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500 Best Ocean Tattoo Design Ideas (Meaning And Symbolize)
Everyone loves the ocean, waves, mesmerizing blue color, captivating horizon, and incredible creatures that live in it. So it comes as no wonder ocean theme is a popular tattoo design. Not only does it look great, but the ocean also bears important meaning.
In this post, you’re going to learn more about the symbolism behind ocean tattoos and see some awesome ideas that are bound to serve as an inspiration for your next tattoo appointment.
What Does An Ocean Tattoo Mean?
Nothing can survive without water; not humans, plants, or animals. As the largest body of water on our planet, the ocean is admirable, but also captivating and mysterious. For many cultures, the ocean is life. The beauty of an ocean is depicted in many works of art. Body art is not an exception. Ocean tattoos are popular among men and women alike.
But what does an ocean tattoo symbolize? Ocean tattoo represents a lot of things, and that’s exactly why this body art is so popular. You see, an ocean tattoo can symbolize a lot of things. In many cases, this kind of tattoo represents something mighty and it’s all due to the magnitude of the ocean as the body of water, to begin with.
Oceans are vast and mysterious so a tattoo can represent the same things as well. Despite cutting-edge technology used today, scientists are able to explore only a small percentage of oceans. So, an ocean tattoo could depict something mysterious or show there’s more to the wearer than it may seem. In other words, you can use such a tattoo to show the true depth of your character or personality.
Additionally, ocean tattoo often depicts dynamic and change, both of which are inevitable in our lives. Many people represent these ideas by opting for tattoos that show waves in stormy weather.
For some people ocean represents a journey and the road to self-discovery, new opportunities, or starting a brand new chapter in life. Moreover, an ocean tattoo can stand for infinite love or undying love for someone in your life.
It’s also useful to mention some people go for an ocean tattoo to raise awareness of saving the ocean. Others do it because oceans are beautiful and it’s great to rock this kind of body art.
Ocean tattoo represents a lot to many people so the actual symbolism may vary. Your tattoo can get a whole new dimension (and meaning) when you combine the ocean with other imagery.
60+ Ocean Tattoo Design Ideas
Now that we’ve learned the meanings behind ocean tattoos, it’s time to check out some pretty awesome designs. Scroll down to see them all.
1. Ocean Wave Tattoo
Wave tattoos are a popular choice for men and women alike. They can be as simple as one fine, wavy line, or more elaborate.
In terms of symbolism, waves represent tons of ideas and they’re usually tied to someone’s soul and their character. For instance, a wave tattoo often symbolizes emotion, subconsciousness, nature, fantasy, dreams, and more.
Waves also represent change and flow in life. Oceans aren’t always peaceful, storms happen, and waves are a natural occurrence. The same thing happens in life. So, this kind of tattoo shows life is unpredictable. Sometimes it’s calm and peaceful, but waves come across and shake the boat. It makes us who we are; strong and courageous.
2. Lighthouse And Ocean Tattoo
Lighthouse is often depicted on its own in a tattoo, or in combination with other images such as the ocean hitting the shore. The symbolism behind a lighthouse tattoo is closely tied to the true purpose of these structures. You see, this kind of tattoo symbolizes a forward path or guiding light for a person.
More precisely, a lighthouse tattoo can represent safety, guidance, and protection. Some people opt for a lighthouse tattoo to depict their love for the ocean. Others choose this type of body art design as a reminder to always follow the light in their lives.
Sometimes, the lighthouse theme is combined with “mom” or specific names. In these cases, a lighthouse tattoo is a way to pay tribute to a person who’s made a positive impact on a wearer’s life.
The best thing about this tattoo is that you have the freedom to opt for any style you want. Whether you want a minimalist tattoo or an elaborate American traditional tattoo of lighthouse and ocean, it will look great either way.
3. Minimalist Ocean Tattoo
Oceans are big and powerful and a tattoo can create a huge impact. But the tattoo itself doesn’t have to be huge as well. Minimalist ocean tattoos are equally powerful. Their fine lines match the prowess of the ocean perfectly.
The most common minimalist ocean tattoos are those of waves. But you can choose a different oceanic theme if you want. Your ocean tattoo doesn’t have to depict the body of water itself, it can be something else. A seashell, for example.
Minimalist tattoos are ideal for persons who can easily cover them up with clothing. So, if your workplace frowns upon tattoos, a minimalistic design is the ideal solution.
