Top 59 Shoulder Tattoo Ideas [2022 Inspiration Guide]

Shoulder tattoo styles feature distinctive designs, shapes, sizes, and application techniques to make outstanding body art. Shoulder tattoos are popular precisely because they’re versatile in size and offer interesting placement choices.

Animal motifs, Japanese influences, traditional tribal tattoo, and black and gray warrior styles are great men’s tattoo ideas, while for women designs can be traditional, like a butterfly tattoo or rose shoulder tattoo, however increasingly contemporary options like a tiny tattoo or small tattoo are sought after.

All it takes is knowing what tattoo will suit you and look the absolute best down the road. Read on for the photo guide of the top 59 best cool shoulder tattoo designs, and the list of 50+ best tattoo ideas for 2020.

1. Warrior Shoulder Tattoo Ideas

Arm and Shoulder Battle Tattoo For Men

This Spartan tattoo is almost a cover-up; it helps link together disparate elements of his other work with a large black and gray shaded image that pulls the other pieces in.

Men's Shoulder Tattoo Design Ideas

Battle Shoulder Tattoo

An enjoyable black work neo classical play on Japanese Irezumi. This is an elaborate piece despite only being in black and grey. The interplay of shapes and expert use of shading really makes this a standout bit of art.

Shoulder Tattoo Designs For Men

The most popular shoulder ink often incorporates the shoulder itself, the pectoral, bicep, and/or blade in the execution of designs. This creates great variety in pricing options and the time taken to tattoo the shoulder area, but also makes for impressive final options.

The black and gray examples of bad ass warriors above incorporate brilliant shading and detail to create each tattoo design crisply. In some cases, the top shoulder is a transit point for the art as it flows into an arm tattoo or chest tattoo.

2. Women’s Shoulder Tattoos

Black Grey Zodiac Female Tattoo

Image: @dietattoogesellschaft_mondsee via Instagram

Color Baddass Carnation Tattoo

Source: @badasstattookorea via Instagram

Fairy Tail Tattoo Shoulder Bright Color

Image: @amberhuggins91 via Instagram

Shoulder Tattoo Delicate Lily Realistic

Image: @huanglintattoo via Instagram

Shoulder Tattoo Dragon Ball Anime

Image: @rua_artist via Instagram

Sun Moon Mother Daughter Tattoo

Image: @laurabecker3 via Instagram

Triangle Of Bird And Clouds Inside Circle Of Flowers Abstract Daffodil Tattoo

Image: @wongplacewongtime via Instagram

Upinarms Single Needle Tattoo

Image: @doonerupinarms via Instagram

Women’s tattoo design is moving on swiftly from the butterfly tattoo or rose shoulder tattoo that dominated in the 1960s and 1970s. While these themes are still implemented often, contemporary women’s body art flourishes in areas such as tiny tattoo or small shoulder tattoo designs, so your humble flower tattoo will now look unbelievably cool instead of dated and stereotypical.

The examples above show variety in placement and ideas, even for a more ‘regular design such as a top flower shoulder tattoo. The smaller shoulder blade tattoo of the bird done in single needle black and gray is an exquisite, delicate piece of body art, while the bright, neo traditional Fairy Tail anime shoulder tat looks awesome in brash, fully saturated color.

3. American Traditional Style


Bird Tattoo On The Shoulder

This is the male model style of utilizing traditional north American style motifs. All his works are old school pieces, with muted grays, reds and greens in the color scheme and emphasis on various individual images rather than a cohesive, linked scheme.

Eagle Shoulder Tattoo For Men

This tattoo is a new wave take on the classical American Bald Eagle.

Eagle Shoulder Tattoo For Men

While this effort is a more traditional expression of the recognizable symbol of USA. It’s the type of tattoo readily accompanied by a chopped hog motorcycle, sound system pumping the Boss, and a Harley Davidson bandana.

Best Back Tattoo Tattoos

American traditional style body art flows well in shoulder tattoos, as they can achieve a variety of fills and designs around central ideas or be completely made up by them. Also, major shoulder pieces, such as a bold eagle tattoo or black and gray variation can work well operating along the top shoulder, or down on to the arm or chest.

3. Dragon Shoulder Tattoos

Dragon Arm Tattoo For Men

Wow. This is an exciting Chinese Dragon, rendered even more impressive by a unique choice of blue gray ink to create a solid color rather than shading you’d find with normal black or gray pigment. The color is accentuated by the single needle, crisp black lines of the scale and patterning of the dragon’s head.

Dragon Shoulder Tattoo Ideas For Guys

Dragon Shoulder Tattoos

This is the more traditional full dragon sleeve in the Irezumi style. The plating of scales is done by intense shading in black and gray, with the use of motifs such as cherry blossoms and waves to complement the sinuous serpent.

Dragon Tattoo Men's Shoulder

Shoulder Tattoos For Men Inspiration

Shoulder tattoos design ideas can’t get much more hectic than a well-done dragon piece. The sinuous lines of the dragon’s body supported by scales and fangs take a front shoulder tattoo to the next level – the swirls, curls, and curves work brilliantly in stretching up from a simple chest tattoo idea to incorporate the bicep and sleeve, or along from collar to shoulder cap.

