75+ Ideas & Examples Of The Best Shoulder Tattoos For Men
Image: @crazy_jason_tattoo and @saki.lss
— Updated on 6 March 2024

75+ Ideas & Examples Of The Best Shoulder Tattoos For Men

— Updated on 6 March 2024
Nick Kenyon
Nick Kenyon

If you’re thinking about your first tattoo (or perhaps adding to your collection), and you’re considering a shoulder tattoo, you’ve come to the right place. Here, you’ll find dozens of examples of the best shoulder tattoos for men that can serve as inspiration and ideas for your next piece.

From mythological creatures or video game icons, to knights, eagles, lions, and more, the range of artworks that look great on shoulders is truly endless; shoulder tattoos are popular for men thanks to the location meaning you can cover them up if you choose, while also being quite prominent if you want to show them off.

This list explores more than 75 of the best shoulder tattoo ideas that will stand out. Whether you’re looking for something understated or that will represent your personality, there’s a shoulder placement tattoo idea out there for everyone.

RELATED: 50 Of The Best Leg Tattoo Ideas In 2023

Dragon Shoulder Tattoos

shoulder tattoos for men

Dragon shoulder tattoos are popular for men as they symbolise strength and courage. They are usually depicted intricately and boldly, covering much of the shoulder and extending down the arm and across the back. For many, the mythical creature embodies their inner strength and strong spirit.

Tribal Shoulder Tattoo Designs

shoulder tattoos for men

Tribal shoulder tattoos are also popular. Many design ideas of tribal tattoos reflect a connection to heritage or a love for patterns. These designs use big black lines to create exciting forms and shapes, with specific cultural tattoos such as a Polynesian shoulder tattoo, offering a great way to express your history and cultural identity.

Eagle Shoulder Tattoos

Image: @dminus12

A common symbol of freedom and strength, an eagle shoulder tattoo can also symbolise power and wisdom. They are usually rendered in great detail and often in flight. Therefore, if you want to capture the majesty and grace of these birds, you should opt for an eagle shoulder tattoo.

Small Shoulder Tattoos

Image: @bensammer_ink

You can never run out of ideas when it comes to small shoulder tattoos. These minute, understated designs are perfect for men who don’t want to cover their shoulders with ink. A small shoulder tattoo can often be symbols, initials, or minimalistic designs, and can bring the shoulder tattoo cost down.

Depending on your choice of subject matter, they can also be very personal, as well as being a good entry point if you are worried that shoulder tattoos hurt. Ask your tattoo artist for more ideas!

Flower Shoulder Tattoos

Image: @moon.cheon

Flowers aren’t just popular design subjects for women, they’re equally alluring for men, too! These delicate designs can represent growth, beauty, and individuality, and are often rendered in different styles, from realistic to abstract. If you want to connect to nature in its purest form, a flower shoulder tattoo is the way to go.

Shoulder Tattoos On The Shoulder Blade

shoulder tattoos for men

Shoulder tattoos can extend from the shoulder down to the shoulder blade. This gives you more space to work with and means the tattoo can stay hidden if the wearer wants it to. The shoulder blade’s natural contour adds depth and dimension to these shoulder tattoos.

Upper-Back Shoulder Tattoos

shoulder tattoos for men

Upper-back shoulder tattoos are another excellent option for men. These larger, more intricate designs can stretch across both shoulders or stay confined to one side. An upper back or back shoulder tattoo done for men could be anything from a tribal pattern to an animal, symbol, or more. They can be stunning visual representations of personal and decisive importance.

Half Sleeve and Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @moon.cheon

You can stretch your shoulder tattoo into a half sleeve if you want to. By connecting these two parts of the body, you can create a vast, stunning scene with a shoulder sleeve tattoo. You could do everything from a landscape to a tribal design to a personal collection of images representing you.

Lion Shoulder Tattoos

Image: @crazy_jason_tattoo

Lions are one of the most famous images of shoulder tattoos, symbolising courage, royalty, and leadership. The fierce expression on the lion’s face and its large mane can be depicted in realistic and stylised ways. You could connect the lion to a larger lion shoulder tattoo piece or allow it to stand alone.

Warrior Shoulder Tattoo Ideas

Image: @crazy_jason_tattoo

Warrior shoulder tattoos tap into a history of honour, courage, and strength. These designs are usually part of more significant scenes with warriors, swords, soldiers, etc. These designs are popular for men who identify with a warrior’s attitude. 

