Recently, more and more people have been opting to get a moth tattoo. The great thing about it is that the designs are seldom complicated. Now there are hundreds of moth species to choose from, and each one has its own unique pattern. On their own, these patterns usually look good enough, so moth tattoo designs don’t often need too many elements to look good.
But due to their ominous (and sometimes ethereal) appearance, moths are often used metaphorically in themes relating to spirituality, self-acceptance… and sometimes death.
You see, unlike their butterfly cousins, most moth species don’t look very friendly. While butterflies are usually a pleasant sight, making them frequent objects of little girls’ admiration—moths will likely scare little girls away. And you can’t blame them. Moths bring an entirely different, ominous energy with them.
You can pretty easily recognize a moth by its thick abdomen and eerie wing pattern. With the exception of silk moths (which look more like butterflies), most moth species have flatter, broader wing shapes. And unlike butterflies, which have more charming wing patterns and vivid colors, moths typically have more muted colors and stranger wing patterns.
The white moth, for example, has a ghostly look to it while the Polyphemus moth, with its wings spread out, flat out looks like the face of a hungry reptile. Even silk moths (which should look friendlier) don’t look as delightful as butterflies do. And since moths are nocturnal, you really don’t get to see them too often. When you do, they’re likely resting.
The thing is, when moths rest, they have their wings spread wide open (as opposed to butterflies which close their wings when resting). Because of this, the sight of a resting moth is usually very a memorable experience—and it makes a pretty great tattoo.
In this article, I’ve compiled 30 of the best moth tattoos there are on the internet. Each piece’s artist is credited so that you can check out more of their work or choose to message them directly. Towards the end, I’ll tell you about the different symbolism associated with the moth, so stick around!
Black and Grey Moth Tattoos
In this incredible hyper realistic piece, Brandon McKeever draws this comet moth (identified by its long wing tails and its four eyespots) in bold black outlines and detailed shading, by Brandon McKeever. (@bmac_tattoos on Instagram).
This blackwork moth tattoo placed on the back of the hand uses a more generic moth illustration. It takes the stocky abdomen and broader wing shape of the moth without using too many specific traits from any particular species, by Daniela Samaniego. (@wiccainkk on Instagram).
Moths are nocturnal creatures, which means they only fly during the night. This means they’re less active during the day so moths are often seen resting. A good way to depict them, as this artist has done, is to have them rest idly on a nearby plant, by Arché. (@archetattoo on Instagram).
In this piece, the artists turns the moth into an ornamental motif. It hangs from the top of the piece like a chandelier, by Martina Pileri. (@_i.mart_ on Instagram).
In this detailed chest tattoo, a comet moth lays flat, resting. The artist gives an elegant touch to this design by subtly making the moth mimic the appearance of a ballet dancer, legs crossed and arms spread wide, by La Graine Tattoo. (@lagrainetattoo on Instagram).
In this piece, the artist takes a creative approach by replacing the anatomy of the moth with jewelry. The thorax is replaced with a gemstone while other parts of its body are replaced with well shaded cloth, by Kasper Husballe. (@kasperhusballe on Instagram).
In this shin tattoo, the moth is drawn in a contemporary style. A heart confines the image of the moth while rays radiate from the center, by María Álvarez. (@thisismariia on Instagram).
If your work environment allows it, perhaps you’ll also enjoy a moth tattoo placed on the back of your hand. It’s extremely hard to hide but if your colleagues and superiors are accepting, you won’t have a problem. In this piece, the tattoo is done proudly. It uses deep black shades and covers this woman’s entire hand’s back, by Kate Rose. (@rosesrequired on Instagram).
This piece uses precise shading techniques to create depth in the moth’s abdomen. It uses the same techniques to emulate a color pattern that gradually lightens from the center, by Estro. (@estro_tattoo on Instagram).
In this piece, the artist uses a kind of comic book style to illustrate this gypsy moth as an arrow pierces its thorax, by Amy Wolf. (@amywolf.tattoo on Instagram).
In this torso piece, the artist draws the moth’s wings in an elegant and hypnotic way. Ornamental patterns are used at the top and bottom to complete the diamond shape, by Hey Chita Ink. (@heychitaink on Instagram).
This clever blackwork piece isolates the shading within the confines of a triangle element while voiding the outside of any color or shading, making for a fantastic controlled contrast, by Davide. (@2wayink_studiotattoo on Instagram).
This piece takes a more realistic approach and uses rough lines to draw the wings and body of the moth, adding depth and texture to a simple illustration, by Damian Zieliński. (@dezet.ink on Instagram).
Colored Moth Tattoos
In this piece, the moth is used as a secondary element. It rests on the hilt of this dagger, its thorax replaced by a red gemstone and leaves are used in the background to complete the design, by Beñat Gonzalez. (@benat.gonzalez.tattoo on Instagram).
