Ask anyone about their recent trip to the aquarium, and they’ll probably mention the jellyfish.
Jellyfish are strikingly beautiful and truly in a class of their own.
There’s something in their movement that makes them so tranquil, but we’re also aware they can deliver nasty stings.
Their luminous beauty and dangerous tentacles make jellyfish a natural source of fascination for us humans.
Who are these strange, slow-moving, gelatin looking creatures?
Where do they come from, and what do they want?
These are the questions that inspire all kinds of jellyfish homage art.
You can find jellyfish portrayed in so many ways, from tranquil and ethereal to cartoon-ish and cheerful.
Jellyfish have become a darling of the tattoo world, especially with the advent of watercolor techniques.
A jellyfish tattoo is a great fit for any gender, and can be done in multiple styles and color schemes.
Maybe you’re wondering why we’ve all got jellyfish on the brain.
Maybe you’re a jellyfish enthusiast looking for ideas for your next piece.
Either way, strap on your snorkel.
We are about to take a deep dive into jellyfish and what they symbolize.
Where Do Jellyfish Come From?
Jellyfish are present in all the world’s oceans.
Scientists are aware of 2000 types of jellyfish and theorize that there may be thousands more undiscovered.
While we don’t know exactly how these weird-looking creatures came into our lives, there are some fun folklore theories.
In Japan, there is a story about the jellyfish and how it came to be this shapeless, blob-like thing.
Japanese Jellyfish Folklore
The story goes that the jellyfish was once a treasured friend of the King of Dragon-land, a fairy-tale kingdom.
In this time the jellyfish had a shell, and scales, and even feet to walk the earth.
He was an incredibly handsome and happy creature, but his grandmother always warned him that his lack of practical knowledge would be his downfall.
One day, the Queen of fairyland fell ill, and the doctor said things weren’t looking too hopeful for her.
The Queen ordered the King to find her a monkey’s liver, saying eating the liver of a monkey would heal her.
The King responded immediately by sending the jellyfish out on a quest.
The jellyfish lured a monkey to ride on it’s back to Dragon-land with him, promising a beautiful place to play with mermaids all day long.
Once the monkey was on his back though, the jellyfish laughed and boasted about his scheme.
Thinking quickly, the monkey told the jellyfish that if it was his liver he was after, they’d have to turn back.
The monkey said he left his liver hanging in a tree and would have to run home to get it.
Not seeing anything suspicious about this, the jellyfish brought the monkey to his tree which he immediately scampered up, never to come down again.
The King was so upset by the jellyfish’s mistake, he had the jellyfish beaten until he was like jelly.
This may be a pretty brutal little tale, but there is some truth to it because the jellyfish is a beautiful creature with no brain.
What Does a Jellyfish Tattoo Symbolize?
Despite this unfavorable legend, jellyfish have fairly positive associations as a symbol in most cultures.
Wondering what it means when someone gets a jellyfish tattoo?
There could be a few reasons:
A jellyfish can symbolize longevity and immortality, both because they’ve been around so long and because they actually have been proven to be immortal!
Well, at least one species has.
The Turritopsis dohrnii never really dies unless it gets eaten by a predator.
When it starts to age it contracts, sinks to the ocean floor, becomes a polyp (basically a jellyfish embryo), and starts its life over again.
Are you looking to “reset” your life? Let the noble jellyfish be your guide.
Jellyfish are one of the only species thriving through climate change- to the point where it may be a problem!
Because our oceans are heating up, jellyfish have been able to spread to areas previously too cold for them.
Because we’ve over fished the oceans, some of the jellyfish’s natural predators have become endangered.
Now many oceans are overrun with “swarms” or “blooms” of jellyfish which can ruin beach tourism, weigh down fishing nets, suffocate fish, and even cause power outages by clogging cool water intake systems at power plants.
But that doesn’t make it any less impressive.
If you’ve been through a lot and want to show that you’ve survived despite all obstacles, a jellyfish may be the symbol for you.
Did you know there were once jellyfish in space?
Because jellyfish have no eyes or ears, they use tiny hairs on their bodies to help them navigate and “know” which direction is up.
We orient ourselves similarly with, for example, the tiny hairs in our ears.
Scientists wanted to see if a human being could be raised in space, so they started with a few polyps in 1991.
Not only did the jellyfish survive in space, they multiplied and really got the hang of zero gravity, to the point where water felt unnatural to them when returning to earth.
Feeling a bit like a fish out of water?
A jellyfish tattoo can remind you that you’ll figure it out and soon this new situation will feel like home.