Colourful Shoulder Tattoos

Image: @hwido_tattooer

Colourful shoulder tattoos could be anything from abstract designs to detailed imagery, like animals or symbolic motifs. For men, colourful shoulder tattoos offer a way to showcase one’s creativity, individuality, or a connection to something else meaningful.

Angel Shoulder Tattoos

shoulder tattoos for men

Angel shoulder tattoos are another popular choice. These usually represent one’s past and future, faith, and moral beliefs. Often, men want an angel on their shoulders to describe their better nature and remind them always to make the right decision. Whether delicately shaded or bold, these tattoos can be a profound way to celebrate one’s faith.

Cross Shoulder Tattoos

Image: @rickytatt

Cross-shoulder tattoos are another way to celebrate one’s faith. These represent Christianity and a commitment to religious principles or a tribute to personal values. These designs can range from simple and minimalistic to elaborate with additional elements like roses and wings.

Wolf Shoulder Tattoos

shoulder tattoos for men

Wolves are another prevalent subject for a tattoo. These creatures usually embody loyalty, intelligence, and instinct. These tattoos can depict the wolf in various poses, from howling at the moon to prowling in the wild. 

Tiger Shoulder Tattoos

Image: @saki.lss

Tiger tattoos are a dynamic and potent symbol for men. They often represent power, courage, and determination. The tiger’s intense eyes and beautiful stripes can be rendered in various styles, from realistic to abstract. These tattoos can embody a fierce and feral nature or symbolise overcoming challenges.

Movie-Inspired Shoulder Tattoos

shoulder tattoos for men

Shoulder blade tattoo designs can often accommodate intricate movie-inspired artwork. Whether you love a character, an iconic scene, or a meaningful quote, these tattoos connect to beloved films. Consider the best shoulder tattoos from your favourite movies as another way of seeking inspiration.

Star Shoulder Tattoos

Image: @pauliparker.ink

Star shoulder tattoos are versatile and popular designs for men. They can symbolise hope, guidance, or a shining accomplishment. They can be designed as a solitary Celestial body or constellation. Either way, these tattoos connect to the universe and personal aspirations.

Geometric Shoulder Tattoos

shoulder tattoos for men

Geometric shoulder tattoos are a modern and artistic choice, appealing to those who appreciate clean lines and precision. These tattoos can be abstract patterns or integrated with other symbols. They are often a way to represent a balance between tradition and contemporary expression.

Sunflower Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @alisa.ink

Sunflower shoulder tattoos can symbolise joy and growth. With bright petals and a sturdy stem, the sunflower can be a beautiful and uplifting image for men. These flower tattoos are a great way to connect to nature, display one’s sunny disposition, or represent a personal triumph. They are usually positive in their meaning. 

Skull Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @j.r.smith____

Skull shoulder tattoos are a bold and thought-provoking choice for men. They usually symbolise mortality or overcoming a specific fear. These tattoos can be stylised, realistic, or integrated with other elements, usually roses or crossbones.

Neck to Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

These tattoos offer a seamless, expansive space for creative expression. They can be a continuation of a design or a standalone piece. Either way, they flow from the neck down to the shoulder. For men, these tattoos offer an opportunity to showcase detailed artwork and intricate patterns and add a unique and striking appearance to their body art. 

Clock Shoulder Tattoos

shoulder tattoos for men

Clock shoulder tattoos are another excellent example of shoulder tattoos for men. They represent the passage of time, memories, or significant life moments. These tattoos often incorporate realistic details, like gears, or additional symbols, like flowers or quotes. Often, these tattoos represent time value, a milestone, or a philosophical reflection on life’s changing nature.

Phoenix Shoulder Tattoos

shoulder tattoos for men

Phoenix Tattoos symbolise renewal, transformation, and the indomitable spirit of rising from the ashes. This bird made of fire is often depicted in the most vibrant colours and various dynamic poses. Usually, the bird is associated with triumphing over adversity. For many men, this tattoo can be an emblem of resilience, the symbol of a new beginning, and more.

Japanese Shoulder Tattoo

Japanese shoulder tattoos are captivating, often featuring intricate designs with deep cultural and symbolic significance. From traditional motifs to contemporary interpretations, Japanese shoulder tattoos show your appreciation for Japanese art and heritage.

