Sun tattoos are a popular choice of body art. They can be simple, complex, meaningful, aesthetic and gender neutral. They are also easily adaptable to an individual’s style and taste.
The sun is also rife with symbolism. It sustains the earth and mankind and so many draw on this connection through getting inked.
There are a multitude of options when it comes to getting a sun tattoo. In this article we’ll go over some of the key symbolism of sun tattoos and provide you with a range of ideas and inspiration for your own solar-inspired ink.
Sun Tattoo Meaning
Sun tattoos have different meanings in different cultures. The most common symbolism is light and renewal. Our existence on the earth depends on the sun, so it can also represent the cycle of life.
Fans of astrology view the sun as a cosmic power, and historically it has been etched onto numerous artefacts and scriptures. In astrology, the sun represents the Self which is projected out onto others, like a beam of light. The position of the sun at the moment of a child’s birth is supposed to give them certain characteristics. The sun therefore has a lot of significance in astrology.
In Ancient China
In ancient Chinese culture, the sun was considered the Great Male Principle — the divine Yang. They also believed humans embody the sun and possess the same cosmic eye which shines light on knowledge.
In alchemy, the sun was referred to as “sol” and was considered a symbol of spirit and intellect. The sun was also represented by gold in the practice of alchemy.
In Planetary Symbolism
The classic planetary symbol of the sun (a circle with a dot in the centre) represents the completion of outstanding work and can pertain to ideas of the self in relation to the planet as a whole
The sun is also, due to the connotation of light, a means to shine a light on the self so as to make our inner beings visible to others.
In Christianity, the sun was supposedly the home of archangel Michael, while the angel Gabriel lives on the moon. The light is also used interchangeably with christ. The sun can therefore be a strong religious symbol.
In Ancient Egypt
In Ancient Egypt the sun is connected to the gods Horus, Ra and Osiris. Horus represents the sun rising, Osiris represents sunset, while Ra is symbolically tied to the sun’s zenith.
In Greek Mythology
In Greek mythology, the sun is related to optics and vision, and the sun is often referred to as the eye of Zeus. Similarly, in Hindu mythology, the God of waters, Varuna, sees through the sun.
The sun is usually depicted as masculine, however in Celtic an Pagan traditions, femininity is transposed into the sun’s rays.
In the Animal Kingdom
The sun is also linked to animal symbolism. For example, the eagle serves as a symbol of the sun and its eminence over civilisation. Tigers, too, are often depicted as being symbolically connected to sunset.
The Sun’s Various Meanings
Our ancestor’s have always acknowledged the power and divinity of the sun, however in today’s world it is something that is often overlooked. Getting a tattoo of the sun can be a way of permanently acknowledging its power and influence over the world while drawing on some of the traits and truths it represents.
Here are some other virtues symbolised by the sun:
72 Best Sun Tattoo Design Ideas
Below are some ideas to inspire your own sun tattoo.
Minimalist Sun Tattoo Ideas
Minimalism as a tattoo trend is very popular. This style favors simplicity and outlines, with very little shading. However simple does not mean boring, and you can still get very creative with minimalist tattoos. If you prefer subtlety, or enjoy having a number of smaller, less conspicuous tattoos over your body, then minimalism may be the tattoo style for you.
Large Sun Tattoos
If you are keen to get some large and noticeable body art, then there are a myriad of options. As the Buddha said: “three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” So why not get a conspicuous, visible sun tattoo. The larger the tattoo, the more space for detail too. This means you can pack in a lot in a single design.
Small Tiny Sun Tattoo
While big, eye-catching tattoos can draw the eye and make a statement, tiny, subtle pieces can be very attractive too. A small tattoo can carry just as much meaning as a big one, and due to it being such a small size there are no limitations about where it can be placed on the body. Even a finger or toe will provide a big enough canvas for the tattoo artist. If you need to be discreet about your body art for professional reasons, a smaller tattoo is a good option as it’s easy to conceal. If it’s your first tattoo, it can also be good to start small before working your way up to bigger designs.
Also Read: 28 Cool Small Tattoos for Women in 2023
Tribal Sun Designs
Tribal sun tattoos are also very popular. These designs tend to be unique and bold, giving a statement look with wave-like sun rays. The tribal look is popular in Japanese, Chinese and Hindu cultures. This style of tattoo also draws on the connection between life and the sun.
The Celtic Sun Tattoo
Sun tattoo designs are also commonly inspired by the celtic aesthetic. In the Celtic tradition, the sun can represent healing and fertility, so is often a popular choice for women. Celtic mythology also think of their gods in relation to the sun, so it possesses a great deal of power too.
Know More About Celtic Tattoo: 40+ Amazing Celtic Tattoo Designs With Meanings
The Black Sun Tattoo
Portraying the sun as black is a popular design choice, and also works perfectly with black ink. The black sun is associated with dusk and dawn and the transition between day and night. It also draws on solar eclipse imagery and some say it represents rebirth too.
Geometric Sun Tattoo
Geometric tattoos focus on the patterns and line of the sun to create something unique and compelling. They often draw on ideas of symmetry and balance. It takes a very skilled tattoo artist to create beautiful geometric sun tattoos, but they are among the most visually beautiful.
