Getting a family tattoo is not an act of pure trend – it’s when you want to eternalize all the complex emotions you have for your family. Mostly positive, these tattoos are commonly acts of pure love.
With a family tattoo you’re trying to appreciate everything your parents, siblings, grandparents and even uncles and aunts have done for you and your upbringing.
The complex part starts when you need to find a way to put all this meaning into your tattoo design.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with Tattoo Stylist – a professional custom tattoo design agency that specializes in unique tattoo designs for their clients world wide – to ask them what are the best family tattoo ideas.
And they’ve come up with a list of 25 family tattoo examples to get you started and inspired for this lovely journey.
Buckle up, we’re going big and small, colorful and black and white, but most importantly – packed with symbolism, meaning and beautiful artwork.
Let’s dive in!
1) Outline of your family picture
Very commonly when you google a family tattoo, you will come across many family outline tattoo photos.
These tattoos are great for tattoo beginners, and people looking for a 30-minute tattooing session. These tattoos are minimalistic, and given that they usually don’t have any coloring or shading easier to heal.
Outlines can feature just the parents and the child, most commonly from an early childhood photo, but they can also expand to other family members without adding too much to the size of the tattoo.
Portrait tattoos are commonly bigger tattoo projects, but not necessarily.
Many go for a bigger sized tattoo in order to have all the details and some decoration around the person or family featured.
You will mostly see parents having the children’s portraits tattooed on their forearms. It’s not uncommon to also see children with their parents’ portrait tattoos either.
Decoration around these tattoos are typically a clock, locket, roses or just some filigree.
Important note is when choosing the tattoo shop to go for the very best tattoo artists. Portraits are a complex technique, and if you try to save too much money on the execution, you might regret it down the line.
3) Family photo with unique symbols
Another way to use a family photo for a tattoo is to make it a part of a larger collage of elements.
Typically, the background is a common scenery from the family’s life – their favorite family vacation place, garden, beach, or home town.
You can also use other family symbols such as clocks for birth times, compass, flowers and similar.
4) A scene from your parents’ life
When trying to use your parents’ heritage or trade for the tattoo to honor them, you might consider going for a photograph or scene from their daily life.
On the tattoo above you will see a man getting a tattoo for his father, who was a trader in Indonesia.
The style can be very diverse, from the watercolor style we see featured in this example, to realism, abstract and even geometric.
5) Small quote or word with a flower
If you are looking for a dainty, small and intricate tattoo, you might want to go for a one word or quote tattoo with a small flower.
Above we see the word “family” with a rose and a heart. Many people go for the obvious choice of family, but with this additional decoration to give it uniqueness.
Another option would be to use Latin, or your mother language word for ‘family’.
6) ‘Family First’ with decoration
If you’re looking for a family tattoo, it’s no doubt that your family comes first to you. So, many people want to make this motto of theirs eternal by inking it on their skin.
‘Family first’ tattoos are usually more elaborate pieces than just a quote. Forearm is a great horizontal placement where the wording fits well and gives room for decoration around.
The decoration can be something related to the interests or values of the person wearing the tattoo, or something important to the family – birth flowers, zodiac signs, or just decorative elements to make it pop.
7) Lioness with cubs
Mothers fight for their children like the most ferocious wild nature mothers – lionesses.
That’s why many mothers choose this big cat and her cubs as the motif for their tattoo representing their family.
It can be made very feminine, or realistic, with different vibes to it – calm, aggressive, loving, gentle.
8) Family Tree
Family trees come in many cultures, most notably in the Irish, Celtic cultures from the North of Europe.
It’s a great symbol for both women and men to use for their families, and it’s one that’s easily built upon in the future.
It can be done by adding more names or more branches, or have specific colored leaves dedicated to each family member.
You can also choose a tree from your homeland, to make it more personalized.
9) Anchor tattoo
Anchors are a great symbol for family as they represent grounding, stability, and rooting.
This symbol was typically used by sailors to represent their families, but nowadays they are a common and versatile tattoo element. It can be a standalone element in the tattoo, or decoration with a band of names.
Style-wise it can be realistic or old school, with some also going for a trash polka, aggressive style.
10) Names of family members
If you’re looking for a small family tattoo, going for just your family members’ names is a great way to show your love, without going for a long tattoo session.
It’s also easy to cover, as a small tattoo is easier to place in an easily hidden place.
Still, it can be customized by using a specific font, composition or decoration to make it truly yours.
11) Geometric tattoo
Did you know that geometric shapes have meaning?
When planning a family tattoo, you can have shapes representing values that you got from your family.
You can even represent family members as a mixture of geometric and organic shapes like in the example above.
This is a great choice for people who are looking for for their first tattoo, since it can be made very minimalistic.
