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Butterfly Tattoo Meanings and Design Ideas

Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.

This butterfly tattoo incorporates a skull in its design.

This butterfly tattoo incorporates a skull in its design.

Butterfly Tattoos

The butterfly tattoo is a mainstream choice and one of the most popular tattoos in the world. However, it does not have to be cliché. It can be colorful, beautiful, meaningful, and extremely unique if you take the time to make it yours.

In this article, we will discuss butterfly tattoo designs, what they mean symbolically and historically, and you will have the opportunity to view many photos. In the end, we hope that you find inspiration for your next tattoo.

This person has several butterfly tattoos on her back and shoulder.

This person has several butterfly tattoos on her back and shoulder.

Butterfly Tattoo Design Options

  • The butterfly tattoo can be solid ink, two-toned, or multi-color.
  • It looks good as a single, standalone tattoo, but most have trail ink or wind tails or other images, such as stars or flowers, incorporated.
  • It is often mixed with flowers and plants. Incorporating any nature motifs works well with this design.
  • Juxtaposing the butterfly's beauty with something that's not considered beautiful—a skull, bleeding heart, or dagger, for example—can make it more unique and meaningful.
  • Color choice is key with this design. You really want to have the perfect mixture of colors and hues. The outline is usually done in black to add definition.
  • For some, this design is chosen merely for its beauty. For others, it's chosen for its symbolism.
  • It converts well to both a photo-realistic, geometric, abstract, watercolor or cartoon design. A Celtic or Japanese style works well, too.
  • Incorporating names, dates, or lines of text also works well with this design and adds to its meaning.
  • The most difficult and important choice for butterfly tattoos would probably be the color decision. If you are planning to just use one color, make sure you use different shades of that color. If you are going with multi colors, make sure you don't over-use one color. You want to make sure it is the perfect mixture. Most tattoo artists already know this, but don't leave it up to chance. If you are choosing your own colors, make sure they mesh well.

What Does a Butterfly Tattoo Symbolize?

  • A lot of people who get the butterfly tattoo really don't care about its overall meaning. For many, it doesn't hold any symbolic meaning at all, and it's just chosen for its beauty. For some, though, the symbolism is extremely important.
  • The butterfly stands for transformation in many cultures. Its metamorphosis represents the journey from childhood to adulthood, a transformation from immaturity to wisdom. It represents the path we take as we mature.
  • It is also a symbol of beauty and diversity among many cultures, as well.
  • In Western culture and in Japan, one butterfly stands for womanhood, and two stand for marital bliss.
  • The Aztecs and ancient cultures of Mexico and South America believed that butterflies stood for the souls of the dead and for women who died giving birth.
  • Overall, the butterfly has many meanings in many different cultures, but transformation seems to be a shared interpretation.

Before You Tattoo

  • Always go to a tattoo artist that you completely trust. Shop around for an artist, read their reviews, and carefully look at their work.
  • Ask if you can see images of different color schemes for the design beforehand.
  • Don't rush into a tattoo, by all means. This is something you will wear for the rest of your life. You want to take the time to do your research. Make sure you are 100% sure before you ink.

© 2011 Richard Ricky Hale


Lisa on April 13, 2020:

25 years mom and 2 sister's all got butterfly a new beginning of our new life. It was very emotional experience for all of us.


Jennifer Lane on March 24, 2019:

I have two that are twenty years old! Mine still look great but I'm glad I never got them big cause your body changes so much!

denise elbourne on June 20, 2014:

Very impressive quite so awesome n beautiful

Carol on April 12, 2013:

I really want a butterfly tattoo to represent my mom since she loved butterflies. Her favorite color is blue so I was wanting to go with that. I get what you are saying with the colors meshing, but I just can't find the one I want just yet.

ELMA on February 22, 2013:

all beautiful tattoos...esp.butterfly design...i want to experience having tattoo like those butterflies but im just kind afraid of pain...i not know if caused so much pain or i just can carry the pain...maybe if someone gonna tell me its not caused so much pain in me...i'll try to make even one tattoo on my body... :D

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 29, 2012:

Unknown, thanks for dropping by. Your right, the butterfly is one of the top designs for women. A great choice of color and beauty.

Deborrah, great to hear from you. I always appreciate someone who is able to see it from an artistic view rather then just a tattoo. I would agree 100%

Made, thanks for commenting. LOL Glad you enjoyed it. Best wishes all.

Madeleine Salin from Finland on September 13, 2012:

This is an inspirational hub with beautiful tattoos. I could not stop reading it even if I don't have any tattoos and don't plan ta have one.

