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Examples of Popular Dragon Tattoo Designs and Placements

This article will help you find design inspiration for your next dragon tattoo!

This article will help you find design inspiration for your next dragon tattoo!

Find Inspiration for Your Next Dragon Tattoo

Dragon tattoos are among the most popular tattoos in the world. Regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity, lots of people across the globe love to get ink of these majestic creatures.

Part of what's fascinating about these tattoos is that they can mean very different things, depending on whether your roots are in the East or the West.

Even the shape of a dragon differs across cultures. For example, what a dragon looks like varies from Japanese to Chinese cultures. A Japanese dragon is generally slender and long, and they usually are not thought to have the ability to fly. Chinese culture, on the other hand, tends to associate the dragon much more with wings and flying. So when you see more of a snake-like creature tattooed on someone with a dragon head, this design likely has a Japanese influence.

This article will take a look at different designs, placements, color options, and meanings of a wide array of dragon tattoos to help you get inspired!

What Goes With a Dragon Tattoo?

If you've got a good vision of what you want your dragon to look like but aren't sure what might complement it, here's a handful of ideas:

What Kind of Background Goes Well With a Dragon Tattoo?

Maybe you think your dragon might feel a little lonely if it's just left floating somewhere on your body and want to give it a nice background to explore. Here are a few ideas to think about:

  • Beautiful Nature Settings: Placing your dragon against a backdrop of natural wonders like mountains, waterfalls, and tranquil gardens is pretty much always a great idea, as seen in this elaborate tapestry done by @ktdragontattoostudio.
  • Abstract Expression: If you want to go with something a bit more abstract and creative, consider weaving through different patterns and drawings with varied colors like this dynamic example from @_marode_.
  • Combine Different Elements: Dragons tend to serve as great anchors for busier tattoos that feature lots of different elements. This one by @goyotattooart, for instance, incorporates flowers, leaves, smoke, clouds, and dragon balls.

Where Do Dragon Tattoos Look Best?

There are primarily three places where you see this type of tattoo, and they are very rarely small. These include:

  • Half sleeve: A design that goes up the arm, over the shoulder, and across one side of the chest is pretty common.
  • Entirety of the back: This is probably the most common form of dragon tattoos, likely because it gives the artist lots of room to work with and looks very impressive when the person removes their shirt to show it off.
  • Outside of the top of the arm: From a little above the elbow and farther up, this is another really popular choice and tends to look great as well.

They are also popular because, as mentioned earlier, they have a lot of meaning in Asian cultures. But based upon design, it's the shape that allows artists to have a lot of leeway with what can be done. It's that versatility and accompanying meaning that make it so desirable as body art.

Half sleeve dragon

Half sleeve dragon

Dragons Can Complement Body Shape

There are of course exceptions to these three places, but probably 80–90% of all dragon tattoos are in these locations. It could be placed in many parts of the body too though, including the feet, hands, stomach, and legs.

Because the dragon can be imagined as a long shape, and in a lot of instances are placed that way on the body, people can have them applied in ways that complement their unique body makeup, which I think is a big part of the reason why they're so popular.

Can You Have a Small Dragon?

Of course you can! Though the majority of dragon body art tends to lean toward larger pieces, there are loads of great smaller works that can still look spectacular and wow onlookers with their powerful presences.

You can opt for a single little firebreather if you want. Maybe you'd like to go with a small handful of miniatures playing together. Or if you want something more cutesy, think about getting an adorable baby dragon hatching out of its egg.

Just because the tattoo isn't big doesn't mean it can't have a big effect!

Japanese style

Japanese style

Dragons in Asian Cultures

Many Asians find more meaning in these tattoos than their Western counterparts. The symbolic meaning behind them is considered much deeper than the 'cool' factor that dragon tattoos carry in the West.

Dragons also speak to something of the character that makes up many people. So they're really considered an extension of who they are, possibly more than any other tattoo.

Below is an example of a red dragon with blue highlights added to it. The deep-set eye sockets are designed very well, producing that sometimes ominous feeling you get when viewing dragon art.

It's easiest to see near the tail of the dragon and its left arm.

Another unique part of this tattoo design that isn't immediately recognizable is the tendril-looking skin color lines mixed throughout the piece.

Red Dragon

Red Dragon

Differing Designs and Styles

There are a lot of different styles and choices to pick from, which also lends itself to the growth and popularity the dragon tattoo enjoys. It's like a positive look constantly getting feedback and being expanded upon.

It can also be very colorful, which makes it appealing as a tattoo.

No matter where you may want to put your tattoo, there will be a design you are sure to like. This is what makes body art design so successful and fascinating and increasingly desired.

After you look at the examples, you'll agree that they're really extraordinary, even if just to enjoy them as works of art.

Colorful full back on woman

Colorful full back on woman

A Rib and Chest Tattoo

The photo below shows an awesome green dragon that looks like one of those you might see carried by dancers celebrating Lunar New Year in many Asian countries.

This one apparently is attempting to wreak havoc on some people, who look like they're trying to fight back.

But the star of this tattoo is the dragon—the body, teeth, scales, and tongue all combine to make a fierce but amazing image.

Fantasy Dragon Warrior

Fantasy Dragon Warrior

A Back Piece of a Dragon Breathing Fire

I like how the colors of this dragon blend together so well. The cream background is a good canvas for the dark ink and red highlights. It's also interesting that the background is black in the middle and has light edging around the dragon to help it stand out.

The flames burning on its body add a nice touch to the overall look of the design.

Amazing Full Back Design

Amazing Full Back Design

A Colorful Green Tattoo

Like others around the world, many Asian people are drawn to bold, vibrant colors, and this is often expressed in tattoo art, as you can see in the photo below.

When dragons are done with a lot of color, green and red are usually the predominant ones, with others like blue and purple used at times as well.

It's fascinating to see the dragon encircling itself on the sword in the center of the back, even as the creature emits fire from it's entire body.

Great green dragon design

Great green dragon design

Black and White

Dragons offer tattoo artists and designers such great material to work with, and you can see some pieces that are incredibly colorful works of art, using the body as a canvas.

Others are completely black in color and have a tribal feel.

Below is an example of a dark-colored dragon, this one with wings and sharp, long talons. The shadowing and alternating dark and light colors really make this a compelling piece of body art.

Black dragon on back

Black dragon on back

High-Quality Dark Ink

Here we have one of the highest-quality designs I've ever seen. Everything about it just sticks out in an extraordinary way.

There is so much that is clearly visible that it leaves no doubt as to what a fantastic dragon tattoo this is, one that I'm sure is very difficult to reproduce. But it sure generates a lot of ideas on how to create a magnificent image.

Chinese dragon on back

Chinese dragon on back

More Dragon Tattoo Design Inspiration

© 2009 MakinBacon


ellahall2011 on October 11, 2011:

Gorgeous tattoos.

darlene mcnee on October 13, 2010:

they were cool tattoos.