Picture being on a ship. It’s rocking violently, and you’re trying to hold on to anything you can. The sea is furious everywhere you look.
In front of you, a massive wave starts building up. All you can do is watch and brace on for dear life as it crashes over the ship’s deck.
The stories were true. Hell hath no fury as Mother Nature scorned.
It’s not looking good. The rain’s too thick to see anything. You squint towards the horizon and see nothing but torrent—until an intense beam of light pierces through the mist.
As you make sense of what it is, a smirk falls on your face. The voyage is over.
For the sailors of the last millennium, seeing the glorious beam of light from a lighthouse was a symbol of hope. It was a sign of celebration and a job well done.
In this article, I’ve compiled 20 awesome lighthouse tattoos.
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 lighthouses, so keep reading!
Traditional Lighthouse Tattoos
If you’re going for the classic sailor aesthetic, the traditional lighthouse tattoo theme is definitely the best choice.
The traditional style is defined as the classic tattoo style. It was popularized in the 1940s by sailors and is characterized by its bold black outlines and simple color schemes.
It’s definitely one of the simpler styles out there, but if you’re into the whole vintage look, then you’ll definitely enjoy having a traditional tattoo.
The designs are clean, timeless, and easy on the eyes.
by yeontaan. (@yeontaan on Instagram).
by Travis Stanley. (@travis_stanley on Instagram).
by All Saints Tattoo. (@allsaintsatx on Instagram).
by Andrea Borno. (@_beardman_23 on Instagram).
by Dima Hazipov (Дима Хазипов). (@designxaz on Instagram).
Neo-Traditional Lighthouse Tattoos
Neo-traditional tattoos are a modern spin on traditional tattoos. While traditional tattoos have very simple color schemes, neo-traditional tattoos have adapted to modern needs and use colors more liberally.
What you’ll notice upon seeing Neo-Traditional tattoos is that they keep the bold black outlines that traditional tattoos are known for.
You’ll also see a lot of decorative elements incorporating florals and the ornamental style of Art Nouveau, which mirrors the abundance of florals in traditional tattoos.
Lighthouse tattoos can look great in neo-traditional style and can add a classic look with a modern twist.
by CRISTIANO. (@violacristiano on Instagram).
by Jack Douglas. (@jacklesdouglas on Instagram).
New School Lighthouse Tattoos
New school and neo-traditional are two styles that are really hard to tell apart. But an easy way to tell them apart is by their use of decorative elements.
Neo-traditional tattoos are known for their classy look, achieved through the use of floral and ornamental elements. The new school focuses on illustration and vivid color schemes.
by Flora and Fauna Tattoos. (@floraandfaunatattoos on Instagram).
Illustrative Lighthouse Tattoos
At the outset, it doesn’t look like you can do much with lighthouses. But when you have a truly skilled tattoo artist, you can do incredible things with your tattoo.
Lighthouses have a lot of symbolism attached to them, and it can be hard to convey all of that with other styles. Illustrative tattoos do great in that regard.
Through the use of hyper-realistic or abstract art, you can achieve a much more powerful tattoo design.
Check out how some of the artists below used illustrative style to make the apparent plainness of lighthouses truly come to life.
by Renato Vision. (@renatovision on Instagram).
by JAMES. (@jonestattoos on Instagram).
by Petrov Andrei. (@andreipetrov_tattoo on Instagram).
by sofiart. (@sofiarttattoo on Instagram).
by DOTINK_TATTOOSTUDIO. (@dotink_tattoostudio on Instagram).
by Mark. (@bodymodzmarkhamburg on Instagram).
by Dr.Ink Tattoo Studio Artist. (@rui_tattooist on Instagram).
by Federica Leppo. (@romanordtattoo on Instagram).
by ac__1990. (@ac__1990 on Instagram).
by Roger Tattoo Studio. (@tacioroger on Instagram).
Minimalist Lighthouse Tattoos
As good as illustrative tattoos are at conveying a much more powerful message and stronger aesthetic appeal, sometimes all you really need is a simple tattoo design.
If you pick a good design that resonates well with you, a minimalist tattoo can evoke the same feelings as complex designs can.
by makoy damaolao. (@makoy032 on Instagram).
by Krystal matter. (@kristalnamaterija_tattoo on Instagram).
