Butterfly Tattoos

Butterfly Tattoos: Meanings, Tattoo Designs & Ideas

The staying power of this deceptively simple tattoo

Butterfly Tattoos

Butterflies have often been the go-to for tattoo clients who want something softer.

Butterfly Tattoos

With their ornate wings and bright colors, it’s no surprise this is a popular choice.

Butterflies are beautiful, and one of the most impressive insects on the planet.

Though other insects go through a similar process, the butterfly’s transformation is truly special.

Butterfly Tattoo

They’re such magical creatures, in fact, that many legends and myths have been written about them.

Today we’re going to explore everything you need to know before getting your butterfly tattoo.

We will be exploring themes such as:

  • Butterfly symbolism
  • Butterfly mythology and folklore
  • Different species of butterflies
  • Color symbolism of butterfly tattoos

Butterfly Tattoo Meanings

Butterflies mean different things to different people.

But many people feel attached to butterflies because of the above process.

A caterpillar doesn’t just grow wings one day.

It completely breaks itself down to become something new.

The butterfly functions completely differently than a caterpillar.

It eats differently, it is shaped differently, and it can fly.

For people who want to escape their former selves, this is a powerful metaphor.

Do you ever wish you could go away for a while, and come back as someone completely different?

You’re not alone.

People may get butterfly tattoos to symbolize:

  • Overcoming difficulties
  • Changing behavior patterns
  • Starting a new exciting phase of life
  • Coming out as their truest self

Butterflies also tend to symbolize freedom because of their wings.

They are also associated with beauty due to their ornate appearance.

Some of the world’s greatest thinkers have used butterflies to illustrate a larger point.

You even may choose to incorporate some of these quotes into your ink.

Main Themes

  • Skull and Butterfly Tattoos

The concept of mortality and eternal life is conveyed by these tattoos.

Butterflies are short-lived creatures, and the image of a butterfly with a skull can express this idea.

The skull and butterfly is a perfect way to describe life as a fleeting journey; it will end, but it’s still worth living.

Skull and Butterfly Tattoo

These tattoo symbols can be designed in a myriad of styles based on how they relate to your unique persona.

Tying together two of the most classic tattoo motifs, the butterfly and the skull, this tattoo design is perfect for people who want to represent both their masculine and feminine sides.

Skull and Butterfly Tattoo

Also, a skull and butterfly tattoo can be used to pay respect to someone who has passed away or to commemorate the memory of a loved one.

It could be a symbol of the afterlife or a reminder that life still goes on even though someone has passed away.

  • Half Butterfly Half Skull Tattoos

An appealing mixture of good and evil, right and wrong, life and mortality — a half-butterfly, half skull design is a perfect choice for those who are in the midst of such an internal struggle.

They’re a popular choice for people who believe in the yin-yang concept.

Half Butterfly Half Skull Tattoo

A half butterfly and half skull tattoo is also a symbol of transition between two periods of time.

It represents the end of an era and a welcoming of a new one.

Typically, the skull side of the tattoo represents the past, and the butterfly side represents what is to come.

  • Flower and Butterfly Tattoos

A butterfly with a flower tattoo is a great way to show off your personality, especially when it comes to feminine and beauty.

Flowers and Butterfly Tattoo

Floral butterfly tattoos symbolize serenity, innocence, and, sometimes these tattoos allude to one’s love for nature.

Floral Butterfly Tattoo

Depending on the type of flower you choose, it may have a deeper meaning.

Flowers and Butterfly Tattoo

A flower tattoo with a butterfly tattoo is a great way to honor your love for nature, and to also represent the beauty of growth and transformation.

Butterfly Types

So now you have a few ideas of what a butterfly tattoo can represent.

But the question remains: which butterfly will you choose?

There are 17,500 butterfly species in the world- that we’re aware of.

So there are plenty of beautiful species to choose from.

Here are some of the more common butterfly species you may be inspired by:

Monarch Butterfly Tattoos

If you live in Mexico or North America, you’ve likely seen these orange and black beauties. Their wings have fine details on the edges, almost like a stained glass window.

Monarch butterflies have long been a symbol of new life, spirit, and transformation for many people.

In certain cultures, monarch butterfly tattoos in particular have been a confirmation that you’re on the right path and are achieving your goals.

A monarch butterfly tattoo might be the perfect symbol of confidence and power moving forward!

Monarch Butterfly Tattoo
Monarch Butterfly Tattoo
Monarch Butterfly Tattoo
Monarch Butterfly Tattoo

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Tattoos

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly is a large, yellow butterfly with black stripes and narrow “tails” on the bottom of its wings. Truly a magnificent sight.

Many indigenous cultures put tiger swallowtail butterflies on their totem poles as a sign of inspiration and transformation.

A tiger swallowtail butterfly tattoo is a great way to connect to a higher power in search of spirituality, power, and inner strength, as well as celebrating the transformation of self that occurs with rebirth in the spirit!

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Tattoo
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Tattoo
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Tattoo
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Tattoo
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Tattoo
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Tattoo

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Tattoos

These butterflies almost look like a photo negative of the tiger swallowtail, with the colors reversed.

If black tattoos are best for you, this butterfly is a beautiful choice.

Black butterflies are considered powerful omens in many cultures, especially of experiences like power, and ominous happenings.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly tattoos are a sign of a transfer of power or a symbol of mortality, so if you’re ready for a change or to signal the end of something, this is a great tattoo to go for.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Tattoo
Black Swallowtail Butterfly Tattoo

Mourning Cloak Butterfly Tattoos

If you want your tattoo to have a “moody” feeling, this butterfly is for you.

It has large dark brown wings with delicate light yellow and blue accents.

The down-turned shape of its wings makes it look like it is wearing a dark cloak, hence the name.

Mourning cloak butterflies are actually much more positive than you might think!

These darker, sad-looking butterflies are actually known in some circles as the harbingers of spring because they’re the first butterflies to hatch every year.

