

26. Meaningful Tattoo

For men, tattoos with meaning can come in a variety of forms, including quotes, letters, and symbols. Should you be seeking a truly meaningful tattoo, make sure you have the idea solidified by the time you walk through those parlour doors.

Solid black lettering tattoo of the name 'Samuel' with the date '29.08.17' below
Name Tattoo | Image: Tomáš Icík

27. Name Tattoo

Like the portrait tattoo, the name tattoo is one way to honour those you love. These tattoos make for a powerful reminder of your spouse, children, parents or siblings. Unless the name is your own—then you’re just a straight-up narcissist.

Solid black line design tattoo on a man's arm
Line Tattoo | Image: Okan Uckun

28. Line Tattoo

While it might look like a textbook case of style over substance, line tattoos can still serve meaning if you want them to. Alternately, sometimes a cool tattoo for men is just a cool tattoo for men, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Mark L. Young showing off his lettering tattoo of the words 'NO RAGRETS' below his collarbone
Mark L. Young as Scottie P. in “We’re the Millers” | Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

29. Comedic Tattoo

There’s no better way to show off your ability to come up with a cool tattoo idea than by showcasing some comic gold. You know what women say about a man with a sense of humour. Imagine what they’ll think if your tattoo makes them chuckle every time they see it. Just don’t go overboard.

Coloured tattoo of a LEGO figure on a man's arm
Lego Figure Tattoo | Image: Brent Goudie

30. Cartoon Tattoo

There’s a ton of common ground between animation and tattoo art, so a cartoon design already feels like an extension of that shared visual language. Nevertheless, choose wisely. You don’t want to get stuck with a Pickle Rick tattoo for the rest of your life, or maybe your do?

Close up of CM Punk showing his tattoos focused on the Pepsi logo design
CM Punk’s Pepsi Logo Tattoo | Image: David Dermer

Logos generally tend to signify love and loyalty to a brand. A number of logos strike an artistic and symbolic accord, resulting in what could very well be a cool or ironic tattoo. There’s also a decent chance that some brand will pay you to rock their logo on your skin. Looks like you have some thinking to do.

Big black and gray tattoo of a family crest covering a man's whole upper back
Family Crest Tattoo | Image: Alex Tuch

32. Family Crest Tattoo

A family crest comes overflowing with choice details and a symbolic vibe. Splash one across your chest, back, or arm, to keep this ancient tradition alive. One of the more traditional options for those looking to add a tattoo with meaning, the family crest speaks to heritage, pedigree and family honour.

Side by side collage of two different black and gray minimalist line tattoo
Minimalist Tattoo | Image: Emrah Ozhan & Okan Uckun

33. Minimalist Tattoo

Now more than ever, minimalist tattoo designs for men are trending, so much so that we dedicated an entire spread to them. When you want to say less with more, this is definitely one way to do it.

Black and gray football themed tattoo design on the back of Neymar's legs
Neymar’s Leg Tattoos | Image: 433

34. Sports Tattoo

Men love sports. Men love tattoos. You do the math. The sports tattoo is another visual which stands the test of time. Usually depicting dedication and support for a sports team or personality, the choice of design, colour and placement is endless.

Black and gray geometric design tattoo sleeve on a man's arm
Geometric Tattoo | Image: Juan Salvarredy

35. Geometric Tattoo

Geometric patterns lay the groundwork for some truly stunning visuals and some of the best tattoos for men. Characterised by their distinct lines and shapes, geometric tattoos make for complex but artistic work. Worry less about the meaning and more about the aesthetic when opting for this kind of design.

Close up of tattoo sleeve on man’s arm with clock design
Clock Tattoo | Image: Ata Ink

36. Clock Tattoo

Symbolising time, the clock can convey the uncertainty of life and death. It might also depict that everything happens at the right time. To fully appreciate it’s design and depth, make sure you pick an area on your body that allows for the detail and intricacy to come through.

Close up of man’s arm with pine tree design tattoo sleeve
Tree Tattoo | Image: Felipe Kross

37. Tree Tattoo

Tree tattoos make for meaningful ink for those who have their roots firmly planted in some aspect of their life, especially family and ancestory. It is also a representation of growth and makes for a great story-teller. For placement, think of larger surface areas like the chest, arms or back.

Solid black lettering tattoo of the words 'Always keep stars in your eyes!'
Quote Tattoo | Image: Evan Kim

38. Quote

A great quote can be life-affirming and occasionally life-changing. What better way to remind yourself of that great quote than by getting it inked into your flesh? To best showcase this work of wisdom, think of areas which allow the words to flow through seamlessly without any disruptions, like the forearm.

Side by side collage of two different black and gray tattoo sleeve
Tattoo Sleeve | Image: Oscar Akermo

39. Tattoo Sleeve

If you’re getting inked for the first or second time, scope our small tattoo ideas for men and proceed accordingly. If you’re a seasoned tattoo enthusiast, on the other hand, consider going full sleeve! The sleeve is one of the best tattoo ideas on this list, that is if you don’t mind the multiple lengthy sessions with your artist.

Close up of man’s arm with constellation line work tattoo design
Star Sign Tattoos | Image: Okan Uckun

40. Star Sign Tattoo

If you’re looking for a sign for your next tattoo, then this could be it. Literally. Astrological signs make for great designs and can be meaningful, often helping you remember a loved one’s birthday. Constellations, especially, can be displayed as stunning, clean linework.

Locations of Tattoos for Men

After much deliberation, you’ve finally decided on the best tattoo for you. Now comes the task of deciding where to put it. We’ve already listed out some possible locations like the inner wrist, neck, arm, and hands, but that’s merely skirting the surface. Here’s a more comprehensive list of possible male tattoo locations:

  • Sleeve
  • Knuckles
  • Hand
  • Shoulder
  • Chest
  • Forearm
  • Back
  • Leg
  • Inner Wrist
  • Stomach
  • Ankle
  • Rib
  • Neck
  • Face

General FAQ

Who knew the world of tattoos was so complicated?! Before you go to a tattoo artist, here are some common tattoo questions, followed by their answers.

Do people find tattoos attractive?

According to some studies, men with tattoos tend to have more sex than their un-inked counterparts. However, other studies suggest that women don’t find men with tattoos to be necessarily more attractive, but more aggressive.

What are trending tattoos for men in 2023?

Minimalist or micro tattoos have dominated trends this year. Characterised by their smaller sizes, they are perfect for anyone getting their first tattoo or want to etch something memorable without drawing too much attention.

How do you decide what tattoo you want?

This is ultimately a question only you can answer. The tattoo should reflect your unique personality while also making for a choice visual. Often tattoos are meaningful and symbolic to individuals and we have listed tons of ideas to draw inspiration from.

How much will my tattoo cost?

Traditionally, you can expect to spend anywhere from $100-$250 for a small tattoo, $200-$500 for a medium-sized tattoo, and $500 and up for a large tattoo. Higher-end or specialty tattoo artists will obviously cost more than average tattoo artists.

Where is the most painful place to get a tattoo?

Anywhere with thin skin or nerve endings (or both) is going to be a painful place to get a tattoo. The following places will be especially painful: spine, shin, top of foot, armpit, ankle, inner bicep, elbow, kneecap, back of knees, ribs, neck, nipple, groin.