100 of the Most Incredible Ocean Tattoo Ideas

Need some ocean-based tattoo ideas? Look no further than our guide to sea themed tattoos. We also explain their history and symbolism.

boat sleeve tattoo

Lots of tattoo subjects have different variations and inspiration they can draw upon, but ocean tattoos are one of the busiest categories.

The ocean is full of so many wonderful creatures and makes up more of our planet than land, giving artists and tattoo seekers lots to work with to make a unique and cool sea tattoo.

The wealth of variation in these tattoos also offers many different meanings. You can learn about the meaning of ocean tattoos and get inspiration for your own tattoo right here!

geometric ocean tattoo

Why Get an Ocean Themed Tattoo?

Ocean-themed tattoos are a huge category and certainly big enough to accommodate all tattoo tastes, whether male or female, young or old.

The different subjects of the ocean all allow for a unique and personal touch, helping people to find a great one-of-a-kind ocean tattoo just for you that nobody else has.

Recommended Next: Don’t miss our guide to swallow tattoos!

These tattoos also have different meanings and symbols that help them fit with the reasoning that so many people choose to get a tattoo in the first place, from a love of sea creatures to environmental awareness (learn more below!).

geometric sea creature tattoo

The ocean has also been recognized as a symbol of calmness and relaxation. The thought of waves lapping against the shore is tranquil and destressing.

Thus, an ocean tattoo can also be used for mental health purposes as a gentle reminder for the owner of the tattoo to slow down and relax.

Other reasons to get an ocean tattoo is to do with size and placement. The ocean is full of small and large creatures which makes this theme ideal for anything from a small minimalist ocean tattoo to the theme of a full sleeve or larger back piece.

Recommended: We’ve got an awesome guide to old school tattoos. You can read it here.

lighthouse sleeve tattoo

What Ocean Tattoos Symbolize?

Ocean tattoos can be vastly different and for this reason they have different meanings and symbols. Here are some of the symbols of ocean-themed tattoos:

  • Mystery – the ocean is a mysterious beast with plenty of life that we still know nothing about. Therefore, ocean tattoos can be used to signify mystery and a thirst for more knowledge.
  • Watersports – people have passions and for some of those lucky enough to grow up in a warm climate near the beach, ocean tattoos may be a symbol of a love for surfing, kayaking and more.
  • Nature – ocean tattoos can also be a symbol that the person with the tattoo has respect for other forms of life, considering the richness of life forms in the ocean.
  • Environmental awareness – more recently many people choose to get ocean tattoos to raise awareness for environmental issues, such as the famous group the Sea Shepherds.
  • Sailors and seamen culture – some ocean-themed tattoos are part of certain cultures, including sailors. These tattoos have gone beyond anchors and sailors choose from a wide variety of sea tattoos – and some are discussed further down this article.
  • Home – for some sailors or soldiers at sea, the ocean tattoo is a reminder that they will be returning home one day to be with their family and friends.

mermaid tattoo on arm

The History of These Types of Tattoos

Tattooing is a historic practice that dates back centuries, even as far back as the Ancient Egyptians.

However, their popularity has grown in western civilizations since sailors would get tattoos in different locations as souvenirs for their visit.

Recommended: Don’t miss our guide to shoulder tattoos next.

Explorer Captain James Cook and his crew even got tattoos after encountering the Maori sailors of the South Pacific.

This event in the 1700s is one of the first recorded times of western sailors getting tattoos – and a crossover of cultures.

ocean arm tattoo

These tattoos were simple ocean tattoos, with some exceptions including the tattoo of a sparrow which was used to signify the number of nautical miles traveled.

In this regard, it could be said that ocean tattoos were the starting point for many western civilizations’ relationship with tattooing.

Since then, the detail and application of ocean symbol tattoos has improved extensively. People of all ages and genders choose to get ocean tattoos of the different sea creatures and the sea itself.

Sea tattoos have extended outside of seaman circles and are popular with people from all walks of life. The popularity of ocean-related tattoos is increasing today, and the tide doesn’t look like going out any time soon!

ocean back tattoo

Different Types of Ocean Style Tattoo Ideas

If you need some guidance on where to start with ocean themed tattoo ideas, here are seven popular niches of these tattoos which are easily adaptable to your unique personality, meanings, and body position.

Recommended: Check out our guide to musical tattoos next!

ocean sleeve tattoo

Waves

Waves are a great starting point and can be the whole tattoo or an element of it. Some people even creatively use the waves to spell out a short word.

The meaning behind wave tattoos alone is often to do with a love for the sea, watersports such as surfing or to raise awareness for environmental issues.

geometric ocean tattoo

Sea Creature Tattoos

Waves can be paired with sea creature tattoos, but both types of the tattoo also work well on their own.

The good news is that there are millions of sea creatures out there to choose from, some are even mythical or debated whether they exist or not, like the colossal Megalodon.