Mourning cloak butterfly tattoos are the perfect solution for people ready to transform into new beginnings!

Mourning Cloak Butterfly Tattoo

Spring Azure Butterfly Tattoos

These lovely, light blue butterflies are some of the first to show up in spring.

As such, they can be a symbol of hope and new life.

These elegant little butterflies are beautiful and delicate little insects that fly all year round in some places, though in many locations they can only be seen in the spring.

The Spring Azure features a bright blue coloring across its wings to help it stand out but is also a beautiful symbol of life, light, and hope for new things to come!

Spring Azure Butterfly Tattoo

Butterfly Tattoo Color Meanings

Of course, you may want to invent a unique species of butterfly just for your tattoo.

This way, you can pick colors that work best for you.

White: purification and new beginnings.

Black: a storm on the horizon, something that has come to an end; a shadowy past.

Red: in Scotland, a red butterfly is thought to be a witch in disguise; some people see this as a magical omen, others interpret it as evil.

Brown: a transition, sometimes unexpected.

Yellow: happiness, optimism and abundance.

Blue: a carefree attitude about life.

Purple: divinity and enlightenment.

Blue Butterfly Tattoos

Blue butterflies are some of the prettiest and most magical butterflies around.

Their colorful azure or turquoise wings represent an innocent and carefree spirit that many people love to show off when they see them in the wild, and to have a blue butterfly tattoo on you means that you are a carefree and gentle spirit that enjoys adventure and creativity.

Blue Butterfly Tattoo
Blue Butterfly Tattoo
Blue Butterfly Tattoo
Blue Butterfly Tattoo
Blue Butterfly Tattoo

Pink Butterfly Tattoos

Pink butterfly tattoos are popular among women because pink is a popular and feminine color that shows off delicate and gentle transformations.

A pink butterfly might represent the youthful, joyous, and gentle spirit of youth and women, or it could represent the exciting renewal of life and new beginnings through a butterfly’s transformation.

Pink Butterfly Tattoo
Pink Butterfly Tattoo
Pink Butterfly Tattoo
Pink Butterfly Tattoo
Pink Butterfly Tattoo

Purple Butterfly Tattoos

Purple is a color of enlightenment, royalty, and divinity, marking all things purple as a royal and luxurious shade. (See purple tattoos for more!)

Purple butterflies are considered to be among the elite of butterflies and can represent grace, beauty, and divine connection.

A purple butterfly tattoo might represent your appreciation for the finer things or an elegant and personal connection to the divine.

Purple Butterfly Tattoo
Purple Butterfly Tattoo
Purple Butterfly Tattoo
Purple Butterfly Tattoo
Purple Butterfly Tattoo

Red Butterfly Tattoos

Red butterflies are a striking symbol across the world.

Whether your red butterfly represents good or evil, a red butterfly tattoo is a striking combination of ink and color that allows your butterfly to show off its wings and patterns in lush and rich tones.

Red Butterfly Tattoo
Red Butterfly Tattoo
Red Butterfly Tattoo
Red Butterfly Tattoo

Yellow Butterfly Tattoos

Yellow is a color of friendship, peace, and happiness.

A yellow butterfly is a great way to connect to your inner childlike self that’s both playful and sincere.

With a yellow butterfly tattoo, you can demonstrate your innocence and your love for peace, a happy and gentle tattoo that connects you to others.

Yellow Butterfly Tattoo
Yellow Butterfly Tattoo
Yellow Butterfly Tattoo
Yellow Butterfly Tattoo
Yellow Butterfly Tattoo
Yellow Butterfly Tattoo

Rainbow Butterfly Tattoos

Butterflies are popular symbols of transformation, rebirth, and renewal.

The kaleidoscopic rainbow coloring of these tattoos could represent a celebration of the vibrancy of life, especially new life.

Rainbows are also a popular symbol of the LGBTQ+ movement, so for someone who has just come out these rainbow butterflies might be a great way to symbolize your confidence in beginning your new life with your identity.

Rainbow Butterfly Tattoo
Rainbow Butterfly Tattoo
Rainbow Butterfly Tattoo

Butterfly Tattoo Designs

It seems there’s more to our little butterfly friend than we thought!

Have we convinced you to get a butterfly tattoo?

Maybe a look at our gallery will give you that final push.

Spread your wings and fly!

Black & Grey Butterfly Tattoos

Butterflies are known for their bright colors.

This is often why they’re showcased in color tattoos.

But maybe you’re building a black and grey sleeve.

Black and Grey Butterfly Tattoos

Or maybe you just want something a little different.

A black and grey or black and white butterfly can be a beautiful work of art.

Black and Grey Butterfly Tattoo

It captures the ornate shape of a butterfly without being too busy.

Black and grey tattoos are done by diluting black inks to various degrees.

They are then applied as washes of color.

Black and Grey Butterfly Tattoo

Shading and dimension are achieved with gradients between the darkest and lightest shades.

In a black and grey piece, your skin is used for negative space, so it’s a simple and clean design.

Black and Grey Butterfly Tattoo

Black and white tattoos follow a similar guideline, but with a mix of black and white inks.

In these tattoos, negative space may be filled with white ink.

Black and Grey Butterfly Tattoo

Depending on the look you’re going for, both can be stunning tattoos.

It is more common to find a tattoo artist who works with black and grey, but most will be able to do either.

Black and Grey Butterfly Tattoo

Some people prefer less color in tattoos because it takes less time to apply.

And it will stay vivid for much longer.

The darker the ink, the more fade-resistant it is.

Black and Grey Butterfly Tattoo

You may choose to get an ornate butterfly, such as the monarch, in black and grey or white shades.

Some species of butterflies are already conveniently black and white.

Black and Grey Butterfly Tattoo

We think they would look stunning as tattoos, including:

  • The Common Sootywing

Don’t let the name fool you, this is a beautiful breed of butterfly.

