Owl tattoos are a hugely popular choice when it comes to animal tattoos, and fans of the look get them in all shapes, sizes and colors. Their symbolic association with wisdom and majesty is part of their appeal, as well as the intriguing and aesthetically pleasing shape and plumage.
Throughout human history, owls have been considered fascinating and beautiful creatures. In fact, there are few other animals, birds or otherwise, which have so many associations attached. Owls have been feared, admired, adored — and even linked to witchcraft and omens.
If you’re charmed by the unique appearance and personality of the owl, then you might want to get the bird permanently inked on your skin. If that’s you, then you’re in the right place. In this post we’ll take you through some of the hottest owl tattoo ideas, plus clue you up on the symbolism behind the allusive bird.
Owl Tattoo Symbolism
Owls can represent a variety of things. For many, they are simultaneously symbolic of wisdom and darkness. They therefore represent a certain duality.
Owls are associated with wisdom and knowledge, however this is not necessarily intellectual wisdom but more closely linked with the soul. Owls have night vision, which means they are able to see in the dark. Taken symbolically, this can mean they can unmask mystery and see through lies and deception. The fact the owl can see what others can’t is what makes them wise.
However, owls have a number of other qualities. For example, they are often seen as mysterious by humans, largely because they are nocturnals so we don’t often see what they get up to. They also live in the dark of night, which many associate with a certain mystery and magic. They are often thought of as related to moonlight, which itself is a majestic and magical phenomena. Because of this, owls can be linked with the moon’s symbolism, such as femininity, divinity, fertility, and renewal.
The owl’s association with lunar light is also why it’s seen as a creature of intuition, and even a kind of guardian and protector of the sacred. They are also linked with purity and renewal of the soul.
It is within this idea of renewal and rebirth that owls are related to death. It is not necessarily a darkness, but a sort of symbolic death signalling a big life transition or complete regeneration.
Owls are therefore deeply symbolic and carry a lot of meaning. It’s worth bearing this in mind if you want to get a tattoo of this majestic creature.
Owl Tattoo Design Guide
Now we know a little more about the symbolic meaning behind owl tattoos, let’s delve into some ideas for owl ink.
Trippy Owl Tattoo
If you’re a fan of the psychedelic and are looking to get body art that reflects this, then an owl is an excellent choice. The shape of the bird and its various feathers mean it goes perfectly with a trippy aesthetic. The eyes already have that otherworldly appearance, and along with variegated plumage, your owl tattoo can easily take on an eye-catching, psychedelic look.
Owl on Branch Tattoo
If you want to add a little more detail to the design, a natural option is a branch. This means your owl will appear in its natural habitat and will take on a more realistic appearance. Adding the branch also adds more of a full picture to the tattoo, making it tell a tale which can make the ink more alluring and interesting to look at. If you opt for a color tattoo, you can make the branch either brown or green, or indeed any color you wish if you’re going for a more surreal look.
Watercolors are all the rage right now in the tattoo world, and with the beautiful streams of color they create, it’s not hard to see why. You can easily add a nice watercolor border or background to your owl tattoo, making it a bold and enchanting design.
The only thing to bear in mind with watercolor tattoos, however, is that although they look amazing at first, the color can fade quite quickly. This means the tattoo might not look as fresh and eye-catching a few years after it’s inked. However, you can counteract the fading by getting frequent top-ups. Although, this can get expensive and prove to be quite a pricey investment in the long run.
Owl and Roses Tattoo
Roses are staples in the tattoo community. For this reason, they go well with pretty much everything, including owls. Roses add an element of romance, mystery, and elegance to any tattoo design, so can be perfect for those getting inked to show their love and dedication for someone else. When done in color, the red of the rose can complement the shading of the owl’s plumage nicely too.
Owl in Flight Tattoo
Most depictions of owls focus on them in a still position. However, showing an owl in flight can create an interesting look. With the wings extended, the tattoo can draw more attention to the feathers, and the stance overall gives off more power and strength. The in-flight depiction can also reflect the idea of freedom, which is always an attractive choice when it comes to body art.
Owl with Colored Eyes Tattoo
While it’s very common to tattoo owls in black and white, it’s still very popular to add a pop of color in the eye area. This draws attention to the central reason owls are associated with wisdom: their ability to see in the dark and therefore perceive things that others don’t. It can also make a nice colourful centre point for the tattoo, drawing people to the design.
Owl Eyes Tattoo
If you want something a little different and potentially smaller that will still evoke the essence of an owl, you can opt to simply get an owl eye inked. The eye conveys the most integral aspect of the animal: it’s wisdom and superior perception. Plus, the deconstructed look is a slightly more original concept for a tattoo and can take up less space.
Owl Skull Tattoo
If you’re looking for something darker with a little edge, then a skull inside the owl can make for a fierce and unusual look. This design has a few profound meanings. Firstly, it can be a way of honoring a lost loved one, as their death is symbolized by the skull and the owl acts as their protector. The other meaning is that of guarding a secret knowledge, essence or soul, as the skull represents some hidden truth which is being kept secret and protected by the owl.
