225 Coolest Shoulder Tattoos For Men And Women This Year

Shoulder Tattoo History

Through the past couple of decades, tattooing in Western locations has turned itself into a practice that has passed through most social boundaries, going from the lower class, to the higher class, together with reforming the power dynamics between men and women. It takes its roots from the ‘exotic’ tribal practices coming from Polynesian and Native American tribes, as well as Asian countries like Indonesia and Japan, where traditional tattooing is still widely practiced.

And as several kinds of social movements went through and tattooing crossed many class boundaries, it became fairly common throughout the general public. And more specifically, the humble tattoo turned itself into an access point for women’s revolutionary aesthetics. Feminists have plenty of things to say about the concept of tattoos: A book by Margot Mifflin called ‘Bodies of Subversion: The Secret History of Women and Tattoos’ became one of the first things to document the history of tattooing among women, when it was released in 1997. In the book, Mifflin documents the involvement of women in tattoos which, at the same time, coincided to feminist successes. She also states that there were surges in tattooing between the 1880s, the 1920s, and the 1970s. Nowadays, women will often get a tattoo as a symbol of victory or body reclamation after going through a certain hardship, like recovering from cancer or surviving domestic abuse. The year 2012 marks the first time when tattooed women outnumbered tattooed men in the US by 23 percent, in comparison to 19 percent of men who wore tattoos. In 2013, Theresa Vail from Kansas became the first tattooed Miss America pageant winner, showing them off proudly during the swimsuit competition. Her tattoos were comprised of the Serenity Prayer on the side of the torso, and the US Army Dental Corps insignia on the left shoulder. Meanwhile, in 2011, toy manufacturer Mattel released a Barbie doll who sported tattoos. And although the design was embraced by the public, it did end up garnering some controversy.

In 2013, a man named William Mullane of London got himself a portrait tattoo of his late father, in which the ink used for the tattoo was mixed together with a small portion of his cremated ashes.

Even until this year, the real status of tattoos in society is still continuing to develop. During the most recent years, there have been several lawsuits rising up in the US which talks about the real status of tattoos as a copyrightable art form, similar to paintings. But these cases did not live long – They have either been settled out from court, or are still being discussed even up to now, so no legal precedent is currently available at this point in time. But the entire process of acquiring tattoos is still meant to be a complete form of expressing one’s self, and as an activity protected by the First Amendment by the Ninth Circuit back in 2010.

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shoulder tattoos for men

Types Of Shoulder Tattoos

  • Front of the shoulder tattoo – The rounded part of your shoulder might not be able to accept as much ink as the blade does, but it’s still a great place to put a couple of images that you want to come alive as a 3D tattoo, or even just a standard tattoo. Ideas like these work very nicely especially on the ball of the wearer’s shoulders. Flowers or blossoming plants, a spider web, a Celtic knot, animal faces, a traditional tribal tattoo, some geometric patterns, especially the ones that create a brilliant 3D effect, dreamcatchers, or even a human face all make really great tattoo ideas.
  • Spiderweb shoulder tattoo – Sometimes these tattoos are placed on the wearer’s elbows, but they look wonderful on their shoulders as well. This particular tattoo piece is comprised of a non-traditional spiderweb design, with some excellent red webs spreading out from the middle. This tattoo seems to have a Latin-style girl design in it as well. It’s also a design that manages to incorporates softer tones, giving the design a truly feminine look and feel. The girl in the tattoo is also drawn in a very classical style, and this is one of the reasons why the piece is enjoyable. Thanks to her pale complexion and white hair, the small bits of color in design tend to pop.
  • Cross shoulder tattoos – Ever since modern-day tattoo designs were invented, crosses have become a popular subject. These designs are often considered to be a religious symbol, since it can mean very different things for so many people. A cross tattoo design is just as eclectic as any other design out there, no matter if it’s a part of a bigger tattoo design or as a stand alone art.
  • Sunflower shoulder tattoo – You can see the true versatility of a shoulder tattoo thanks to this piece. This is a sunflower tattoo that is just amazing. The sunflower’s head placed on the wearer’s shoulder cap does follow the same circular pattern, while the top leaf is floating at the bottom of the collar bone. This also follows the natural line of the wearer’s body. The flower stem continues to pass down alongside the longer part of the wearer’s arm as well, incorporating even more of the flower’s own design. Perhaps one of the best things about this particular tattoo design is including realistic shading and colors into the sunflower. This is an amazing piece for those who have sunflowers as their favorite flower.
  • Tribal shoulder tattoo – Some of the most popular tattoo designs nowadays are actually based after Polynesian and Maori cultures. One of the best tribal tattoo designs is a combination of Polynesian and Maori markings, also known as a Hawaiian tattoo. However, each culture does have their own stories and markings to spread out, all thanks to these tattoos. An African tribal tattoo placed on the wearer’s shoulder is also highly popular nowadays. These tribal tattoos are comprised of mark cuts, with blades that go over and downwards towards the wearer’s shoulder.
  • Eagle shoulder tattoo – A rounded shoulder cap can actually lend itself to some amazing yet rounded tattoo designs. For instance, the eagle shoulder tattoo looks breathtaking. The design creates a lovely amount of detail and depth in the majestic bird’s feathers, as well as on the wings. These talons looks really lifelike as well, as if they’re about to scratch someone’s eye out. The entirety of the piece seems to surround the whole shoulder area of the wearer, creatively utilizing the piece of canvas in such an amazing way. The amount of shading found behind the eagle also gives it a raised look, contrary to using just the standard two-dimensional piece.