With glossy black wings and striking black spots, they may make the perfect model for your tattoo.

Black and Grey Butterfly Tattoos

These butterflies are home to the central United States and Mexico.

They also hang out in British Columbia and Quebec.

  • Zebra Swallowtail

This stunning butterfly is begging to be captured as a black and grey or black and white tattoo.

It has black wings with bold white stripes, and a red spot on its body if you like a pop of color.

American Traditional Butterfly Tattoos

American traditional tattoos came onto the scene as popular, colorful tattoo styles and designs that feature bold colors and thick black outlines that help tattoos stand out distinctly and captures a traditional and recognizable pattern of illustration.

American Traditional Butterfly Tattoo
Traditional Butterfly Tattoo

American traditional butterfly tattoos are a great symbol of reconnecting with old traditions while still adding new life and creativity to your ink!

Watercolor Butterfly Tattoos

Because butterflies are such a classic design, you may be searching for some new ideas.

You don’t want your butterfly tattoo to look just like everyone else’s, right?

Watercolor Butterfly Tattoo

If you’re into color, watercolor tattoos are a gorgeous way to breathe new life into an old idea.

In a watercolor tattoo, the artist uses varying washes and shades to mimic the texture of a painting.

Watercolor Butterfly Tattoo

These tattoos are often without outlines.

Or, they have outlines cleverly hidden beneath colorful splashes.

Watercolor Butterfly Tattoo

When they first arrived on the scene, watercolor tattoos were considered a fad.

Many artists believed that they wouldn’t age well.

But, since the trend’s emergence in 2010, we’ve been able to watch many watercolor tattoos age beautifully.

Many watercolor tattoo artists prefer to work with organic subject matter.

Watercolor Butterfly Tattoo

This may include plants, flowers, insects, and animals.

There’s just so much creative fun to be had with a butterfly’s wings.

You’re sure to please your watercolor artist by bringing this idea to the shop.

Watercolor Butterfly Tattoo

The whole point of a watercolor tattoo is to look organic and artistic.

Butterflies are a great muse for watercolor tattoos.

They are whimsical and delicate with striking designs on their wings.

Watercolor Butterfly Tattoo

They are constantly moving, landing on flowers, and gliding from place to place.

Watercolor tattoos can bring an interesting subject matter to life.

Your watercolor tattoo artist can create the feeling and movement of a butterfly.

Watercolor Butterfly Tattoo

Watercolor butterfly tattoos have a dreamy, ethereal look to them.

They’re perfectly suited to messages of hope, or for celebrating someone’s life.

Or, just for the simple pleasure of having something beautiful on your skin!

Black-work Butterfly Tattoos

Unlike black and grey, black and white, or watercolor tattoos, there are no washes of color in blackwork tattoos.

Blackwork tattoos are more similar to traditional Americana tattoos.

They are bold and saturated.

Blackwork Butterfly Tattoo

Generally speaking, a blackwork tattoo isn’t going to have a lot of long curving lines.

It is a readable tattoo. You know exactly what it is the moment you look at it.

Blackwork Butterfly Tattoo

Blackwork tattoos came out of the tribal tattoo craze of yesteryear.

While tribal tattoos are still popular, they are considered cultural appropriation by some.

It used to be that people chose tattoos purely based on what spoke to them, or what they liked the look of.

Blackwork Butterfly Tattoo

Modern tattoo clients like something that works specifically for them and their stories.

This is both to keep things authentic and to avoid ripping something off from a culture they weren’t born into.

If you love the tribal aesthetic, but aren’t in a tribe, getting something that feels personal to you is a good idea.

Blackwork Butterfly Tattoo

You get the same look without offending anyone.

A butterfly is a cool choice for blackwork designs.

It is a symbol with a lot of meaning to a lot of different cultures, but it belongs to everyone.

These designs can also suit someone with a witchy or gothic approach to life.

Blackwork Butterfly Tattoo

Maybe you find yourself caught between two different sides.

You might be a light and airy butterfly some days and a serious, sophisticated figure on others.

Blackwork butterflies have dramatic visual pop.

The dark black lines are serious, while the butterfly itself is sweet.

Blackwork Butterfly Tattoo

With this style, you’ll want to find a butterfly muse with interesting shapes and designs.

The lines and negative space will make your blackwork design sing.

With something like this, you’re sure to turn some heads.

Realistic Butterfly Tattoos

Is there a specific butterfly image you just can’t get out of your head?

Do you want a design that feels less “tattoo-ish” and more like the real thing?

A realistic, or portrait style butterfly tattoo may be the right choice.

Realistic tattoos can be done in black and grey or color.

They combine multiple shades to create a final image with authentic, photo-realistic quality.

Many people like this option for butterfly tattoos because they have a soft drop shadow.

This gives the illusion that a butterfly has landed on your skin.

It’s a dazzling, romantic effect.

Alternatively, you may decide to create a garden landscape for your butterfly.

Realistic portrait styles work wonderfully for nature scenes.

Take a look through your favorite butterfly photos for inspiration.

Two things you should be aware of before getting a realistic butterfly tattoo:

They take longer

If this is your first tattoo, you may want to get something smaller to get yourself started.

Realistic tattoos require several needle techniques.

Your artist will be working on your piece for a while.

They may have to go over the same area a few times, which can be unpleasant.

Especially if you don’t know how you react to the discomfort of a tattoo application.

Depending on the size of your tattoo, you may need to schedule several sessions.

You’ll need more space

Creating a realistic tattoo means capturing every single detail.

Your artist will need some space to play.

Trying to cram an intricate tattoo into a tight space will end badly.

It will age poorly and it may not read well to the eye.

For everything to look as gorgeous as you want it to look, you’ll need to commit to a larger piece.

Realistic Butterfly Tattoo
Realistic Butterfly Tattoo
Realistic Butterfly Tattoo

Dot-work Butterfly Tattoos

Dot-work tattoos are incredibly detailed and delicate tattoo designs that involve using a tattoo machine to apply thousands of concentrated ink dots in order to generate a single, elegant image.