Minimalist Owl Tattoo
If you want something simple and discreet, you might prefer to opt for a minimalist, line drawing owl tattoo. This has become a popular style in the tattoo world recently, and often yields elegant and beautiful designs. The advantage of line work tattoos is that they tend to be less painful and time-consuming to get done too — which is a big plus. They can also be kept hidden more easily in the case that you want to be discreet about your body art in a professional environment.
Celtic Owl Tattoo
Celtic is a style of tattoo which refers to Celtic culture. Generally speaking, Celtic tattoos reflect vitality and strength. They can also refer to ideas of protection and recall Celtic heritage, which is usually associated with Ireland.
If you have ties to this culture, or simply like its associations and aesthetic, then you might want to get your own ink in the style. Ideas of fortitude and livelihood combined with the wisdom of owls can make for a hugely symbolic piece of artwork. You might want to add Celtic knots to the design too, which symbolize an eternal bond between people and nature.
Tribal Owl Tattoo
Tribal tattoos are a popular style of body art. Their meaning changes between cultures, but the typical aesthetic recalls Polynesian or Native American tribal styles. These tattoos usually tell the story of a person’s heritage and can be an ink trophy of their achievements. They’re often associated with protection, strength and power. This tribal look can work very well with an owl, as depictions of nature are often used in tribal tattoos.
However, you should be careful to ensure you research your desired tribal tattoo thoroughly before committing to the design. This is because you don’t want to risk offending anyone who has that specific heritage.
Old School Owl Tattoo
Old School tattoos, also known as Traditional tattoos, have bold lines and distinctive yellow and red colors. They’re the kind of designs you see in classic American tattoos. They’re often associated with the navy, and even have classic navy related symbols, like an anchor or a ship’s wheel. This look can work well with an owl tattoo as the owl itself is a classic tattoo image.
Realism Owl Tattoo
In the tattoo world, realism is exactly what it sounds like: tattoos drawn as realistically as possible. If you want your tattoo to look precisely like a tattoo in the wild might look, then this is the style choice for you.
Realist tattoos require an immense amount of skill, so make sure you find a tattoo artist with a lot of experience and a portfolio filled with other realist tattoos. Otherwise, you might end with something a little unfortunate looking. You should also be aware that due to the amount of detail required in realistic tattoos, you can expect to be in the tattoo shop for a while and may need multiple sittings until your design is completely inked.
Geometric Owl Tattoo
The Geometric tattoo style emphasizes shapes, lines and patterns with a focus on symmetry. It’s a very modern style that reduces things to their geometric dimensions. If you want something ultra contemporary, stylish and highly original, then a geometric owl tattoo is a great choice for you. With birds, the geometric pattern gives a very unique look to the feathers, making them follow a uniform pattern. Overall, this is an eye-catching and highly desirable look.
Small Owl Tattoo
Many tattoos of owls will be on the larger size in order to accommodate all the details of the bird. However, if you want something smaller and more discreet, it’s still possible. Great spots for small owl tattoos are the wrist and the ankle, however some tiny owl tattoos can even fit on your finger. Although, if you do opt for a teensy finger tattoo, bear in mind that hand and finger tattoos fade quickly as they’re exposed to sun and wear and tear much more than other parts of the body. This means you have to get top ups frequently to keep the tattoo looking fresh.
Cartoon Owl Tattoo
If you’re a big fan of cartoons, then you’re in luck, because your favorite animations can act as the inspiration for your body art. With big, doughy eyes, cartoon owls look so cute, and they make great additions to tattoo collections. You can also add classic cartoon elements, like a pile of books or a bow to show the knowledge and wisdom aspect of an owl’s personality, or to convey their gender.
Owl and Other Animal Tattoo
While an owl is a perfectly adequate stand alone piece for a tattoo, many opt to combine it with another animal of their choosing. This can be so as to combine the different symbolic attachments of different animals in a way that reflects particular meaning.
For example, somebody might choose to depict an owl and a lion together as they want to express both wisdom and strength in their tattoo piece. It could also simply be because you want to include your favorite animal along with your owl. The good news is that animal tattoos create very interesting body art pieces that will certainly attract attention.
Neck and Throat Owl Tattoo
If you’re feeling a little more daring, then you might consider getting your owl tattoo on your neck. This is a bold look, but the throat or neck actually make a great canvas for owl tattoos, especially with the wings outspread.
If you do decide to opt for a throat or neck tattoo, you should be aware that it can be a risky place for the tattoo needle to venture. Make sure you go with a very experienced tattoo artist so that the tattoo is completed safely. It’s also an area that is highly visible and there are some professional environments that don’t view neck tattoos favourably. If you plan on working in an office environment, then you might need to rethink this one!
Owl and Other Element Tattoo
Finally, you can combine your owl tattoo with any other element which takes your fancy. In the examples above, there is a steering wheel and a pocket watch, but these are just examples. You can have your owl clutching or carrying anything you please!
Owl tattoos are richly symbolic and there are a myriad of ways you can make them unique to you. Hopefully this guide has given you inspiration and you’re now one step close to making that appointment to get your very own owl tattoo.