26 Best Skull Tattoo Designs To Try In 2023

There are so many creative ways to get the symbol of death and rebirth inked on your skin.

Reviewed by Jingxi Gu, Licensed Tattoo Artist
Written by Jyotsana Rao
Edited by Asmita De
Fact-checked by Joyce Joyson  • 

Skulls are generally considered a sign of death. But people who sport skull tattoo designs, see them as symbols of a cycle of life. They are reminders of change and an indication that time is fleeting.

In many religions, the sign of the skull is seen as a sign of eternity. Some see it as representing rebirth or recognition that all things must pass. For many tribal people, skull tattoos are significant to their ways of life. Pirates have used skull insignias and tattoos as signs of rebellion. In Mexico, during the ‘Day of the Dead,’ sugar skulls are made to commemorate and respect the lives of those in the past. For the Celts, skulls were the seat of the soul, creating and recreating life. In this way, in so many old and new cultures, skulls symbolize a great deal more than death.

Skull tattoo designs can often be associated with horror and the eerie, featuring frightening imagery. In general, a spooky and creepy skull tattoo, with details of the skeleton’s bones, can create a haunting image. Licensed Tattoo Artist, Jingxi Gu, adds, “Skulls are a classic element in the tattooing world. I love them in old school and realism tattoo styles.” While some may find this type of body art morbid, for others, it can be a celebration of the beauty and mystery of life and death. Most people have them in all shapes and styles. Here are some of the most amazing skull tattoo designs.

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Famous people with skull tattoos include Kesha, Amy Macdonald, Paris Jackson, Rihanna, Jon Bon Jovi, and Chris Brown.

26 Memorable Skull Tattoos And Their Meanings

Depending on how they are portrayed, skull tattoos convey a variety of meanings. They can suggest duality, rebelliousness, independence, and even stand-out femininity. Skull tattoos are not always associated with dying and gloominess. They can be quirky, they can be edgy, and they can even be a lot of fun. Here are some of the most popular skull tattoo ideas, along with their significance.

1. Sugar Skull Tattoos

Image: skullobsessedstore / Instagram

Sugar skulls have been a part of Mexico’s ‘Day of the Dead’ celebrations for a long time. They are a way of remembering and commemorating those who have passed away. Typically, sugar skull tattoo ideas are bright and ornate. Such decorations make the skulls less scary to look at, and thus, they are a reminder that those you care about are at peace. Sometimes, the names of these people are added to the forehead of the skull.

2. Skull Head Tattoos

Image: tremblottetattoo / Instagram

These don’t just signify the end of life. They can be a way of warding off evil spirits and even a celebration of life. It can serve as a reminder that life is passing, and the present moment is all we have. After all, death is inevitable and comes for all. The skull can also mean a symbol of a life that is precious. It can also refer to mental power, which creates a cycle of life.

3. Skull Tattoos For Men And Women

Image: jonatthanhernandesz / Instagram

Skull tattoos have been popular among both men and women for ages. Some feel that such a tattoo marks the wearer as one who has accepted mortality and the temporary status of life. This art is not traditionally masculine or feminine, but an attitude of mind. They are made in various sizes and customized individually.

4. Skull Sleeve Tattoos

Image: heartink_art_tattoo_studio / Instagram

These tattoos extend down the arms, and because of the larger area, they can have many interpretations and designs. They could be in black or color and could feature one skull or several. Many feature bones as well. Others are personalized with words and phrases.

5. Skull And Crossbones Tattoos

Image: hollyswantattoos / Instagram

These are often referred to as ‘Jolly Roger’ tattoos. This design used to appear on the flags of pirate ships. It is commonly associated with rebellion and a refusal to conform to authority. It can also indicate danger. These symbols are usually found on high-electricity installations and bottles of poison. The recent influx of pirate movies has made these tattoos very popular.

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British singer and songwriter Bishop Briggs tattooed a skull and crossbones on her right bicep as a tribute to her father.

6. Cool Skull Tattoo On The Hand

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These skull tattoos can be small to cover just a part of the hand, or large to cover the entire hand and sometimes, even the fingers. Depending on the area these tattoos cover, they could be more abstract than realistic. Typically, these are in shades of black and gray.

7. Intriguing Skull Tattoos

Image: cecilinkull / Instagram

As skull tattoos are open to interpretation, many have experimented with their shapes and forms. Such intriguing skull tattoos often have slogans and messages that have individual meanings for the wearer. They are customized, mysterious, and often irresistible.

8. Large Black And White Skull Tattoos

Image: _tattoo_obsession_ / Instagram

These are bold, brave designs that signal to the world that the person isn’t afraid to break convention. They need to be done on larger areas of the body, such as the chest or the back. Sometimes, people have such tattoos on more unusual parts, such as across an entire thigh. They can be dramatic and intimidating.

