The chest is a great place for you to get tattoos on. There’s a lot of space to work with which means you have the freedom to play around with sizes and designs. It’s why plenty of people choose to get chestpieces. And there’s even a bit of history surrounding chest tattoos.
Traditionally, chest tattoos were used often as symbol of status or experience. For example, in the Second World War, sailors got maritime tattoos to mark where they had been and how far they’d travelled out at sea. Every tattoo of a swallow on a sailor’s chest meant 5,000 nautical miles travelled. And travelling that far was not easy at all, so the more swallows a sailor had on his chest, the more experienced and respected the man was.
Yakuza members also have full-body traditional Japanese tattoos (called Irezumi), which are often hand-poked as opposed to modern tattooing which is done by machine. These full-body suits go from the chest down and are ways for Yakuza members to identify themselves to other members.
Often, their designs are based on Japanese mythology, incredibly detailed and of massive scale. And since these tattoos take years to complete and are expensive, they’re usually symbols of a member’s experience and level of success.
Whichever style of chest tattoo you choose to get, it’ll become a piece of your identity that will mirror your most firmly held beliefs, passions, and aspirations.
Check out this collection of 50 amazing chest tattoos.
What to Know Before Getting a Chest Tattoo?
This elegant neo traditional sunflower chest tattoo hugs this woman’s cleavage perfectly, making it perfect to show off in a nice formal dress. A cool little bird also makes an appearance next to this woman’s shoulder, below the collarbone and complements the nature aesthetic, by Jule (@heartofgold.tattoo on Instagram).
Before you finally commit to getting a chest tattoo, there’s a couple of things you need to know.
This angel demon chest piece tattoo drawn in comic style uses motion lines to simulate a feeling of movement, covering most of this man’s chest, by Poca Tattoo (@pocatattoo on Instagram).
Why get a chest tattoo?
If you’re still contemplating the placement of your tattoo, perhaps it’ll help you out to weigh the pros and cons. Below, I’ve listed the advantages as well as the disadvantages of getting a chest tattoo.
This creative half chest half shoulder piece features a medieval spaulder (shoulder armor used in the Middle Ages) seemingly strapped onto him over a layer of chainmail, by Poca Tattoo (@pocatattoo on Instagram).
It’s easy to hide
One of the best things about chest tattoos is that they’re very easy to hide. While a forearm or neck tattoo forces you to either wear long sleeves or a turtleneck/scarf every day to work, with a chest tattoo you can just wear ordinary work clothes and your boss won’t even know about the masterpiece underneath your shirt.
Some of the best chest piece tattoos out there are done in blackwork style, usually recognizable by deep blacks and simple, minimalistic motifs, this awesome chest piece by Kat Abdy features an eye in the center of what seems to be harsh solar flares, by Kat Abdy (@katabdy on Instagram).
Getting a non-obvious chest tattoo is a pretty great way to display a part of your identity without having to deal with people’s conservative opinions and politics.
Another great chest piece that uses the eye as a point of focus, combined with a rose and angel wings to make a pretty awesome metaphoric piece, by Jennifer Mogg (@jen_mogg_tattoo on Instagram).
Although, yes, this “pro” is somewhat counterintuitive. Hiding an expensive and well-done tattoo would be a waste. But not all cultures and work environments are accepting of tattoo culture, so being able to hide your chestpiece is a good fallback.
This half chest piece uses bold shading and clever use of negative space to make a pretty well-detailed Aztec lion head tattoo, covering this man’s entire right pec muscle, by Joshua Nordstrom (@defttattoostudio on Instagram).
It’s easier for the artist to work with
Unlike the forearm or calf which are pretty tight and limiting areas, the chest is a broad, mostly flat surface, so it’s easier for the artist to work with. In the former, your tattoo artist has to put in some effort to make the design look appealing, and depending on the orientation and complexity of the design, a forearm or calf tattoo might not look as intended. The chest eliminates this problem completely, and your artist will likely have zero problems with such a workable surface for your tattoo.
Since the chest provides a lot of space for big tattoos, popular motifs commonly placed on the chest area are birds with wings wide open. This owl chest tattoo is exactly the last thing its prey sees before getting swooped for dinner, by Joshua Nordstrom (@defttattoostudio on Instagram).
It really stands out
When you’re doing outdoor activities like team sports or martial arts, a chest tattoo can really stand out. This is especially awesome for when you like hanging out at the beach. The moment you take your shirt off and the sunlight hits your skin, it’ll highlight your inked up chest and display your tattoo in all its glory.
This chest piece featuring two roses and a candle lantern at the center uses bold hues for a strong effect, by Joshua Nordstrom (@defttattoostudio on Instagram).
It pretty much lasts forever
Unlike the other parts of the body, the chest doesn’t see much sun or weight change. This means that a tattoo on your chest won’t be prone to fading or warping compared to other more exposed areas of the body.
This gorgeous flower and heart chest piece tattoo puts the entirety of this woman’s chest to use with incredibly detailed, hyper realistic illustrations, by Christopher Hedlund (@winterhalo on Instagram).