4. Japanese Ocean Tattoo
Japanese tattoos, also known as irezumi, are popular works of art thanks to the elaborate imagery. The ocean is not the main motif here, but it appears in many tattoos usually accompanied by dragons or in combination with other animals, even flowers.
In these tattoos, the ocean gets a deeper meaning depending on the image with which it is combined. Even though Japanese tattoos are usually large, you can still opt for a smaller alternative if you’re not into huge ink.
The meaning of a Japanese ocean tattoo is pretty similar to the general symbolism of this type of body art. Water tattoos are tied to the belief that life, just like water, ebbs, and flows. It is gentle and calm but can be strong and swift.
5. Ocean Sleeve Tattoo
Sleeve tattoos are ideal for adventurous men and women who love to stand out. These designs are edgy, elaborate, and tell a specific story. Both colorful and black sleeves are popular. You don’t have to opt for blue color to depict the ocean if you’re not a fan of color in your tattoos. Black will suffice perfectly.
A talented tattoo artist can depict the beauty and power of an ocean even with one color. In other words, the choice of a tattoo artist is crucial.
The best thing about sleeve tattoos is that you can interpret the oceanic theme in your way. For instance, you can opt for animals that live in the ocean, or even include a lighthouse, a boat, or the shore and space. The point here is to let your creativity shine. Imagine a story you’d like to tell with the oceanic theme, describe it to your tattoo artist, and they’ll take it from there.
6. Sun And Ocean Tattoo
Ocean and sun go together like a watermelon and a hot summer day. There’s something special about an ocean on a sunny day when the surface glistens and sparkles like jewels. For that reason, tattoos that show a picture of an ocean and sun are very common.
The combination of the two has a deeper meaning; it’s not just a pretty picture. Sun is a source of power and light whereas the ocean represents the highs and lows of life. Sun and ocean combination symbolizes nature’s balance or going with the flow.
You can get one such tattoo in different styles including colorful, fine lines, big, or small. It’s not uncommon for people to add palm trees into the mix. Some tattoos depict the sun at its brightest during the day whereas others show sunset. There are no rules here, the choice is yours.
Also Read: 72 Best Sun Tattoo Design Ideas and Meaning (2021 Updated)
7. Whale And Ocean Tattoo
Whales are a common image in oceanic theme tattoos. These magnificent animals have the ability to submerge to significant depths of the ocean and they emerge from the deep gloriously. For many people who get this tattoo, the whale symbolizes rebirth.
In other words, your whale tattoo can represent strength to overcome dark moments in life. We all have them. Bad times don’t last forever, but it takes a lot of strength and courage to overcome them. Whale depicts your “rebirth”.
Since whales are excellent navigators, a tattoo that represents this amazing animal can stand for finding one’s path or true calling in life. The whale tattoo also symbolizes tranquility and peace. This isn’t such a surprise. When you look at whales swimming or emerging out of the ocean, you realize how calm and peaceful they look.
Other meanings associated with whale tattoos include intelligence, power, wisdom, loyalty, devotion, freedom, and good luck.
Whale tattoos are versatile and look great regardless of the size and color options. The black whale tattoo looks equally impressive as the one with blue shades that represent the ocean.
8. Mermaid Ocean Tattoo
Everyone loves mermaids, which is why they are a popular tattoo choice for men and women alike. Mermaid is considered a strong female figure, a woman who is free, self-directed, and independent. Due to their link to the ocean, mermaids represent intuition, nature, creation, and birth or rebirth.
Many tales and legends suggest mermaids would lure sailors. For that reason, a mermaid tattoo may symbolize seduction, danger, and sexuality even. That’s why mermaids in some tattoos are depicted with naked breasts whereas in other designs they’re covered.
A tattoo of a mermaid stands for mystery and going with the flow, as well. In other words, mermaid tattoos represent a lot of things ranging from seduction and persuasion to emotion, wildness, and self-love.
The actual design gives your tattoo a more specific meaning e.g. a mermaid can hold something that adds a new dimension to your tattoo.
The style of a mermaid tattoo can be cute and girly or edgy and wild.
9. Shark Ocean Tattoo
A shark tattoo has multiple meanings primarily due to different attitudes toward these creatures from one culture to another. Sharks are terrifying predators that demand respect. For that reason, a tattoo of a shark can depict peril or warning. In some cases, a shark tattoo could indicate the wearer doesn’t really like it when someone invades their space.