Other associated images, clouds and wind in the Asian style or more mundane knightly images of European shoulder tattoos achieve brilliant results.

5.The Unique Shoulder Tattoo Idea

Clock Shoulder Tattoo

The neo classical elements of this piece are nicely drawn, with the font and bannering being well placed to draw the other parts of the image together. While the shading is important the ink is also helped by good use of not tattooing parts of the skin as well.

Paint Brush Style Tattoo On Shoulder

Gear Tattoo Designs

Abstract Shoulder Tattoos

Trash Polka is developing renown by mixing a small color palette – black and red – with a mishmash of abstract ideas inside the one piece. This tattoo does just that, with the shading of the black being of most interest. It’s like only half the tattoo stencil was transferred in places and worked on by the artist.

Cool Men's Tattoo

An interesting all black take on a new wave tattoo, the piece uses the odd placement to create an arresting bit of work.

Tree Tattoo

Sleeve Tattoo

These tidy shoulder designs create a range of technical applications, which stretch up from an arm or bicep tattoo, or down from the top of the shoulder. Biomechanical design melding the human flesh and bone with arcane machinery concepts look great – like the crafted replacement limb on a cyborg.

Countering this idea is a cool shoulder tattoo incorporating deft use of paint splashes and watercolor to create an artistic canvas. My favorite however of these men’s tattoos is the trash polka piece, that work in the shoulder area and chest to depict abstract, newsprint technical etching offset by slashes of text and patterns in red and black ink.

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6. Japanese Influenced Shoulder Tattoo Ideas

Flora Men's Shoulder Tattoo

This not quite finished artwork mixes a few different styles together, mainly fusing Japanese technique in the shade work with the realism of the hourglass. The pink of the blossoms is a deft touch, providing a change in element for the entire tattoo. It will be a unique custom piece when completed.

Guy's Dragon Tattoo On Shoulder Area

Koi Fish Tattoo Mens

Koi Half Sleeve Shoulder Tattoo

Sleeve Tattoos For Men Shoulder

A Japanese themed shoulder tat is usually easy to spot – they feature tight design elements colored in flat panes with a central image – such as a koi fish, dragon, or flower tattoo – supported by closely linked and technically sharp associated design elements. These examples show how useful the upper shoulder area is as a fulcrum to extending a piece all the way down the arm in a sleeve tattoo or staying contained to a shoulder cap and upper chest tattoo.

7. Neo Tribal and Geometric Shoulder Tattoos

Geometric Men's Shoulder Tattoos

Full Men's Sleeve and Shoulder Tattoo

Half Sleeve Tattoo For Men

Men's Shapes Tattoo

Cool Tattoos For Men On Shoulder

Shoulder And Chest Tattoos

Men's Shoulder Tattoo Designs

Tattoo Ideas For Men Shoulder

Cool Men's Arm Tattoo Designs

This body art should have a buffering signal – it’s a major cover up job using flat black ink to replace an older tribal style tattoo. It will eventually cover most of the work, bar the Thai wording and some of the scale work. This type of reclamation project would be quite intense and uncomfortable in the application.

Men's Tribal Tattoo Design On Arm

I like how these new school designs take the pattern and color elements of a tribal tattoo and then take it up a notch by applying the technical hallmarks and crafting vivid, over the top sleeves or full arm chest combinations. Each tattoo artist in these examples has taken a fundamental art of tribal tattooing and then ran with it – either linking in black in and negative space or incorporating cool shoulder pattern from geometric tiling.

Personally, I love the negative space octopus tattoo perched along the shoulder top and stretching back to the shoulder, with the blade tattoo part made up of a mosaic of geometric tiles.

8. Winged Shoulder Tattoos

Men's Wing Tattoo

Men's Wing Tattoo Shoulder And Chest

Bones And Wings Men's Shoulder Tattoos

A confident, capable tattoo artist can craft a great winged shoulder tattoo design. It can be done stretching the feathers unfurled along the top of the shoulder and upper arm, or more traditionally as a wing tucked onto the left shoulder or right, as if they’ve been put away.

9. Tribal Shoulder Tattoo Designs

Small Men's Arm Tattoo

Tattoo Inspiration For Men

Tattoos For Men Polynesian Design

Top Men's Arm Tattoos

Celtic Men's Shoulder Tattoo On Back

Chest Tattoo Designs For Men

Tribal Shoulder Tattoo For Men

Tribal Shoulder Tattoos For Men

Woven Design On Arm Tattoo

Creative Right Shoulder Tattoo For Men

This is a classic Polynesian tribal piece that was likely done without the use of a tattoo gun, but likely traditional tattooing implements of stick and chisel.

Hawaiian Polynesian Tribal Tattoo For Men

Black Men's Shoulder Tattoo

Tribal tattoos are easily identifiable, especially when done well like this artwork. They feature elaborate and intricate blackwork of a crispness that other tattoo techniques really struggle to replicate.

Men's Tribal Shoulder Tattoo Design

A tribal shoulder tattoo is a big deal – culturally important links to family, tribe, and people, or representative of an important milestone in an individual’s life. These tribal tattoo design ideas show off the range across Polynesian peoples with great choices in Hawaiian, Polynesian Island tattoo, and NZ Ta Moko on display.