Because of their association with sailors, many people gravitate toward nautical imagery when getting a tattoo.
If the more aggressive, bad-ass sailor designs aren’t your thing, you might want to consider a lighthouse tattoo.
Lighthouses have a long and complicated history, making them a simultaneously serene and spooky image to behold.
While not all standing lighthouses are still operational, they’re often kept around for their history and welcoming aesthetic.
What do lighthouses tattoos symbolize, and why do people get lighthouse tattoos?
Let’s illuminate the subject of lighthouse tattoos.
Lighthouse Tattoo Meanings
Lighthouses can mean different things to different people.
Maybe you grew up in a town with a lighthouse, or went on a beautiful trip to the Maritimes you’d love to remember.
But there are universal meanings we’ve attached to lighthouses over the years, and they can be just as good a reason for a lighthouse tattoo as any.
- Public Good
Lighthouses are considered a public good.
This means they are not exclusive, they’re just there for anyone who needs them.
There is no way to compete with a lighthouse or monetize its use, so it’s just a useful thing any sighted person from any background can access.
Streetlights are another example of a public good, something that just exists for all.
In this example, lighthouses can symbolize generosity, or lawful good.
The lighthouse isn’t trying to impress one person and exclude another, and it doesn’t cause a bunch of people to go out and try to build their own lighthouse.
It just exists, and it helps.
Are you someone who wants to live your life in a lighthouse way?
Though some people thrive out on the water, it is an unpredictable and sometimes scary place to be.
Returning to land means a return to stability and a sense of normalcy.
For some, it means coming home to their families.
For people who are shipwrecked, a lighthouse means they can finally get the help they need.
For one reason or another, the calm presence of a lighthouse gives people hope.
Maybe you’re feeling lost, or celebrating having found some dry land of your own.
A lighthouse tattoo can be a great way to commemorate that.
- Guiding Light
Do you find yourself in dangerous situations often?
Maybe you need a lighthouse tattoo to remind you how to keep healthy boundaries, and prevent future crashes.
- A Life of Solitude
Before electric light, there were lighthouse keepers who lived in the lighthouses.
Even after electric light, lighthouse keepers worked to ensure this essential light stayed on.
Lighthouse keepers would often go mad from the solitude, and there are several grisly tales to go with that madness.
Maybe lighthouses can be a good reminder to introverts that, while solitude is important, you need to step out into the daylight once in a while.
In this regard, it can also be a nice way to remind those suffering from mental illness to reach out.
- Haunted Spots
There is a place where lighthouse enthusiasts and geeks for the paranormal intersect.
So many lighthouses are thought to be haunted, as a result of the people who lived there alone, the different ends they may have met, and the time it took people to reach them.
A town with a lighthouse is likely a town with some ghost stories.
Are you into spooky stories but want to show it in a subtle way?
A lighthouse tattoo may be just the ticket.
You may choose to pair your lighthouse tattoo up with your favorite stretch of coastline, or some more classic sailor imagery, such as:
Nautical Star & Lighthouse Tattoos
Nautical stars are instantly recognizable sailor imagery.
This bold and readable design represents a sailor being able to find their way home.
Waves & Lighthouse Tattoos
Though waves may crash upon the lighthouse, it stands tall.
Waves often represent the constant motion of the sea.
Your journey through life is not always going to be smooth, but you must learn to stay upright against the ebb and flow of the tide.
If you resonate with the idea of standing tall amid the chaos, lighthouse tattoos featuring waves will suit you well.
Swallows & Lighthouse Tattoos
For a long way traveled, either spiritually or physically.
Because swallows have a long migration pattern, they are known as a symbol of a long journey.
When a sailor had traveled 5000 nautical miles, he would “earn” a swallow tattoo.
This would show him to be a reliable and experienced seaman.
Because swallows always find their way back after a long flight, this also became a popular tattoo for sailors who wanted to make a promise to their sweethearts.
In combination with a lighthouse, the “finding your way” imagery is strengthened.
Are you someone who regularly travels far from the people you love?
A lighthouse and swallow tattoo may be the perfect fit.
Anchor & Lighthouse Tattoos
For stability in stormy seas.
If you find yourself in rough waters, an anchor and a lighthouse tattoo may be your best allies in the quest to make it through.
Ship & Lighthouse Tattoos
Of course, lighthouses were designed for people on ships, so they make a natural pair.
This is a nice tattoo for someone who enjoys nautical imagery, but it can also represent the spiritual idea of your vessel (body) being guided by a gentle light (spiritual forces).
Compass & Lighthouse Tattoos
Flowers & Lighthouse Tattoos
A lighthouse with flowers may be a purely aesthetic choice, but it also represents the balance between masculine and feminine energy.
The phallic imagery of the lighthouse, combined with the vaginal connotations of a flower tattoo, can be a G rated way to represent creation or sexual energy.