Sharks are not deadly creatures only. They also represent grace, pride in being meticulous, and the courage to face fears. For some persons, a shark tattoo symbolizes curiosity. After all, sharks are curious animals.
Other meanings behind shark tattoos include fearlessness, intelligence, power, being passionate in your pursuits, and living your life to the fullest.
10. Seahorse And Ocean Tattoo
If you’re looking for a cute oceanic tattoo with interesting meanings, a seahorse tattoo is an excellent choice. A seahorse tattoo represents tenderness, tranquility, parenthood, regality, and gender fluidity. Tattoos of these cute ocean creatures also symbolize friendliness, protection, and generosity.
A seahorse tattoo may indicate the wearer is patient, content, persistent, and perceptive. These animals haven’t evolved like other creatures and species. They have remained pretty much the same since their inception. For that reason, a seahorse represents contentment i.e. being satisfied with your life (and yourself) as it is, without having the need or desire to change.
11. Boat/Ship And Ocean Tattoo
The actual meaning of a boat or ship tattoo depends on your current life situation. In most cases, people opt for a boat or ship tattoo to represent the love for adventure, exploration, and new beginnings. Additionally, some people choose these tattoos because they love the ocean and sailing.
A boat or ship tattoo also depicts resilience. Sometimes the ocean is calm, but the storm arrives and the boat still survives intact. That’s why a tattoo of the boat shows your strength to face any obstacle and come out a winner. In other words, a boat or ship tattoo means the wearer is brave.
Some people get boat or ship tattoos to honor or pay tribute to someone or to describe their troubled past.
12. Artistic Ocean Tattoo
If you have an artsy side and want to show it off, you can always opt for unusual ocean tattoo designs. The only rule here is that there are no rules. Anything you can imagine can be converted into a lovely tattoo. It’s all about finding a great tattoo artist who can turn your ideas into a work of art.
13. Armband Ocean Tattoo
If you want an armband ocean tattoo, but with a unique twist, you can easily make it happen. For instance, your armband tattoo can feature an ocean surface with ocean animals underneath. These can include turtle, dolphin, jellyfish, seashell, starfish, and other “creatures”. Or maybe you can go for waves only or other oceanic theme motifs.
Armband tattoos are not always associated with death, they can be a sign of strength. Plus, when you add an oceanic theme to them, your armband tattoo can have a deeper meaning with positive vibes.
What are 3D tattoos?
The term ‘ 3-dimensional tattoo’ refers to any design that looks three-dimensional, rather than two-dimensional (flat) on the skin.
The best tattoos of this nature will be realistic enough to look like photographs.
The 3D technique is used for a number of innovative and creative designs – from simply tattooing hyper-realistic looking objects to crossing into the realm of believable optical illusions.
3D tattoos are likely to take longer to complete than two-dimensional designs and require a huge amount of expertise from the tattoo artist.
If you’re considering getting a tattoo like this, it’s best to try to find a tattooist who specializes in this aesthetic, even if it means looking outside your area or paying a bit more than expected.
3-dimensional tattoo work only achieves its purpose – looking realistic – if the artist gets everything 100% right.
Realistic 3D tattoo design ideas
As we’ve already mentioned, creativity is key to creating the very best and most original tattoos.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, consider the following ideas – and don’t forget to check out our massive gallery of awesome three dimensional tattoos!
Animals and objects
This type of tattoos in 3D involves simply – though let’s be honest, it’s not that simple – tattooing a photorealistic image of something on your body.
Real-looking objects and animals make for striking, eye-catching tattoos.
Some popular choices include:
- Flowers – always a popular tattoo element, flowers look even better when tattooed in 3D. Most people opt for roses since they’re one of the more complex flowers to tattoo and ones with the most depth involved – there’s a lot of light and shadow play on and between the petals, unlike with flowers that are naturally more flat. Drops of water are sometimes added for extra realism. Both color and black options are viable, and each will result in a distinctive style – though of course, the use of color will make the image more lifelike.
- Portraits – portrait tattoos are tough to get right and a major commitment (they’re not as easy to cover up as names!), yet this doesn’t affect their popularity all that much. Plenty of people still get them, and there’s no reason not to if you have the right tattoo artist to help you and the certainty that this is the right choice for you. Portrait tattoos are usually done in black ink. If they were done in color, they’d blend in too much with the color of your own skin.
