Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.
The Mask Tattoo
Mask tattoos depict a mask or face, usually emphasizing or portraying a strong emotion. The design is often deeply emotional and symbolic 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.
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 superhero. It could be happy, sad, evil, goofy, or any other emotion. It could be the face of a famous character, a historic figure, or someone you know.
- Japanese Hannya. The Japanese hannya mask tattoo is a popular variation that represents a vengeful and jealous woman. Hate, envy, and evil have 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 these 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. Tribal designs 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, but you can find these designs in any color.
- Comedy/Tragedy. The laugh-now-cry-later mask (aka smile-now-laugh-later) is one of the more popular designs. It portrays two faces: one with a smile, the other with a frown or tears. Theater mask designs are usually black and white and decorated in designs.
- Regional Masks. You may also see Mardi Gras, Venetian, or Lucha masks.
- Animals and Other Creatures. Masks of animals or mythological creatures can be very meaningful and whimsical.
- Other. Other masks to choose from are gas masks, ski masks, and masks worn to prevent the spread of illness.
Links to Great Mask Tattoo Ideas
- Human mask over a demon face (instead of the other way around) like this example by @enormityink_hontattoo
- A mask to hide the beauty like this example by @holy_unk
- Masked snake like this example by @trondhp
- Guy Fawkes mask a la @huahua_tattoo
- Neotraditional ogre like this many-eyed example by @gsiqueiratattoo
- Plague doctor mask a la @nocturnaltentacles
- Death mask (skull under or over the mask) like @odihotattoo
- Shield-mask (a tiny person hiding behind a huge face) like @tattoo.file
- No face mask (after the character from Miyazaki's Spirited Away) like @_suzani
- 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 convey.
- Design elements. 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.
- Text. 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.
Read More from Tatring
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
peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 14, 2020:
asians do not implement tatoo on their body nor limbs unless they are couples, young and energetic. SOme teens do imprint small flower designs on their ankles or behind the neck. What does that means?
Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on August 14, 2013:
Interestig! Like all masks a mixture of happy, sad, frightening and whimsical! Thank you for sharing your expertise! Up++
Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on August 12, 2013:
Loved all the mask tattoo designs they are all very beautiful !