And depending on how well you planned your tattoo, this could be a pro or a con. Just make sure your chestpiece reflects who you are and who you will be in the future. Tattoo removal is expensive!
This well-shaded half chest piece tattoo features one of the 12 zodiac signs, Aquarius, the water bearer, in a semi-realistic cartoon style, by DAZE (@dazism on Instagram).
It is very easy to heal
If you’re careful with your new chest tattoo, you’ll have a pretty easy time with the healing process. It won’t come into contact with too much apart from your clothes. Just make sure to keep from wearing necklaces before the tattoo fully heals.
This chest piece features what seems to be a swallow holding a flower bud and surrounded by flower petals, making for a pretty elegant combination, by Heart of Gold Tattoo Studio (@heartofgold.tattoo on Instagram).
It can take a few sessions to complete
Since the Chest has less space to work with (compared to the likes of your chest or thighs), Chest tattoos usually don’t take very long to make. Larger tattoos for the chest or the back usually take multiple sessions, but that isn’t the case for Chest tattoos. This makes it ideal if you want to get a tattoo quick.
In this piece, the artist uses bold line art and rich dot work to illustrate the ancient Egyptian sun god Ra is seen in his bird form with wings spread wide, by Marvoy (@marvoy_tattoo on Instagram).
It can be painful
Obviously, no tattoo is going to be painless. Pain is part of the process, but depending on where you put your tattoo and which parts of the chest it comes into contact with, the pain level is going to vary. For more information on this, skip over to the next section where I cover the different pain levels of the chest.
This ram head chest piece tattoo features the head of a ram, complemented by flowers growing on its horns for a pretty badass tattoo, by Marvoy (@marvoy_tattoo on Instagram).
Does getting a chest tattoo hurt?
Getting a tattoo anywhere will hurt. It just depends on where you’re getting it. The level of pain you’ll experience depends on quite a few factors and where exactly on your chest you’re placing your tattoo. You can check out the diagrams below for a quick look at how the chest compares to other parts of the body in terms of pain.
Another awesome ram chest tattoo, this time with spiral horns, and a variety of complementing visual elements, all illustrated with bold lines and shading, by Marvoy (@marvoy_tattoo on Instagram).
We’ll talk about the 3 areas on the chest that your tattoo will come into contact with. They have different pain levels (as shown in the diagrams below).
This ornamental tribal blackwork tattoo adds an interesting touch even with minimalist elements, by Noksi (@noksitattoo on Instagram).
Here are the 3 main areas of the chest:
- Clavicle (Collarbone) & Sternum (Breastbone)
- Outer Pecs
Another awesome ornamental tribal chest tattoo, by Noksi (@noksitattoo on Instagram).
Now, if you’re alright with the pain, you can use this information to prepare for your next session and ready yourself for the pain so it doesn’t sneak up on you. But if the pain makes you anxious or you have a low pain tolerance, you can use it to carefully plan your tattoo placement.
A great minimalist chest tattoo that uses mainly geometric elements, by Noksi (@noksitattoo on Instagram).
Clavicle (Collarbone) & Sternum (Breastbone)
Unlike the rest of the chest, the skin, fat, and muscle on the clavicle and sternum areas are extremely thin, so the pain can be severe. A lot of designs that stretch across the chest are made to go over these parts. Luckily though, these areas don’t take up too much of your chest, so your tattoo artist will only spend a couple of hours here, depending on the complexity of your design.
A vivid oriental tiger chest tattoo, by PAVLIK GUSAROV (@gusarov_tattoo on Instagram).
The outer pecs are the meaty portions near your inner bicep. These parts are full of fat and muscle, so you don’t have to worry too bad about these areas. Obviously, they’ll still sting. The skin here is still pretty thin, but compared to the rest of chest area, these slabs of meat do a much better job of absorbing the tattoo needle’s stinging.
An illustrative neo traditional skull tattoo with a hat, beard, and gold teeth, by PAVLIK GUSAROV (@gusarov_tattoo on Instagram).
For women, this won’t be too much of a problem. Most women’s chestpieces are limited to the upper chest (pectoralis major), but if a design ever comes into contact with the nipple area, the pain can be severe, especially if your design involves coverage of the entire chest. This is because the nipples are extremely sensitive.
An interesting cicada chest tattoo with floral elements complemented by geometrical shapes, by V (@v_affliction on Instagram).
And this can be especially agonizing for men since a lot of male chestpieces involve the entire chest, which is why some guys just opt to tattoo around their nipples. You won’t even notice.
If your anxiety is still bothering you or if you have a condition, tell your artist. They’ll likely understand your situation. Some patients just have inherently low pain thresholds, and you might just be one of those people. They might have some numbing cream available to ease your pain.
This piece covers the entire chest and goes up until the throat, by Tomm Birch (@tommbirchtattoo on Instagram).
But you have to keep in mind that numbing cream can make tattoo sessions disastrously unproductive. When slathered on your skin, the oily residue can mess up the artist’s stencils and prolong the session. So if you can get by without any pre-numbing, it’s best to just tough the pain out.
A deer chest tattoo that uses hatching to create a crisp effect, by Tomm Birch (@tommbirchtattoo on Instagram).