- Animals – both tattoos of pets and of wild animals are often done in 3D to add depth and heighten the aesthetic value of the design. Usually tattooed in color for maximum realism, these tattoos tend to be quite large in order to preserve all the details and make the design more believable. Tigers, wolves, and lions are common choices, as are snakes and lizards.
- Spiders – from black widows to huge tarantulas, realistic spiders make for awesome-looking tattoos in 3D. Though these insects generally cause most people to flinch and many are positively fearful of them (sometimes with good reason, after all), the symbolism of the spider is not altogether negative. They’re associated with power, mystery, and growth. Spiders also represent the concept that our choices construct our lives – likely due to the elaborate webs that spiders gradually build to catch prey.
- Skulls – often combined with other elements, such as flowers or snakes, skulls never seem to lose popularity. In 3-dimensional tattoos they’re typically done in black ink, giving them a dark, gothic look. This fits in with the general cultural meanings of death and mortality that skulls bring to mind. Skulls also have some positive meanings, though – they’re sometimes associated with protection and wisdom.
- Eyes – realistic-looking eyes, either single or in a pair, are another tattoo you’ll see a lot of while browsing our gallery. Eyes are symbolic of intelligence and omniscience, as well as morality and truth. In certain cultures, eyes are considered to be gateways into the soul – sometimes associated with the concept of the ‘third eye’. The third eye is supposed to be the eye of the soul – what could simply be called intuition. In Egyptian and Western occult traditions, the left eye symbolizes the moon and the North, while the right eye represents the sun and the South.
This is one of the most popular choices and one of the safest ones where it comes to achieving the desired effect.
And the effect you’re aiming for here is to make it look as if an insect, such as a butterfly or a dragonfly, has landed on your skin.
The insect is made to look realistic through painstaking work on the tattoo artist’s part – working with several reference images of real examples of your chosen insect to make sure it looks ‘real’ on your skin.
The tattoo is not complete without adding a shadow dropped by the insect – without it, the tattoo could still look somewhat flat.
The placement of a 3D landing insect tattoo is also an important factor to consider. Especially in the case of larger designs, the area can’t be too curved (like the top of your shoulder or your elbow), since this will distort the shape of the tattoo. For lifelike insect tattoos, consider your forearm, the back of your shoulder, or somewhere along your leg – such as your thigh or calf.
The sky’s the limit on what insect you could go with for your tattoo. You could think about what critters visually appeal to you, consider whether you have any personal stories or memories you associate with any particular insect, or take a cultural meaning or value associated with an insect as a starting point.
Butterflies are symbolic of transformation, first and foremost. This is because they start their lives as considerably less attractive caterpillars before transforming themselves into the colorful, beautiful flying insects.
They’re also associated with hope, change, and life itself. As such, they’re particularly meaningful 3D design choices if you want to celebrate an important change in your life or overcoming a difficult struggle. Butterflies are also sometimes thought to be symbolic of the passing of a loved one.
In addition to the above, a blue butterfly 3D tattoo generally symbolizes good luck. Yellow butterflies stand for joy, happiness, and positivity. White ones are associated with purity and, in the context of Christianity, salvation.
Dragonflies have many meanings which differ somewhat between cultures. In general, they symbolize change, adaptability, transformation, and self-realization.
In Japanese culture, dragonflies are symbolic of power, victory, and agility. For Native Americans, dragonflies stood for happiness and purity, as well as for protection from ill health and injury. In Buddhist cosmology, dragonflies represent the joining of Heaven and Earth.
In tattoo art, dragonflies are often thought to represent living in the moment – letting go of the past, not worrying too much about the future, and focusing on what’s important to us here and now.
Cracked or ripped skin
These tattoo designs in 3D are way less grim than they sound. The 3D effect is achieved here by making it appear as if part of the skin is missing, to reveal something unexpected and unusual beneath.
It’s an interesting choice since this type of tattoo blends in perfectly and appears as if it really is a part of the person’s body.
Again, there are plenty of options here, limited only by your creativity and the size you want your tattoo to be.
The biomechanical tattoo style involves designs which represent a seamless blend of human and machine. This means combining bones and tissue with gears, pistons, and other mechanical elements in one design, creating the illusion of a cyborg-like nature.
Though biomechanical designs are sometimes done as traditional, two-dimensional tattoos, the 3D option is far more popular. In order to show the blend of muscle and metal, the muscle must be ‘exposed’ – hence including the illusion of missing skin in the design.