Meaning Of Shoulder Tattoos

Shoulder tattoos are just as popular as the wrist tattoo. They’re actually one of the best spots for a person to get a tattoo done. Despite the fact that it doesn’t really appear that way, a shoulder is a small space in which you can acquire a tattoo. These types of tattoos are popular with both men and women. Even though they’re not exactly a visible spot as a tattoo canvas, a lot of people still like decorating their shoulders with some ink. A shoulder tattoo can go from a small size to something very detailed and big. A back piece can even go right back to the wearer’s shoulder area.

The shoulders are an absolute prime spot for a person to put a tattoo on. Shoulders are a big area, after all – And technically the term ‘shoulder’ does refer to the spot starting from the flat shoulder blade, towards the back of the area just below your collar bones. There are two things which make a person’s shoulders the best spot to get a tattoo on. First off, the area itself is quite large, so huge pieces fit in there nicely, including highly-detailed portrait tattoos. Another reason why this is such a good spot to place a tattoo on is because you can cover up the shoulders easily but can still expose it if you want to.

People will often decide to acquire a tattoo in the shoulder area as a place of prominence, above all of the other areas. For example, if you have already gotten a back piece done, think about getting a tinier related tattoo done on the shoulder as an accompaniment piece. Women in particular prefer getting shoulder tattoos, since it adds a bit of sensuality to an already sexy area. However, it’s still not visible on certain occasions.

You can combine your shoulder tattoo with a sleeve tattoo in case you want a large design. This is a great spot in general to acquire a tattoo. There are loads of different areas which you can incorporate for both women and men, including quotes, roses, dragons, angels, and lions, all of which look amazing together. A dragon tattoo is also a hugely popular design for the wearer’s shoulder.

Shoulder Tattoo Placement

The placement of your new tattoo can usually have a feminine or masculine connotation to it. For example, you would be hard-pressed to find a guy who sports a tattoo on his lower back (known informally as a ‘tramp stamp’) since this placement is so popular among women. And on the other hand, it’s difficult to find a lady who has a face tattoo compared to men. Despite the fact that society has the tendency to dictate the positioning of a tattoo that is appropriate for the wearer’s gender, shoulders are actually one of the best locations to get a tattoo done, especially on both genders. There are plenty of shoulder tattoo designs for both girls and guys to enjoy.

Before you get that tattoo done, it’s very important to think about how exactly the areas in your body will end up looking during and after the process is done. A couple of body parts will hurt more when tattooed on, and will accept ink more differently compared to the rest of your body. And not only that, they’re so much harder to cover up for work, and will wear out and fade twice as fast too.

The shoulders, along with the back, are actually the best spots to get a tattoo on, even though they do have the tendency to be much more sensitive during the process, in comparison to other places like the legs or arms. This isn’t exactly the best detail for a tiny tattoo since the skin here does tend to stretch out a lot, so they make a better spot for bigger designs thanks to the wearing and tearing. The shoulders aren’t exactly the best place to get a first tattoo on, since it’s much more hard to reach in case you have to do the maintenance and aftercare process. And not only that, you won’t be able to enjoy it too much since you’re going to have to find a mirror to see it and appreciate its beauty. Lower back tattoos are also another great spot to place a tattoo, despite its negative connotation. One of the most common concerns women have in regards to having a lower back tattoo is that they won’t be able to receive an epidural sometime in the future. This is a completely unfounded concern, and the worst thing that could happen is that the needle is directly placed on the tattooed area, and the epidural would leave a scar that can change the tattoo’s appearance. In case this is a pretty serious concern for you, then you can just place that tattoo on another portion of the body.

