Need some time off from all the hustle and bustle of the big city?
The constant city noise?
The endless clouds of smog?
I know what you mean. Sometimes the city life isn’t as sweet as they make it out to be.
And sometimes… all we need is a break.
If this is how you feel, then you might just enjoy getting yourself a forest tattoo.
When the urban lifestyle starts bumming you out, a forest tattoo can be your constant companion in a fast-paced environment. It can help you remind yourself of a place in the world where things aren’t so hectic.
When you’re at your most burnt out, just have a look at your forest tattoo and let it take you to another world.
What’s great about these types of tattoos is that you can customize them however you like. The forest tattoo theme is super flexible, so you can make one that’s uniquely yours.
If you’re looking for some great forest tattoo ideas, I’ve compiled 40 of the most awesome ones.
Each artist is given due credit, so if you want to check out more of their work or message them directly, their names and Instagram accounts are all there.
Towards the end, I’ll also answer some FAQs and talk about the various symbolisms associated with forests, so keep reading!
Forest Silhouette Tattoos
If you like, you can also blend hyper realism with minimalism/geometry.
This piece does a mix of the three styles, which makes for a clean, satisfying aesthetic, by Element. (@lmn.tt on Instagram).
If you want to further personalize your forest tattoo, pay some mind to which tree species you’ll be using.
The appearance of certain trees’ silhouettes can make a huge difference to the overall feel of your tattoo.
In this piece, the forest is filled with tall trees with tattered-looking leaves. This makes the piece feel a bit more spacious but still maintains the air of mystery, by Angel Gomez. (@ghost_tats on Instagram).
If you want your forest tattoo to evoke a certain feeling, consider the perspective.
The ground-level perspective that a lot of forest tattoo designs take usually evokes a feeling of submissiveness and confusion, especially when the designs involve densely packed trees.
But when a bird’s eye perspective is taken, as in this piece, it evokes a feeling of control and exploration, by Enrico. (@enricosilvestritattoo on Instagram).
If you want to further emphasize on a certain emotion, consider using color.
This piece illustrates a lovely couple holding hands in the forest. Their loyal pooches accompany them on their trip.
But what’s most eye-catching about this piece is the strong use of the color yellow. Often, the color yellow is used to symbolize joy and reminiscence, an emotion very well reflected in this piece.
A general rule to go by is using warm colors for light emotions and cool colors for heavier emotions, by Franky Odin. (@odin_tattoo_artist on Instagram).
If you want to emphasize on the eerie vibe, you can go for a design like this.
By using a ground-level perspective, super heavy shadows, and extending the roots further than usual, it creates an ominous vibe, by Unknown Artist.
In this piece, the density of dots gradually gets lighter for each layer into the forest. This is meant to imitate the effect of a misty forest, by tattooconnect. (@tattooconnect on Instagram).
Forest silhouettes can also work great if you want to create an optical illusion. By drawing the leaves and branches a certain way, you can form a specific image.
In this tattoo, the trees form the illusion of a human skull, by secrettattoo_sk. (@secrettattoo_sk on Instagram).
Forest Forearm Tattoos
When conceptualizing your forest tattoo design, it’s a good idea to base it off a place you’re especially fond of—your happy place. This way, your tattoo feels more personal, by Vanesa Surtkova. (@vavatattoo on Instagram).
Forest tattoos are great if you’re going for an edgy, mysterious vibe. This piece does that especially well by making use of heavy shadows, by Kazan. (@artemtattoo_kazan on Instagram).
If you want to emphasize on the edgy, mysterious vibe, another way of doing it besides using heavy shadows is by adding a thick haze.
Silhouettes are great for these types of tattoos since the absence of a lot of details or discernible features add a heavy air of mystery.
But if you add a thick haze by gradually making each layer of the background noisier, it adds a ton to the mysterious atmosphere of the piece.
In this forearm tattoo, the artist uses heavy dotwork to create a noisy background, successfully imitating the appearance of a thick haze, by Albert Modzelewski. (@albertmodzelewski on Instagram).
Another popular design element to add to your forest tattoo is the moon. Other designs use a crescent moon, but the full moon evokes a different feeling entirely.
The full moon has a different aura—captivating, melancholy. And when shown over a thickly shrouded forest, as in this tattoo, it’s a real visual treat, by Michael Polerman Quiñonez. (@polertattoo on Instagram).
In this piece, the artist emphasizes on the “mysterious” aspect of the tattoo.
They do this by adding the image of a full moon, the flight of nocturnal birds, and focusing on symmetry. Asymmetry generally evokes a feeling of unease and tension.