Butterflies are a beautiful symbol of longevity, so a dot work tattoo might be a symbol of patience, longevity, and care, especially since dot work tattoos take so long to complete!

Dot-work Butterfly Tattoo
Dot-work Butterfly Tattoo
Dot-work Butterfly Tattoo

Ornamental Butterfly Tattoos

You may choose to pair your butterfly with a geometric element.

Or to adorn your butterfly’s wings with geometric patterns.

The result is an ornamental tattoo design.

Ornamental butterfly tattoos can be wispy and delicate, or bold and striking.

They’re something you and your artist can have a lot of fun with.

The inspiration around these designs is similar to black-work tattoos.

In many faith systems, sacred geometry is the cornerstone of their imagery.

This is best illustrated with the mandala from Hindu and other Asian traditions.

If a butterfly is a meaningful symbol to you- surround it with shapes and patterns to amplify its natural beauty.

Ornamental Butterfly Tattoo
Ornamental Butterfly Tattoo
Ornamental Butterfly Tattoo
Ornamental Butterfly Tattoo
Ornamental Butterfly Tattoo
Ornamental Butterfly Tattoo

Mandala Butterfly Tattoos

It’s natural to want a mandala butterfly tattoo.

They’re so beautiful and captivating.

The idea behind sacred geometry is that every shape vibrates on a certain frequency.

Repeating this shape can help you achieve a meditative state.

Each shape has its purpose within the system.

But if you are outside the culture, there are ways to personalize the design.

This way, you’ve made it your own, and it’s inspired by rather than appropriated.

Mandala Butterfly Tattoo
Mandala Butterfly Tattoo
Mandala Butterfly Tattoo

Geometric Butterfly Tattoos

Over the past few years, you’ve likely noticed the rise in popularity of geometric tattoos.

Geometric tattoos are usually either one bold shape, or a small shape repeated several times.

This has opened the tattoo world up to some creative possibilities.

Some people use these geometric shapes as a “frame” for a more ornate piece.

The resulting aesthetic is striking.

It is a modern idea, but timeless in its simple sophistication.

Geometric Butterfly Tattoo
Geometric Butterfly Tattoo
Geometric Butterfly Tattoo
Geometric Butterfly Tattoo

Graphic Butterfly Tattoos

Graphic butterfly tattoos combine mathematical precision and creative genius to produce a beautifully symmetrical and shaded design.

Graphic tattoo designs usually feature incredible detailing and black and grey ink, so when combined with the delicate and symmetrical nature of butterflies they make a great attribute to geometric and mathematical beauty!

Graphic Butterfly Tattoo
Graphic Butterfly Tattoo
Graphic Butterfly Tattoo
Graphic Butterfly Tattoo

Abstract Butterfly Tattoos

As beautiful and precise as butterflies are in nature, they can also make beautiful pieces of deconstructed art.

An abstract butterfly tattoo represents the impermanent nature of life, as no matter how detailed or designed things are they always break down or become different in some way.

An abstract butterfly tattoo is the perfect way to celebrate creativity and abstract art!

Abstract Butterfly Tattoo
Abstract Butterfly Tattoo
Abstract Butterfly Tattoo
Abstract Butterfly Tattoo

Lace Butterfly Tattoos

Butterflies are renowned for being perfectly ordered, organized, and artistic creations.

Each half of a butterfly is identical to the other, and each wing is carefully patterned and designed to match the other!

Lace is also symmetrical and carefully woven to match itself, so combining lace and butterflies is a cool way to celebrate precision and carefully designed and ordered art in real life!

Lace Butterfly Tattoo
Lace Butterfly Tattoo
Lace Butterfly Tattoo
Lace Butterfly Tattoo
Lace Butterfly Tattoo

Sketchy Butterfly Tattoos

The incomplete nature of art means that it is always in various stages of creation.

Much like a butterfly, art goes through many stages of rebirth, including creating, refining, and polishing before beginning the cycle all over again.

A sketchy butterfly tattoo creates the perfect homage to the cycle of life of both art and butterflies, making it a great symbol of rebirth and renewal. (See sketch tattoos for more!)

Sketchy Butterfly Tattoo
Sketchy Butterfly Tattoo
Sketchy Butterfly Tattoo
Sketchy Butterfly Tattoo
Sketchy Butterfly Tattoo

Single Needle Butterfly Tattoos

Like tiny tattoos, single needle tattoos are popular with the visually oriented Instagram crowd.

They’re usually on the larger, more sprawling side than tiny tattoos.

But they’re so delicate and subtle, even the most passionate tattoo nay-sayers may give you a pass.

Single needle tattoos have the delicate charm of a butterfly, so the two are a natural match.

Single needle tattoos are a highly technical technique.

They are done with a single tattoo needle as the name implies.

Most tattoo needles have a few heads bunched together to create different effects.

When you’re only dealing with one thin needle, things can get kind of shaky.

For your single needle butterfly tattoo, you’ll want to search for the perfect artist.

The lines in a single needle tattoo are so fine, meaning mistakes will show up easily.

The final look is less like a tattoo and more like something you’d see in a sketchbook.

When you find the right artist, your butterfly is going to look amazing with this technique.

Single Needle Butterfly Tattoo
Single Needle Butterfly Tattoo
Single Needle Butterfly Tattoo

Neo-traditional Butterfly Tattoos

Neo-traditional tattoos improve on the American traditional tattooing styles of old by using thinner organs and more vibrant colors and shading to create a modernized version of the classic old looks.

Neo-traditional butterfly tattoos will typically feature finer lines and less thick outlining and shading in order to keep in line with modern tattooing trends and ideas.