Crescent Moon & Lighthouse Tattoos
Of course, lighthouses serve their purposes at night, so the evening sky would only make sense.
A crescent moon can represent a time of transition, perhaps a time when you need a little assistance to shine your brightest.
Landscape & Lighthouse Tattoos
Can’t decide what you want your tattoo to convey?
Landscape tattoos are a wonderful way to incorporate multiple elements into one meaningful image.
Or, if you’re lucky enough to live by a gorgeous lighthouse, you could pay homage to your hometown!
House & Lighthouse Tattoos
Houses typically symbolize the idea of home, community, being part of a family.
Because a lighthouse can be a symbol of solitude, the two combined may express a desire to achieve balance.
To have love in your life while maintaining your sense of self.
Lighthouse Tattoo Designs
Lighthouses belong to everyone, so there’s no reason not to get one as a tattoo.
Still not sure?
Take a look at our lighthouse tattoo gallery to illuminate the possibilities!
- Black & Grey Lighthouse Tattoos
A black and grey tattoo is achieved with all black ink, diluted to create different intensities and washes of pigment.
Lighter colors and contrast in a black and grey tattoo are made using “skin breaks,” where the person’s skin tone becomes the lighter color against the black ink.
For lighthouse tattoos, a black and grey design will give it a classic, slightly moody effect.
- American Traditional Lighthouse Tattoos
An American traditional lighthouse tattoo is the closest you’ll come to those original tattoo wearing sailors.
American traditional tattoos are simple with large areas of saturated color and thick black outlines. The result?
A retro tattoo that packs a punch, that anyone can read from a mile away.
- Geometric Lighthouse Tattoos
- Black-work Lighthouse Tattoos
In black-work tattoo designs, large areas of the tattoo are covered in saturated black.
This takes a skilled hand, but is stunning when applied well.
Because a lighthouse is designed to pierce the darkness, black work elements are perfect to communicate that stunning contrast.
- Contemporary Lighthouse Tattoos
Contemporary tattoos are a nice compromise for someone who loves old school designs, but wants something a little more playful and original.
Using design elements from American Traditional, but with modern techniques and color combinations, a contemporary lighthouse tattoo gives you the best of both worlds.
- Lighthouse Dot-work Tattoos
If you want a tattoo that looks a little less “tattoo-like,” consider a dot-work design.
This has a classic pen and ink look to it, making it seem as if your lighthouse tattoo is ripped right off of a sketch pad.
These tattoos play to the soft, romantic elements of lighthouse imagery.
- Graphic Lighthouse Tattoos
Graphic tattoo designs are the ultimate in modern tattooing.
These bold, graphic designs are hard to miss.
Combining today’s techniques with old school imagery (like the lighthouse) makes for a unique and timeless design.
- Illustrative Lighthouse Tattoos
Illustrative tattoos give you a smooth, painterly look.
In these designs, lighthouses play off of surreal imagery to create a trippy overall effect.
Ahoy, space coyotes. This may be the psychedelic design you’re looking for.
- Neo-traditional Lighthouse Tattoos
Neo-traditional tattoos have the bold, old-school punch of an American traditional tattoo with a more New School, 3D effect.
These tattoos pop off the skin, making them well suited to design elements like crashing waves and cracking lightning.
- New School Lighthouse Tattoos
- Realistic Lighthouse Tattoos
A realistic portrait, when done with a skilled hand, is a thing of beauty.
If you want to represent a specific lighthouse in its truest form, this is the style for you.
We love how these tattoos capture the gorgeous colors of the night sky along with the hopeful image of a lighthouse shining over the water.
- Sketchy Lighthouse Tattoos
Sketch tattoos have a vivid, artistic feeling to it.
If you want your lighthouse tattoo to feel like an abstract work of art, consider this sketchbook style.
- Watercolor Lighthouse Tattoos
Though the tattoo community was dubious at first, watercolor tattoos are here to stay.
What could be better for a lighthouse than a spirited, watery design?
These tattoos are truly innovative with their bold use of washes, drips, and splashes of color.
- Stick & Poke Lighthouse Tattoos
Lighthouse Tattoo Ideas
- Small Lighthouse Tattoos
Want a lighthouse tattoo, but looking for something easy to hide from prying eyes?
Small, mini, and micro tattoos can be a beautiful, simplistic way to pay homage to something you love.
And if you plan on collecting tattoos, this is the perfect way to leave some skin real estate for your next adventure.
- Simple Lighthouse Tattoos
- Lighthouse Tattoo Sleeves
- Lighthouse Tattoo Half Sleeves
- BioSchock Lighthouse Tattoos
- Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Tattoos
- Lighthouse Tattoos For Women
Lighthouse Tattoo Placement
- Lighthouse Forearm Tattoos
- Lighthouse Tattoos on Inner Bicep
- Lighthouse Arm Tattoos
- Lighthouse Thigh Tattoos