9. Black And White Look From The Hood

Image: pr_tattoo_brest / Instagram

‘The hood’ is typically an urban ghetto. This is where some of the most radical trends in fashion and lifestyle are born. Many common tattoo styles today came from the hoods in cities. The symbols of the underground have vivid and startling power. Black and white skull tattoos from the hood are more unconventional and in-your-face. They can be scary, they can be sinister, and they can say, “don’t mess with me.”

10. Extreme Skull Tattoos

Image: retrotattoostudio14 / Instagram

You are big, you are bold, and you don’t care who knows it. You are willing to go through a lot to get just the right tattoo, and you want it to show. You are a person who is audacious and daring. You go to extremes, and your skull tattoo does, too.

11. Día de Los Muertos Tattoos

Image: littlebuddyink / Instagram

Dia De Los Muertos is the name of the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead,’ a major celebration of the country. It is when loved ones who depart are honored and remembered. Flowers, photographs, and favorite foods mark the occasion, along with much festivity. An essential part of this is the sugar skulls on display. When you get yourself a sugar skull tattoo, you are respecting the lives of ancestors and those from your past to whom you owe so much.

12. Romantic Skull Tattoos

Image: kevinhintontattoo / Instagram

Skull tattoos can be mysterious, they can be scary, and they can also be romantic. If love is on your mind, feel free to dress up this sort of skull tattoo with your favorite colors, roses, and other decorations. Perhaps you could even include a romantic message that holds a special meaning for you.

13. Skull Tattoos for Couples

Image: ruda.tattoo / Instagram

Couples can have a great bonding experience with matching tattoos. When they go through this ritual of choosing a design and getting inked together, it draws them even closer than before. Very often, the themes of such matching skull tattoos are love and togetherness forever. When your skull tattoos complement each other, it shows that your devotion is deep indeed.

14. Badass Skull Tattoos

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Many people feel that there’s nothing more badass than a large, visible skull tattoo. Make it stand out even more by experimenting and adding dramatic elements – flames, 3D effects, and snakes, for example. Don’t be afraid to show the world what you really think.

15. Funny Skull Tattoos

Image: george_labrada / Instagram

Skulls are seen as macabre and deathly, but you can also make a statement that’s humorous with a skull. This can be done in the form of a laughing skull, for example, as a way of mocking death, or you could think of a humorous slogan that adorns the skull. It could even be in an unusual or strange shape that makes people want to look again. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet looks at his jester’s skull and says that he was a fellow of ‘infinite jest.’ Thus, this sort of skull can also symbolize life’s absurdity.

16. Picturesque Skull Tattoos

Image: jimbo_lifeanddeath / Instagram

Skull tattoos don’t have to be grim and menacing. You can choose a picturesque design, too. Dress it up with ribbons, flowers, and colors. Experiment with shapes, sizes, and patterns. Make it eye-catching and fun. Either way, you’ll have a tattoo that others won’t be able to miss or match.

17. Eye-catching Skull Tattoos

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For an eye-catching skull tattoo, you can play with shapes. How would a skull look when it’s a triangle, for example? Or can you make a pattern of skulls? What about a striking background? The possibilities are endless.

18. Tribal Skull Tattoos

Image: joe_tattooz / Instagram

Tribal skull tattoos are a way of taking a traditional theme and making it modern and individual. Many ancient tribes use tattoos for rituals and ceremonies. You could adapt one of these looks for your needs. Choose one from a tribe known for its ancient wisdom or one that will make heads turn.

19. Girly Skull Tattoos

Image: artandlifebybeck / Instagram

As we’ve seen, skull tattoos are infinitely versatile. You can even portray a feminine vibe with an appropriate design. These are smaller than average. Often, they show flowers and hearts. These are also colorful and can feature bows, hearts, and ribbons.

20. Demonic Skull Tattoos

Image: plaza1330 / Instagram

These will give you a devilish look, no matter what the occasion. They are meant to be exhibited with flair. It could look goth, it could be inspired by the occult, or it could be quietly menacing. These designs are generally starker and in black and white.

21. Colorful Skull Tattoos

Image: thequeenisabella721 / Instagram

A dash of color can add flair to a boring skull tattoo. These tattoos don’t have to be about gloom and doom. Make them pop with vibrant, contrasting colors. The background can be eye-catching and vivid. Such tattoos will never go unnoticed, whichever part of the body you get them done on.

22. Flowery Skull Tattoos

Image: chrismorillotattoo / Instagram

Skull tattoos that show both the skull and flowers symbolize a distinction between life and death. Other dualities can be expressed too, such as between growth and decay. If you find these philosophies and ways of thinking inspiring, you should definitely look at a skull tattoo that’s decorated with flowers for a unique effect.

23. Cartoon Skull Tattoos

Image: calamartattoo / Instagram

These skull tattoos are in a lighter vein and show that life and even death do not have to be taken all that seriously. These can be realistic or simple and abstract. A grinning cartoon skull can show to the world that your personality is deep but not grim.

24. Half-Sleeve Skull Tattoos

Image: studio.thirteen.tattoos / Instagram

These are perfect for showing off, especially if you have biceps. A half-sleeve tattoo covers the upper arm and extends up to the shoulder. You can choose to display it or not as the occasion demands. It all depends on your choice of clothing.

