Shoulders are a popular area for tattoo placement. The broad, flat expanse of skin offers a naturally inviting canvas for a tattoo artist while the ability to cover the tattoo with clothes for everyday wear ensures discretion. Tattoos on the shoulder can be small and discreet or fleshed out into entire back pieces or sleeve designs.
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Small, discreet tattoos on the shoulder area are a popular first tattoo. These small tattoos are an excellent way to test the waters of tattooing and can later be incorporated into a larger sleeve or back piece.
Men's small shoulder tattoo designs include a variety of subjects. Skulls and weaponry are "macho" designs often seen in the shoulder area. Depictions of women in various states of dress are also a traditional design. Hearts with names and dates or commemorative tattoos can be placed in this area, stemming from a long tradition of military and naval tattoos.
Small shoulder tattoo ideas for women include small designs such as Japanese or Chinese characters or zodiac symbols. These tattoos can have additional meaning to the wearer and can be created quite small which make them a popular subject for shoulder tattoos. Other feminine shoulder tattoo ideas include butterflies, stars and constellations, or commemorative tattoos for life events, such as a marriage or birth.
The Half Sleeve
The half sleeve covers the areas used by a traditional shoulder tattoo, including part of the back and the upper arm. This type of design is larger and can be tricky to design, particularly if you are incorporating a smaller, existing design into the piece.
Popular half sleeve designs include a tribal design, both in traditional heavy black or in variations of colour or greys. These designs, while not stemming from an actual group or tribe, evoke ideas of primitive societies and can be stylised for both men and women depending on the severity and thickness of the lines.
For women, floral designs are a common subject for half sleeves. They can be depicted in full colour or in shades of grey and black. The style of a floral tattoo can be bright and modern or more traditional. Japanese-style tattoos may feature flowers with koi and writing for sleeves with deeper meaning.
The Back Piece
The back piece is a shoulder tattoo which has grown to extend across the back onto both shoulders. This area can be used as a frame for many styles and designs.
Popular shoulder tattoo designs which can extend into a back piece include tribal or traditional tattoo scenes, rendered in black, grey or bright colours. Floral designs are popular for women and are also used in traditionally themed designs for men.
Wings are another popular choice for the shoulder area and can extend into a full back piece. They can be depicted as angelic and soft or fierce and frightening, making this design adaptable for both men and women.
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