Rose Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @allisintattoos

A rose shoulder tattoo is a timeless and versatile option. Roses symbolise love, beauty, and transformation. Depending on the design, they can represent various emotions and meanings. A well-designed rose shoulder tattoo can be a stunning addition to your body art collection.

Portrait Shoulder Tattoos

Image: @brionestatu

Portrait shoulder tattoos are deeply personal and expressive. These tattoos often depict the face of a loved one, a historical figure, or a celebrity that holds particular significance for the tattoo wearer. These tattoos can be a tribute, a source of inspiration, and more. Usually, they are very detailed and realistically rendered.

Celtic Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

Celtic shoulder tattoos are known for their intricate knots, patterns, and crosses. These are rooted in ancient tradition and often carry spiritual or cultural significance. They usually symbolise heritage or personal beliefs.

Octopus Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

An octopus shoulder tattoo is a fascinating design for a man’s shoulder. The octopus represents flexibility and adaptability with eight arms and a well-known intelligence. It can symbolise the ability to navigate life’s challenges with grace and cleverness. One might also choose to have their octopus tattooed in many poses.

Mandala Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

A mandala is a geometric shape filled with patterns that radiate from a central point. These usually represent the universe or meditation. For many, it can be a spiritual symbol or simply an appreciation for symmetry and balance.

Zodiac Sign Shoulder Tattoos

shoulder tattoos for men

For those interested in astrology, a zodiac sign tattoo on the shoulder can be a great way to represent personality traits. They also connect to one’s belief in astrological influence and celestial energies.

Simple Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

Sometimes, less is more. With its clean and minimalist design, a simple shoulder tattoo can make a powerful statement. These tattoos are perfect for men who appreciate subtlety and want meaningful yet understated body art.

Chest Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

Extend your creative canvas to your chest with a captivating chest shoulder tattoo. This placement allows for a larger, more intricate design flowing seamlessly from your shoulder. Whether you opt for a standalone design or one that blends with your existing shoulder tattoo, a chest shoulder tattoo is a bold choice.

Funny Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

Funny shoulder tattoos are a great way to showcase one’s humour and personality. They usually include funny images and witty quotes. These tattoos can be a conversation starter and reflect a light-hearted approach to life.

Pegasus Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

A pegasus shoulder tattoo and body of the mythical winged horse. This creature is usually seen as a symbol of freedom and creativity. It can be an excellent choice for someone interested in depicting their aspirations, magic, or general artistic pursuits.

Diamond Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

Diamond shoulder tattoos symbolise strength, value, and beauty. The diamond structure and Shining appearance can be rendered black and grey or with touches of colour. For many, diamond tattoos on the shoulder can represent a commitment to excellence or an appreciation for life’s rare and precious aspects.

Anchor Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @ani.cinski

These tattoos can represent stability, hope, and the general maritime tradition. They might also be one’s choice to symbolise naval service or as a symbol of personal growth and resilience after a difficult time. 

Tree Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

Tree shoulder tattoos are another excellent example of how nature can be used in a man’s shoulder tattoo. These can represent one’s connection to nature and life’s cycles. These shoulder tattoos are a beautiful reminder of personal development or environmental consciousness.

Compass Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

Compass shoulder tattoos are often seen as a symbol of guidance, exploration, and more. These tattoos usually resonate with travellers or those seeking direction during difficult times. 

Musical Note Shoulder Tattoo

shoulder tattoos for men

Musical note tattoos are a great way to show music appreciation. They are popular with music lovers, performers, composers, and anyone who feels personally connected to music as an art or pastime. 

Feather Shoulder Tattoos

shoulder tattoos for men

Feather tattoos can symbolise freedom, lightness, and spirituality. These tattoos are a great and thoughtful way to express these themes and one’s approach to life. 

Heart Shoulder Tattoos

Hearts are seen as the universal symbol of love and affection. A heart tattoo on the shoulder is a great way to commemorate a relationship or signify a personal value.

Quote Shoulder Tattoos

Image: @crystalrosetattoo

Whether from a religious text, literary works, or a personal motif, quote tattoos can be a great way to remind oneself about beliefs or inspirations. 

Mechanical Shoulder Tattoos

Intricate mechanical designs or steampunk themes are a great way to display one’s personality and interest in technology. They usually blend historical and futuristic aesthetics. 