Main Themes in Jellyfish Tattoos
Galaxy Jellyfish Tattoos
SpongeBob Jellyfish Tattoos
Man of War Jellyfish Tattoos
Jellyfish Tattoo Designs
Jellyfish are having a moment right now, and there’s no reason not to join in the fun.
With the number of variations within the species, you’ll be able to find a jelly that suits your unique personality.
Still not convinced? Take a look at our jellyfish tattoo gallery for the coolest jellyfish tattoo designs on the web.
Black & Grey Jellyfish Tattoos
A black and grey jellyfish tattoo may seem counter-intuitive at first blush.
Aren’t these creatures known for their vibrancy and color?
But one thing a black and grey tattoo can do like no other is show off detail.
Without bright colors to distract the eye, the finer points of the jellyfish become visible.
Black and grey tattoos have a classic, timeless quality.
So if you’re worried about jellyfish tattoos being too popular, buck the trend with a monochrome piece.
This is also a nice option if you like to wear a lot of color, because your tattoo will never clash with your clothing.
New School Jellyfish Tattoos
On the other side of the tattoo spectrum is new school tattoo art.
New school is a style perfectly suited to jellyfish tattoos.
In new school artwork rounded shapes become bulbous, and bright colors jump off the skin.
The ocean is full of so much vibrancy and interesting lifeforms we don’t usually get a glimpse of on land.
It can all feel a little cartoonish, which is exactly why this style works so well.
If you’re attracted to the alien-like quality of a jellyfish, this is where your artist can play with exaggerated shape and proportion.
Negative Space Tattoos
Negative space artwork is less about what isn’t there and more about what is.
There is a spooky, haunting quality to a negative space tattoo.
And what’s more ominous than a possible encounter with a deadly, alien-like creature?
A negative space jellyfish tattoo speaks to the mysterious nature of the ocean’s floor.
There is so much we don’t understand, and so much left to discover.
Illustrative Jellyfish Tattoos
“Illustrative” is a term that encapsulates many tattoo styles.
Most illustrative tattoos sit somewhere between portrait and Neo-traditional styles.
They’re realistic, but not to the point of looking like a photo.
They’re artistic, but not as exaggerated as a Neo-traditional piece.
An illustrative jellyfish tattoo is a great chance to show off your individuality.
You can customize colors, details, and even move the style in one direction or another.
Unlike more strict genres of artwork like American traditional, with illustrative tattoos the world’s your oyster.
Or should we say jellyfish?
Black-work Jellyfish Tattoos
If you’re not much for color, but want something more playful than a black and grey piece, consider a black-work tattoo.
Black and grey tends to have a more portrait-like effect, while black-work is less realistic.
Black-work tattoos are characterized by large sections of extremely saturated black ink.
This can give them an intense, almost menacing look, or they can be somewhat whimsical.
We love black-work for a jellyfish tattoo because it is artistic and unexpected.
You can go as ornate or minimalist as you wish, for a custom piece that’s unlike anyone else’s.
Traditional Jellyfish Tattoos
Neo-traditional Jellyfish Tattoos
Neo-traditional was inspired by the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, as well as classic woodblock prints from Japan.
It is a decorative style that never skimps out on flair.
The tattooing techniques in Neo-traditional designs are informed by American traditional or “old school” pieces.
That means wall to wall saturation with colors that pop off of each other.
In Neo-traditional tattoos, organic elements mingle with bold architectural lines, and colors can range from natural and mossy to out of this world.
The pieces tend to have a muted, “antique-like” look to them, perfect for a vintage enthusiast.
We love these pieces because the jellyfish almost look like decorative lampshades.
It’s truly an original take on a popular design.
Watercolor Jellyfish Tattoos
When you think about it, jellyfish are kind of the watercolor paintings of the sea.
They have no skin or bones, and watercolor pieces have no outline.
Both watercolor tattoos and jellyfish tattoos have a playful, formless quality.
The splashy, watery characteristics of watercolor make it a perfect medium for your jellyfish tattoo.
The style is versatile, as seen in these two jellyfish tattoos.
One piece is more graceful and feminine, while the other has a slightly more child-like feeling.
They’re both beautiful takes on a medium that is perfect for this strange creature.
Geometric Jellyfish Tattoos
Rectangular Jellyfish Tattoos
One trend currently dominating the tattoo world is geometric shapes.
Most geometric tattoos are on the open and airy side, but they’re also an interesting opportunity for illustrative designs.
In this case, the imagery is confined within a rectangle, almost like we’re seeing a window into an ocean scene.
If you’ve ever wished you had a peephole into another world, this kind of jellyfish tattoo has that quality.
You could also achieve this effect with a circle, triangle, or another geometric shape.