If you want to avoid these in your design, symmetry or asymmetrical balance can really help amplify the general vibe and aesthetics of your tattoo, by ArtHouse Tattoo Studio. (@arthouse_tattoo_studioon Instagram).
New School tattoo style is one that’s often overlooked. When it comes to forest tattoos, the vibrant color schemes and contemporary art styles open up a bunch of design opportunities.
In this piece, vibrant color schemes are used heavily. The design is also creatively framed in a way that makes it so the tattoo is unraveling itself under a shell of hexagonal plates, by Andrey Lukovnikov. (@lukovnikovtattoo on Instagram).
When it comes to forest tattoo designs, natural phenomenon like the Aurora Borealis are great to look at when done right, by Mateo Cortes. (@art_emece on Instagram).
You also might be drawn to a certain season of the year. In this forearm tattoo, the white ground and frosty atmosphere suggest a forest in winter time, by Tesia Rhind. (@tesiacoil_tattoos on Instagram).
Forest Sleeve Tattoos
Forests can also serve as great secondary elements and backgrounds in favor of a primary, focal element.
In this forearm tattoo, a blue-eyed timber wolf lets out an intimidating snarl. The forest is used as a background element, by Silvia. (@lcf.tattoos on Instagram).
Depending on your preferences, there are a ton of ways to use forests as part of a metaphor.
In this piece, two children hold hands as they wander off into the depth of the forest. The artist frames it like a memory inside a person’s mind.
The forest here is used only as a secondary element, a setting to help evoke the feeling of reminiscence and curiosity, by Krisztian Blaho. (@krisztian_blaho_tattoo on Instagram).
In this large-scale calf sleeve, there is a subtle theme of the cyclical nature of life. Upon closer inspection, there’s at least one of each tree in a different phase of the tree life cycle, by Fabio. (@fabiotattooduisburg on Instagram).
Forest Armband Tattoos
If you aren’t into getting full sleeves, a great way to create a similar effect is by getting an armband tattoo.
Because of how vast and repetitive forest scenes are, it’s a great idea to draw them in a continuous style as in an armband tattoo, by serotonin_n . (@serotonin_n on Instagram).
In this nice blackwork armband tattoo, the use of heavy dotwork is used to illustrate the gradient of the sky as it transitions towards the dark, velvety blackness of space, by Sara. (@_sbtattoo_ on Instagram).
Illustrative Forest Tattoos
This is another style that goes really well with the woodland feels of a forest tattoo. The clean outlines and classic illustration style evoke a certain nostalgia.
Its bold blackwork closely resembles the look of traditional tattooing, but the illustration style evokes a more soothing feeling, by volkihar.ink. (@volkihar.ink on Instagram).
In a lot of literature, forests are used as labyrinths or challenges to overcome. This is because of how easy it is to get lost in the forest without the proper training or equipment.
Its sheer vastness and utterly confusing nature easily overwhelm the unprepared. If you find yourself confronting a similar situation in life, a forest tattoo can be a great reminder of your journey.
In this piece, a skull with a compass rose is used as a metaphor for this individual’s spiritual and existential journey, by Angel Gomez Sr. (@ghost_tats on Instagram).
Other than places of mystery and fear, forests are also places of rest and refuge.
A good way to illustrate this in your forest tattoo is by emphasizing its spaciousness rather than packing it with dense layers of trees and vegetation.
The denseness of trees in a forest tattoo can evoke a feeling of claustrophobia and mystery. Adding space, on the other hand, evokes a feeling of freedom and peace, by Dextera Dei. (@dexteradeitattoo on Instagram).
Landscape tattoos also do very well when done from a bird’s eye view. This helps the viewer breathe since they aren’t “stuck on the ground” with a limited view.
Geometric shapes will help bound the design and give it a minimalist touch that can look very aesthetically pleasing, by Björn Holtappels. (@bjoern_holtappels on Instagram).
Mountains and rivers add a pleasant feeling to forest tattoos when done right.
This is because mountains and rivers imply a presence of life in an area. Early settlers would look specifically for areas with mountainous terrain and flowing rivers, by Mary Madsen. (@marymadsentattoos on Instagram).
The repetitive appearance of forest trees also means it can be used as a pattern.
In this inner forearm piece, the forest (and its reflection in the nearby river) is used to fill in the silhouette of a guitar, by Monika Skučaitė. (@da_coffee_head on Instagram).
