Butterfly tattoo designs are the epitome of classic feminine tattoos. They are the entry point for even the most girly of girls to discover their love of ink and body modification, but if you take a deeper look you’ll see that butterfly tattoo designs are not just for beginners.
Have you read The Very Hungry Caterpillar? If you do, you will see that the deep meaning of transformation through a chrysalis can be applied to your life in many ways, and thus a tattoo that some might consider merely “cute” is actually quite meaningful to the bearer. Plus, Eric Carle’s illustrations will give you some wonderful inspiration for unique color combinations and effects to get your creative juices flowing!
If you’ve gone through a transformational experience in your life, it may be time to explore how you can commemorate that experience on your skin! We’ve collected some of the most beautiful and creative butterfly tattoo designs we’ve ever seen to give you the inspiration you need to find your next custom butterfly tattoo.
This article explores some of our favorite butterfly tattoo design trends in detail, including Monarch butterflies, black and whites, creative use of colors, and teeny weeny tats. Make sure to scroll through the bonus photo series at the end, we’re not able to elucidate on all of them!
The monarch butterfly is the most recognizable specimen of butterfly you’ll find. The vibrant orange and black wings have high contrast, which lends them well to a great and long-lasting tattoo.
Monarchs are known for always finding their way home through a dangerous and meandering route to their mating grounds in South America. This lends an even deeper meaning to your butterfly tattoo: your ability to persevere and find your way home even through the toughest of trials and tribulations. The piece above adds a tasteful shadow and softer color borders, which fade into each other giving the vibrant wings a dreamy quality. Talk to your artist about the feel you are looking for.
This more classical monarch design shows the crisp contrast naturally found on these stunning creatures, and utilizes white highlights to add more lifelike definition. Your artist will appreciate this straightforward design that will stand the test of time, and can be added to as you continue on your journey through life.
The more basic your design, the more straightforward the tattoo. If you’re simply in love with monarch butterflies, you can always keep it simple with a hip tattoo and basic outlines. Placement of these simple designs is key. Choose a place like the hip above, which will allow your design to peek out without fully revealing itself. The bonus: you’ll often save some cash (not to mention some chair time) at the shop with an easy to execute design like the one above.
The placement of your tattoo is just as important as the design! Check out how this stylized monarch butterfly is perfectly positioned to make the most out of an unusual tattoo location. Consider unconventional placement and exaggerated proportions to take your “standard” tattoo design to the next level.
Your hands are some of the most valuable tattoo real estate that you have. A colorful butterfly motif can be an attractive addition. This tattoo takes it up even further by splitting the ultra-realistic design between both hands. The subtle blue highlights are an attractive addition of complimentary color that shows this artist knows what he is doing. Hand tattoos make an interesting icebreaker with anyone that you meet, and give you instant credibility in body modification circles.
Another bold choice is shown in this large butterfly series, accentuating the subtle curves of your body with careful placement. Try different positioning of the butterflies to keep things interesting, rather than always the default looking-down-on-the-wings approach. This series even uses subtle differences in colors and shading to give each monarch maven it’s own distinct personality!
Black and White Beauties
A stylized stunner like the one above will set you apart from the flash-friendly crowd, and the additional flourishes lend a sense of whimsy and movement to the piece. Who says black and white is boring? Have your artist add some skillful shading and your tattoo will have both depth and movement. Have a small initial tattoo that you’d like to conceal? Talk to your artist about a piece like this and you’ll turn that headache into a beautiful piece that you’ll love to look at.
Teeny tats in a series like this one make the best use of a stark black and white motif. Placement on the inner wrist is ideal for a cute “peek-a-boo” effect that is at once sweet and sexy. A combination of wing designs and sizes creates even more interest in this tattoo series, and you can even get one at a time to build your collection and mark significant moments in your life.
This tattoo combines several of the latest trends. We see elements of the watercolor craze, a trail of butterflies of different sizes, and the piece spanning several body parts. Let your artist take a stab at combining modern trends, and you’ll end up with a timeless custom butterfly tattoo design that you can be proud of. Another buildable tattoo, this one will likely spiral up the leg and onto the hip before this butterfly lover is ready to move on!
This simple style was intriguing enough to make the cover story! Add a friend to your butterfly design, and you’ve got instant custom look. Keep it interesting by using a difference in size and position. The classic outlines above are artfully placed so show off the contours of her shoulder and thus flatter her body in a subtle and yet unmistakable way.
Accentuate your curves with a series of fluttering friends to create movement and interest. This series uses different butterfly positions that generate interest and requires no colorful embellishment to look complete and timeless. You can always add color later!