Tribal Sun Tattoo
The tribal sun has a very unique style, and although it appears simple in terms of the design, it carries a great deal of meaning and symbolism. Tribal sun tattoos are linked to ideas of balance between the sun and sustaining life. The concept of the sun being the source of life on earth is expressed through tribal sun ink. If this is symbolism you want to explore in your artwork, then it’s a good option to go with the tribal design.
Sun and Moon Tattoo
The sun and moon go together wonderfully as tattoos and can be used to represent a balance between two opposing forces. This can be the balance between life and death, love and hate or even masculine and feminine auras. This makes for a thought provoking symbolic statement, but it is also very visually interesting. There are many different ways you could express the moon and sun. For example, they can be intertwined or apart. Whatever you opt for, you are sure to have a visually rich tattoo.
Sun and Moon Yin Yang Tattoo
The yin and yang emblem comes from ancient Chinese philosophy and is centred around the union of two opposing concepts. For this reason, the sun and moon work very well slotted into the yin and yang as they too are contrary forces which work in harmony with each other. Usually in such tattoos, the sun represents rebirth and renewal, while the moon symbolises the past.
Sun Moon and Star Tattoo
If you like the idea of combining sun and moon symbolism, why not consider adding in a star too? This combination is rich in symbolism and allows for multiple interpretations. A popular symbolic image is the sun and moon as both masculine and feminine with stars as offspring. This can be a great way to celebrate the idea of family and childbirth. It also draws on the unity and division between day and night.
Sun Rays Tattoo
Focusing on the rays of the sun is also a nice way to make your tattoo more unique. The rays shining outward carries spiritual and religious meaning as it references God looking down onto us. It also represents the sun beaming down on us and giving us life. You also have the option of just getting the rays inked and omitting the sun’s body altogether.
Colored Sun Tattoo
Most of the designs we’ve looked at are in black and white, but in real life the sun is not only bright and colorful itself, it also illuminates all the colors we are capable of seeing. If you really want your tattoo to stand out, why not consider getting inked in color? The vibrancy will give the tattoo a sense of warmth and optimism too.
Wave and Sun Tattoo
It’s common to combine other natural elements with the sun to show a harmony with nature. Sea waves and the sun go together perfectly and, while they symbolise strength and power, the ebb and flow of the water can represent the highs and lows of life too. Wave and sun tattoos are very calming and beautiful to look at, and they can be a reminder to let go and let life take its course.
Rising Sun Tattoo
The rising sun tattoo has origins in Japanese culture and is inspired by the country’s previous flag. This flag is white and red and still used by the military. It’s usually represented in the same red color in tattooing. While this is a visually interesting look, it originally represented Japanese imperial ambition, so can potentially be interpreted as offensive by some. Make sure you do your research and create an inoffensive design before getting inked.
Aztec Sun Tattoo
For those interested in Aztec culture, an Aztec-inspired sun tattoo could be a great option. The sun represents a god which was worshiped by the Aztec people. Legend has it they even became hysterical during an eclipse because they thought their sun god had perished. Since the sun was so important to Aztec culture, a sun tattoo is a great tribute to this ancient civilization.
Sun Face Tattoo
Adding a face to your sun tattoo is a good way to personalise it and even inject a bit of a humor into the design. It personifies the sun and gives it a whole new meaning. You can decide whether or not you want a smiling sun, a smirking sun or even a melancholy one.
Japanese Sun Tattoo
If you have Japanese ancestry, then you might be attracted to the idea of a Japanese-style sun tattoo. This might include a red sun like in the rising sun design mentioned earlier, or it might be inspired by Japanese artists like Hokusai. You can add other elements to make it personalised to you, like cherry blossoms or Japanese landscape.
Mandala Sun Tattoo
A mandala is a circular figure which represents the universe in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Mandala designs intertwined with the sun create a beautiful mix of shapes and symbols. Combining the two forces also represents a kind of harmony and equilibrium in the universe and connotes creativity and passion.
Traditional Sun Tattoo
Sun tattoos are so attractive for their versatility. There are literally unlimited options for sun inspired designs. However, sometimes classic is best and many opt for a traditional, simple sun tattoo which shows the sun in a spherical form with rays. You can opt for bold or delicate lines and include shading or not — the choice is yours. The good thing is, you simply can’t go wrong with a traditional sun tattoo design.
Half Sun Tattoo
While most sun tattoo designs focus on the whole sun, a half sun can have a whole other meaning as it connotes either sunrise or sunset. This can represent ideas associated with dawn, like new life, or likewise can represent ideas associated with dusk like finality. This is, of course, open to interpretation, but it certainly opens up new avenues for symbolic meaning.
Sun and Animal
It’s very common to add an animal which is significant to you in the mix with your sun tattoo. This is because animals also carry symbolic meaning and relate to nature and life just like the sun.
Watercolor Sun Tattoo
Watercolor tattoos are an extremely popular color tattoo option. They work especially well with scenery or natural settings as they give a smudgy, oil painting look. If you’re interested in getting a sunset, then you might want to think about getting it done in a watercolor style.
Quotes with the Sun Tattoos
Finally, you might want to add a quote which has specific significance to you along with your sun tattoo. This can provide an uplifting message to your tattoo or help to indicate the meaning. This could be a song lyric, a line from a poem or even just one single word that has meaning for you.
Your Sun Tattoo
As you can see, there are limitless options when it comes to getting solar ink. Whether you want to go with a specific style like tribalism or celtic looks, or you want something wholly original and personalised, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to your sun tattoo.