Neo-traditional Butterfly Tattoo
Neo-traditional Butterfly Tattoo
Neo-traditional Butterfly Tattoo

Tribal Butterfly Tattoos

For people with a cultural tie to tribal or indigenous lands, butterfly tattoos are highly spiritually and culturally significant.

Butterflies are often viewed as religious beings that served as spirits or prophets and connected people to their higher powers.

A tribal butterfly tattoo represents the rich history and heritage of your culture while preserving the continual pattern of renewal and new life and stories. (See tribal tattoos for more!)

Tribal Butterfly Tattoo
Tribal Butterfly Tattoo
Tribal Butterfly Tattoo
Tribal Butterfly Tattoo
Tribal Butterfly Tattoo
Tribal Butterfly Tattoo

Celtic Butterfly Tattoos

For people with Celtic heritage or ancestry, they will already be familiar with the significance of the eternal Celtic knots and ropes that symbolize longevity and eternity.

Much like Celtic knots tattoos, butterflies are known to be symbols of long-life and health, so combining the two means you have twice the long-life and health on your skin!

Celtic Butterfly Tattoo
Celtic Butterfly Tattoo
Celtic Butterfly Tattoo
Celtic Butterfly Tattoo

Stick & Poke Butterfly Tattoos

Stick and poke tattoos are beautiful modern minimalist tattoo designs that incorporate gentle shading and delicate lines to create a simple and streamlined look with stunning graphic symbolism.

A stick and poke tattoo could be a representation of the simple beauty and charm of butterflies as well as the innate beauty that comes with these delicate insects.

Stick & Poke Butterfly Tattoo
Stick & Poke Butterfly Tattoo

Etching Butterfly Tattoos

An etching tattoo features heavy outlines and interior shading that makes the tattoo stand out largely because of detailed outlining and carving-style motifs in the tattoo layout.

An etching butterfly tattoo is particularly impressive because the outlining and careful interior work help the patterns and natural designs of the butterfly wings stand out against your skin, making it a tattoo masterpiece in the eyes of many!

Etching Butterfly Tattoo

Tattoo Size

Tiny Butterfly Tattoos (1″-1,5″)

With the mainstream influx of tattoos and the popularity of Instagram, tiny tattoos are the latest thing.

Tiny Butterfly Tattoo

They’re an easy commitment that’s good for your social feed.

Tiny Butterfly Tattoo

Many people are opting for several tiny tattoos rather than one big one.

Tiny Butterfly Tattoo

Tiny tattoos work best on shapes that are easy to identify, like hearts, flowers and lightning bolts.

Tiny Butterfly Tattoo

Tiny tattoos are well suited to the butterfly because they’re delicate creatures.

Tiny Butterfly Tattoo
Tiny Butterfly Tattoo

You can create the feeling of a butterfly with a simple outline, and everyone will know what it is.

Tiny Butterfly Tattoo
Tiny Butterfly Tattoo

Some tattoo artists will not apply tiny tattoos, and warn their clients against them.

As with any tattoo, there are pros and cons to a small butterfly tattoo.

Pros of Tiny Butterfly Tattoos

  • Tiny tattoos are easy to cover up. If there are people in your life who would object to your little butterfly friend, you can cover it with make-up, clothing, or even a band-aid.
Tiny Butterfly Tattoo
  • Tiny tattoos are easy to tattoo over and re-work. It will also come off easily if you’ve decided you want your tattoo removed. If you know you want some ink, but aren’t sure if you’re in it for the long haul, they’re a good choice. Regrets are easy to recover from when they’re the size of a nickel. If you’ve got a full sleeve it’s going to be much more painful and expensive to switch things up later on.
Tiny Butterfly Tattoo
  • They’re just so cute! Tiny tattoos have a delicate aesthetic appeal unparalleled in the world of ink.
Tiny Butterfly Tattoo

Cons of Tiny Butterfly Tattoos

  • Tiny tattoos can blur and fade over time, and they sometimes end up looking like a blob. If you want your butterfly tattoo to last forever, it’s better to invest your time and your skin into something larger.
  • They’re often placed in vulnerable areas, like fingers and wrists. If you use your hands a lot, your tattoo is going to age poorly.
  • They have a bit of a “sticker book” look, which can be a pro or a con. Some people like tattoos to flow well wit the body, believing that it’s all part of the design aesthetic. If you’re OK with your tattoos looking a bit random, they can be a really sweet option. But if you’re a traditionalist, you’ll probably want to stay away.

Small Butterfly Tattoos

Smaller butterfly tattoos are great for people who want a statement piece that will age well but doesn’t take up too much of your skin.

Small Butterfly Tattoo

Whether situated on your back, your forearm, or your leg, a small butterfly tattoo encapsulates all the best memories and meanings of butterflies as well as making your piece of art visible and likely to age well without a deterioration in quality.

Small Butterfly Tattoo
Small Butterfly Tattoo

Butterfly Tattooo Ideas

  • Simple Butterfly Tattoos

For people who prefer minimalist tattoo styles, simple butterfly tattoos are definitely the way to go.

These tattoo designs feature just outlines or portions of butterfly silhouettes, creating a simple but standout butterfly tattoo that reminds you of transformation, life, and happiness.

Simple Butterfly Tattoo
Simple Butterfly Tattoo
Simple Butterfly Tattoo
Simple Butterfly Tattoo
Simple Butterfly Tattoo
  • Semicolon Butterfly Tattoos

Semicolon tattoos have become popular as the conversation around mental health continues to take place across the world.

Semicolons are a symbol of strength, of pausing and choosing to go on.

A semicolon butterfly tattoo is the perfect symbol of new life, of choosing to continue despite pain or problems, and celebrating a new beginning in the face of past pain.

Semicolon Butterfly Tattoo
Semicolon Butterfly Tattoo
Semicolon Butterfly Tattoo
Semicolon Butterfly Tattoo
  • 3D Butterfly Tattoos

These types of butterfly tattoos are so popular with some people because of their hyper-real effect that makes it look as though they’ve landed on a person’s skin.

