Versatile and perfect for medium-to-large symmetrical designs, lower back tattoos have been popular since the early 2000s.
In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of this placement and suggest some great ideas for unique lower back tattoos. For more inspiration, check out the gallery below!
Lower back tattoo designs
The lower back provides a relatively large, flat surface to work with. This means that you can choose a design ranging from very small to about the size of an A4 sheet of paper.
Symmetrical lower back designs
Symmetrical designs are by far the most popular choice. Taking the spine as the center, the designs expand symmetrically in both directions.
Alternatively, a symmetrical lower back tattoo can involve two elements that are not connected. They will each be tattooed on either side of the spine, at an equal distance.
As for the subject matter of symmetrical designs, the sky’s the limit. If you get creative enough, you can turn any image into a symmetrical tattoo.
The geometric style of tattoos is often symmetrical by definition, so it can be a good starting point for the option described above.
Geometric tattoos use – as the name implies – geometric figures and lines to create modern, contemporary designs. They’re a popular choice among men’s lower back tattoos.
Animals are commonly the subjects of geometric tattoos, with examples such as deer, tigers, and owls. Abstract patterns are also popular, as are flowers and mandalas.
Flower lower back tattoos
Flowers are the absolute staple of tattoo subjects, and lower back designs are no different.
There are two major advantages to choosing flowers for your design. Firstly, they look great regardless of the style – black and simple or 3D in full color, they’re equally appealing.
Secondly, flowers can be used in tattoos as a means of expressing symbolic meanings and personal memories.
Every flower has at least one meaning it represents – and many have several. By choosing the right flower or combining several, you can ensure your tattoo symbolically expresses something important to you.
- Red roses mean love and romance, though they also stand for courage and strength.
- Lilies are the flowers of femininity, purity, renewal, and motherhood.
- Lotus flowers are symbolic of purity and rebirth.
- Wildflowers suggest a free spirit and independent thinking. All kinds of plants that grow in the wild have very specific meanings, too.
- Cherry blossoms are symbols of renewal, spring, and new beginnings. They also stand for the idea of mortality and the importance of living in the moment. They’re a common choice for lower back tattoos for women, in particular. You can see more examples in our guide here.
Check out our dedicated article on flower tattoos and their meanings to find out more and see examples.
Most people aren’t familiar with the meanings of specific flowers. Thanks to this, you’ll be able to keep the significance of your flower tattoo private.
Flowers can, of course, be arranged into a symmetrical design. If symmetry is important to you, consider getting a top-view of a flower, or a lotus seen from the side.
Lower back tribal tattoos
There are two ways to understand the term ‘tribal tattoos’. For some, it means the 90s tattoo style, with semi-abstract designs created with spiked lines.
More recently, tribal tattoos have actually started to draw on real tribal cultures, such as Polynesian or Aztec body art.
The first category uses patterns that don’t have an inherent meaning. It’s just an aesthetic style used to represent certain objects and animals. Often, these designs use butterflies and dragons as their subjects.
Meanwhile, tribal lower back tattoos that borrow from specific cultures have highly specific meanings. Certain patterns that appear in the intricate designs have symbolic significance. You can combine these in different ways to achieve unique effects and meanings.
These designs make for popular lower back tattoos for guys, in particular.
If you’d like to find out more about tribal tattoos, check out this article. It’ll give you an overview of tribal tattoos in general as well as pointing to more specific pages, such as Maori tattoos.
Bears, tigers, lions, birds – there are tons of examples of animals popular in tattoo designs.
Each animal represents different qualities and has its own symbolic meanings. Because of this, you can use the tattoo truly express who you are or to reflect your values.
For example, deer are symbolic of authority and regeneration. Meanwhile, lions represent strength, royalty, and justice.
Some animals hold particular importance in certain cultures. For example, tigers are especially important in Chinese culture, so you could consider a tiger tattoo in a Chinese style.
Mythical creatures, such as dragons and phoenixes, are also worth considering.
Animal designs don’t have to be large. For instance, butterflies, birds, and dragonflies are perfect for small lower back tattoos.
Tattoos depicting illustrations of scenes from books and stories make for a unique and highly personalized idea.
Partly popularized by celebrities such as Lena Dunham, these designs involve taking a storybook illustration as a reference for a tattoo.
For instance, Alice in Wonderland tattoos are a popular choice – especially the classic illustrations from the first edition of the book.
The lower back, with the large flat expanse, is the perfect place for large, detailed tattoos such as these.
At the same time, though, you can opt for a smaller image – for example from a cartoon – that will make for really cute lower back tattoos.
Naturally, these are just some suggestions to choose as starting points when you think about your tattoo. Other common designs include:
- Heart – common among lower back tattoos for girls, hearts and heart-shaped locks can be accompanied by other elements, such as flowers or tribal patterns.
- Dreamcatcher – definitely the top Native American-themed tattoo subject, dreamcatcher tattoos are good-luck charms that look great on the lower back.
