Skull tattoos tend to have a reputation for being dark and nefarious, due to the image’s relation to death. However, skull tattoos can be inked in a variety of styles, shapes, and levels of customization that make them more than their reputation. Skulls also come in a range of styles, as almost every creature has one—from humans to animals to (maybe) even aliens.
If you’re considering a skull tattoo but need some more inspiration first, here are 31 pieces of ink to help you design your next tattoo.
Realistic Skull Tattoo
Making a skull tattoo look realistic is all in the details. Use lighter shading to create the look of depth and dimension, and faux cracks give the skull an aged look.
White Ink Skull Tattoo
Skulls may typically be depicted in black, but try adding some white ink to your tattoo to add a unique touch. Here, white is used as detailing to give shine and dimension to the otherwise flat and dark ink.
Animal Skull Tattoo
Skull tattoos aren’t limited to human skulls! If you want something more connected to nature—or just less connected to humans—go for an animal skull. Add flowers for a traditional but brightened look.
Twisting Skull Tattoo
Just because skulls have a specific look doesn’t mean you can’t play around with it! This tattoo features a twist-off-like top, giving the design movement and allowing for more room for additional design elements.
American Traditional Skull Tattoo
Animal skulls are a common design choice for Neo-American tattoos. Add some other typical American traditional elements, like these flowers and heavy blackwork, to create a cohesive piece of ink.
Line Art Skull Tattoo
For a more minimal and streamlined skull tattoo, go for a line art style. This tattoo looks like it was drawn with one line, giving the otherwise clunky image a light feeling.
Whimsical Skull Tattoo
While skulls are typically depicted as serious, have a bit of fun with your design to make it completely personalized! This tattoo uses a cartoon face and plays up the chin for a unique and fun skull tattoo.
Negative Space Skull Tattoo
Because skulls are colored white, they make for great negative space tattoos! Carve out the image of the skull from your skin, and fill around it with black for a take on the design that’s truly all you.
Eerie Skull Tattoo
Sometimes, a skull is just a good old skull! Rather than trying to add anything to give it meaning, play up the eerie death aspect by adding bat wings or chainlinks to continue the same vibe throughout the tattoo.
Shaded Animal Skull Tattoo
An animal skull tattoo is a common design choice, but the detailing you and your artist choose is what will make yours unique. This tattoo uses different types of shading and small bits of negative space to add dimension to the design.
Atypical Skull Tattoo
Don’t feel limited by the confines of what a “normal” skull looks like. Instead, insert your style—or ask your artist to insert their own—for a custom tattoo that’s completely unique.
Moth Skull Tattoo
Try incorporating skulls into unexpected designs, like in this moth tattoo. In the middle of the bug’s segment, a skull appears, emphasizing the contrast between nature and death.
Minimal Skull Tattoo
If you want to opt for a skull tattoo that’s a bit simpler, choose your details wisely to avoid it looking like a cartoon. Here, the design uses blackwork and a medium outline paired with text to add just enough whimsy.
Skull Legband Tattoo
To play on the creepy aspect of skull tattoos, try stacking a bunch together in your design. This gives a catacomb-esque feeling and puts the focus on the overall piece rather than the skulls themselves.
Nature Skull Tattoo
To really play up the contrast of nature and death with your tattoo, have the skull almost coming out of the animal, rather than just being a part of it. If you opt for a lot of shading and detail, like in this piece, make sure you’re brightening it up with some white ink or negative space.
Focal Point Skull Tattoo
If you want to add a skull to your design without making it the focal point, use its negative space requirement in your example. Try placing it in the middle of a detailed and shaded tattoo to give your eyes a focal point and a break from all the dark ink.
Balanced Skull Tattoo
Balance out the masculine, dark feeling of a skull by pairing it with a more feminine, lighter image, like a crescent moon. Give the other image a face as well, like in this piece, to continue the balancing act.
Detailed Skull Tattoo
Sometimes the best kind of skull tattoo is just a detailed, realistic one! It gets the image across without overwhelming with additional design elements, but still pops with its shading and negative space.
Death Moth Skull Tattoo
If you like the idea of a “death moth”—aka a moth with a skull on its back—but don’t want to just place a skull over a moth design, try integrating them. This tattoo places the skull on the wings, making it an obvious skull design but without detracting from the moth element.
Rose Skull Tattoo
Because of the circular shape of a human skull, they fit well with other similarly shaped objects. Here, the skull seems to have a rose blooming from it, or the skull appears to be part of the skull—the shapes help connect the two contrasting objects naturally.
Florals Skull Tattoo
A human skull has a classic shape—somewhat round but unique. Because of that, try using skulls in place of typical circles in a design, like in this flower tattoo.
Playfully Lined Skull Tattoo
Just because skulls are serious parts of the body doesn’t mean they have to be serious tattoos! Keep the typical elements of the skull for identification—the shape, eyes, and teeth—but be playful with the lines to add a sense of whimsy.
Alien Skull Tattoo
For a truly unique skull tattoo, why not choose a design that doesn’t really exist? This one-of-a-kind tattoo looks like an alien skull, despite using traditional human skull designs, because of the head and eye shape.
Hidden Skull Tattoo
Skulls don’t always have to be the focal point of a tattoo—sometimes they pop more when taking a backseat to other elements. In this piece, the flowers are the main attraction, but the detail of the small skulls within them make a big statement.
Half Skull Tattoo
Don’t feel like you need to get a whole skull in your tattoo! Customize it with other elements you like or ones that you feel play into the custom vibe you want, like splitting the skull in half or adding a rose design.
White Detailing Skull Tattoo
Adding white detailing to a realistic skull tattoo can help it feel lighter and less overwhelming in your chosen placement area. Using white will also help to add dimension, as it mimics the look of light and shadows.
Geometric Skull Tattoo
Don’t be afraid to add additional elements to your skull tattoo! This design uses geometric detailing to highlight the skull image without overwhelming it.
Angled Skull Tattoo
When getting a skull tattoo, consider the angle at which you want the design to be placed. Skulls may be a specific shape, but they look different from every side, so choose one you think will work with both your placement and what you envision for your ink.
Illusion Skull Tattoo
For a unique skull design, trying creating the image out of something else. This skull tattoo is made up of florals, which creates the illusion of a skull but remains focused on the flowers.
Neo-American Skull Tattoo
Skulls are major images in the Neo-American style of tattooing, as they were a typical element in the tattoos sailors used to get. Try customizing your skull with accessories, like a real person design, to really make it your own.
Overlapping Skull Tattoo
If you’re looking to keep your skull tattoo minimal but still want to add some sort of visual interest, try two identical and overlapping designs. Ink one in a different color, though, to create contrast and make it more personal.