Shoulder Tattoos

Tribal tattoo on shoulder

Shoulder tattoos are fast becoming some of the most popular pieces of skin art. This wide, flat area provides plenty of canvas for an intricate design that can be shown off or covered at will.

Locations for Shoulder Tattoos

There are actually several different places on the body that are called the shoulder in everyday usage. The shoulder is actually the spot on the human body where the arm attaches to the torso. While there is a great deal of real estate there, shoulder tattoos are typically placed on one or two areas:

  • The flat area on the upper back just over the scapula - commonly known as the "shoulder blade"
  • The front of the shoulder above the chest

Shoulder Tattoo Design Ideas

Many different themes work well in this area. Nautical themes, such as nautical stars, anchors and swallows, are all popular choices for shoulder tattoos. The shoulder is also seen as a good spot for memorial tattoos. This place is wide and flat enough to hold an image of a person's face, or something related to the deceased, as well as memorial dates.

Women tend to use this spot for images like flowers, kanji, celestial themes and more exotic pictures. The shoulder is often hidden, so many people feel they can be a bit more adventurous with this area.

Shoulder Blade Tattoo Ideas

The shoulder blade can handle a lot of versatile images, because of its flat surface.

Some popular designs for the shoulder include:

  • Crosses
  • Sparrows and other Old School tats
  • Angels
  • Wings
  • Fairies
  • Suns
  • Flowers blooming from the shoulder
  • Butterflies or other insects that appear to have "landed" on the shoulder
  • Complementary or opposite words or phrases (one on each shoulder)
  • Favorite verses, song lyrics, or quotes
  • Zodiac signs
  • Animal designs that spans over the shoulder, such as a crouching lion or tiger

Front of the Shoulder Ideas


The round portion of the shoulder may not get as much ink as the blade, but it is ideal for several different images that you want to see come alive in a three dimensional fashion.

Options include:

  • Flowers
  • Flames
  • Spider webs
  • Celtic knots
  • Circular tribal tats
  • Geometric designs, especially those that render a 3-D effect

The Versatility of a Shoulder Tat

Shoulder tats are popular among both men and women. While not an extremely visible spot as tattoo canvas goes, shoulders are exposed often that many people choose to adorn them. Tattoos that are placed in this area can range from very small in size to quite large. Back pieces may even extend onto the shoulder area.

People sometimes choose to get tattoos in the shoulder area as a place of prominence above other areas. If you already have a back piece done, consider getting a smaller, related tattoo completed on your shoulder. Women seem to like this area for a tattoo because it adds a bit of spice to a sexy area, but is not visible on most occasions.

Special Care of Shoulder Ink

The shoulder is a high movement area, meaning you will have to take special care not to irritate or rub the raw area while your tattoo is healing. Make sure you follow all of your tattoo shop's instructions on aftercare, including what sort of ointment/lotion/salve to put on your new ink, and how long to keep it covered after getting tattooed.

Tattoos on the shoulder can also receive a large amount of sun when exposed due to their position on the body. Be sure to always use a heavy sunblock on your tattoos - one with at least SPF 30 - to make sure they keep their color and beauty.

Shoulder Tats and Pain

Like every tattoo, there will be some pain involved in getting your shoulder tattooed. According to some tattoo artists, women often report that the shoulder is one of the least painful places to get tattooed. However, everyone has a different pain threshold, so the amount of pain felt when tattooing this area will vary from person to person.

Consider a Shoulder Tattoo

Remember as you decide where to place your new tattoo that a shoulder tat is meant to be seen by others - not by you. Give some thought into how others will view your new ink and how it will sit on the framework of your shoulder blade. No tattoo can look out of place on this highly visible and versatile area, so consider the shoulder blade as a prime location for your next tat.

Shoulder Tattoos