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Mask Tattoo Designs Ideas and Meanings (With Pictures)

Updated on November 2, 2017
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Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.

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The Mask Tattoo

Mask tattoos depict a mask or face, usually emphasizing or portraying certain emotions. The design is often deeply symbolic or meaningful to those who wear it. Think about it: the face can say so much without saying anything at all. You want your tattoo to do the same.

The mask often looks better as a mid-sized to large tattoo, which allows for more detail. This is not to say that you can't get a small one, not at all. In fact, some of these small tattoos are great. But you want your mask to be big enough to convey the emotion.

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Mask Tattoo Design Options

No two faces are the same, so the sky is the limit in terms of design options here. It could be a clown mask, a Jason mask, a tiki mask, or a mask of a super hero. It could be happy, sad, evil, goofy, or any other emotion. It could be the face of a popular character, an historic figure, or someone you know.

  • The Japanese hannya mask tattoo is a popular variation that represents a vengeful and jealous woman. Hate, envy, and evil has turned her into a demon, but some traces of her humanity can still be seen. Deep and extreme colors are often used in these designs, as it is thought that deeper and extreme colors represent stronger emotions. She is often portrayed with fang-like teeth, pointed horns, screaming eyes, and a look on her face that explains it all.
  • Tribal masks are another variation that may be considered. These might be stand-alone faces or may include other tribal symbols, such as the sun. These are traditionally inked in solid black ink without color. However, at this day and age, you can find these designs in any color.
  • The laugh-now-cry-later (aka the smile-now-laugh-later) mask is one of the more popular designs. It portrays two faces: one with a smile, the other with a frown or tears.
  • Theatre masks are another popular variation. These designs are usually white and decorated in art. You may also see Mardi Gras or Venetian masque styles.

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  • The emotion is important. Your mask can be happy, sad, laughing, funny, scared, crying, afraid, tempted, angry, evil, or any other emotion that you want to represent.
  • Of course, any mask can be designed with other symbols and elements like stars, cherries, clovers, dice, horseshoes, or diamonds. Add symbols and elements that hold meaning in your life. If the cherry blossom defines you, add it to your design. A special animal or a cross—whatever holds meaning for you. Make your tattoo your own.
  • If you want, add banners or text. You may want to put your name on it, your child's name or an important quote or phrase.

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Tips to Remember

Mask tattoo designs can be beautiful, artistic, creative, and unique, but before you get yours, there are a few things that you should consider.

Make sure that you take the time to research your tattoo before getting inked. Make sure you completely understand what it represents. You don't want to find out later that your tattoo symbolize something completely different than you thought.

Choosing the wrong tattoo will cost you money and time. Laser removal and cover-ups can work, but why go through the process if you don't have to.

© 2013 Richard Ricky Hale

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    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Interestig! Like all masks a mixture of happy, sad, frightening and whimsical! Thank you for sharing your expertise! Up++

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Loved all the mask tattoo designs they are all very beautiful !