The carefully tattooed shadows underneath the butterfly add a dimension of reality to the insect that makes it look completely alive on your skin, making these a popular and incredibly original design style that many love.

3D Butterfly Tattoo
3D Butterfly Tattoo
3D Butterfly Tattoo
3D Butterfly Tattoo
3D Butterfly Tattoo
  • Caterpillar to Butterfly Tattoos

The transformation cycle of a butterfly from a caterpillar is one of the most famous examples of how transformation can change us for the better.

Getting the life cycle of the butterfly tattooed on your skin is a lovely way to symbolize that you believe in the power of positive growth and the ability to make change happen for yourself.

Caterpillar to Butterfly Tattoo
Caterpillar to Butterfly Tattoo
Caterpillar to Butterfly Tattoo
Caterpillar to Butterfly Tattoo
  • Infinity Butterfly Tattoos

Butterflies are already symbols of longevity, life, and happiness.

When combined with the infinity symbol, these beautiful insects become symbols of permanent love, life, and happiness that last beyond time, making these a great tattoo to represent eternal life and love.

Infinity Butterfly Tattoo
Infinity Butterfly Tattoo
  • Interlocking Butterfly Tattoos

The beautiful butterflies tattooed on many people can be tattooed either together or apart.

Interlocking butterfly tattoos can be tattooed on two hands, limbs, or legs, and be brought together to symbolize a tattoo connected or a connected life, just as beautiful butterflies are connected to life and to each other.

Interlocking Butterfly Tattoo
Interlocking Butterfly Tattoo
Interlocking Butterfly Tattoo
Interlocking Butterfly Tattoo
Interlocking Butterfly Tattoo
Interlocking Butterfly Tattoo
  • Butterfly Sleeve Tattoos

Butterfly sleeve tattoos are impressive features of art that offer plenty of canvas for multiple versions or styles of butterfly tattoos as well as background art or other interlocking design styles.

A butterfly sleeve tattoo would be perfect for someone who wants a constant reminder of their own personal transformation.

Butterfly Sleeve Tattoo
Butterfly Sleeve Tattoo
Butterfly Sleeve Tattoo

Tattoo Placement

Have you decided on the perfect butterfly shape and style?

Now all that’s left is to determine where you’d like this butterfly to go!

Whether on your shoulder, limb, or leg, butterflies make great personal reminders of life and strength wherever you decorate them.

  • Butterfly Tattoos on Wrist

Wrist tattoos are great places to have delicate and personal butterflies tattooed as a daily reminder of your own strength and happiness.

Whether you want a simple and ornate tattoo or a large and intricately detailed one, the wrist is a great place to get one of your first tattoos.

Butterfly Tattoo on the Wrist
Butterfly Tattoo on the Wrist
Butterfly Tattoo on the Wrist
Butterfly Tattoo on the Wrist
Butterfly Tattoo on the Wrist
Butterfly Tattoo on the Wrist
Butterfly Tattoo on the Wrist
Butterfly Tattoo on the Wrist
Butterfly Tattoo on the Wrist
  • Side Butterfly Tattoos

The rib cage is a beautiful location for larger or more intricately detailed tattoos.

Butterflies make perfect sense as a rib cage tattoo because of their connection to life, and the rib cage is close to the heart, making this the perfect symbol of life and transformation that stays very close to your heart!

Side Butterfly Tattoo
Side Butterfly Tattoo
Side Butterfly Tattoo
Side Butterfly Tattoo
Side Butterfly Tattoo
Side Butterfly Tattoo
Side Butterfly Tattoo
Side Butterfly Tattoo
  • Butterfly Tattoos behind the Ear

Butterfly tattoos are some of the most fun tattoos to get because of their tiny and intricate detailing that allows them to be designed or placed anywhere.

Tuck any type of butterfly behind your ear for a personal and little reminder of your own life and power!

Butterfly Tattoo Behind the Ear
Butterfly Tattoo Behind the Ear
Butterfly Tattoo Behind the Ear
Butterfly Tattoo Behind the Ear
Butterfly Tattoo Behind the Ear
  • Butterfly Tattoo on Foot

Butterflies on the feet are a popular tattoo trend because the foot presents a flat and even surface that can be easily hidden but also shown off depending on what type of tattoo style you prefer.

A butterfly tattoo on your foot connects you to rebirth and hard work, something definitely connected to your journey throughout life!

Butterfly Tattoo on the Foot
Butterfly Tattoo on the Foot
Butterfly Tattoo on the Foot
Butterfly Tattoo on the Foot
Butterfly Tattoo on the Foot
Butterfly Tattoo on the Foot
Butterfly Tattoo on the Foot
  • Butterfly Tattoo on Lower-back

For people who want an intimate and personal piece of art, the lower back is a great place to locate your tattoo!

Easily hidden and with plenty of space to work with, you can design any kind of artwork here and place the perfect butterfly tattoo for a vibrant display of happiness and life.

Butterfly Tattoo on the Lower-back
Butterfly Tattoo on the Lower-back
Butterfly Tattoo on the Lower-back
  • Butterfly Tattoo on the Ankle

Butterfly tattoos tucked near your ankle are a great way to keep delicate and gentle butterflies near you at all times.

An ankle butterfly tattoo is easy to hide with pants or tights, so if you have a job that’s tattoo-free, you can still have your favorite artwork on you without having to expose it 24/7.

Butterfly Tattoo on Ankle
Butterfly Tattoo on Ankle
Butterfly Tattoo on Ankle
Butterfly Tattoo on Ankle
Butterfly Tattoo on Ankle
  • Butterfly Tattoos on Hand

Butterfly tattoos are the perfect piece of art to be tattooed on your hand because that provides a space for both interconnected butterfly tattoos and colorful designs and styles that can wind up the limb if you want a more intricate and complete tattoo style.

Whether you’re looking for a simple butterfly or a more detailed one, the hand is a great location to consider!