Camping scenes are also great design options for forest tattoos. A tent and bonfire give a homely atmosphere to the design, giving it a soothing effect, by Diana Retunskaya. (@noxequus on Instagram).
Forest tattoo designs also lend themselves well to hyper realism.
Whereas some tattoo designs done in hyper realistic style (such as portraits) might look straight up uncanny, hyper realistic forest tattoos always look fantastic, by Valentin Sviatoslavov. (@valentinwstattoo on Instagram).
In this piece, the forest isn’t heavily emphasized. Rather, it’s used as a secondary element. What takes most of the spotlight are the mountains, river, and sunshine.
But it’s a testament to how well forests can be used as complementary elements. The presence of trees and vegetation add a breath of life to what would otherwise be a barren landscape, by Dead Kings Tattoo. (@deadkingstattoo on Instagram).
In this piece, the air of mystery commonly seen in other forest tattoos is less apparent.
By using a light, sky blue, and illustrating fluffy clouds over a gentle, rocky trail, this forest tattoo evokes more excitement and hope rather than mystery and unease, by MISTY LOCKET. (@mistylockettattoo on Instagram).
One of the best feelings forest tattoos can evoke is the feeling of comfort and respite.
In this piece, a chopping axe rests on a tree stump, a scene after a hard day’s work, by Sven. (@svendreizehn13 on Instagram).
Using geometric shapes can also make for an interesting juxtaposition of elements. In this piece, the artist incorporates some geometric design into an illustrative tattoo of a woman in the forest with her bike, by Ola Oleszkiewicz. (@pejczi on Instagram).
If you’re an avid fan of a TV show or movie franchise but still want to keep the forest aesthetic, a lot of TV shows and movie franchises have their own iconic forest location.
In this scene, an AT-RT walker from the hit movie franchise, Star Wars, patrols the woods. The Death Star floats in the background as a comet passes by, by Ava Thorn. (@avathorntattoos on Instagram).
In this piece, the artist uses a shaky-lined, minimalist style. A bear walks under the light of a crescent moon.
Since a crescent moon is used (instead of a full moon), the design feels very peaceful, by Kimberly Brumble. (@bonesandstars on Instagram).
Woodland animals are always a great addition to your forest tattoo. In this piece, a bear in the middle of the forest gives us an adorable smile, by unelune. (@tattoosbyunelune on Instagram).
It’s a good idea to set your eyes on a certain illustration style so you can get a tattoo that’s perfect for you, by Anna Massaro. (@anna_massacrodarte on Instagram).
In this piece is a simple illustration of a bend in a river surrounded by a dense forest, by Grzybnia. (@grzybnia_tattoo on Instagram).
Watercolor Forest Tattoos
A great way to add some life to your forest tattoo is by using watercolor tattoo style.
If your artist knows their way around watercolor style, a lot of creative opportunities can be opened in terms of customizing your forest tattoo.
In this piece, watercolor style is used to imitate the effect of a starry night sky, by KORAY . (@koray_karagozler on Instagram).
A watercolor style can also be adapted to forest tattoos. The tendency of watercolor to bleed into the page adds a nice touch, especially when going for a mysterious, hazy aesthetic like in this tattoo, by Virginie Tatouage. (@virginietatouage on Instagram).
An awesome way to make your tattoo shine even more is by using watercolor style. In this wrist tattoo, the night sky is done using a watercolor style which gives it a romantic appearance, by Berkan Ünlü. (@berkantattooart on Instagram).
What does the forest symbolize?
Forest tattoos are awesome for people who are drawn to nature. They add a lot of character, and they’re very aesthetically pleasing, too.
But that’s just scratching the surface of forest tattoos. If you want to understand your forest tattoo better, this section is devoted to discussing the various ideas and symbolisms that forests represent.
Let’s get started.
The Labyrinth of Life
In a lot of TV shows, movies, and literature, forests are often used to slow down or challenge the protagonist.
You can see it happen in well-known classics like Lord of the Rings and even in kids’ shows like Dora the Explorer.
Forests are huge. And when you’re alone and don’t know what you’re doing, they’ll swallow you up.
And that’s exactly how it is in real life.
Trying to navigate life unprepared and on your own only ever ends one way…
In that sense, forests represent the labyrinth that is life.
It’s a puzzle that we’re all just trying to figure out.
In a way, forests can also represent evolution.
But stay with me here.
By evolution, I don’t mean the biological phenomenon influenced by natural selection.
By evolution, I mean how when you enter the forest, you are never the same person you were when you went in.
This is because forests are a journey.
Or rather, they allow one to happen within you.
The forest is full of all manners of travelers and wild creatures.
