Tattoos are the ultimate form of self-expression—so much so that the decision can feel seriously daunting. Case in point: It took four years of researching and overthinking before settling on my first tattoo (three very tiny, hand-drawn stars on the inside of my wrist).
And while tats are all about individuality, it doesn't hurt to see what everyone else is doing for some inspiration—especially when it comes to design and location. And one spot particularly loved by tattoo artists and Team Tatted alike? The playfully discreet ankle.
As easy to show off with a dainty pair of heels as it is to cover up with the roll of your pants, the ankle is a prime tattoo spot, especially since the skin there doesn't wrinkle or sag much with age. Despite being hugely popular in the '90s, tattoo artist Dillon Forte says the area is coming back in a big way: "Whether it's part of a larger piece going up the leg or a standalone band or design, I see a lot more popping up, and I've seen plenty of cool designs out there."
While cost depends on the artist and their hourly rate, ankle tattoos do tend to be on the cheaper side just by nature of the smaller canvas. That being said, a more complex design might take a couple hours and ultimately cost more. Prepare to spend anywhere between $150 and $2500 an hour depending on the design and artist you choose, and be sure to do your homework beforehand: You get what you pay for.
Mira Mariah, a New York-based tattoo artist, says that while it's certainly not the most pleasant area of the body to get tattooed, ankle tattoos are not too bad when it comes to pain factor. That being said, it's difficult to predict pain levels since we all have different levels of tolerance and sensation. Regardless, both Mariah and Forte agree it's an especially great spot for first-timers since it's small, concealable, and relatively mellow.
Looking for the perfect design for you? Scroll on for 19 of our favorite ankle tattoos, from the bold and bright to the subtly sweet.
A smaller, simple design like this breaks designs down to their most basic shapes and attracts less attention than a more intricate tattoo might. After all, sometimes the smallest things make the biggest impact.
Hand-poked tattoos are created manually and ultimately less invasive and painful than those done with a machine. And while the technique calls back to the origins of tattooing, the designs themselves don't have to be minimal or basic.
Words and Phrases
Make a real statement with a Gothic-fonted word or phrase. The outline-only design softens up what would otherwise be a high-impact design without losing any of the wow factor. Also, the contrast from the negative space makes the design feel anything but basic.
By sticking with thin lines, light hues, and subtly curved shapes, a multicolor tattoo can feel minimal and dainty, like this bouquet of flowers. Even with a slightly larger design, the result feels light and breezy.
You don't need an intricate design for a beautiful tat. A more minimalist, abstract design is just as visually interesting—especially when you add in overlapping shapes, loops, and other subtle details. In this case, it's more about what the tattoo looks like rather than what it means, so don't be afraid to get creative and go for something totally unique.
Mimic the look of an anklet or ankle band with a 360-degree tattoo like these. The design itself can be as simple or intricate as you want, and it automatically accessorizes any outfit you put on.
While the allergic potential for red ink tattoos is more severe than other ink colors, it's also incredibly cool-looking. Especially in contrast with black as seen here, the red really pops and is able to hold its own in the design, giving an almost 3D-like effect.
A fine line tattoo doesn't have to be simplistic or basic, and this camera design is proof. The thin outline keeps the design looking subtle despite the contrast from the negative space. The result is an intricate but low-key design.
Created entirely by lines of varying thickness, this sunset tattoo sits perfectly in the area above the ankle bone and spans the entire width of the area without overwhelming the space.
There's something incredibly playful and fun about this lineup of cocktails and cans. The intricate design in such a small area creates contrast, and the way the drinks are sitting atop the sock is downright adorable.
Something as simple as a number or two can still make a real impact when you consider font, location, and sizing. The placement of this 99 design is perfection, tucked right behind the ankle bone, while the colored-in, thick numbers pack a punch.
Despite being in the same spot as the numbered tattoo before, this itty bitty design feels completely different. The barely there lightning bolt is cheeky and playful and is the kind of design you only notice if the tatted person wants you to, making it ultra versatile.
Despite being characterized by heavy amounts of black ink and dark, filled-in areas, blackwork tattoos can create boldly delicate designs that really make you stop and think.
Watercolor tattoos mimic the look and feel of watercolor painting by using a wide range of colors and pigments to create a fluid-looking design. From bold, bright designs to more subtle splatter painting as seen here, the style adds an unexpected pop to body art.
These adorable puzzle pieces are a great reminder that despite the serious commitment, tattoos can be as fun and silly as you'd like. The use of color, thin lines, and simplistic designs results in the ultimate feel-good tat. The placement adds to that whimsy by free-floating slightly off-center.
Stick and Poke
Yes, stick-and-poke tattoos are essentially the same as hand-poked tattoos, but this design proves just how versatile the techniques can be. The tattoo expertly plays with spacing, shading, and line work to create a real scene out of a relatively small design.
This printed-phrase tattoo is just plain cool, and the best part is it's easy to customize a similar design to whoever you want to run (or do anything) like. The all-caps, basic font makes the design look almost stamped on, adding to the overall appeal of the tattoo.
Talk about some serious skill with the needle—this cowboy boot is so detailed, it looks like the artist drew and shaded it using a pencil. The thin lines and subtle shading take mega talent, and the results speak for themselves.
The best tattoos are ones you can share with the people you love (ironically, sometimes so are the tattoos you end up regretting the most). Going with a simple design like this allows for a bit of individuality in terms of placement, while the subtlety means it'll be easy to cover up in any situation.