What does Lighthouse symbolize?
Lighthouses, to those without any experience or appreciation for the sea, can seem very uninteresting. After all, they’re towers…that light up.
But if you’re a boatman, diver, or sailor, you’d understand just how important lighthouses are and what it feels like to see one after a long time out at sea.
To help you understand your lighthouse tattoo better, we’ll talk about the different symbolisms associated with lighthouses and what they mean.
Guidance & Protection
The famous Eddystone Lighthouse (Source)
Some people think of lighthouses as outdated navigation aids. But this could not be farther from the truth.
Due to the advent of cheaper and more effective electronic navigational systems, the number of operational lighthouses has definitely met a steep decline.
This happened mainly because of the expense of maintenance. But lighthouses are still highly valued by navigators today, more so than their electronic alternatives.
Even though electronic navigational systems are made with a high degree of precision, there is still some risk of error. Navigators know this, so many of them still hold lighthouses in high regard as a means of establishing a position.
But for the better part of the last millennium, lighthouses guided mariners to safety and away from dangerous areas. They were used to provide visible warning against shipping hazards, like rocks or reefs.
Lighthouses like the famous Eddystone Lighthouse were made for this very reason—to protect mariners from catastrophic maritime disaster.
The Eddystone Lighthouse was situated upon the perilous Eddystone Rocks, a group of unmarked rocks ironically found at the entrance of a major maritime harbor and trading port.
And there were a lot of mariners passing through this area. Before the Eddystone Lighthouse (or any of its previous versions) was erected, dozens of ships had fallen victim to the disastrous combination of brutal waters and rugged reefs. And hundreds died.
The construction of the Eddystone Lighthouse put a swift end to these unnecessarily unfortunate deaths by providing mariners with guidance.
Stories like the Eddystone Lighthouse’s are proof of the importance of lighthouses in protecting mariners, all of which risk their lives navigating treacherous waters. For this reason, lighthouses are a strong symbol of guidance and protection.
Goodness & Hope
The great Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
For how much lighthouses helped to preserve the lives of millions of mariners, it can be surprising to know that they were, for the most part, free.
Since mariners could benefit from the light without being forced to pay a fee, lighthouses were regarded as an archetypal public good.
The sole reason lighthouses were made was to protect people, and they did a great job in that regard. In areas with especially brutal waters and perilous rocks, lighthouses saved mariners from certain death—and at no cost.
Because of this, the beam of light would come to be known among mariners as a reminder of the goodness of man. It was a signal that their long journey out at sea had ended safely. It was a reminder that they were alive.
Courage, Fortitude, & Strength
Massive wave collides with a lighthouse (Source)
Have you ever wondered why lighthouses are shaped the way they are—cylindrical and tapered off towards the top?
Admittedly, not all lighthouses are designed like this. But this design helps greatly with countering the immense pushing and pulling of the sea.
Take brick or stone arches, for example. Their arched shape provides stability and protects them from compressive forces, even without the help of binding mortar. This is why even structures from ancient history like the Roman Colosseum (made of 80 arches!) are still standing today.
Now, apply the same logic to a lighthouse. It’s a vertical structure that basically arches all over— except now, the arches are horizontal and stacked on top of each other.
When you situate a structure like this on top of extremely firm bedrock and reinforce it with high-grade structural steel—no wave’s standing a chance. This is exactly why you can see videos of massive waves hitting lighthouses at full speed and doing zero damage.
In order for lighthouses to be useful, they have to be built in a way that lets them endure the wrath of Mother Nature. It’s the ultimate test of resourcefulness, analytical skill, and engineering judgment.
Because of this, lighthouses are known as symbols of courage, fortitude, and strength.
Lighthouse Tattoo FAQs
Why should I get a Lighthouse tattoo?
Lighthouse tattoos are incredibly popular among sailors and boat enthusiasts alike. They’re great reminders of memorable moments at sea.
They can also be great for someone with an appreciation for civil engineering since lighthouses are made with scrupulous attention to detail. It’s an example of a technology where quality cannot be compromised.
