Need some ocean-based tattoo ideas? Look no further than our guide to sea themed tattoos. We also explain their history and symbolism.
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!
Why Get an Ocean Themed Tattoo?
Ocean tattoos have been around for centuries, with sailors being some of the first to ink their skin with images of the sea. From anchor tattoos to mermaids, sailors often used ocean imagery to represent their profession and their connection to the sea.
In recent years, ocean tattoos have become increasingly popular, especially with the rise of minimalistic designs and blackwork tattoos. With the ocean holding a special place in our hearts and our planet, ocean tattoos have become a way to show our love for the sea and our commitment to protecting it.
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.
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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.
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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.
Ocean tattoos hold deep meaning and symbolism for those who choose to ink them on their skin. The most common ocean tattoo is the wave, which represents the power and beauty of the ocean. Waves are also symbolic of the ebb and flow of life, reminding us that everything is constantly changing.
Other common ocean tattoos include creatures such as whales, dolphins, and sharks, which represent strength, intelligence, and power. Mermaids and other sea creatures are often chosen to represent beauty, mystery, and the unknown depths of the ocean.
The History of Ocean 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.
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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.
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!
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.
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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.
Sea Creature Tattoos
Waves can be paired with sea creature tattoos, but both types of 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.
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.
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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.
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?
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!
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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.
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.