Summer is the best time for you to show of a tattoo, but in a classy way. Wearing an off-the-shoulder top is perfect for displaying your brand new ink. A tattoo is one of the best ways for you to express your own thoughts and show off your personality. Seeing people walking along the street wearing a tattoo will only serve to indicate that this form of expression won’t be going away anytime soon. 

Shoulder Tattoo Preparation Tips

The idea of needles pumping into your skin and out has been known to cause a huge drop in your sugar levels, and this, in turn, can trigger fainting and nausea. Bringing a sugary snack with you during the appointment will definitely help bring back that lost sugar level, and keep you awake during the whole session.

Bathe and take a nice shower beforehand. One of the last things that your artist will want to deal with are nasty body odors and sweat, especially when they have to place the tattoo on the client’s upper arms. Make sure that your body is completely well-washed and scrubbed, free from any gross smells. On the other hand, your artist probably wouldn’t like it either if you wore deodorant or cologne that is overly strong and overwhelming.

Wear a piece of clothing that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty or ruined by tattoo ink. During the session your body will most likely be able to acquire a tiny amount of ink and blood splattered on your clothes. So be sure not to wear an expensive piece of clothing, or your favorite dress on the day of the session.

Although it may seem like an excellent idea to shave off the area of the skin where the tattoo will be placed, it actually isn’t. If your skin does require shaving, then let the artist do it instead. In fact, they might just do a better job than you. You wouldn’t want to risk cutting your skin or getting razor burn before you arrive for your appointment.

Don’t forget to ask your artist regarding tattoo pain relief. In case you have thought about applying a topical anesthetic or skin-numbing product before you start the appointment, make sure to tell the artist about it first. Several of these numbing products can create a temporary change to the outer layers of your skin, and this, in turn, will affect how good the artist will be able to complete the tattooing job. So it’s always a great idea to check with them first and see if they approve.

Along with alcohol, you shouldn’t drink too much coffee and caffeinated drinks either. Caffeine is known to be a very strong stimulant. And even though caffeine can help you focus on doing things and provide you with loads of energy, drinking way too much can cause you to feel irritable and fidgety, and this isn’t exactly the best kind of behavior when you have to sit still for a tattoo.

Come on time. The artist may have more appointments and clients after you that they will want to start on time for. And arriving late to the appointment also means that your tattoo won’t be completed on time, and you’re going to have to return to the shop for a second or third session. If you can, arrive early so you’ll get a good feel of the shop’s atmosphere and make yourself feel comfortable while inside the shop.

Is Getting A Shoulder Tattoo Painful?

When you sit down for a tattoo, a specially-designed needle from a tattoo gun will end up piercing through your skin at an estimated ten to fifteen needle drops per second. This is quick enough to prevent the puncturing of your skin to cause bleeding, as well as being slow enough to stop your skin from tearing.

The human skin is comprised of three main layers: The dermis, the epidermis, and the hypodermis. Since the epidermis is continuously replacing itself, the tattoo gun’s needle has to pass through the dermis layer first, so your tattoo can look permanent. And for this to happen, the ending of the needle that’s connected to the tattoo machine will pass through the layers of your skin with a measurement of over 1/16th of an inch.

Even though each person has their own threshold towards pain and can handle different levels of it, there are sill places on the body in which putting a tattoo there won’t be as painful as compared to other areas. Always remember that the pain you’ll end up experiencing is fully relative to you. In case you have a sensitivity towards pain and the place where you want to put the tattoo on – In this case, the shoulders – Is known to be painful, then you may want to put it on a different spot instead.

Perhaps the least irritating spots to put a tattoo on include the inner wrists, the calves, the outside of your arm, the outer forearm, the upper back (with the exception of the spine), the outer and top part of the thigh, and the shoulders. That’s because these spots only contain a few nerve endings, and twice the amount of fat and muscle, which can cushion the needle’s impact from your bones.

In the certain aforementioned parts of your body, there is still plenty of movement allowed – Such as the inner arm and the ankles. Therefore, this may take a while for your tattoo to fully heal up. Some people who have gotten tattoos on these areas have reported that they were actually painful, while others went through it with a breeze. All in all, everything really just depends on how your body handles pain. If you are skinny or slender, then getting a tattoo in these areas may be a bit more painful for you.

Meanwhile, these are the more sensitive spots on the body for tattoos: The inner arm, the neck, the middle back, the head, the lower back, and the ankle.

There are some spots in the body which are just generally painful to get a tattoo on. Be sure you’re more than ready to take on the pain before you can book an appointment with your artist! Getting a tattoo on a bony spot – Like the ribs, the knees, or the elbows, can be pure torture. It’s as if your entire skeleton is vibrating, and not just the part that’s being tattooed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Shoulder Tattoos

  • How do I choose which design to put on my tattoo?

