Animals have been the subject of tattoos for millennia thanks to their powerful symbolism, ability to evoke emotions, and the wide-open potential they hold for unique designs. Of all the different creatures inked on your skin, the owl tattoo is one of the most interesting.
These enigmatic birds can be incorporated into unique and exciting designs, whether for an entire chest piece, wings spread and wide talons out, or a wise owl perched on the shoulder. The owl could soon replace the classic eagle as the most popular bird of prey for tattoo designs.
Spanning the stylistic spectrum — from the stark contrast of black and grey to the vibrant colors of American traditional — the owl tattoo designs in this list will give you all the inspiration you need to choose the nocturnal bird that fits your style and taste.
1. Simple Owl Tattoo
Sure — big, complex tattoos are interesting, but sometimes a few lines are all you need. Simple owl tattoos are perfect for those who want to let the significance of their ink speak for itself.
2. Barn Owl Tattoo
The barn owl is one of the most popular owl species for a tattoo design with its bizarre and unmistakable face. The perfect subject for detailed, realistic ink; barn owl tattoos can capture the mysterious nature of these powerful birds.
3. Traditional Owl Tattoo
In the past, the only birds you were likely to see in American traditional tattoos were swallows and eagles. Still, in recent years, people have realized the appeal of traditional owl tattoo designs. Taking the bold lines and vibrant colors of this old-school style and applying them to these wise birds makes complete sense.
4. Owl Eyes Tattoo
Possibly the most captivating characteristic of these birds, an owl’s eyes are instantly recognizable. Capturing the golden depth and piercing gaze of these apex predators’ primary hunting tool with bright colors is a sure-fire way to turn heads.
5. Small Owl Tattoo
Tattoos are a personal expression, and some people prefer things a bit more subtle. Luckily for these folks, the unmistakable look of these birds makes small owl tattoos perfect for anyone looking for a design that doesn’t take up too much real estate.
6. Realistic Owl Tattoo
Hyperrealistic tattoos have become increasingly popular in recent years, with skilled artists capable of creating jaw-dropping designs becoming more commonplace. Realistic owl tattoos are the perfect choice for this approach and, when properly executed, look like they could take flight and fly into the night.
7. Geometric Owl Tattoo
Another style that has gained traction in recent years takes organic subjects (like animals) and incorporates sharp angles and straight lines to create truly unique designs. Geometric tattoo designs are a great example of this approach, thanks to the juxtaposition of the unmistakable birds with these abstract, angular designs.
8. Night Owl Tattoo
Whether a comical take on those folks who are awake at all hours of the night or a piece that incorporates a starry night sky, night owl tattoos can make for some exciting designs and ideas.
9. Flying Owl Tattoo
There are few things more impressive than a bird of prey, wings spread, swooping in for the kill, and owls are no exception. Whether stylized in black and grey or a hyperrealistic full-color design, there’s no mistaking the appeal of flying owl tattoos. These tattoos work exceptionally well across the chest and back.
10. Tribal Owl Tattoo
Some of the most interesting tattoo designs blend different styles together to create something more significant than the sum of their parts. With their layered patterns, swirling lines, and complex patterns, tribal tattoos provide great examples of this approach. However, there is a risk of appropriating Indigenous culture, so be aware of what your design incorporates and learn the history before making any big decisions.
11. Mystic Owl Tattoo
What better subject for a design than a mystic owl tattoo? In many cultures worldwide, owls are considered mystical creatures thanks to their nocturnal habits and mysterious nature. Add some sacred geometry and psychedelic color to the piece for a personalized flair.
12. Dreamcatcher Owl Tattoo
Dream catchers, like owls, hold powerful spiritual meaning and make for interesting design elements. Pairing the two subjects into a dreamcatcher owl tattoo is a great way to develop an eye-catching and significant design. Again, make sure to do your research and ensure you are appreciating, not appropriating when getting this ink done. Part of making any tattoo special is putting in the work beforehand to truly understand it.
13. OVO Owl Tattoo
14. Owl Skull Tattoo
Their nocturnal and carnivorous nature have made owls powerful symbols of death for many cultures. Combined with another macabre design, owl skull tattoos can serve as robust memento mori designs, reminding the wearer that their time on earth is finite.
15. Great Horned Owl Tattoo
With their unmistakable horn feathers, these birds are model owls. When taking a realistic approach, a skilled artist can create great horned owl tattoos that perfectly capture these mighty hunters’ noble and wise characteristics.
16. Watercolor Owl Tattoo
Watercolor tattoos have exploded onto the scene in recent years, gaining popularity for its impressionistic approach. Light pigments in a near-transparent application, watercolor owl tattoos add a splash of color to these typically somber birds.
17. White Owl Tattoo
As pure as the driven snow, white owl tattoos are perfect examples of not needing bright colors to create a compelling design. Undeniably elegant, these designs look as if they are carved from marble.
18. American Traditional Owl Tattoo
With its roots planted firmly in history, American traditional work is practically synonymous with the word “tattoo.” When applied to the penetrating gaze of an owl, the bold lines and bright colors of the style take on a life of their own.