Biomechanical tattoos don’t have any specific meanings in themselves – most of the time they’re purely a form of artistic expression and of decoration.
The biomechanical style in broader art movements originates from the 1970s and is closely associated with Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie Alien. In recent years, the steampunk style has influenced biomechanical tattoos – swapping the steel and cabling of traditional biomech for brass clockwork and gears.
Superheroes and other pop culture elements
A highly popular choice among ‘missing skin’ tattoos, this type is based on the idea of having a costume or a different appearance ‘under’ your skin.
Superheroes are a common theme here – you’re bound to have seen 3D tattoo pictures where it seems as if the person’s skin has been torn off to show a Spiderman or Batman costume underneath.
Characteristic, distinctive clothing/costumes, armors, and appearances of characters from movies, comic books, and games, are all great choices for this kind of tattoo.
An interesting twist is to have several tattoos with the same theme – a ‘rip’ on the chest is a classic, but you could also get matching tattoos, here and there, on other parts of your body – such as your shoulders, arms, and legs.
Using the 3D technique puts a new spin on the traditional quote tattoo. This kind of design usually involves making it appear as if the writing is under your skin, rather than on it.
To achieve this effect, the tattoo artist uses shading to create the illusion of a part of your skin missing, with the letters showing underneath.
There a couple of things to decide on when considering this kind of three-dimensional tattoo. First of all, you need to think about what the writing itself should be – you could opt for a name of a loved one, a quotation that’s important to you, or even a full page of text from a source that has personal meaning to you (e.g. your favorite book or a religious text).
Next up, the shape of the ‘cutout’ – it could look as if the skin is missing in a particular shape, such as a star, heart, or circle, or you could go for a less ordered ‘ripped’ look – as if it’s been scratched or torn off.
The fact that the writing will be ‘under’ your skin suggests that the text is not just important to you, but is a part of you. A 3D under-the-skin writing tattoo is therefore the perfect choice for writing that truly represents who you are, or who you want to be.
An optical illusion uses perspective, shapes, color, and light/shade to create images that are deceptive, confusing, or misleading to our perception. Put simply, optical illusions cause us to see something that either doesn’t exist in reality or actually looks different than what we think it does.
There are many types of optical illusions out there, but the type we’re most interested in is based mostly on an illusion of depth. Think of graffiti art that makes it seem as if an image is ‘floating’ in the air, or of murals that make it look as if there’s a tunnel – when really, it’s just a plain, solid wall.
All 3D tattoos involve some level of illusion – the illusion of realism – but some designs are specifically designed to create extra depth and ‘trick’ the eye. These are specialist tattoos and you may need to put some work into finding the right tattoo artist, but the end result will be totally worth the effort.
Though they’re a relatively recent trend in tattoo art, these types of tattoos have caught on remarkably fast and remain highly popular. With some creativity and the help of an experienced tattoo artist, you can create some truly unique, original designs for your tattoo.
Ocean Tattoo FAQs
How Much Do Ocean Tattoos Cost?
Like with other tattoo designs, the price of an ocean tattoo depends on a lot of factors. These include the size, tattoo studio, and its location, style, technique, among others. You’ll learn all about the estimated costs of your tattoo during the consultation with your tattoo artist.
I’m Not A Fan Of Multicolor Tattoos, Can I Get A Black Ocean Tattoo?
Of course, you can. The best thing about ocean tattoos is that they can be equally mesmerizing and magnificent in black, not just multicolor designs.
What Are The Most Popular Oceanic Theme Tattoos?
Ocean tattoos are classic, always popular. Some of the most common designs include waves, sun and ocean combinations, sharks, whales, ships, landscapes, lighthouses, and others. Tattoos are all about expressing your individuality. So, always opt for a design that speaks to you the most.
Will My Ocean Tattoo Fade Quickly?
It’s difficult to provide a simple answer to this question. The reason is simple; multiple factors influence fading of a tattoo regardless of the design. Your ocean tattoo may fade faster on some parts of the body than others. Tattoos age the best on areas such as the inner forearm, upper and outer chest, back of the neck, and lower back. Black tattoos fade at a slower rate than multicolor designs, especially light shades.
How Long After An Ocean Tattoo Can I Go Into The Ocean?
You get an ocean tattoo and want to rock it on the beach? To do so, you’ll have to wait two weeks after you get your tattoo. That’s the amount of time necessary for skin and tattoo to heal properly.
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