In regards to today’s own designs, the choices are pretty much endless. Your first step here is to take a look at a couple of websites – All you need to do is to do a Google search for ‘free tattoo designs’. There’s a huge chance that you’ll feel very overwhelmed by the sheer amount of available designs: This includes Celtic tattoos, tribal tattoos, biker tattoos, Japanese-inspired tattoos, etc… The possibilities are endless. Consider what really inspired you to get a tattoo in the first place. There’s a good chance that it may have been a design that you already saw someone wear. What style was it, and what was the thing that drew you in?

  • Is it true that tattoos tend to look bad as we age? Are there any areas on the body where you should avoid getting a tattoo?

Yes, it’s true that your flesh does tend to sag gradually in some spots as you get older. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your tattoo will also look bad. You’re familiar with the spots where the skin tends to sag as you age, so never get a tattoo done in those spots. Small tattoos are usually okay, and there are a couple of places on the body where you can acquire a tattoo which won’t change through the years.

  • Can you remove a tattoo?

Yes, you can get a tattoo removed, completely, and without any scars. There are a couple of options available to you, in case you have an ink which you want to get rid of. One of the first, and the most common ways to do it is to get a cover-up tattoo. This involves your artist and you working together to come up with a design that can cover up an older tattoo you may have. There are several misconceptions here regarding cover-up tattoos, and it’s not as easy as getting a tattoo done on top of another tattoo. The brand new design will sit on top of the old one, so it has to be darker than the original tattoo to overpower it. This makes faded or old tattoos easier to cover up in comparison to brighter ones.

How Much Does A Shoulder Tattoo Cost?

Where one chooses to place their tattoo all depends on which area of the body it’ll be placed on. Since the human body contains a lot of sensitivity receptors, there are some spots on the body where it’ll feel twice as sensitive compared to the other areas. The other sensitive parts do cost more compared to the less sensitive parts. Sensitive parts include the hands, the feet, the neck, and the sternum, while less sensitive ones include the butt, the shoulder blades, the legs, and the outer thighs.

A lot of professional tattoo artists will charge their clients each hour of work. And with this, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll get a tattoo that is truly worth the price. The cost starts off at $100 to $300 per hour, and depending on the size of the tattoo.

shoulder tattoos for women

Shoulder Tattoo Maintenance Tips

While it’s healing, you shouldn’t expose your tattoo to the sun. This is an important tip in regards to tattoo maintenance. And in case you don’t know this, direct sunlight can cause your tattoo’s ink to fade away prematurely. This means you have to keep that new ink of yours covered up at all costs, in case you really have to go out during the summer or daytime.

In case your tattoo is still new and your skin is still swollen up and reddish, this means that the entire area is completely sensitive, and even a small amount of UV rays from the sun will create plenty of damage to the spot in a short amount of time.

During this part, the sun can potentially cause your fresh tattoo to blister up and swell, as well as to prolong the healing process. The ink can also fade away prematurely – So be sure to stay away from exposing it to direct sunlight. This rule also applies to tanning beds – They’re also just as horrible when it comes to executing UV rays, if not more harmful.

Always remember that a UV ray from the sun has the ability to penetrate these cloud covers just as easily. So even if it’s not really that bright outside, you still need to be careful when exposing that tattoo of yours.

Never rebandage your tattoo. Unless your artist tells you to do exactly that – And also informs you in detail how to rebandage your tattoo, you must never apply a fresh gauze to your new ink after you have taken off the one you got from the shop. This is because your tattoo requires plenty of fresh air to breathe so it can heal properly. A bandage can end up suffocating the whole area, prolonging the healing or making it heal in a poor quality. This can also take longer than the usual in comparison to a tattoo that was allowed to air-dry.

And not only that, when you rebandage your tattoo, the area covering it will feel warm and moist, making it the best place for bacteria to start thriving. And the longer you leave the bandage on a tattoo, the bigger the chance that it’ll get infected.

Never smother the tattoo in ointment or moisturizer. Just like rebandaging the tattoo, if you apply too much moisturizer, lotion, or even the recommended aftercare product on your tattoo, the thick layer of product can stop your new ink from getting enough oxygen and air, which can, once again, affect the healing and even possibly cause the scabs to bubble up.

When putting on the aftercare product, be sure to only apply a thin layer on the tattoo. But if you end up putting on too much by accident, gently dab off the excess product using a dry paper towel, until there’s only a small amount remaining.

Do not use petroleum-based products for the aftercare. A lot of these creams and moisturizers have a thick and heavy feeling. Even just applying a thin layer can stop your tattoo from breathing properly.

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