According to many myths, the Grim Reaper is the last entity you’ll see before you go to the Underworld, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, or basically any afterlife you believe in. These creatures are often depicted as skeletons with a black cloak and carrying a scythe. Since they represent death, many believed getting grim reaper tattoos is bad luck.
But, death is only one of the meanings of a grim reaper tattoo. Your tattoo’s meaning can change. It depends on what you believe it symbolizes or tells. Many tattoos are open to interpretations. So, why not get your own grim reaper tattoo and let other people get crazy thinking about what you mean.
Origin of the Grim Reaper
- Origin of the Grim Reaper
- Why the Specific Image?
- History of Grim Reaper Tattoos
- Meaning of Grim Reaper Tattoos
- Do All Tattoos Need to Have some Meaning?
- How to Find a Tattoo Artist
- Ask for a Referral
- Visit the Shop
- Talk with the Artist
- Take Your Time
- What to Look for in an Artist
- Grim Reaper Tattoos Cost
- Tattoo Aftercare Tips
- How to Clean
- Moisturize and Protection
The Grim Reaper was believed to have been based off of Charon. In Greek mythology, Charon was the ferryman in the Underworld. He ushered souls of the death across the three mystical rivers of the Underworld in exchange for a golden coin or drachma.
Just like the Grim Reaper, he was also depicted as a skeletal figure wearing a black hooded cloak.
However, some believed that Grim Reaper was more like the Greek god Chronos. He carried a powerful scythe and was known as Father Time. That said, his association with time and harvest are believed to have conceived the symbolism of the Reaper’s hourglass and scythe.
But while many argue where the Reaper was really based off, the most popular origin story of Grim Reaper was during the worst time in humanity’s existence.
Grim Reaper, also known as Death, was mainly believed to have appeared in Europe around the 14th century. During this time, Europe was under the biggest and worst pandemic yet. Known as the Black Death, millions of people died due to the plague which wiped out one-third of the continent’s population.
Death was all around. It was not surprising that people created an imagery of death and they chose the Grim Reaper.
Why the Specific Image?
The skeleton is what’s left of us when we die and our body decays. That’s why it was chosen as the symbol of death.
But why the scythe?
Scythes are used to reap and harvest crops when they are ready to be eaten or produced. In a way, it should be a symbol of life, right? But, it’s also a great symbol of dying. We’re basically plucked from earth when we die. The sharp blades of the scythe can cut out our lifeline when it’s time.
The robe or the hooded cloak, meanwhile, is more associated with the robes that religious figures wore at the time whenever they conduct funeral services.
History of Grim Reaper Tattoos
After the Black Death, art depicted Death as the Grim Reaper – a skeletal figure in a black hooded robe. It’s not surprising when tattooing and body modifications got popular that Grim Reapers were a common choice as a design. After all, death was a common concept when it came to art, and Grim Reapers were the face of Death.
It’s still unsure where or when the first Grim Reaper tattoos were created. But today, they are very common among tattoo enthusiasts around the world.
Meaning of Grim Reaper Tattoos
For many, the Grim Reaper is merely a symbol of death. But Grim Reaper tattoos can have varying meaning depending on the wearer. It may even change its meaning if there are other elements included in your design.
Those who often get these Grim Reaper tattoos are people who have been through horrific accidents that could have ended their life. It has become a sign that they were able to “cheat” death.
However, there are also some people who get a tattoo of a Grim Reaper who didn’t have any traumatic pasts. The meaning often stays the same–death and its inevitability. But instead of fearing it, people who get this kind of tattoo accepts this as a part of life; that it’s not something we should be afraid of.
That said, there are others who choose Grim Reaper tattoos as a symbol of life rather than death.
People who normally believe in this often choose a design that is rather comical or lighthearted rather than gloomy and foreshadowing.
A Grim Reaper tattoo can also signify the death of a loved one. These designs normally include another element that symbolizes a family member, partner/significant other, or a friend. For example, your mother’s favorite flower is the rose. You can add a bouquet of roses with your Grim Reaper to honor her passing.
Do All Tattoos Need to Have some Meaning?
Can you get a tattoo simply because you want to have one? Or does it need to have a deeper meaning before you can get inked?
