Hot Air Balloon Tattoos

Benna Crawford

Sky and Skin

Hot air balloons first drifted aloft in the late 1700s, immediately spellbinding the public in Paris and sparking the imagination. They have lost none of their fantastical airy appeal in more than two centuries, and continue to charm observers - from the sky and on the skin. A hot air balloon tatt is just unusual enough to lift you above the crowd and make a lofty statement about your hopes and dreams.

Unexpected Whale Design

A whale hoisted by a balloon is an unlikely image that evokes the power of an uplifting thought while it tethers the soaring balloon to the planet and its oceans. Whales represent deep mystery, mystical wisdom and ancient knowledge. Their songs heal the soul. Your hot air balloon/whale journey tattoo may also symbolize your desire to protect and save endangered whales from the threats below.

Gaining Altitude

The image of a hot air balloon is primarily vertical, so take advantage of that to color one in on the rounded back of your calf, on an upper arm or sandwiched in between bikini lines on your side. Add evocative words in a medallion to link a fleet of colored balloons together such as Clouds, Beautiful, Sky, and Air. The balloons are magical images, easily conjured in cartoon illustration style with clouds that might be benign or ominous, depending on the story you want to tell.

Personal and Peculiar

Hot air balloons are quirky, lifted out of the ordinary by fickle winds and the energy trapped in their own fragile skin. A black-and-white cartoon tattoo depicts a skeptical face aloft with a brace of back-up wings below. Are they bat wings? Stinging insect wings? Mere feathers? Life's uncertainty is captured in this thought-provoking tattoo.

The Eyes Have It

An image of eyes traditionally refers to the all-seeing eyes of Buddha, a representation of enlightenment. A color fantasy balloon with Buddha eyes has spiritual meaning - the spiritual journey is a beautiful and uplifting one. Such a tattoo would be worthy of a full upper back. A mysterious dark-eyed female would be just as worthy of display, especially when her head and veil are the balloon and the gondola rests on a stylized lotus blossom. Beauty can be its own reward - infuse your eye-catching tattoo with your own meaning.

Never Forget

Elephants are powerful mother symbols, signifying undying love and loyalty and a peaceful matriarchy. A color illustration with hearts emphasizes the inspiring power of a lasting, selfless love, an abstraction that might depict the joy of parenting a child or an enduring love for a person or for life. Do note the hopeful upturned trunk.

On the Record

In 1783 one of the first hot air balloons ascended to the sky over Versailles and an astonished royal crowd. Commemorate the wonder of discovery with a sepia-colored cartoon illustration on your shoulder blade or shin that might have rolled off an 18th-century press, as realistic as the eyewitness artist could draw it. You're cool enough to appreciate history, and aspirational enough to admire flight. Your own high-flying life will make news one day, no less an achievement than a graceful, sky-high silk balloon.

Lucky Elephant

In Africa and Asia, elephants are auspicious symbols for strength, wisdom, intelligence and loyalty. The center balloon is lifting an Asian elephant with a raised trunk, the sign for good fortune. The elephant is white, a rare albino which would be highly prized in India and worshipped like a god or a Buddha avatar. A balloon race through hosts of colored butterflies is a light-hearted celebration of uncommon luck and beauty.

Create Intrigue

High aloft on a shoulder, two solitary balloons drift serenely through smudgy charcoal clouds. There are no passengers to guide them, so maybe the balloons themselves stand in for the person or people on the journey. The balloon shapes are defined sharply in a style like a pen-and-ink drawing and a delicate script contains the legend: The adventure will continue. This is a thought-provoking tattoo that intrigues, even as it doesn't reveal too much.

Symbolic Scrollwork

A balloon is an empty canvas for whatever scribble you or your tattoo artist can imagine. Fill it in with a photo-realistic image of a loved one, a favorite quote or special name, or a whole raft of symbols as rich in meaning as an ancient scroll. A border of astrological symbols could highlight your own astrology sign front and center. Further balloon and gondola embellishments could include eagles for patriotism, lions for leadership and majesty, a sun and moon to indicate the passage of time or the journey from darkness to light.

A petite, intricate version of a complex drawing will look like a medallion centered on your chest. A larger tattoo could occupy the prime real estate between your shoulder blades or the side of one leg.

Lofty Blessing

When the message takes precedence over the design, opt for a tattoo that has extremely simple lines but a bold blessing. "Soft winds and gentle landings" is a classic wish for a life, for your own or for anyone you encounter. The balloon shape in this strong black-and-white illustration just underscores the sentiment the writing expresses.

Always test a script tattoo for legibility before committing it to permanent ink. The easier it is to read at a distance, the less you will find strangers leaning in to scrutinze your upper thigh at the beach.

Happily Ever After

Love is all-consuming and a hot air balloon tat of a couple aloft can say as much about affairs of the heart as a thousand words. The dreamy black outline of a balloon disintegrating into a swirl of fantasy rainbow colors first appears to be a pretty picture. Notice the tiny couple just visible in the gondola. There is nothing threatening about this upper arm tattoo despite its disappearing balloon. It simply depicts the ultimate joy ride.

Steampunk Contraption

If steampunk's your style, consider a Victorian contraption windblown across your lower back or caught in a freeze frame on the back of your calf. Note the scalloped crown and ruffled "hem," the protective umbrella over the crosshatch wicker gondola, and a soldered Rube Goldberg steam-power canister hanging off one side with gadgets and levers to control altitude. A telescope gathers astronomical data or spies on the admiring crowd far below. The gentleman at the helm wears his top hat for an afternoon's excursion into a machine-dream adventure from a science fiction novel.

More Details

Color Wash

Watercolor tattoo style is a contemporary counter to the thickly outlined mid-twentieth century Sailor Jerry-style of skin ink. A hot air balloon race drifting across a sky of watercolor clouds blends edges into washes of soft color. It's poetry for your upper arm and needs no words to convey its message. Life is beautiful, inspiration is uplifting, freedom allows your heart to soar.

This tattoo would be beautiful on your inner forearm, centered between your shoulder blades or, in miniature, on the top of your foot.

Aloft and Anchored

A miniature tattoo of a whale-gondola attached to a hot air balloon would be intriguing on your neck tucked behind an ear. Larger, it might float over your ribcage, telegraphing its complex meaning: Your spirit takes flight even as you remain grounded, balanced between balloon and leviathan. Each image is wonderfully camouflaged with abstract and flowered designs. The skin ink looks like a new page in a coloring book - but the shapes remain outlines, a tribute to possibility and potential.

Interesting and unique, hot air balloon tattoos can have many different meanings and be done in limitless designs. Whether you are thinking about a contemporary watercolor design, a vintage look, or a tattoo with a meaningful phrase or symbolic element, there is something for everyone.

Benna Crawford
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Hot Air Balloon Tattoos