Although there’s really no such thing as a “masculine” tattoo—as tattoos aren’t gendered and you can get any design you desire—there tend to be certain designs and elements that are statistically favored by specific genders. According to tattoo artist Chang of West 4 Tattoo, the three main components that make a tattoo feel “masculine” are sizing (as “larger tends to be more ‘masculine’”), line thickness, and the actual image you’re getting inked. But while these are contributing factors, the energy that your tattoo projects is mostly based on how you want it to look and how your artist actually interprets it, not any specific elements.
“Nowadays there are tattoos for all tastes,” says Gera Palaz, an artist at Monterrey, Mexico's Stay Fine Studio. “The artist you choose will play an extremely important role [in giving] the identity you want to your project.”
Small tattoos, in particular, tend to get a “feminine” reputation due to the thin line work and delicate look, but anyone call get this type of ink as it’s “more about fashion and trends than gender,” according to Chang. Plus, small tattoos have been rising in popularity over the past few years, says Palaz, so it’s not uncommon to see people sporting small “masculine” tattoos.
If you know you want a small tattoo with a “masculine” vibe to it, but aren’t sure exactly what that could look like, here are 30 tattoos to inspire your ink.
What makes this tattoo “masculine” isn’t the thin lines, but rather, the slash-like details. Plus, subtle shading grounds it without feeling dainty.
If you opt for an arm piece, consider having it wrap a bit to take up more space on your limb. “The arms are the kings of tattoos,” says Palaz.
Anatomical Heart Tattoo
While a heart design may typically be considered “feminine,” the anatomical correctness of this ink subverts the expectation. The additional shape and line detailing adds strong angles to the tattoo as well.
As they’re tied to sailing and traditional tattooing, anchors are generally a pretty “masculine” design choice. The sketch-like lines and sharp angles only add to it.
Due to the general vibe of snakes, they’re considered more “masculine.” This tattoo elevates that feeling by completely filling the design in with black pigment, which makes it feel bolder and heavier.
Just because a tattoo is small doesn’t mean it’s automatically less “masculine.” Sometimes a simple design can make a bold impact.
Skull & Sword Tattoo
Skulls and swords are both traditionally “masculine” images, so combining them definitely gives your tattoo that vibe. The realism put into the skull and swords also bolsters that effect.
A small alien head alone doesn’t have any particular gender vibe. But keeping the design simple with clean lines and blackwork, like this design, lean the ink’s general feeling toward “masculine.”
Thick lines aren’t necessary for “masculine” tattoos. To offset thinner linework, though, try incorporating heavier shading techniques.
Anchor & Compass Tattoo
Since anchors are traditionally “masculine,” using an image of one in your ink instantly gets that idea across. Plus, by adding more sailing imagery—like the compass—and heavy shading, the effect is increased.
Swords are “masculine” by default, thanks to their ties to war and fighting. For a fine line sword, though, stick to something more realistic to maintain that vibe.
“Masculine” tattoos can be delicate, too! Place them somewhere that emphasizes the form of your body or muscles to keep them from feeling too dainty.
Sometimes the best way to make sure a design has the right vibe is to keep it simple. By using thick lines and not varying it at all or adding shading, you get a bold tat.
Matches are pretty gender-neutral, so they’re a great base for a “masculine” tat. Add some heavy blackwork and make the match look like it’s withering away to finish the look.
Single Letter Tattoo
If you want a single letter, an illustrated style looks great. The simplicity keeps it light, while the thick extra detailing makes it feel more “masculine.”
A great way to ensure your tattoo feels more “masculine” is to make it more realistic. This bee, for example, doesn’t look like a cartoon and uses dark blackwork to solidify the feel.
Skulls are inherently a more “masculine” design thanks to their harshness. Stick to really dark designs to up the vibe of the tattoo and make it more bold.
If you want to get a word tattoo, opt for a bold, uppercase font. The lettering will look less dainty and more bold, capturing the “masculine” look.
All tattoo styles can be used to achieve a “masculine” piece of ink. This parrot is done in a line art style, but the medium-thickness lines and sharper angles achieve the correct look.
Feel free to opt for colors that aren’t black for a “masculine” design. Red is a great alternative because it looks good in all styles and adds a bit of boldness.
By incorporating natural elements into the design, this tattoo has a sport of rugged feel. The combination of bold black, faded grey, and desaturated red bring a uniqueness to the ink.
“Among the most requested male areas to tattoo is the neck,” says Palaz. “[It’s] an area that I love. In my opinion, it has a lot of movement and visibility.”
Horseshoe Crab Tattoo
Despite the lack of thick lines or dark pigment, this tattoo doesn’t feel delicate. Instead, the realism and sharp angles make it look substantial regardless of its daintiness.
White Ink Tattoo
Getting a “masculine” tattoo doesn’t mean you have to get a thick, dark design. Why not opt for a simple but bold design in white for an impact that’s a bit quieter?
Dripping Numbers Tattoo
“Masculine” tattoos are allowed to have extra designs; you don’t have to stick to just simple, bold designs. Try adding something fun, like the dripping effect on this piece.
On/Off Switch Tattoo
If you’re opting for a very small design, keep the “masculine” feeling with heavy blackwork. Otherwise, keep it simple for maximum impact and to avoid it feeling overwhelmed.
Roman Numerals Tattoo
Roman numerals are a great choice for a more “masculine” number design. Play around with the thicknesses within the numbers to customize the font to you.
Lots of blackwork immediately makes a tattoo feel “masculine,” despite the actual design, due to the heaviness. Minimize details not done in that technique to emphasize it even more.
Scorpions are another naturally “masculine” image thanks to their predatory nature. Add some shading to keep a simple design from feeling too dainty.
Negative Space Tattoo
For a fun twist on the typical boldness of a heavy blackwork tattoo, try getting it in the negative space style.