Although many tattoo enthusiasts get tattoos that have greater significance, there are still those who get tattoos to express their thoughts visually. It doesn’t always have to be something that tickles the mind or awe-inspiring. Many tattoo fans have something inked on them because they like the aesthetic.
It’s a lot like going for fancy casual clothes than jeans and tees because you feel comfortable in those.
That said, if you want to get a Grim Reaper tattoo because you think it looks cool, don’t hesitate to get it. It doesn’t always have to symbolize death or a tragic past or a dead loved one. The design could be something you simply love looking at.
For example, you can design an unconventional Grim Reaper such as a woman in a hooded black cloak and a scythe.
With such kinds of designs, a good tattoo artist can help you create the imagery that best suits your preference.
However, there are still others who are rather superstitious. They might see your tattoo and associate it with fear, bad luck, or negativity. Just take these into account before choosing to have it tattooed on you.
How to Find a Tattoo Artist
Finding the right tattoo artist can make or break your tattoo.
As artists, each one has their own distinct style and specialty. There are tattooists that are much better at creating modern tattoos while some are much better at 3D tattoos. There are also those who are better at drawing Grim Reapers and skeletons while others are better at drawing cute, cartoon-style characters.
That said, here are some of our tips when it comes to finding an artist:
Ask for a Referral
Are you a big fan of a friend’s tattoo? Is the style something you want to get when you get inked? If so, it’s best to ask your friend who their tattoo artist is. A referral is the best way to acquire the kind of tattoo you want. You have personally seen one of the artist’s work. Besides that, you can ask your family or friend about their experience and unbiased opinion.
If you can get more than one referral, the better. This way, you have more choices to choose from. Finding at least three artists to choose from is a good number.
But remember: your friend’s tattoo artist might have done a great job with your friend’s tattoo. But it doesn’t always mean they are the right fit for you.
Visit the Shop
Visiting the artist’s shop is perhaps the best way to know whether they are the tattoo artist for you. Each shop has its own charm. Some may feel a little too intense for your liking. But, there will always be that one shop that would feel just right. The atmosphere is something that you’ve always thought it would be and the artists are people that you can connect with.
When checking the shop, you should also check how clean the place is. Hygiene is extremely vital when you’re getting a tattoo. Getting inked in a dirty place can get you infection.
Additionally, be sure to ask them standard hygiene questions such as if they use new needles for each artists, how they clean their equipment and place, and how they clean their customer’s tattoos.
It should be apparent that your safety is a priority.
Talk with the Artist
Your artist should be someone that gets your vision and can bring it into reality. They typically sketch the design on a paper and gets back to you with the designs they have made.
But before all that, simply talking to them can help you “feel” whether they connect with you or not.
Besides talking to them, you can ask them if it’s possible to see their portfolio. It is their collection of past works. Through this, you’ll understand their art style more. Again, some artists are experts on a specific art style. Choose the artist that you believe is best at the style that you want.
After checking their portfolio, you can also request to watch them work. You’ll be able to understand their art and work ethic more by watching them do tattoos.
Take Your Time
Now that you have an idea of what the shop looks like and how the artists work, take your time and list down some pros and cons. If you can, check out more shops or even attend tattoo events. The latter will give you time to scrutinize their work in real time.
The tattoo artist and the design you choose is a vital part of the process. Remember that your tattoo stays with you for the rest of your life. Therefore, the choices you make should be something you won’t regret.
What to Look for in an Artist
Grim Reaper tattoos aren’t the hardest to draw. But if your specific design is rather complicated, you’ll want an artist that have some serious skills.
That said, here are things that you should look out for in an artist:
Mastering a specific art form or skill can be achieved through years of experience. So, that’s one thing you should look for in an artist.
Before a professional artist could be called one, they should have undergone apprenticeship from a professional tattooist. They normally spend at least a year before they can go separate ways and become a pro themselves. However, it’s not uncommon to find new tattoo artists taken in by their master even after apprenticeship.
During apprenticeship, the artist will learn skills from their master and apply it to tattoos they will create. As time passes by and with more experience, those skills will be enhanced until they can create amazing designs.
But perhaps the most important thing to consider of all is your artist’s skill level.
Consider their lines. Are their lines solid and straight and seems to have been done with just one stroke? When it comes to shading and coloring, it should be even without blotches. It should also stay within the lines.
