Permanent body art is a personal expression of style and character, and for some folks, that means simple tattoos. But far from being boring, these straightforward designs are often packed full of personal meaning.
There is also something deeply satisfying about seeing a concept boiled down to its essence and fully realized using just a few perfectly placed lines.
From the unmistakable heart inked on a forearm to a striking but simple skull emblazoned on the chest, there are few places where these restrained designs don’t look good.
If you are on the hunt for inspiration and prefer designs that trade bombast for fundamentals, look no further than this collection of tattoo ideas for men that show that sometimes keeping it simple is the best strategy.
1. SIMPLE ROSE TATTOO
It is hard to get more iconic than the rose when it comes to tattoo designs. From bright colors and perfectly executed details to small designs that capture the flower’s essence with a few well-placed lines, it’s hard to go wrong with simple rose tattoos.
2. SIMPLE SKELETON HAND TATTOO
Tattoos can serve as powerful reminders of our mortality, with memento mori designs becoming an entire subgenre dedicated to our fleeting existence. Taking this symbology to the next level, simple skeleton hand tattoos show the world that you fully understand that time is fleeting.
3. SIMPLE MOUNTAIN TATTOO
For many people, time spent outdoors is a way to recharge their batteries, letting the natural beauty of the landscape ease tension and bring them back down to baseline. For these folks, simple mountain tattoos are a great way to capture this stripped-down aesthetic.
4. SIMPLE COMPASS TATTOO
With a long history in tattooing that goes back to the nautical origins of the tradition, these navigational tools continue to be popular subjects for permanent ink. Representing a love of travel and a guiding force, simple compass tattoos are a great addition to any adventure seeker’s ink.
5. SIMPLE SNAKE TATTOO
Complex symbols that have represented fertility, power, mystery and rebirth, people have been getting serpents inked on their bodies for centuries. While these fascinating creatures are often depicted in great detail, simple snake tattoos can be just as appealing.
6. SIMPLE ELEPHANT TATTOO
These gentle giants are some of the most intelligent and impressive creatures in the animal kingdom, so it’s no wonder that so many people decide to get them permanently inked on their bodies. With unmistakable features, simple elephant tattoos are a great choice for anyone that appreciates pachyderms.
7. SIMPLE SUN TATTOO
For anyone that wants to bring a little bit of sunshine wherever they go but prefer their ink to be a little less extravagant, simple sun tattoos are a great option.
8. SIMPLE DRAGON TATTOO
Dragon’s have been common elements in tattoo designs for centuries and are symbols of strength, good luck, and nature’s power. Most often depicted in great detail, simple dragon tattoos hold all the meaning of these mythical creatures but skip the flash.
9. SIMPLE WAVE TATTOO
Who doesn’t enjoy a day at the beach? For anyone that wants to take the perfect swell wherever they go, simple wave tattoos let the world know that you go with the flow.
10. SIMPLE MEMORIAL TATTOO
Some of the most meaningful designs are used to commemorate the people and events in our lives that make us who we are. Far from boring, simple memorial tattoos let you dedicate some skin while maintaining a clean and classy look.
11. SIMPLE CROSS TATTOO
As unmistakable as it is meaningful, for people of faith, simple cross tattoos are the perfect way to show the world that faith is first and foremost in your life.
12. SIMPLE OWL TATTOO
Symbols of wisdom and mystery, owls are common characters in folk traditions worldwide. Whether it’s a piece dedicated to Drake or you just love these nocturnal birds, simple owl tattoos make for some excellent designs and can have a variety of meanings.
13. SIMPLE TATTOO DRAWING
Every tattoo starts out as a drawing. So simple tattoo drawings make for great inspiration for your next bit of ink.
14. SIMPLE LINE TATTOO
Skip the shading and color. Sometimes all you need are a few strategically placed lines to create a unique and compelling design, and simple line tattoos prove that sometimes less really is more.
15. SIMPLE WOLF TATTOO
Whether you’re a lone wolf or run with a pack, simple wolf tattoos will let the world know that you identify with these powerful and clever hunters.
16. SIMPLE SCORPION TATTOO
These dangerous arachnids continue to be popular subjects for ink, and for good reason. With that unmistakable and deadly tail, simple scorpion tattoos are powerful symbols of death, danger and everything wild.
17. SIMPLE CROWN TATTOO
Inside every man is a king, so it only makes sense that many guys choose to get these regal symbols inked. Eschewing complex shading and bright colors for a restrained look, simple crown tattoos show off just how appealing this royal headgear can be.
18. SIMPLE FLOWER TATTOO
The perfect way to add a bit of color to your canvas, flowers continue to be popular design elements in modern tattooing. With millions of different blossoms to choose from, each with a unique meaning and look, simple flower tattoos provide endless understated self-expression possibilities.
19. SIMPLE GEOMETRIC TATTOO
It’s no surprise that incorporating the shapes and designs of mathematics into ink is a trend that just keeps growing. Perfectly suited for a minimalist approach, simple geometric tattoos are great examples of the style.