12) Bible verse
If faith was a big part of your growing up, and you share your religion with your family, a Bible verse is a great option for your family tattoo.
There are many verses talking about the significance of family, and you can use the one you resonate with the most as the base of the tattoo.
Decoration and background can be sun rays, doves, clouds and many other Biblical symbols.
Just like the anchor explained above, the lighthouse is a naval symbol for security and stability – the light in the dark.
For many, this is their family. It’s their safe haven and the light that gets them out of the dark.
It can be a small outline tattoo, or a part of a bigger tattoo scene.
14) Family pet portrait
Many families treat their pets as a member of their family, so it’s no wonder that the furry friends are a part of the family tattoos.
You can have just your childhood pet tattooed, or have them be a part of a bigger family portrait tattoo.
15) Floral design with a clock
Floral tattoos can carry so much meaning, and many use floriography to dedicate tattoos to their family members.
You can use your family members’ favorite flowers to honor them, and add a clock of your or your child’s birth to cover your entire family.
There is also the option of featuring just the leaves, like for example an olive branch,
16) Flock of birds
The bird flock tattoo is commonly used to signify family. Usually the parents are on the branch, looking at their children leaving the nest.
Aesthetically beautiful, this theme is common because it can be a tiny tattoo or a big tattoo scene.
Every bird also has a meaning, so you can choose the one that represents your family best.
17) Compass and map tattoo
To go further into the naval symbols for family, the compass and map are the most clear cut ones, and they are often used as family symbols.
Your moral and ethical compass has been built by your family, and it guides you through life and the world represented by the map.
Again, it can be a smaller design all the way to a full tattoo sleeve.
18) Dream catcher tattoo
Dream catchers are important in the Native American culture to fight off bad spirits and dreams.
They are a common tattoo choice for women looking to represent their children through the feathers connected to the dream catcher.
You can include the names, or just differentiate the feathers through beads, colors or size.
Make sure to plan out a medium tattoo, though, so that all the details can fit.
19) Traditional heart tattoo
One of the oldest tattoo elements in the American traditional tattoo school is the heart with ‘mom’ written on it.
Nowadays, people also add other family members to the mix, either through writing or with other symbols around the heart.
It’s usually a small to medium sized tattoo, so great for somebody looking to fill in a gap of a sleeve.
20) Bear tattoo
Bears move in packs and are heavily devoted to their families, especially parents to the cubs.
These gentle giants can also be ferocious defenders of what’s theirs, choosing their battles carefully.
That’s why many use bears as an element of a family tattoo, with the cubs representing the children.
As in the example above, it can be a very gentle tattoo, and a rather small one, or a big full sleeve or back tattoo.
21) Wolf pack
A wolf pack always moves, hunts and sleeps together. These animals have been part of many stories, fables and legends, which makes their symbolism strong.
For those who are willing to fight for their family, and stick with their family members through thick and thin will most likely go for a wolf tattoo.
The big wolf is usually the parent and the younger ones represent the children.
The background is usually a mountain or forest, but it can also be just the animals in a more relaxed setting.
22) Birth flower bouquet
Every month has their flower assigned to them, which means every birth month can be symbolized through a flower for your loved one.
January is carnation, February is the iris or violet, March is the daffodil, and so on.
A family birth flower bouquet is a great way to include your entire family in a non obvious way, yet a very aesthetically pleasing one.
It doesn’t have to be a huge tattoo either, so it’s a great option for beginners.
23) Celtic knot tattoo
Celtic knots are a great symbol of infinity and protection.
The knot on the example above is a triquetra, a type of Celtic knotting with Christian meaning, as the three hoops also represent the holy trinity.
No matter which knotwork you go fot in your Celtic knot tattoo, it was believed to have magical protective powers.
24) Zodiac tattoo
One of the most diverse and used tattoo elements are the zodiac signs. You can represent any person in your life through their zodiac sign, especially your family members.
It’s usually done by representing just one family member in the tattoo, but the one sign can be stylistically done in many different ways.
Zodiac tattoos are diverse, and are used by both men and women to honor their most loved ones in different styles and sizes.
25) Tribal tattoo
Tribal tattoos are the oldest tattoos, and even though they can be abstract in shape, they are packed with meaning.
Depending on the culture, or better said, tribe, there are different shapes and forms that represent families.
Additionally, they can be combined with organic shapes, and then made into a design for any placement or in any size.
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How To Get Started
As we’ve seen in this article, there is no one way to go about getting a family tattoo.
All cultures worldwide have tried to get their heritage, family and tribal values into designs, and have been doing so for thousands of years.
Whatever fits your body, style and aesthetic best will be the best way for your family tattoo.
Hopefully these twenty-five family tattoo designs have inspired you to go create and ink your own homage to your most loved ones.