Elder DeBorrah K Ogans on August 20, 2012:

Lyricwriter, Very interesting hub! I am not really much of a tattoo person... But, the artistry in these butterflies are simply; Beautiful! Great presentation! Thank You for sharing, Peace & Blessings!

DragonBallSuper on August 20, 2012:

butterflies are one great design for tattoos. very interesting too. many girls would like to go on this design.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 20, 2012:





Thanks for taking the time to drop by all. Sgbrown, cool story. I try to encourage others to create their own tattoo, cool that she does create hers. It makes it more special, more meaningful. You just may surprise yourself when you're done. KK, if it was me, I would. Then again, nothing wrong with a black butterfly. Possibly some color shading of some type. You keep the black but add a little yellow or baby blue shading perhaps. Picadilly, awesome! Glad you enjoyed it and thanks so much for stopping by and your comment/time. Bridalletter, great suggestion! These are awesome tattoos. The 3D affect really sets this tattoo off. I tried joining pinterest, but it would not let me sign up. But I appreciate anyone that pins my articles, so many thanks:)

Brenda Kyle from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA on August 16, 2012:

I love butterflies too. I would get one of the 3D butterflies with a shadow under it. They look like they will fly right off your skin. I hope you post and link back to your site on pinterest

Priscill Anne Alvik from Schaumburg, IL on August 13, 2012:

Teal and yellow octopus trying to catch a pink butterfly on my tummy!!! Loved your article!!! Thank you for sharing!! xo

Klingonkorra on August 12, 2012:

I have a butterfly tattoo on my lower spine it´s only in black maybe I should spunk it up a bit!

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on August 12, 2012:

There are so many beautiful designs here! I can't choose a favorite. I think the most unusual one is the butterfly with the tigers face inside, awesome! My daughter has a blue butterfly tattoo, simular to your first picture, between her shoulders. I'm not much on tatoos, maybe a couple of small ones wouldn't bother me, but she loves them. She has 6 or 7 now. She designs all of hers herself. Great hub on choosing a tattoo. Voted up and more! Have a beautiful day!

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on June 16, 2012:

Yasmin, thanks for taking the time to comment and view this article. Glad you enjoyed it. Best wishes!

Yasmin Malik on June 10, 2012:

Thank You for all the info, great designs, tips! Cheers :D

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 17, 2012:

Landscapeartist, thanks for the visit. I agree. The butterfly is very popular among women. I am glad you were able to get a few ideas on a butterfly tattoo. I like the colors of the top two, soft blue and pink. Adding designs to a butterfly tattoo sits it off also.

Roberta McIlroy from Ontario, Canada on January 16, 2012:

wow. your hub was beautifully written to match the gorgeous tattoos pictured. i love the detail put into a butterfly tattoo but i can't seem to make up my mind which one i want to get. Thank you for giving me some great choices to pick from.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on December 03, 2011:

Eddy, thanks for coming by and I appreciate your kind words my friend. I believe it would be a great tattoo for you and a safe choice as well. I am glad you found it useful. You have a great day as well and I will catch you later.

Eiddwen from Wales on December 03, 2011:

Hi thank you so much for this one because I have been haroing on about having a tattoo for ages and I love buterflies so this is the ideal hub forme.

Therefore an up up and away plus a bookmark into 'My most useful hubs'.

I will let you know when I have one done.

Take care and I wish you a great day.


Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on December 01, 2011:

Hey there Gypsy. First, thanks for coming by and to answer your question, yes. I actually believe this one is a male, looks like a male arm to me. I just wanted to lay out the idea of a tattoo in a tattoo per say. I was worried that may be brought up when I loaded the picture:) What can I say? I am working with what I got! I wouldn't get one done like that, but everyone is different. The butterfly has meaning to some men I am sure of. Personally, I would pick a dolphin before a butterfly. Thanks for coming by. I hope all is well and I am on my way by.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on December 01, 2011:

Sueswan, I agree. I put this one first cause the color, design, and style is perfect. I would recommend it to anyone unsure of their butterfly tattoo. Thanks and you have a great evening as well my dear:)

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on December 01, 2011:

AE, thanks for coming by and I appreciate the comment my friend. Thanks for everything and best wishes.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on December 01, 2011:

Another job well done. Great to be able to read the explanations and have the picture right there to look at. I can see why women like these lovely butterfly tattoos. Is ir because the butterflies seem to symbolize feminity in a way that no guys ever get butterfly tattoos? What about the butterfly with the tiger face couldn't a guy get away with a tattoo like that?

