Boat and Ship Tattoos

Updated on March 17, 2020
Barnacle Bill profile image

I'm a big fan of all things tattoo and want to share my passion for the world of tattoo art.


Boat and ship tattoos are a surprisingly popular design for those seeking something cool to display on their skin. I don't know if it's Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise that have made these tattoos so popular or if they've always been cool, but either way, they are a compelling, memorable, and meaningful design choice.

Below, you'll find many facts, ideas, variations, and photos to use as inspiration.

Sleeve with various nautical elements.
Sleeve with various nautical elements. | Source

Ship Tattoo Designs

There is no doubt it's the old vessels with masts and sails that are by far the most popular of all boat or ship tattoos. The obvious reasons are that they are a fantastic design in and of themselves and they translate really well in ink. I think it's the ship's billowing sails that really make it work.

Another reason for the popularity of this design is that it represents a sense of adventure and danger, something that is very appealing to display.

Abstract old-school ship tattoo.
Abstract old-school ship tattoo. | Source

Viking Ship Tattoo

Within the ship genre there are a number of different styles to choose from, such as the very nice-looking Viking ship you see below. The rolling waters tossing the vessel and the face in the clouds watching over the circumstances are fantastic. I love tattoos that are well done without a lot of color: This is a great example.

Look at that terrific shadowing. The detail and the lack of color create a powerful feeling that you can't get with color.

 I love ship tattoos without color: This is a great example.
I love ship tattoos without color: This is a great example.

Colorful Boat Tattoo

Even though I don't like color, there are a couple of things I like about the colorful tattoo below. First, the darker color on the sails of the ship work fairly well here. Second, that water spilling out of the frame is a nice touch.

Tugboat Pulling a Cupcake

This is one of the oddest tattoos I've ever seen. What in the world does it mean? Was it part of a scene from a movie or something like that? I don't know. If you do, leave a message in the comments below to enlighten us.

Again, you have the combination of dark ink and color. It holds its own and is very different.

Shipwreck Tattoo

This is a magnificent tattoo. The work is top notch and the leaning ship in front next to the small boat on its side really looks great. How about that rocky shoal in the foreground and the map at the top in the background? Everything about this design is of the highest quality.

Portrait of a Man Driving a Boat

The portrait tattoo below is memorable in terms of subject matter as well as quality. You get the sense of winsomeness and a lazy, unhurried day as the boat chugs along. Another element that works is the subtle blending of the yellow in the background with the shadow. The only negative to me is the loud red color. But still, it's a very nice job.


Boats and ships really work well in a variety of scenarios. Older ships are great subjects and do translate seamlessly and compellingly to tattoo designs. They are definitely worth taking a serious look at when researching to tattoo ideas.



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