Butterfly Tattoo on the Hand
Butterfly Tattoo on the Hand
  • Butterfly Tattoos on Back

If you want your butterfly to travel or fly just as it would in real life, getting a butterfly tattoo on your back is the perfect choice.

With plenty of space for your favorite designs or to create a flight pattern unique to your butterfly, you can fill your back with all kinds of butterfly art and create the perfect display space for your new favorite ink!

Butterfly Tattoo on Back
Butterfly Tattoo on Back
Butterfly Tattoo on Back
Butterfly Tattoo on Back
Butterfly Tattoo on Back
Butterfly Tattoo on Back
Butterfly Tattoo on Back
Butterfly Tattoo on Back
Butterfly Tattoo on Back
  • Butterfly Tattoos on Collarbone

Collarbone tattoos are usually associated with delicate and personal designs and images that symbolize simple lines and clean, elegant designs.

Butterfly tattoos meet all of those requirements, providing the perfect delicate and personal tattoo touch that adds a little bit of life and character to your collarbone!

Butterfly Tattoo on Collarbone
Butterfly Tattoo on Collarbone
Butterfly Tattoo on Collarbone
Butterfly Tattoo on Collarbone
Butterfly Tattoo on Collarbone
Butterfly Tattoo on Collarbone
  • Butterfly Tattoos on Throat

For people who aren’t afraid of making a statement, butterfly tattoos on the throat are definitely the way to go.

The throat provides the perfect silhouette and shape to house the clean lines and designs of outstretched butterfly wings, making this a great canvas for your latest butterfly ink!

Butterfly Tattoo on Throat
Butterfly Tattoo on Throat
Butterfly Tattoo on Throat
Butterfly Tattoo on Throat

The Symbolism behind Butterfly Tattoos

A butterfly tattoo is a symbol of transformation.

Scientists are still studying the caterpillar’s magic act, but they have a basic idea of how it works.

A caterpillar hatches from a tiny egg, and is immediately ravenous.

It devours its egg, then moves on to the leaf it was hatched on.

It may even move onto a new leaf at that point.

It’s a tiny creature with an incredible appetite, so if you read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” as a kid, it wasn’t far off!

Some caterpillars don’t survive this process, because leaves contain a sticky enzyme that may cause their tiny mouths to gum up.

For the surviving bugs, their task is to eat as much as they can for a week to 21 days.

While they’re doing this, they’re developing a hard shell beneath their soft caterpillar skin.

It has other “butterfly ingredients” within its body at this point, but they’re held back by developmental hormones.

Once a caterpillar is ready, it will hang upside down on a twig or a leaf.

It then sheds its outer layer of skin and turns into a kind of scientific soup inside the hard shell that is exposed.

It does this by digesting itself- leaving only certain body parts behind.

It takes about 10-14 days, but from this process, a beautiful butterfly emerges.

Interestingly enough, there have been studies that prove a caterpillar’s memory will stay intact as a butterfly.

But what does all this mean for your butterfly tattoo?

Butterflies in Different Cultures

Butterflies have a general meaning of transformation in most modern circles.

It’s easy to see how they earned this association, but there is more to the butterfly than its metamorphosis.

Many cultures have written about these beautiful creatures.

Depending on your cultural background, you may want to incorporate some worldly imagery into your butterfly tattoo.

  • Greek Mythology

In the ancient Greek language, “psyche” is the word for the human soul and butterflies.

The butterfly was thought to be a kind of carrier for the human soul.

There is also the myth of Psyche, a beautiful earthly woman who married a god.

Psyche was thought to be the most beautiful woman on earth.

So much so that people stopped worshiping Aphrodite, which caused the goddess to resent this mortal woman.

Aphrodite sends her son, Eros (Cupid in Roman mythology), to hit her with his magical arrows.

These arrows can cause a person to fall in lust with someone specific, or sometimes the first person they see.

Aphrodite wants Psyche to become enamored with someone grotesque.

Of course, Eros becomes enchanted with her at first sight.

He finds a way to live with Psyche in a hidden kingdom, but she is never able to see his face.

Eros can’t risk being discovered by his mother.

One night, Psyche becomes curious about her mysterious partner, and spies on him in his sleep.

He wakes up and, feeling utterly betrayed, leaves Psyche.

She then goes to Aphrodite for help and, still feeling resentful, Aphrodite sends Psyche on a series of impossible trials.

With some assistance from enchanted animals and the gods of Mount Olympus, Psyche accomplishes every task.

She is eventually reunited with Eros and granted eternal life by swallowing the nectar of the gods.

Because of her name, Psyche is often depicted with butterfly wings.

But there’s more to it than that.

Like a butterfly, Psyche undergoes a challenging process to become her most radiant, godly self.

She earns the forgiveness of her partner and the two share an immortal bond.

In this context, a butterfly tattoo may symbolize rebirth, eternal life, and lasting love.

If you’re a fan of epic romance, a Psyche butterfly tattoo may be the perfect design.

  • Aztec Butterfly Symbolism

The Aztecs once ruled the area we now call central Mexico.

They had an incredibly sophisticated civilization with a lot of rich imagery.

They also had a great many fascinating deities.

Today, many people still observe the ancient Indigenous beliefs, sometimes blended with the Christianity that came to the area later.

In the Aztec belief system, butterflies are associated with the impermanence of life and the afterlife.

There is a goddess known as Itzpapalotl, which translates to “Obsidian Butterfly” or “Clawed Butterfly.”

Because the obsidian stone is black, she is also called “Black Butterfly.”

She is sometimes associated with rejuvenation through sacrifice, much like Psyche in the Greek legend.

She is one of the Tzitzimime, a group of female deities who watch over women in labor.

She is also the guardian of Tamoachan, an after-world type place where deceased infant souls can ready themselves for reincarnation.

In this context, a butterfly tattoo would symbolize the birth/end cycle and perhaps hope after a loss.