Some of which you’ll meet. But all of which will change you.
And who you evolve into just depends on which ones you come across.
Rest & Refuge
A lot of forest tattoo designs focus on the mysterious aspect of forests.
In these designs, forests are drawn in dense layers with bold silhouettes and hazy atmospheres.
But forests often don’t look this way.
In fact, if you’re someone who likes to hike, you’d know how captivating forests can be.
Although it seems intimidating in the darkness of night, the forest is one of the best places to rest and reflect.
The way that the forest, quiet and forgiving, towers over everything in its domain can make one feel safe and protected.
In fact, the best way to describe the forest would probably be as a “natural cathedral”. It’s a safe space for everyone who enters.
It’s a place of rest and contemplation.
It’s why so many people from the city like to vacation in the woods. It’s a safe space for everyone.
Forest Tattoo FAQs
Why should I get a forest tattoo?
Different people have different reasons of getting their forest tattoos. But a lot of what draws people to them is their cool, mysterious charm.
Forests mean very different things depending on who you ask.
To some people, the air of mystery surrounding the outskirts of a forest is a stern warning of the horrors that lurk inside.
But to a lot of people, forests are places of refuge.
I’d even argue that there is very little that can compare to the feeling of immersing oneself in mother nature’s gifts.
And it can be a very rewarding thing.
When you’ve grown accustomed to the fast-paced hustle and bustle of the city, surrendering yourself to nature can be like setting foot on an entirely new world.
Forest tattoos let you relive that magic.
Looking at your forest tattoo takes you back immediately to a world without stress—a world where the only things you’ll hear are the chirping of birds, the howling of wind, and the crackling of firewood…
In the end, it all comes down to your interests and personal taste.
But if you’re the type of person who has already fallen in love with the beauty of the forest, a forest tattoo might just be the one for you.
Where should I put my forest tattoo?
The most popular places to get a forest tattoo are on the forearm and calves.
The forearm and calves are very visible, so it makes them ideal tattoo placements for a lot of designs.
But the reason they’re so popular is because this design theme really lends itself well to sleeve tattoo designs.
Sleeves are ideal for either multiple small-scale designs with a similar theme, or a single large-scale design.
And because of the nature that forest scenes have of stretching over a wide expanse of land, full sleeve forest tattoo designs have become quite popular.
Sometimes, though, visibility can be more of a liability than an asset.
In that case, placing your forest tattoo on your chest, back, or even on your upper arm (if you like wearing shirts), can be a very smart choice.
Will it hurt?
Yes. Getting any tattoo design will hurt. That’s a given.
A lot of forest tattoo designs will be pretty painful. Though it does depend on a few factors.
The first factor you should consider is your pain tolerance.
Do you get hurt easily? Can you typically take a bit of scratching?
If yes, then it won’t be that bad since the pain isn’t too intense anyway. Unlike other forms of pain, the pain of getting tattooed is more of a tolerable kind of pain.
If you have a hard time dealing with pain though, tell your artist right away.
Tattoo artists tend to be very professional when approaching this topic, so don’t worry about bumming them out.
Second, which type of design are you going for?
As you might have seen above, most of the forest tattoo designs involve detail-heavy silhouettes and landscapes. And some of them are especially large.
Now when you’re getting tattooed, the first few moments are going to sting. That’s normal. Over time, though, the pain starts to get less intense.
That is when you know the endorphins and adrenaline have set in.
Endorphins and adrenaline are the body’s natural responses to the pain you’re experiencing. They are what help people get through each session (and apparently, even come back. Some people really like the rush.).
Pretty great, right? You get a sick tattoo, and a nice trip to the clouds.
Unfortunately, the rush doesn’t last forever.
The thing is, the bigger and more complex your tattoo design, the longer it will take to complete.
And when enough time has passed, the sting starts to come back (and the clouds start to vomit you back out).
But don’t worry. The pain isn’t going to be more intense. It’s just coming back because the rush has worn off.
This is important for you to know if you’re going to get a large tattoo. Coming in unprepared will give both you and your artist some problems.
So before you go to your appointment, make sure to condition your mind into dealing with the pain.
If you want to learn about which body parts hurt most when getting tattooed, Healthline has written a very informative article on this subject.
Forest tattoos are great, especially when you feel that you need to get away from the city life. They’re symbos of confusion, evolution, and comfort.
And they help us reflect and ultimately remember a different face of the world.
Did you enjoy these forest tattoo designs or are you looking for more inspiration? Check out the following links to see more designs from talented artists.