Bottom line—yes, the tattoo will hurt. But the pain isn’t that bad. It’s more of a tolerable pain. Think of it as part of the experience—an initiation. In a way, you have to earn the confidence that your tattoo gives you.
A fierce tiger chest tattoo, by ssab_tattooer (@ssab_tattooer on Instagram).
If you try to escape the pain by applying pre-numbing even if you don’t necessarily need it, you’ll just make it harder for both you and your artist, plus you’ll be missing out on a huge part of the tattoo experience.
Stairway to heaven tattoo, by ssab_tattooer (@ssab_tattooer on Instagram).
Caring for your Chest tattoo
If you aren’t careful with your chest tattoo, it might become infected. Luckily, I made this guide to help you manage the hazards that come with the first few weeks of owning your tattoo.
Bird between two roses, by ssab_tattooer (@ssab_tattooer on Instagram).
You’ll be pretty hyped about your new tattoo, but don’t forget how important aftercare is. The tattoo is an open wound on your skin, so it has to be treated delicately.
This medium sized chest tattoo shows a glimpse of a peaceful camping scene at night, by Daria Stahp (@dariastahp on Instagram).
But if your tattoo ever gets infected, go to the doctor as soon as possible. An infection will mess up your tattoo really bad and ruin the healing process. If you keep the area clean and are generally careful, you’ll be fine.
A chest tattoo featuring the ancient Egyptian brother gods Horus and Anubis, by Sonia Barnum (@soniabarnumtattoo on Instagram).
Getting Your Chest Tattoo
Another awesome ram skull tattoo, this time in black and grey, next to two roses, by Tom Sasson (@astrotravelling on Instagram).
When readers ask me how long they should take before finally deciding to get a tattoo, I say about 6 months to a year. Remember that a tattoo is a lifelong commitment.
Ram skull tattoo complemented by red flowers growing off the branches on its horns, by Sonia Barnum (@soniabarnumtattoo on Instagram).
Sure, there are ways to get a tattoo removed, but that would just be wasted money. You want to get a tattoo that resonates with you now and still will when you’re old and wise. Don’t be one of those folks that gets a tattoo of their significant other then cover it up with the grim reaper after a bad breakup (yikes).
A black and grey traditional roaring bear tattoo, by Tom Sasson (@astrotravelling on Instagram).
But if you really think you’re ready to have your chestpiece done, then by all means, go! It’s your chest, no one else’s. Do with your body what you want.
A blackwork kris dagger drawn in traditional style with an eye design at the pommel, by Tom Sasson (@astrotravelling on Instagram).
Just remember to pick a design you truly love and take good care of it.
A beautiful mandala tattoo filled with complex visual elements, by Jonny Saunders (@jonnyjsaunders on Instagram).
Two swallows, one on each side of the chest, tattoos used in the US Navy to symbolize 5000 nautical miles travelled, by Jonny Saunders (@jonnyjsaunders on Instagram).
An awesome mirrored tattoo of what seems to be a pirate woman, by Derick Montez (@derickmontez on Instagram).
Two hands each holding a rose, drawn in American traditional style, by Derick Montez (@derickmontez on Instagram).
American traditional tattoo featuring what seems to be Chandraghanta, a Hindu goddess, by Derick Montez (@derickmontez on Instagram).
Awesome black and grey octopus tattoo holding a bottle of rum and an anchor, by GUIVY (@guivy_hellcat on Instagram).
Incredible Native American skull tattoo covering the entire torso, by GUIVY (@guivy_hellcat on Instagram).
A pretty metal black and grey tattoo of a bird of prey or what seems to be a phoenix, by Yorick Tattoo (@yoricktattoo on Instagram).
Black and grey skull tattoo underneath the gears of an analog clock, by Delboi (@delboitattoos on Instagram).
Ancient Egyptian black and grey tattoo featuring a woman with wings spread wide, with the god Anubis behind her, by Delboi (@delboitattoos on Instagram).
A massive black and grey tattoo featuring Medusa, Zeus, and what seems to be a hoplite wearing a Corinthian helmet, by Delboi (@delboitattoos on Instagram).
A colourful Day of the Dead chest tattoo with wings, by Danny Young (@dannyyoungtattoo on Instagram).
A hyper realistic black and grey crow tattoo, by White Whale Amsterdam (@whitewhaleamsterdam on Instagram).
Minimalist ram tattoo using abstract shading techniques, by White Whale Amsterdam (@whitewhaleamsterdam on Instagram).
An incredibly complex mandala chest tattoo, by Piotr Szot (@piotrszo on Instagram).
A complex mandala tattoo with geometric elements, by Piotr Szot (@piotrszo on Instagram).
Awesome black and grey ornamental chest tattoo, by Piotr Szot (@piotrszo on Instagram).
Minimalist blackwork bear tattoo, by Red’s Tattoo Parlour Ltd. (@redstattooparlour on Instagram).
An interactive black and grey tattoo, by Red’s Tattoo Parlour Ltd. (@redstattooparlour on Instagram).
Did you enjoy those watercolor tattoos or are you looking for more inspiration? Check out the following links to see more designs from talented artists.