- Mandala – mandalas usually resemble floral designs. They’re circular and need to be quite large to preserve all the details – so the lower back is the perfect placement.
- Star – stars make for surprisingly meaningful tattoos. They can be arranged in elaborate patterns, or you can just get a single star tattooed.
- Feather – as symbols, feathers usually mean freedom, courage, and spirituality. Interestingly, the feathers of different birds have different symbolic meanings. Of course, they also look different – you could go for a large, exuberant peacock feather tattoo on your lower back or a simple eagle feather.
Is the lower back a good place for a tattoo?
The short answer is yes – as good as any other placement. If you have a good idea for a design that matches a particular space, anywhere is a good place for a tattoo.
Still, every location will have specific pros and cons.
Lower back tattoos first became popular, particularly among women, in the early 2000s. It wasn’t a coincidence: that’s when both low-rise jeans and crop tops were at the height of their popularity, too.
With this kind of outfit, the lower back was exposed – so tattoos in this area could be shown and used to enhance the style and look of the person.
One of the best things about this placement is still the fact that it can be exposed or hidden, as needed. For example, you won’t have any trouble concealing this tattoo at work with your normal clothing, but you can still show it off at the gym or on the beach.
In fact, the lower back is the largest flat surface on the body that’s easy to hide, especially for women. It’s therefore one of the only options if you want to get a large tattoo that you can conceal with normal clothing.
Another advantage of this placement is that it is easy for the tattoo artist to work on. All you have to do is sit or lie on your stomach, and they can reach the entire surface of your future tattoo without trouble.
As the lower back is flat, wrap-around won’t be a problem – unless you choose a design specifically to wrap around your sides.
One of the most obvious drawbacks is that you won’t be able to easily see the tattoo. Of course, you can get someone to take a photo of it for you or use two mirrors. Still, some people prefer to get tattoos where they can see them.
Depending on how large the design is, it might be a bit difficult to look after the tattoo in the first few days. You’ll need to apply cream to the area, and if the tattoo goes far up your back, you might need help reaching certain parts of the tattoo.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t soak a fresh tattoo. Because this one would be on your lower back, baths will be out of the question.
Just to be clear, you can get a tattoo wet – it’s just prolonged soaking that could damage it.
The pain level is a common concern with lower back tattoos, and not entirely without reason. Tattooing the lower back causes, on average, a moderate amount of pain.
Of course, exactly how challenging the experience is will depend on your individual pain threshold. Everybody experiences pain slightly differently in various parts of the body. Unfortunately, you won’t know for sure how you’ll handle the pain until the tattooist starts working.
The good news is that the lower back is by far not the most sensitive area of the body. The skin is relatively thick on the back.
The parts of the lower back that are most likely to cause higher amounts of pain lie along the spine. If any part of your design falls directly on your spine or close to it, that’s probably going to be the most painful piece.
If you’re really worried about pain, ask your tattoo artist about numbing creams. It’s important to discuss this with them first – don’t just come in slathered in a numbing cream you bought yourself! Most tattoo artists will refuse to proceed and ask you to reschedule.
This is because there are various types of numbing creams out there, and not all of them are suitable for tattoos. Even when they’re specifically designed for tattoos, you still need to pick the right one for the area and type of design.
The most important thing is not to worry too much about the pain. Rest up before coming to your appointment. Make sure you’ve had a proper meal to keep your blood sugar levels up, and remember: it’ll be over soon!
One last thing – going in to get a large tattoo, especially if it’s your first one, can be stressful. But don’t drink alcohol before the appointment to take the edge off.
Alcohol thins the blood, which means you could bleed more than usual during the tattooing process. This might make it more difficult for your tattooist to get the design right.
Aren’t lower back tattoos ‘tramp stamps’?
This is something of a controversy in some circles: people sometimes refer to lower back designs as ‘tramp stamp’ tattoos.
Some embrace this nickname for tattoos on this part of the body, although other people find the idea offensive.
The reason for this is that ‘tramp’ is not a positive word – it means someone who’s homeless or, in more recent slang, a promiscuous, overly sexual woman. In this case, it has negative implications.
Popular culture uses the term ‘tramp stamp’ only in reference to women’s tattoos.
The lower back tattoo became particularly popular in the 90s. This is also the decade when the simplified tribal tattoos were at the height of their fame. So, the classic ‘tramp stamp’ tattoo designs involved tribal or celtic motifs.
Nowadays, most people avoid using the term ‘tramp stamp’ because of its negative connotations. In recent years many women had been hesitant about getting a tattoo in this area. Luckily, the lower back tattoo is slowly being reclaimed.
Hopefully, if that’s your concern, the negative perception in pop culture in previous decades won’t prevent you from getting the tattoo you want. There are many advantages to the lower back as a tattoo placement, so it would be a shame not to go through with it just because of an outdated and unfair stigma.