Fine Line Tattoos
Jellyfish have a slow, graceful movement to them that can be hypnotic.
A fine line jellyfish tattoo can capture that more subtle quality.
If your favorite thing about a jellyfish is its mysterious and enchanting traits, this may be the tattoo style for you.
Fine line tattoos do not contain any thick or bold lines.
They are well suited to people who want a tattoo but like a delicate aesthetic.
Most fine line tattoos are black and grey, so they have a light, pencil-drawn feeling to them.
If you’re an artistic soul, you may be drawn to this modern style.
Tribal Jellyfish Tattoos
Contemporary Jellyfish Tattoos
Contemporary is a broad term that encapsulates many new and exciting styles in tattooing.
If you want your jellyfish tattoo to stand out from the pack, consider something on the cutting edge.
Most modern tattoo artists are itching to try more innovative techniques, but spend most of their time doing traditional tattoos.
This first design, with its thick black lines and swatches of saturated color, is known as a “Mambo” or “Destrutturato” piece.
The beauty of a Mambo piece, inspired by Italian artist Mattia Mambo is distinct, impactful, and hard to miss.
If you’re looking for a conversation starter, these jellyfish tattoos won’t go unnoticed.
In other cases, contemporary may just refer to a tattoo that combines more than one technique to create something new and innovative.
Ask your tattoo artist for their ideas and input, you may end up with a jellyfish tattoo like no other!
Single Needle Jellyfish Tattoos
Tattoos are done with different types of needles.
Like a paintbrush, different shaped tools produce different effects.
Most tattoo needles are actually a bundle of needles, with either round or flat tips.
In single needle tattoos, only one needle is used.
This means mistakes show up more easily and are harder to cover up with shading.
Naturally, this style requires a skillful and steady hand.
Most (but not all) fine line tattoos are done with a single needle, so the styles look similar.
They have a delicate, dreamlike quality.
We love the wispy, ethereal effect a single needle can have on a model like our friend the jellyfish.
Realistic Jellyfish Tattoos
It’s fun to play with different artistic interpretations of the jellyfish, but it’s also a creature that’s so beautiful all on its own.
Sometimes it’s best to put artistic license aside and let nature do the talking.
A realistic jellyfish tattoo shows off everything that is beautiful about ocean life, without all the bells and whistles.
Dot-work Jellyfish Tattoos
Dot work, or pointillism, is an artistic piece made up of a bunch of tiny dots, which will be either denser or farther apart to create light and shadow.
This technique has a beautiful effect on any subject matter, jellyfish tattoos included.
Like fine line pieces, dot-work tattoos have a sketchbook effect that will speak to your inner artist.
Abstract Jellyfish Tattoos
Sketchy Jellyfish Tattoos
Woodcut Jellyfish Tattoos
Jellyfish Tattoo Ideas
With so many great looking jellyfish tattoos, it’s hard to know where to begin.
The nice thing with jellyfish is that, while beautiful, they aren’t incredibly detailed.
This means a jellyfish tattoo can be any size and will suit many different people’s needs.
Small Jellyfish Tattoos
Looking for something cute, but not clichéd?
We’ve all seen small butterflies and hearts, but a little jellyfish is harder to come by.
These tiny pieces make an impression without taking up too much space.
Bonus- your jellyfish can easily hide from prying eyes when you’re in the company of someone who doesn’t like tattoos.
Sleeve Jellyfish Tattoos
Are you an ocean enthusiast?
Try an underwater landscape tattoo for something full of vibrant colors and dazzling detail.
Ocean scenes make for excellent sleeves because you can incorporate so many elements while keeping everything in the same world.
See our article about octopus tattoos if you’re looking for other sea life to include in your large piece.
Simple Jellyfish Tattoos
White Ink Jellyfish Tattoos
Large Jellyfish Tattoos
Jellyfish are versatile in terms of level of detail.
They can be small and simple, but they look just as gorgeous blown up.
There’s always more to see as you zoom into a jellyfish- their colors and texture are mesmerizing to behold.
This large jellyfish tattoo has a beautiful flow with the body, and almost looks like it belongs there.
There is a lot to be had with grand, statement tattoos, especially with a creature that floats and unfurls in an interesting way like a jellyfish.
Jellyfish Tattoo Placement
Jellyfish Tattoos on Calf
Because your calves have a lengthy quality to them with a larger surface, they can be the perfect canvas for a jellyfish piece.
Jellyfish Tattoos on Forearm
If you don’t mind a visible tattoo, your jellyfish will be perfectly happy to hang out on your forearm.
Like your calf, the forearm is a nice surface for a tattoo because the jellyfish design can swerve with your curves.
Jellyfish Tattoos on Thigh
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