Sueswan on December 01, 2011:

Hi Ricky

I like the first one the best.

Voted up and beautiful.

Have a good evening.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on December 01, 2011:

Bobbi, thanks for coming by and I appreciate your time and comment. I am glad you thought highly of this article. I always try to add as much info as I can. Thanks and best wishes.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 01, 2011:

All the tattoos are beautiful, very interesting layout. Thank you Ricky..

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on December 01, 2011:

Donna, thanks for taking the time to read it and I appreciate your gratitude. Thanks for pointing that out and I am glad you enjoyed the tips. Take care my friend and see you soon.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on December 01, 2011:

Prasetio, thanks for coming by and you are right, we can all look at this in an artistic view as well. I have no issue with tattoo, but I can appreciate what a tattoo artist does. It is no easy task for them. Painters and those who draw can start over. Not the same for a tattoo artist. Thanks for coming by and take care.

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on December 01, 2011:


I voted up, beautiful and awesome, and I loved the lavender and purple shades, as they are my two favorite colors. However, I like the tiger butterfly, also. I always wanted a hummingbird tattoo, but I never got one. This hub was so delightful, it lit up my smile as I read it.

This was an educational, beautiful, delightful and so very different from the normal hub. I really enjoyed it.

Thanks for sharing your everlasting and growning talent for us to see and enjoy.

Your Hub Friend,


Donna Cosmato from USA on December 01, 2011:

This was great overall and the images are stunning. However, I was especially impressed by the tips on how to balance the colors esthetically and the explanation of the cultural significance of butterflies. Voted up for sure!

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on December 01, 2011:

Mentalist, thanks for coming by my friend and thanks for the comment and your time. It really is a beautiful tattoo design and women can do a lot with this tattoo. The wide variety of colors that can be used make these tattoos a great choice.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on December 01, 2011:

Wow...this was so beautiful tattoo though I am not the person who recommend tattoo. I just saw this pictures as beautiful art. Thanks for share with us. Rated up!


Mentalist acer from A Voice in your Mind! on December 01, 2011:

Oh My,My The Beautiful Butterflies To Entice My Eyes...I believe you Ricky that the Butterfly Tattoo is the most popular tattoo and overall numerous tattoo design...thanks for sharing Ricky and have a butterfly's rainbow day.;)

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 30, 2011:

Zzron, thanks for taking the time to comment and to come by my friend. I am glad you enjoyed the images. Take care and best wishes.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 30, 2011:

Mary, thanks for coming back my dear. i hope you are doing fine. I do appreciate your opinions and I know you don't approve of tattoos on your girls and I value that. I do appreciate you commenting on my work though. Thanks and best wishes.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 30, 2011:

Jean, thank you for taking the time to check this article out and for leaving a comment. That would be a sight to see for sure. That would have made a great photo for certain. Thanks for noticing the work, that really makes it worthwhile Jean. Best wishes and I shall read some of your work as well. Take care:)

zzron from Houston, TX. on November 30, 2011:

Really cool hub. I really like the pics.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on November 30, 2011:

I have mixed emotions about tattoos. They are OK on other young people, but I don't want my own kids getting them. This is a great Hub on the subject, with lots of good photos, though.I voted it UP, etc.etc.

Jean Bakula from New Jersey on November 30, 2011:

I love butterflies, and you have a beautiful selection of them here. I never got a real tattoo, but sometimes I get the henna kind that last for a little while. One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen was a migration of Monarch butterflies in the Fall. It was a long time ago, and my husband (then BF) and I were hiking somewhere near the Delaware Water Gap. They are the orange and black ones, and we saw thousands of them. It was amazing. Of course, we had no camera, and back then there were no cell phones. We both never forgot the wonderful experience and were grateful we had a chance to witness it. I would pick # 18! You worked hard on this and it really shows!

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 30, 2011:

HBN, thanks for coming by and for your time, votes, and comment. I am hoping all is well in the "D" of the east coast. I also like that one the best. I love the design and the baby blue color. Thanks for taking the time to look it over and read it HBN. Best wishes.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on November 30, 2011:

Very comprehensive and well written hub about butterfly tattoos. I like the first one best. Am not surprised that butterflies are so popular for the women as even without its symbolic meaning, most women think butterflies are beautiful and they're also very colorful.

I like that you added so many photos to the hub and also reminded people to be take their time when deciding on a design and to use a tattoo artist that they trust.

Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.