Arrow Shoulder Tattoos

These tattoos can symbolise direction, purpose, and moving forward. An arrow tattoo on the shoulder might also represent one’s desire to achieve their goals. 

Tribal Animal Shoulder Tattoos

Tribal animal shoulder tattoos are another great creative way to represent cultural meanings or personal connections to animals. They can have body strength, wisdom, and much more.

Sword Shoulder Tattoos

Sword shoulder tattoos are a way to embody strength and protection. These tattoos might resonate with those who feel like warriors or have a chivalrous spirit.

Mountain Shoulder Tattoos

These tattoos represent challenges, achievements, and the grandeur of nature. A mountain tattoo can be seen as a symbol of personal conquests and a love for the outdoors.

Nautical Star Shoulder Tattoos

Nautical star tattoos are a popular choice for those interested in themes of guidance and hope. They might appeal to someone who has a love for maritime tradition as well. 

Gothic Shoulder Tattoo

These are perfect tattoos for those who are drawn to darker aesthetics. Gothic tattoo designs often include elements like skulls, ravens, and eerie landscapes that stretch from the shoulder and turn into a chest tattoo.

Wings Shoulder Tattoo

Tattoos of wings on your shoulders can symbolise freedom and aspirations. These are usually extensive tattoos that stretch across both shoulders.

Underwater Scene Shoulder Tattoo

If you love the water, you might be interested in getting an underwater scene. This could include fish, coral, waves, and more. These tattoos usually symbolise a love for the freedom water-based activities provide. 

Buddhist Shoulder Tattoo

If you’re Buddhist or are interested in Buddhist themes, you might think about tattooing a lotus, Om, Buddha, and other symbols. These can represent mindfulness, enlightenment, and more. 

Egyptian Shoulder Tattoo

Egyptian shoulder tattoos can be perfect for anyone interested in history. This could include an ankh sphinx and symbolise history and alignment. 

Art Nouveau Shoulder Tattoo

Art nouveau tattoos embrace the style of art motifs related to this critical movement. These tattoos can provide sophisticated, timeless beauty and appeal to art history enthusiasts. 

Steering Wheel Shoulder Tattoo

These tattoos represent control and navigation. You could describe a steering wheel or a ship wheel to help you remember to steer your course throughout your life. 

Lighthouse Shoulder Tattoo

Lighthouse tattoos represent hope and guidance. They’re usually tattooed to remind someone about guidance, protection, and the most straightforward light in the darkness. 

Chess Pieces Shoulder Tattoo

These tattoos are perfect for someone who loves playing chess or simply sees themselves as a strategic, planning person. You should choose which piece you identify with most, like the king or knight. 

Koi Fish Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @dminus12

Koi fish tattoos are symbolic of perseverance and ambition. They’re also tattooed to represent transformation. These tattoos are often usually vibrant and colourful.

Vintage Key Shoulder Tattoo

Vintage key tattoos are another excellent choice for shoulder tattoos for men. They represent secrets, security, and unlocking your potential.

Molecule Shoulder Tattoo

These tattoos are perfect for science enthusiasts, especially those who love chemistry, biology, or a particular aspect of life.

Gears & Cogs Shoulder Tattoo

Gears and cogs are another excellent idea for a tattoo. They can symbolise interconnectivity, precision, and industry. They might appeal to those who are engineers or have a love for them. 

Hamsa Hand Shoulder Tattoo

Hamsa hands are symbols of protection and good luck in various cultures. A can be an important spiritual cultural emblem you’re interested in.

Hourglass Shoulder Tattoo

An hourglass tattoo is another great idea. It can be tattooed in various styles and represents time passage and the importance of seizing the moment. 

Cityscape Shoulder Tattoo

Getting a cityscape tattoo can help you represent an urban area that you love. It might also be a perfect way to commemorate travel memories. An angel shoulder tattoo could also be added to the cityscape, symbolising protection or guidance in the bustling city life.

Classic Car Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @chrisweimanntattoo

If you love classic cars, you’ve undoubtedly considered getting a traditional car tattoo. These are perfect for automotive enthusiasts and classic car lovers. Other tattoos can complement the classic car, adding an edgy and bold element to your ink.