Peek-a-boo! I see your perfectly shaded monarch mamma. This piece will bring a smile to your face every time you look down. Note the subtle combination of stippling and classic shading with impeccable outlines. Not as simple as it seems! Centering the design on your forearm gives you instant badass credibility, that can be covered up if need be. Want to surprise your colleague and let them know you’re not a pushover? Simply roll up your sleeves and watch their jaw drop.
Let creativity reign! You don’t need a ton of color to get a ton of attention. This “moth-like” butterfly tattoo does away with the sweetness in favor of the intriguing. A great use of geometric bold lining and stipple shading! See if your artist would like to play with these concepts, and get your own intriguing insect to set you apart.
Take the concepts of heavy outlining and stippling down a notch for a more feminine finished product. The smaller size of this piece allows the heavy lining and black and white concept to remain flirty and fun. Angle it to follow your shoulder and it’s instantly more interesting.
Why not create a nature scene with your butterfly inspiration? After all, they are one of the most beautiful pollinators out there. Combine your love of flowers with your love of butterflies, and you’ll create an unusual black and white motif that you and your artist will be proud of. Time to sign up for the next tattoo contest!
A well-placed outline-only beauty can add variety to a series that might seem repetitive. Play with this minimalist approach to get interesting results that will be the envy of all your tattoo-loving posse.
Dot, dot, line, line, butterflies fluttering up your spine! Create unity between different styles and sizes with consistent use of black and white. The bonus? A piece like this lends itself well to several sittings, letting you hit up the tattoo shop for a piece at a time every time you get the itch.
Straight lines and stipple shadows can add a crisp, custom quality to a basic black and white design. Consider your passions and what you love to create a personalized backdrop for your favorite butterfly tattoo design.
Who says your butterfly tattoo design has to follow the standard style? Experiment with combining tattoo styles, like this classical butterfly outline with the intricate Spanish rose. If you fall in love with a design, consider hand placement carefully. It’s a great attention getter, as you’ll be showing your tattoo any time you’re not wearing gloves.
A classic black and white outline can be transformed with the use of creative color shading. Keeping it subtle like the above tattoo will allow you to combine a variety of colors tastefully in a small space. Shoulder placement keeps this one on the sexy side.
Classic American tattoo technique (think Sailor Jerry) never goes out of style. Why not use your butterfly’s wings to set an unusual scene and set yourself apart from the crowd?
Don’t limit yourself to a simple butterfly without embellishments, even in the smallest of spaces. The on-trend placement of this tattoo is taken further by the complimentary use of colors and stippled background to create movement.
Foot tattoos are not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are many. This colorful piece adds a bit of flair to your flip-flops, and will gain you instant street cred from any tattoo collector who’s faced the foot needle.
Sometimes one tone is where it’s at! What’s your favorite color? Why not apply that to your favorite black and white design and make it uniquely your own? Cobalt blue and crisp outlines are all this tattoo needs to stand apart from the crowd.
The whimsical wanderings of this tiny butterfly series is accentuated by a smoky shimmering background, recalling a classic Disney-like approach to a foot tattoo. Take a look at the different positions of our butterfly friends and you’ll get the instant feeling of a magical breeze. It will cast such a spell on you, you’ll never want to wear shoes again!
Bam! Nothing declares your love for body art quite like a bold and beautiful throat tattoo. This one is particularly satisfying due to bold color choices and well-defined outlines. If you’re ready to take the plunge with a throat piece, a symmetrical face on butterfly is the perfect subject to fill the space in a straightforward way.
Combine your love of skulls with your flirty and feminine side! A butterfly’s wings can be the perfect canvas for you to soften your most hardcore love. Experiment with this on other masculine motifs usually relegated to men, and your butterfly tattoo design will turn heads and get you compliments wherever you go. To masculine? This design could be femme-d up with some softer colors or sugar skull scrollwork.
Feel like going big? Your back piece says a lot about you, and there’s a lot of room back there, so let your artist go wild with customization and colorful styling. Make sure that your piece is placed squarely in the center if the butterfly is face-on, and have a friend go with you to confirm placement of the stencil, as craning your neck around to see the mirror will distort your perception of placement.
Companion pieces on symmetrical body parts add a bit of intrigue to similar designs. Consider using contrasting color schemes for additional interest. Note the unusual color blocking and heavy bold lining that dominate these pieces. Whenever you are going for this balanced look, it is imperative that you allow your artist to place the tattoos while you are standing up straight with both legs flat on the floor. This will avoid any lopsidedness and give you the best overall effect as you stroll down the street with your new tattoos in tow.