25. Trash Polka Skull Tattoos

Image: endless_tattoo_bz / Instagram

This artistic style originated in Germany. It takes the traditional treatment and mixes it up to create a unique collage. Many times, letters and calligraphy are also added. Black and red smudges and smears are also common. Unleash the free thinker in you with these designs.

26. Scary Skull Tattoos

Image: sowa78 / Instagram

These can be serious reminders of life’s passing. For many, the message is to live every day as we do not know what tomorrow will bring. Such skull tattoos are grim and stark, often with just black and gray. They convey an important message of purpose. They show that the person is not to be messed with.

Many celebrities, from actors to singers, have striking and unforgettable skull tattoos. It is clear that such tattoos have a very special appeal. They always have been, and always will be a great choice.

Why Are Skull Tattoos So Popular?

Skull tattoos have been trending for a very long time. People have used them to show that they are cool, daring, fearless, and much more.

Skull tattoos can be incorporated into a variety of designs and have a ton of interpretations. There will always be people who choose them to show their individuality. Sugar skull tattoos, skull sleeve tattoos, feminine tattoos, tribal skull tattoos, skull and crossbones tattoos – all of these show different facets of people and their attitudes.

Men and women alike have worn skull tattoos with pride. They can be combined with quotations, flowers, and hearts, and come in different backgrounds, too. It is because of this personalization that skull tattoos have been admired.

Which Part Of The Body Is Best For A Skull Tattoo?

With a skull tattoo, there isn’t a specific body part that suits it best to ink. It depends on the size and design of the tattoo. The possibilities can be endless.

People have larger ones on their biceps or legs. Others, even larger, can be seen on the chest or the back. On the other hand, some women prefer small ones on their wrists. Even the back of the hand can have a small tattoo.

The best thing to do if you are thinking of getting a skull tattoo is to be clear about the design and meaning. From this will emerge the size of the tattoo, and then you could decide which part of the body suits it best.

When getting a skull tattoo done, it makes sense to go to a professional and knowledgeable tattooist. Such people are experienced in a variety of styles, and very often, if you discuss your ideas with them, they can point to the right ways to bring them to life. They may also be able to show you which parts of the body are best suited for which designs. Here are some precautions you need to take before and after getting a skull tattoo.

Infographic: Symbolism Of Different Animal Skulls In Tattoos

Skull tattoos generally symbolize death, acceptance of death, or fearlessness of death. In popular culture, it is considered a badass choice for tattoos. While human skulls can paint a cool, gothic picture, animal skulls could add more meaning to your vibe with their deep cultural symbolisms and ties.

Check out the infographic below to learn about the symbolism of animal skulls that make popular tattoo choices.

symbolism of different animal skulls in tattoos (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Save the high-quality PDF version on your device now.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

These skull tattoo designs can help you show your dark gothic side. Symbolize your inner defiance and rebellion according to your style – a minimalist pattern or an intricate and bold monotone design. Skulls are often paired with roses, guns, or hellfire for an added impact. So, choose the one pattern that resonates with you. You can take inspiration from our collection and design your own. Getting a tattoo can be fun, but don’t forget to take good care of your inked skin. Your skin is susceptible to infections after getting a tattoo. Thus, speed up your healing process by taking adequate measures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are sugar skull tattoos suitable for guys?

Yes, sugar skull tattoos are suitable for guys. They are perfect for flaunting your style and never going out of fashion.

What is a candy skull tattoo?

Candy skull tattoos or sugar skull tattoos are tattoos meant for honoring and celebrating the departed ones, ancestors, and their lives.

Are there any celebrities or public figures known for having skull tattoos?

Yes, celebrities including Johny Depp, Kat Von D, and Travis Barker have skull tattoos.

What are some creative ways to incorporate a skull tattoo into a larger design or sleeve?

Some creative ways to incorporate a skull tattoo into a larger design or sleeve include a skull as a part of a big theme-based tattoo, such as a pirate theme.

Are there any alternative tattoo options similar to skull designs?

Animal skulls and horror movie characters are other alternatives similar to skull designs.

Can skull tattoos be easily covered up or modified in the future?

Depending on the size and placement of the tattoo, it can be covered up with additional tattoos or removed surgically.

How long does it take to get a skull tattoo done?

The time taken to create a skull tattoo would depend on the size and complexity of the tattoo. But it can take anywhere from an hour to multiple sessions.

How much does a skull tattoo typically cost?

The cost of a skull tattoo will depend on factors like size, complexity, location of the tattoo artist, and the artist’s pricing. It can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Do skull tattoos have any negative connotations or meanings?

Yes, in some cultures skulls represent death, ghosts, negativity, horror, and danger. However, the meaning of the tattoo will vary according to the individual and the context.

Want to take inspiration from some cool skull tattoos? Check out this video to discover some amazing designs that bring the best out of your personality.

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