19. Snowy Owl Tattoo
A powerful symbol of the mountainous wilds, snow owl tattoo designs are perfect for anyone who appreciates nature’s irrepressible power. With the potential to combine landscapes of peaks and crags, these designs have endless personalization options.
20. Neo-traditional Owl Tattoo
Building on American traditional’s bold lines and bright colors while ditching some of the stricter rules and adding more illustrative elements, neo-traditional owl tattoos make for some exciting pieces that think outside of the box.
21. Black Owl Tattoo
A monochromatic color scheme makes sense for a night stalking predator like the owl. A blackwork tattoo will utilize fully saturated black and grey shading to create contrast.
22. Colorful Owl Tattoo
Some folks prefer their ink a bit more lively — and bright colors are one of the best ways to lighten things up. When applied to these somber birds, colorful owl tattoos create an exciting contrast between subject and style.
23. Owl Feather Tattoo
While it may just look like another feather, this plumage’s unique color and shape are unmistakable to anyone who knows owls. An owl feather tattoo is perfect for someone who loves these birds’ symbolism but prefers something a bit more subtle.
24. Athena Owl Tattoo
The Greek goddess of wisdom’s animal familiar, Athena, was an owl. This makes Athena owl tattoos perfect for mythology buffs commemorating this ancient and powerful female figure.
25. Owl Outline Tattoo
A successful tattoo doesn’t necessarily need a lot of colors or shading if the design concept is clever and well-executed. Owl outline tattoo designs are perfect for this clean, simple approach with their unmistakable profile.
26. Celtic Owl Tattoo
Celtic heritage is an essential part of many people’s lives, often permanently memorialized through ink. The intricate knotwork characteristic of this style is an ideal addition to many other styles and designs, making Celtic owl tattoos perfect for anyone wanting to inject some cultural weight to their raptor piece.
27. Evil Owl Tattoo
Considered bad omens in many cultures, owls can fit perfectly into a dark and macabre composition. Whether small and straightforward or a jaw-dropping full body piece, evil owl tattoos are an excellent way to bring life to a wicked design.
28. Red Owl Tattoo
While it can be challenging to work with, the appeal of fully saturated red ink is obvious. Using clean lines and a simple design, red owl tattoos can make for surprisingly eye-catching designs and, when properly applied, can stand the test of time.
29. Japanese Owl Tattoo
Taking the bright colors, complex compositions, and massive scale that Japanese (irezumi) tattoos are known for and applying them to these nocturnal raptors makes Japanese owl tattoos some of the most significant and striking designs you’ll come across.
Best Placement for Owl Tattoos
30. Owl Sleeve Tattoo
The large size and dynamic shape of the arm make owl sleeve tattoos the perfect way to incorporate a variety of design elements into one large piece. Whether in color, black, and grey, or a combination of the two, these large tattoos signify true dedication to these animals and the powerful meaning they hold.
31. Owl Chest Tattoo
The chest is one of the most versatile canvases on the body, thanks to its relatively flat and broad shape. There is lots of potential for unique and complex compositions in many different styles.
32. Owl Neck Tattoo
There aren’t many things that show the wearer’s dedication to a design like ink above the collar, and owl neck tattoos are no different. Whether large or small, in full color or black and grey, there’s no mistaking the boldness of a neck tattoo and the dedication of the person sporting it.
33. Owl Hand Tattoo
Generally saved for when the wearer has a significant amount of tattoos, the hands tend to be the last bits of skin to get covered. But once done, the appeal is clear. Out there for all the world to see, owl hand tattoos make for some stunning work for those folks bold enough to pull off this conspicuous placement.
34. Owl Back Tattoo
Something is mesmerizing about a full back piece on the body’s largest canvas. With plenty of room to incorporate various design elements into a complex composition, owl back tattoos can make for some of the most striking and dynamic designs you are likely to see.
Men’s Owl Tattoo FAQ
What is the meaning of an owl tattoo?
Around the world, owls hold intense meaning for the people who live alongside them. Equally powerful symbols of wisdom and death, the meaning behind an owl tattoo depends strongly on the design and application of the piece. But whether dark and macabre or light and enchanting, the powerful mystery of these birds is always front and center.
What does an owl and skull tattoo symbolize?
In many cultures, owls are potent symbols of death and foreboding and are considered bad omens. When placed alongside a skull — the most unmistakable symbol of death — this meaning becomes even more powerful.
Which owl is the wisest tattoo?
It’s hard to develop an owl design that won’t convey knowledge and wisdom. Long considered the wisest of all animals, these birds’ stern faces and mysterious nature are powerful symbols of knowledge and intelligence. However, when incorporated into a design with the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, these connotations become even more obvious.
How long does an owl forearm tattoo take?
When it comes to tattoos, speed isn’t usually a priority. Depending on the piece’s size, complexity, and style, an owl forearm tattoo could take anywhere from 2 hours for a smaller design to 15 hours for a forearm sleeve.