20. SIMPLE TREE TATTOO
Whispering willows to towering redwoods, trees hold a wide variety of different meanings. When applied in a restrained approach, simple tree tattoos let nature’s skyscrapers speak for themselves.
21. SIMPLE ANCHOR TATTOO
Classic design elements that have been a part of tattooing for a century, simple anchor tattoos are a great way to dedicate some skin to those things that keep our feet planted firmly on the ground.
22. SIMPLE PHOENIX TATTOO
Rising from the ashes, simple phoenix tattoos represent rebirth and mystic power and are a great addition to larger designs or standalone pieces.
23. SIMPLE DAGGER TATTOO
Another classic design element that retains all the appeal today as it did a century ago, these stylized blades are versatile design elements that can make for some inspiring designs. For anyone that lives life on the edge, simple dagger tattoos are a great way to add a bit of danger to your daily routine.
24. SIMPLE GRIM REAPER TATTOO
They say death and taxes are the only two things certain in life. What better way to remind yourself of the inevitable than with a simple grim reaper tattoo?
25. SIMPLE MUSHROOM TATTOO
There’s bound to be a little fungus for every occasion with thousands of species to choose from. Whether it’s the classic red and white Amanita or deadly toadstool, there is no denying the whimsy of simple mushroom tattoos.
26. SIMPLE YIN YANG TATTOO
Ancient symbols representing the harmony and balance between all things in the universe, yin and ying can be found in ancient and modern cultures across Asia. For those looking to bring a little bit of balance into their lives, simple yin yang tattoos are a great choice.
27. SIMPLE SPIDER TATTOO
Spiders have been used as symbols of the mysterious and dangerous for ages, so it’s not surprising they have a long history in the world of tattoos. Whether incorporated into bigger designs or as a standalone piece, simple spider tattoos are sure to turn heads.
28. SIMPLE HEART TATTOO
As unmistakable as it is classic, the ultimate symbol of love and affection continues to be a popular subject for ink. Perfectly suited for a straightforward approach, simple heart tattoos will hold up for years to come.
29. SIMPLE GALAXY TATTOO
There is something satisfying about recreating something as massive and complex as a system of stars and planets in a small, understated design. For anyone that wants to dedicate a bit of skin to the heavens, it’s hard to beat simple galaxy tattoos.
30. SIMPLE ANGEL WINGS TATTOO
From baby-faced cherubs to heavily armed archangels, simple angel wings tattoos are a great way to show the world that these heavenly creatures are on your side.
31. SIMPLE BIRD TATTOO
Versatile symbols representing freedom, love and hope, simple bird tattoos are equally versatile thanks to the thousands of species to choose from that each holds its own special meaning.
32. SIMPLE KNIFE TATTOO
From machete’s to the iconic Bowie knife, blades are ancient tools that are as useful today as they were 20,000 years ago. Whether you are a soldier, outdoorsman or knife collector, simple knife tattoos are just plain badass.
33. SIMPLE WINGS TATTOO
We all want to fly away sometimes, run away from the day-to-day, and get a taste of adventure. What better way to capture that feeling of escape and freedom from responsibilities than with a simple wing tattoo?
34. SIMPLE TRIBAL WOLF TATTOO
Utilizing bold lines and swirling designs, simple tribal tattoos are a great alternative to realistic depictions that maintain all of the power and strength of these fierce predators and add a twist of style.
35. SIMPLE MONEY BAG TATTOO
Cash rules everything around me. Wu-Tang said it best, but we all could use a bit of extra cash. For anyone that wants to show the world they live that paper-chasin’ life, simple money bag tattoos are a perfect choice.
36. SIMPLE PENGUIN TATTOO
These playful and fascinating flightless birds have been the subjects of plays, documentaries and animated films. Simple penguin tattoos could be a great option if these tuxedoed birds hold a special place in your heart.
37. SIMPLE EYE TATTOO ON ARM
Humans are hardwired to recognize eyes in nature, so there is no mistaking these ocular designs, no matter how rudimentary they are. This means a simple eye tattoo on the arm is a good choice for anyone who wants to add something esoteric to their style.
38. SIMPLE SLEEVE TATTOO
Whether it is a big design that utilizes large swaths of fully saturated black ink, or a collage-like composition made up of dozens of American traditional flash designs, simple sleeve tattoos let the wearer take their subdued aesthetic to the next level.
39. SIMPLE LEG TATTOO
A big canvas that is equally suited for big, complex designs as it is for small, subdued work, the leg continues to be a popular placement for ink. For those with a fancy for the restrained, simple leg tattoos provide plenty of unique and exciting options.
40. SIMPLE CHEST TATTOO
Normally saved for large pieces thanks to its upfront placement and broad shape, the chest is also a surprisingly appealing canvas for more subdued designs. From a little bit of script placed over the heart to uncomplicated geometric shapes applied in stark black ink, simple chest tattoos are sure to turn heads.