Rose tattoos have a long history dating back to the 1930s. Back then, sailors used to ink them to symbolize their girlfriend, wife, or mother. Because of their association with women, roses began to symbolize love and femininity, quickly becoming a classic ink design choice. Today—whether you get a minimalist design hidden behind your ear or a string of blood red roses on your shoulder—roses make a gorgeous (and timeless) tattoo design.
Meet the Expert
Scroll on to check out some stunning rose tattoos that will inspire your new ink.
Floral Cover-Up on Inside of Arm
"Tattoos are often designed to flow with and complement the shape of the body," says cosmetic tattoo artist Shaughnessy Otsuji. But in addition to complementing, they can also work to hide old work you'd like to cover up. This piece, for instance, was actually intended as a way to hide an old script tattoo. The result pairs a variety of florals for a piece that doesn't lack style.
Hands and Roses on Forearm
Hand tattoos are very on-trend right now, and the thin outline in this design adds to the delicate and feminine feel of the rose. "I’ve seen some incredible rose tattoos in my lifetime but often most of the designs are pretty traditional," notes tattoo artist Dillon Forte.
Rose Arm Sleeve
Here, it's all about being bold. Weaving the black rose tattoo into a full sleeve adds so much impact. "I like it when people and artists think outside of the box. There’s infinite possibilities with any piece of artwork," Forte says.
Back-of-the-Arm Sailor-Style Rose
This retro style is such a throwback, thanks to its bright hues and classic style. The "Mama" in the middle is really what seals the deal, though.
Forearm Rose Head Wrap
This design showcases a woman wearing a rose-accented head wrap. It's a simple, no-color style that still manages to be intricate and artful.
Rose Hand Tattoo
The classic rose tattoo gets an upgrade with deep details and hand placement. This is an ideal piece for someone who wants art that covers nearly their entire hand.
Classic Rose Shoulder Tattoo
The rose tattoo here is done in American traditional style, giving it a cartoonish look due to the thick black outlines, the thorn elements, and the extra line detailing. This is a great way to break the rose down to its simplest shapes but still achieve a complex tattoo. "Tried and true is a good option if you are unsure of the direction you want to take with your tattoo," Forte says. "It’s best to find an artist whose style you like, then workshop the idea with them. Every tattooer generally has their own take on common themes."
Ankle Rose Heart Tattoo
Getting a few basic, black-outlined roses in a heart shape gives a bit of whimsy to the design and adds to the roses’ natural romanticism. The additional leaves and dots add to the personalized, hand-illustrated vibe.
Upside-Down Sternum Bouquet
This piece spans within the rib cage, as if this family of roses is growing within. One of the interesting aspects is that it mimics an upside-down bouquet, as if the roses are being hung to dry out.
Flora and Fauna Rose Tattoo on Back
This colorful mix of flora and fauna weaves together bold red roses with exotic cats and sparrows. We love the juxtaposition.
Minimalist Rose Forearm Tattoo
This rose tattoo uses basic, clean lines to create a crisp design. By not adding any extra lines, dots, or shading, the tattoo remains modern and minimalist.
Rose Lighter Tattoo on Arm
One way to punch up a rose tattoo is to design around the flower. In this design, the rose is the focal point, but the lighter adds more of a designed feel to the ink. Remember that a colorful design like this one requires extra care — so keep in mind expert tips. "My favorite product to use on tattoos and delicate skin is Zensa Healing Cream ($25) as it works to maintain tattoo ink vibrancy and minimize scarring as it helps to heal skin," Otsuji says.
Glass-Encased Rose Forearm Tattoo
Make your tattoo an ode to your one true love (and a specific Disney movie) by getting a glass case tattooed around the rose.
Super Delicate Ribcage Rose Tattoo
By using extremely thin lines and small, intricate detailing, a rose tattoo gains an extremely delicate feel. The shading on the leaves also gives it a realistic look that stands in contrast to the crisp line of the stem.
Thigh Rose Tattoo
Play up the femininity of roses by incorporating saturated colors and placing the design on your thigh. The tattoo feels romantic and chic.
Memorial Roses on Arm
This tattoo was designed to pay homage to the wearer's lost dog. The artist took an existing dog tattoo, covering it with bright red roses.
Small Fineline Arm Rose
This finalize style, done in shades of black and gray, shuns color in favor of shading. The result is classic and somehow modern thanks to the design.
Creeping Rose Vine on Back and Shoulder
This stunning pair reveals one full-bloom rose with one bud. It's symbolic of growth (and would be a great mother-daughter option) but it's beautiful all its own.