And because lighthouses are slowly becoming an antiquated technology, lighthouse tattoos can serve as relics of a not-so-distant past.
Where should I put my Lighthouse tattoo?
Where you put your tattoo depends on the complexity of the design you choose. Now it might not be obvious, but there are many things you can do with a lighthouse tattoo theme, especially if you have a very skilled artist.
And because of the variety that lighthouse tattoos can have, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
For the most part, lighthouses are oriented vertically and are more lengthy than wide. That only changes when you opt for a rounder design or one that incorporates the use of other complementary elements.
So if you’re going for a typical lengthy lighthouse tattoo design, then similarly shaped tattoo locations will do well to accommodate your needs. By this I mean the arms and legs. The forearm and calf are the most popular for these types of designs.
For designs with wider or squarer proportions, the shoulders, back, and chest are great. The extra space helps the tattoo breathe and they’re generally better locations if your career path doesn’t allow you to get visible tattoos.
Will it hurt?
Yes. But each person has a different experience when it comes to pain. Generally, the intensity of the pain depends on the following factors:
- Size & complexity of the design
- Pain tolerance
- Tattoo placement
Some of these factors might affect you more than others since each one largely depends on you and your body.
Size & complexity of the design
Lighthouse tattoos have a lot of variety, and likely more than you’d expect. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and the amount and intensity of pain you’ll experience will vary depending on the size and complexity of your design.
If you’re going for a smaller, more minimalist design, then the pain won’t be too much of a problem. Once your body starts releasing endorphins and adrenaline, you’ll start to feel less pain.
But the rush only lasts about 30 minutes. So if you get a lighthouse tattoo that has a complex design with a lot of design elements, your session will definitely outlast the 30-minute rush.
So if you have a skin condition or just can’t stand pain for long periods of time, we definitely recommend getting a smaller, more simplistic tattoo.
- Tattoo placement
Another massive influence on whether your tattoo will hurt or not is where you put it. Some parts of the body hurt to tattoo more than others.
To understand this easier, think of your fat and muscle as protective layers. They help shield you from the impact of the tattoo needle and effectively cushion the pain.
Some parts of the body, like the chest, upper arms, and thighs are heavily protected. They’ve all got hefty amounts of fat and muscle to dampen the pain.
But this isn’t the case for body parts like the wrist or ankle. These have little to no fat and muscle. So if you’re planning to get a wrist or ankle tattoo, you should expect a higher intensity of pain.
For lighthouse tattoos, since the most popular tattoo placements are on the forearm and calf, you should be pretty safe. They’re pretty thin, but the fat and muscle in those areas should be enough.
For a comprehensive discussion on which body parts hurt most when getting tattooed, check out this article by Healthline on tattoo pain.
- Pain tolerance
Some people have naturally low pain tolerances. This could be caused by a skin condition, thin skin, or recent emotional trauma. Pain tolerances vary from person to person, so it’s a good idea to figure out how well you fare before booking an appointment.
But if you’re already committed to getting your tattoo, here are a few actionable ways to mitigate the pain:
- Get enough sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep before getting your tattoo, you’ll hinder your body’s natural healing process. (Important!)
- Stay sober. If you drink before getting your tattoo, get ready for some pain. Alcohol is classified as a blood thinner. When your blood thins, it’s more prone to bleeding and bruising. (Important!)
- Stay hydrated. Drink enough water before getting your tattoo. It’ll help your skin stay supple throughout the session. It’ll also help your tattoo heal faster after your session.
- Moisturize. Hydrating your skin doesn’t just mean drinking plenty of water. You should also take the liberty of applying moisturizer to keep your skin nice and hydrated from the outside.
- Take breaks. There will be moments in your tattoo session where the pain will just be too much to handle. This is normal. When this happens, feel free to ask your artist for a short break.
According to research, a person’s pain tolerance is directly affected by their experience with tattoos. This means that if you’ve had tattoos done in the past, you’ll likely feel less pain.
Lighthouse tattoos are some of the most inspiring pieces out there. They’re symbols of protection, hope, and strength.
Did you enjoy these lighthouse tattoo designs or are you looking for more inspiration? Check out the following links to see more designs from talented artists.