Another great way to know whether they are skilled artists is seeing their scripting skills. Writing on skin is way difficult and will take a lot of practice. Normally, this is the first skill that’s taught to them when they undergo apprenticeship. Check out their tattoo scripting as it can often tell how skillful your artist is.
Your artist should be knowledgeable in the craft. And it’s not just about the use of a tattoo machine. They should also provide you with updated tattoo aftercare tips.
Besides that, you can ask them anything with regards to tattooing techniques and methods and they’d be able to answer. Only professionals who had years of experience can gain knowledge like this, not some wannabe who just wanted to try it out.
Grim Reaper Tattoos Cost
If you’re determined to get a Grim Reaper tattoo, it’s best to know how much you’re likely going to spend. However, it’s hard to come up with a specific amount as it depends on a number of factors including the following:
- Artist’s fee
Since Grim Reaper tattoos are normally in black and grey, it’s typically cheaper than tattoos with various colors. But, if the design is rather complicated and is bigger than the average size, then you can expect the cost to go up.
On average, tattoo shops will charge by the hour. The national average is $150 per hour but again, that could change depending on the location. Tattoo artists in big cities often have a higher rate compared to those in towns and smaller cities.
A full-sleeve may take around 15 hours, so that means the minimum charge is $1500.
Then again, there are artists who have fixed rate per size. Smaller tattoos are typically within a $250 to $300 range. Bigger tattoos can cost you $800 to $1000.
If there’s one thing you should remember, it’s that good tattoos aren’t cheap. Cheaper tattoos aren’t good. So, if you want to get a cool and bad ass Grim Reaper tattoo, you should save money.
Tattoo Aftercare Tips
Taking care of your tattoo is perhaps the most important part of the process.
Just imagine having an amazing tattoo done by a reputable artist. But you failed to follow their aftercare tips and now your tattoo is ruined because of infection. And that’s if you’re lucky. Tattoo infections can affect your overall well-being. Infections don’t just ruin your thousand-dollars-worth tattoo but will also cause extreme pain and discomfort.
That said, follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare tips. If they failed to give you some tips or you weren’t able to remember them, here are our tips:
Cleaning your tattoo is a must. But, wait around two to four hours before removing the bandage or the plastic wrap before you do so. This gives your skin some time to clot. The ink will also have to settle in so there will likely be excess ink when you’re ready to clean it.
You can leave the bandage or wrap on overnight when it’s rather late at night and you wish to get some rest first. However, it’s best that you clean your new tattoo first thing in the morning.
How to Clean
- Only use clean water when cleaning your tattoo. Wash your hands beforehand to guarantee it’s clean.
- Use mild and alcohol-free soap to wash away excess ink and blood. Gently rub it in circular motion all over your tattoo.
- Gently rinse the soap with clean water until there are no ink nor blood left.
- Dry with a clean paper towel. Dab it on your tattoo and never rub it. Don’t use coarse and rough towels to clean it off.
- You can also use a hairdryer in “cool” setting to make the process quicker. But it’s best to simply dab it and let it dry normally.
Moisturize and Protection
Your tattoo will inevitably dry and peel off. But you can avoid complete drying with the use of a tattoo lotion or your typical moisturizing lotion, although ensure that it’s alcohol and fragrance-free as well as mild on the skin.
When your tattoo begins flaking, ensure you leave it be and let it peel off normally. Never peel it off forcefully or it will damage your tattoo. Most of all, don’t scratch it even when it gets too itchy (as it definitely will).
The sun is bad for your tattoo, especially when it’s new. The colors will quickly fade away. You can try protecting it by putting a layer of sunscreen on your tattoo when you’re going out. Then again, ensure it’s mild and doesn’t have alcohol.
Lastly, avoid swimming in the sea, rivers, lakes, or swimming pool for a few weeks or even months after you’ve had your tattoo. Chances of bacteria getting into your tattoo is high and can cause infections.
Grim Reaper tattoos are popular for many different reasons. It can hold a deeper message that death is a part of life and is inevitable. Or, it could simply look cool and right up your alley.
But,whatever your reason for getting your tattoo, ensure that you do the process right from start (looking for a tattoo artist) to finish (aftercare).