Butterflies are perfect for creating multiple points of interest all over your body. Even if you’re a tattoo virgin, note how these pieces add interest without detracting from her overall feminine beauty. Again, consider adding one at a time to create your own custom collection. If you’ve already got a single butterfly and aren’t sure how to move forward, this is a great example of adding without creating one large concentration of tattoos. Accentuate your favorite parts in a variety of styles, colors, and positions and you’ll create a sensual look all your own.
Already have a collection of tattoos? Consider the style of your current work and add your butterfly in a similar style to make a seamless composition of your body art. Often, the shape and position of your butterfly can be adapted to fit that one hard-to fill area that needs a little something special. This piece is at an unusual angle, which nonetheless compliments the curve of her shoulder.
Ask your artist what they can do to set your butterfly tattoos apart from the rest. A bit of outlining and a few flowers here and there takes a few scattered insects into the realm of a mural. Would you ever want to put clothes on again if this was your hip/leg piece?
Teeny Tiny Tats
Bold statement designs not your thing? If you’re looking for your first foray into the realm of ink, a cute little butterfly in a sexy spot will never give you the buyers remorse some find if they go too big all at once. Show your spicy side with a little tat that nonetheless speaks volumes.
Now you see it, now you don’t! Even your conservative mom and dad will see the humor and appeal of a tiny tattoo that only reveals itself under certain circumstances. You can hide your edgy side if necessary, but then again why would you want to? A little black and white butterfly is just the right amount of fun,
These sweet and sexy sisters add just the right touch, telling a sweet story with the bare minimum of frills and embellishments. Note the different styles and positions that take the simple lines and make them special and unique.
There’s nothing quite so classically feminine in the world of tattoos as a small butterfly ankle tat. Add your favorite colors and enjoy getting a second look as you dance around in your skirts. You might fall in love with this and add some more friends as you move along, who knows?
Now you see it, now you don’t! Keep your sweet secret to yourself with perfect placement, and give yourself a little jolt of happy whenever you change your clothes. Pick your favorite color and assign some inspiration to your teeny tiny tat and your little secret will improve your mood every time you see it!
Have a quote tattoo that you love, but that needs a little push? Add a sweet little butterfly or two to make your piece pop! We’re already combing through our favorite poems and songs to make this happen for ourselves. Pick your favorite words of wisdom and add a bit of whimsy at the same time!
A tribal twist to a tiny tattoo adds a bit of edge to a feminine size and subject. The kicker? You can hide the initials of your kiddos or your favorite person in the design. See the AW? What a great solution to the traditional bold-lined name tattoo! This is another one that can be added to as your family grows, telling the story of your offspring each time you sport those flip flops.
Just because you’re going tiny doesn’t mean you can’t go detailed. The right artist will be excited to use their skills to create an intricate repeated pattern on your teeny tiny tat. Place it on your wrist so that you can see it and enjoy it all day long, it’s like your own little secret that only those who truly pay attention will be able to see.
Aren’t you intrigued by this lovely lass? Just because your chosen placement will allow you to go bigger, doesn’t mean you should discount the power of small tattoos. This design shows up in it’s full glory even when she’s fully clothed, and gives you the urge to find out more about her and where she’s off to.
Create a colorful collection of tiny friends to commemorate accomplishments or just create a whimsical look. You can build on this piece over time, and head to the shop each time you’ve got a little extra scratch and want to revisit the needle. Which of these tiny cuties is your favorite? You can start there and move on to make your own custom fluttering flurry of butterfly beauties.
These “handy” (see what we did there) bright beauties bring a smile to your face and will let anyone you meet know what you’re all about instantly. Use them to commemorate family members to add another dimension of meaning, and pick your favorite color to attract attention to your tiny tattoo from across any room.
More Charming Butterfly Tattoo Designs
Keep on scrolling! We’ve compiled a collection of even more inspiring tattoo designs below. The possibilities for you to create your own unusual, fun, and feminine butterfly tattoo design are endless! Take a tour of these photos and tell us which ones are your favorites.
Thanks for taking a look at our inspirational collection of butterfly tattoo designs! We know that this subject might seem simple, but one need only look around to find a vibrant and varied bevvy of beautiful butterfly styles to choose from. We love the concept of using a butterfly motif to commemorate transformational moments, or to subtly pay tribute to important people in your life.
Consider combining styles or adding tiny butterflies for inspiration and to add interest to your existing tattoo collection. Do you have any open spots that are oddly shaped and need a feminine design to continue your motif? The possibilities with butterfly tattoo designs are nearly endless!
Now it’s your turn. Take to the comments to show off your unique butterfly tattoo, or to tell us which piece above is your favorite. We’d love to read your thoughts!