Astronaut Shoulder Tattoo

An astronaut’s shoulder tattoo captures the human spirit’s quest for discovery. Placed boldly on the body’s frame, it symbolises our innate curiosity. The design combines art and astronomy, reflecting earthly origins and cosmic aspirations. A tribute to adventurers, dreamers, and space enthusiasts alike.

Dog Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @yadou_tattoo

A dog shoulder tattoo can be a great way to keep your best friend close by at all times, and in the devastating case of your pup passing away, as a poignant memory.

Cards Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @lozajp23

A cards shoulder tattoo can represent the element of chance in the game we all call life, reminding you that sometimes the odds will fall in your favour and sometimes fate won’t be so kind.

Demon Shoulder Tattoo

Adding a demon shoulder tattoo can give your ink an edgy and mysterious vibe. Demons are often associated with inner struggles and complexity. Like an angel shoulder tattoo, you can balance this with a more serene and uplifting design.

Samurai Helmet Shoulder Tattoo

A Samurai helmet shoulder tattoo can encompass various elements representing strength and confidence, speaking to the warrior’s spirit.

DNA Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @chrisweimanntattoo

An excellent shoulder tattoo idea could be a DNA tattoo. A DNA tattoo is suitable for those interested in science and biology. These tattoos appeal to medical professionals, those interested in genetics, and scientists.

Mythological Creatures Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @samlamitattoo

Creatures of myth can be portrayed in a range of different styles, including geometric shoulder tattoo designs. Tattoos related to mythology are trendy. These include everything from Griffins to sphinxes to chimeras, each of which can symbolise ancient stories, virtues, and more. Incorporating geometric patterns adds a modern twist to these age-old tales, creating a fusion of contemporary aesthetics and timeless lore. 

Mathematical Symbols Shoulder Tattoo

Image: @tesiacoil_tattoos

Mathematical symbols can be used in tattoos to create intricate and meaningful designs. Mathematical tattoos are perfect for mathematicians or those who simply love numbers. These tattoos might include equations, numbers, and examples of specific problems being solved.

Musical Instruments Shoulder Tattoo

An instrument tattoo on the upper arm is a resonating choice for the passionate musician. Whether it’s the graceful curves of a guitar, the intricate keys of a piano, the sultry silhouette of a saxophone, or the rhythmic essence of drums, such tattoos embody one’s undying devotion to the art of sound.

Tropical Island Shoulder Tattoo

Tropical island tattoos evoke sun-kissed beaches and serene sunsets. This design is a heartfelt homage to those who cherish sandy shores and swaying palms. It’s an inked artwork and a memory — perfect for those who’ve experienced paradise firsthand or simply dream of tranquil tropic escapes.

Retro Gaming Icons Shoulder Tattoo

You might also be interested in getting a retro gaming icon for the tattoo. These tattoos are perfect for those who love vintage video games and are interested in having a nostalgic nod to their childhood on their body forever. Gaming offers some of the best shoulder tattoos for dedicated fans.

Shoulder Tattoos For Men: Setting Realistic Expectations With A Visual Demonstration

Shoulder tattoos have become increasingly popular for men looking to express themselves. However, with any significant decision, it’s essential to understand what’s involved fully.

While the pain level varies from person to person, it’s essential to understand that getting a tattoo will hurt. This is especially true around the bones of the top of the shoulder.

Remember that depending on the complexity and size of the design, a shoulder tattoo can take several hours to days to complete. Plus, a new tattoo requires care and attention as it heals. This process takes several weeks and involves cleaning and moisturising. 

Make sure to keep your expectations in check. Your budget and pain tolerance may not align with your ideal vision for your tattoo.

Did you find this article helpful? Check out some of our other tattoo inspiration content:

What is the best tattoo for a man's shoulder?

The best tattoo for a man’s shoulder is a very subjective question, but it should be something meaningful to that man and something that represents an important element of their life.

Are shoulder tattoos painful?

Some people can experience discomfort during a shoulder tattoo, however, it isn’t regarded as a very painful location to get a tattoo.

Do shoulder tattoos age well?

Generally speaking, shoulder tattoos age well.

Subscribe to B.H. Magazine

Nick Kenyon
Nick Kenyon is the Editor of Boss Hunting, joining the team after working as the Deputy Editor of luxury watch magazine Time+Tide. He has a passion for watches, with other interests across style, sports and more. Get in touch at nick (at) luxity.com.au


Share the article