  • The Symbolism of Butterflies in Native American Tribes

The people we refer to as “Native Americans” could belong to any number of Indigenous tribes.

There are hundreds of Indigenous tribes still in existence today with their own languages, belief systems, and art styles.

As a blanket statement, many Indigenous peoples see the butterfly as a symbol of the spirit world.

One butterfly legend comes from a Pueblo tribe.

It is an origin story for these enchanting, colorful insects.

In this myth, Creator wants to do something kind for the children on earth.

He takes pity on them, knowing that their childhood is fleeting and they will have to grow old and tired one day.

So Creator spends some time gathering magical ingredients in nature.

He gathers colors from the sky, leaves, flowers, and anywhere he can find them.

He then puts all of these ingredients in his magic bag.

When he presents this bag to the children of earth, they open it and are delighted by what they see.

Butterflies of all sizes and colors fly out, showing off their beautiful wings.

Creator had also given them the gift of beautiful song, and they entertained the children with their singing.

The birds felt jealous of the butterflies, because their colors were not as brilliant.

They didn’t feel it was fair that the butterflies could sing just like them.

So Creator took the song from the butterflies to keep the peace, but kept their beautiful colors.

In this context, a butterfly tattoo can symbolize the fleeting beauty of youth.

It may also be a symbol of compromise, because of the agreement Creator made with the birds.

  • Mexico

Each fall, a beautiful cloud of Monarch butterflies arrive in the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico.

This coincides with Dia de Los Muertos or day of the dead.

This is a fall holiday when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, and deceased relatives can walk the earth.

It is a beautiful holiday where people honor the memory of those that have passed on.

Because of the arrival of the butterflies, these winged creatures are thought to signal people on the other side.

When they see the butterflies, they know it is time to visit their loved ones on earth.

In this context, the butterfly tattoo can represent someone you cared for who is on the other side.

Paired with a sugar skull tattoo, it can be a loving tribute for someone with a Mexican background.

Butterfly Tattoos in Pop Culture

For anyone who thinks butterfly tattoos are just for women, they thought wrong.

Butterfly tattoos can be delicate and sweet or as bold as a skull tattoo.

They’re suitable for any personality or gender identity.

It all depends on the butterfly tattoo itself.

The most iconic butterfly tattoo in cinema was worn by a man.

And not just any man, but Steve McQueen himself.

If you aren’t familiar, he was a rugged leading man who dominated screens in the 1960’s-70’s.

McQueen was one of the first leading men to do all his own stunts, including motorcycle and race car work.

He was an exciting performer, known by many as an anti-hero.

His dangerous underdog roles were new and exciting.

He brought something fresh to the world of cinema.

Maybe even to the tattoo world.

In the 1973 movie Papillon, based on a true story, McQueen wears a butterfly tattoo on his chest.

The word “papillon” means butterfly in French and was the nickname of Henri Charrière, the man the movie is based on.

Henri Charrière had this nickname because of the butterfly tattoo on his chest.

In his memoirs, he writes about his epic escape from prison after being wrongfully accused of murder.

When McQueen portrayed him in the movie, a butterfly tattoo was a must.

The tattoos they use in movies are a sticker-like design.

Similar to the transfer tattoos you may have worn as a child.

The tattoos in 1973’s Papillon are impressive and look incredibly real.

The butterfly tattoo was re-imagined for a 2017 re-make of the film.

It wasn’t received as well by critics, but it put butterfly tattoos back on the map for men.

Celebrities with Butterfly Tattoos

If you’re starting to feel like a butterfly tattoo is for you, you’ll be in good company!

Many of our favorite celebrities have chosen this winged creature as their familiar.

  • Drew Barrymore Butterfly Tattoo

This starlet has a butterfly tattoo on her lower abdomen, just below her belly button.

Though she is known now for her sunny disposition, she has a shadowy past.

Drew Barrymore Tattoo

As a child star, she saw too much too fast.

The butterfly is a beautiful symbol of who Drew is now: free-spirited, light, and airy.

  • Halsey Butterfly Tattoo

The electro-pop singer has a black butterfly tattooed on her right forearm.

The tattoo accompanied her second album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.

Halsey Tattoo

The album is a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, two people willing to transform who they are for love.

Halsey got the idea as she was writing about her most recent break-up, and realized that she becomes a different person in relationships.

The album explores the idea of transformation and change throughout, making the butterfly a perfect symbol of this work.

  • Mariah Carey Butterfly Tattoo

Another pop singer with a butterfly fixation, Carey has made butterflies synonymous with her work.

Her hit ballad “Butterfly,” off the album with the same title, is her favorite song she’s ever written.

It is about letting someone you love spread their wings and fly, rather than controlling them.

Mariah Carey's Tattoo

She has also sold butterfly-themed merch, including a perfume bottle.

While married to Nick Cannon, the songstress got a lower back tattoo of an orange butterfly with the words “Mrs. Cannon.”

When the couple was divorced, she had the words covered up, but kept the butterfly.

It may be an unexpected transformation, but it’s nothing she can’t handle with her signature creature by her side.

  • Blac Chyna Butterfly Tattoo

This enterprising young star has been through a lot of change.

She is best known for her tumultuous relationship with the Kardashians, specifically a romantic connection with Rob Kardashian.

She has removed and covered up many tattoos over the past few years, especially references to past relationships.

Blac Chyna Butterfly Tattoo

Many of Black Chyna’s cover-ups feature brightly colored flowers and butterflies.

The model and reality show star hasn’t spoken much about the symbolism of her tattoos, but we’re thinking she’s ready to move on from the drama and be her best self.


Butterflies hold a special place in many cultures and their meanings are as varied as their appearance.

The butterfly tattoo is a common tattoo design because of its aesthetic beauty and its deeper, spiritual meanings.

With such an array of options and interpretations, it is important to approach your tattoo artist with a clear idea of why you would like this particular design.

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