Rose Bouquet Tattoo on Back of Arm
Who says rose tattoos can only include roses? Add some of your other favorite flora to the design to create a bouquet of flowers, rather than just one. If you want to keep the rose the focal point, follow the lead of this tattoo: Make it the only actual blooming flower.
Roses and Wolves on Arm
Even if bold statements like this aren't what you're going for, you're sure to find inspiration in the combination of something dangerous and something beautiful. Plus, this artist's skills are hard to argue with.
Small Rose Tattoo on Inner Arm
Rose tattoos are original to the person who gets them, but a lot of them look similar because they’re modeled off of real roses. Personalize your tattoo a bit by taking inspiration from the American traditional tattoo style, which tends to break designs down to absolute basics and relies on heavy usage of black ink. This one in particular reminds us of a stained glass window.
Red Rose Tattoo on Wrist
Jazz up a simple tattoo by changing the color. This red rose tattoo makes an otherwise basic, outline-only tattoo feel more interesting and original. It also gives a nod to the classic rose coloring.
Outer Wrist Rose Tattoo
Placing a small rose tattoo on the outer wrist gives the rose a more delicate feeling. It plays up the romance associated with roses, as it’s a tattoo that would most likely be seen in flashes rather than always being visible due to its placement.
Squiggly Single Line Rose Tattoo on Back of Arm
Using a fully connected, squiggly line to craft the rose tattoo plays up the most basic aspects of the flower to craft a minimalist design. You can even include a word in the squiggles of the stem to make the tattoo more personal.
Scorpion With Rose on Arm
Sweet but dangerous: that's what this tattoo expresses, thanks to the mix of a scorpion and a red rose.
One-Line Rose Tattoo
This rose tattoo idea uses the fully connected one-line design, but the curvy composition plays up the allure of the rose. It’s somehow both dainty and tough, and it gives off French aesthetic vibes.
Double Rose Tattoo on Forearm
Want to make your rose tattoo really pop? Rather than going for a simple one-flower rose tattoo, get two. Having them slightly overlap and using a medium outline makes them darker, which draws attention to the tattoo.
Rose Outline Tattoo on Forearm
Using an extremely thin line allows for an almost-perfect appearance like this tattoo has here. If you’re interested in a minimal but crisp rose tattoo idea, make sure to use very thin and simple lines.
Simple Shoulder Rose Tattoo
While this rose tattoo idea is modeled off of a real rose blossom, the line detailing on the leaves and the extra foliage gives the ink a more cartoonish look. Its placement feels natural because the roundness of the rose matches that of the shoulder bone.
Realistic Thigh Rose Tattoo
By placing a rose tattoo on the upper thigh, the rose’s romantic affiliations are played up, making it a sexier placement idea. The heavy shading on this tattoo is meant to give it a more realistic look, and the contrast between the thin lines and the shading makes the ink pop.
Melting Rose on Arm
This arm is like a gallery showcase, displaying several different pieces of art that each stand on their own. The melting rose, in particular, is a true statement.
Rose With Butterflies on Leg
This rose design appears to glimmer on the skin, offset by a pair of butterflies in flight.
Inner Arm Small Rose Tattoo
Placing a rose tattoo on your inner-upper arm gives it a “peekaboo” effect, with people catching a quick flash as you move your arm (rather than full visibility at all times).
This stunningly simple style wraps around the forearm, taking up a lot of real estate but sticking to a simple palette.
Floral Mix on Shoulder
This piece marries multiple types of flowers (including, of course), a rose. The combination of all together is classic but still trendy.
Abstract Rose on Inner Arm
Those looking for something a little less traditional will appreciate this abstract floral creation. Here, a series of dots and lines suggests the more classic rose.
Heart-Framed Rose Ankle Tattoo
Adding additional design elements to a rose tattoo makes it more customized to you. Here, a large heart incorporates the flower by appearing to use the stem as part of the shape’s outline. The medium outlines and heavy use of black contrast with the negative space of the rose petals and the heart to really call attention to the design.
Double Design on Shoulder
This design pairs color with subtlety. Here, a bold bright red rose is set atop a backdrop of black and white designs. The result is strong, meant for someone with a big personality and the willingness to pull it off.
Evolution of a Rose on Forearm
This is such a unique idea, and manages to make a statement while still appearing quite subtle. Here, a rose grows and evolves over the arm, gradually opening and moving into full bloom.
Lined Rose on Shoulder
This piece proves that color isn't necessary for a bold piece of art. Here, black lines are all that's needed to transform a back and shoulder into a canvas. Note that all of the lines here are connected, making this even more of a statement.