Add mystery to your sea tattoo by choosing one of these awesome unencountered sea creatures that get people talking.

sea creature back tattoo

Mermaid Tattoo

The mermaid tattoo is another example of the mysterious sea creature tattoo although there are few people out there that believe they exist.

These tattoos can be quite innocent and childlike, most often chosen by women more often than men.

That doesn’t mean they can’t look great on men as part of a fantastic tattoo composition within a sleeve design.

Recommended Next: Take a look at our big guide to neck tattoos.

watercolor mermaid tattoo on arm

Shark

More men are likely to choose the fierceness and strength of a shark to make a cool ocean tattoo.

Sharks are known to be mostly big creatures and this design is unlikely to be made too small.

If you want a shark tattoo with detail, the tattoo is more often going to be placed on the chest, back or upper arm rather than on lower limbs.

shark tattoo on arm

Lighthouse

A lighthouse is a unique sea tattoo and may be used as a way to symbolize coming home.

A lighthouse is what is needed to come back to land safely and makes an excellent tattoo idea for soldiers and those that spend a lot of time away from family. Or you might just own a lighthouse?

lighthouse tattoo on arm

Seahorse

Seahorses are often seen as a symbol of good luck and are a common choice among Asian populations.

In reality, these creatures are often tiny and the same can be said about their tattoo counterparts.

Expect to find seahorse tattoos on wrists, ankles or the back of necks – mostly on women. Multiple seahorses can look cool on a sleeve design!

Recommended Article: Read all about leg tattoos in our huge guide.

watercolor seahorse tattoo

Boat

Sailboat tattoos leave room for a lot of imagination and personalization. The boat itself can be minimalistic and simple or people can choose to get huge boat tattoos full of extraordinary detail.

However, it is not just the sailboat that allows for differentiation. One of the most important elements of a boat tattoo that can completely transform their meaning is the motion in the ocean.

For example, a boat on a stormy sea may indicate that the person has come through a difficult time in their life, while a calmer ocean may be preferred to others who want to find peace from their tattoo.

boat tattoo on arm

These seven ocean-themed tattoo examples are a good place to start and develop your own cool sea tattoo.

Use them individually or build elements together to make a bigger piece that emphasizes your tattoo’s meaning.

sea creature arm tattoo

sea creature sleeve tattoo seahorse tattoo on arm watercolor boat tattoo watercolor lighthouse tattoo watercolor ocean tattoo watercolor sea creature tattoo watercolor shark tattoo

geometric sea creature tattoo on arm mermaid tattoo on back ocean arm tattoo ocean back tattoo ocean sleeve tattoo sea creature arm tattoo sea creature back tattoo sea creature sleeve tattoo seahorse tattoo on back shark tattoo on foot watercolor boat tattoo watercolor lighthouse tattoo

watercolor mermaid tattoo

watercolor ocean tattoo on wrist watercolor sea creature tattoo on arm watercolor seahorse tattoo watercolor shark tattoo on back

boat tattoo on back geometric ocean tattoo on arm geometric sea creature tattoo on ankle lighthouse tattoo on back mermaid tattoo on leg ocean arm tattoo ocean back tattoo ocean sleeve tattoo sea creature arm tattoo sea creature back tattoo sea creature sleeve tattoo seahorse tattoo on leg shark tattoo on rib watercolor boat tattoo watercolor lighthouse tattoo on arm watercolor mermaid tattoo on arm watercolor ocean tattoo on ankle watercolor sea creature tattoo on arm watercolor seahorse tattoo on thigh watercolor shark tattoo on arm

boat tattoo on chest geometric ocean tattoo on wrist geometric sea creature tattoo on arm lighthouse tattoo on leg mermaid tattoo on thigh ocean arm tattoo ocean back tattoo ocean sleeve tattoo sea creature arm tattoo sea creature back tattoo sea creature sleeve tattoo seahorse tattoo on rib shark tattoo on leg watercolor boat tattoo watercolor lighthouse tattoo on thigh watercolor mermaid tattoo on arm watercolor ocean tattoo on arm watercolor sea creature tattoo on arm watercolor seahorse tattoo on rib watercolor shark tattoo

boat tattoo on thigh geometric ocean tattoo on back geometric sea creature tattoo on back lighthouse tattoo on rib mermaid tattoo on wrist ocean arm tattoo ocean back tattoo ocean sleeve tattoo sea creature arm tattoo sea creature back tattoo sea creature sleeve tattoo seahorse tattoo on thigh shark tattoo on thigh watercolor boat tattoo on arm watercolor lighthouse tattoo on arm watercolor mermaid tattoo on arm watercolor ocean tattoo on back watercolor sea creature tattoo on thigh watercolor seahorse tattoo on arm watercolor shark tattoo on arm

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here