In this forearm tattoo, the moth is used as a secondary element. The focal point in this piece is an ornate dagger with a gemmed hilt. A purple flower and its leaves are added as finishing touches, by Conrad Hakes. (@cradtattoo on Instagram).
The moth in this vividly colored piece is a saturniid. Saturniidae are easily recognized by the eyespots on their wings which they use to intimidate predators when startled, by Unknown Artist.
This piece uses an old school color palette commonly seen in old TV cartoons to create a vintage look for this moth tattoo, by Emilio Pisaturo. (@pisaturo.emilio on Instagram).
Death Moth Tattoos
In this detailed back tattoo, the design places a subtle skull pattern on the moth’s thorax and replaces the eyespots on the wings with actual eyes. The piece is completed using geometric elements and the phases of the moon at the top, by Igor van der Laan. (@igorvdl.tattoo on Instagram).
This blackwork tattoo placed on the inner bicep replaces the moth’s thorax with a skull for an ominous effect and tops it off with flowers in the foreground and background, by Chelstine Clibourne. (@threeseastattoo on Instagram).
Moths are often seen as ominous creatures, appearing only in the dead of night. Sometimes, their appearance is treated as an omen. In this death moth tattoo, the moth’s thorax is replaced by a human skull, by Gabriele Balumbo. (@gabbetattooinkarnation on Instagram).
This death moth tattoo takes a more realistic approach to the skull on the thorax. Instead of replacing the thorax, the skull is seen on the thorax as a natural pattern, by Martyna Sliwka. (@sliwka.tattoo on Instagram).
This gorgeous piece by Andrey Strychnine uses warm colors in a bold way to create an elegant, somewhat grim feeling. The head of the moth is replaced with the skull of a ram, an object often used as a symbol of dominance and power, by Andrey Strychnine. (@strchn on Instagram).
This piece, creatively placed underneath this person’s undercut, features an incredibly detailed moth with a skull replacing its thorax. A crescent moon is placed at the bottom to complement the focal point, by Nicolas Attieh. (@nicolasattiehtattoos on Instagram).
This double hand piece uses the outsides of the palms as a canvas, showing its true appearance when the owner claps their hands, by Marine Caleri. (@marinecaleri_tattoo on Instagram).
Saturniidae are a type of moth that are known for the eyespots on their wings. In this piece, the artist plays on this and replaces this moth’s wing pattern with a skull, by Hipnagogi. (@pracownia.hipnagogi on Instagram).
This incredibly detailed piece by Elenana paints the moth as a grim creature of death, using morbid elements such as the skull of a human on the thorax and human eyes on the wings, by Elenana. (@elenana_tatts on Instagram).
Luna Moth Tattoos
In this lovely upper thigh piece, the species chosen by the owner was a Luna Moth (actias luna). It is easily recognized by its leaf-like antennae and ethereal appearance—bluish green color and an eerie set of eyes on the backs of its wings. The artist uses watercolor tattoo techniques to achieve a hyper realistic effect, by Vanessa Mross. (@v_lunatattoo on Instagram).
In this double thigh tattoo, there are two different moth species. On the left is a blue moth with eyespots, similar to the Polyphemus moth. On the right is a luna moth (actias luna). Both are shown resting with their wings spread open (as moths often do), by David O’Donnell. (@artvandelaytattoos on Instagram).
In this piece, the artist uses some smooth color gradients to make this luna moth’s minty green wings pop. If you look closely, the rings around this moth’s eyespots are shaped like crescent moons, which is why the luna moth is named this way, by Rat Girl. (@ratgirltattoo on Instagram).
In this piece, a moth spreads its boldly shaded wings, imitating the look of the night sky using deep shading and subtle splattering effects to create the sparkling effect of stars, painting the moth as some sort of moon spirit, by L’atelier Obscur. (@latelierobscur on Instagram).
The moth is associated with a lot of things. As you might have seen, their ominous visage has caused them to sometimes be treated as harbingers of death—but that’s not always the case.
In fact, despite the prevalence of such morbid depictions, the moth is also frequently associated with a number of positive symbolisms. Here are a few:
Have you ever been struck in the face by a moth on your porch in the middle of the night? That’s it trying to navigate its way at night—by following the moonlight. In an effort to go where it needs to, it leaves itself vulnerable to the dangers of the night. It trusts the moonlight to help it find its way in the darkness. Because of this, the moth has often been used as a symbol of faith and trust.
Fortune and Misfortune
As you might have seen, one of the most common moth tattoo themes is the death moth tattoo. It features a moth with the image of a skull on its thorax which projects an ominous feeling. This is because moths are often seen as harbingers—and not always of death, however common that theme may be.
Moths are actually seen as harbingers of both death and opportunity. When a huntsman makes his way through the woodlands and comes across a resting moth, it could mean either a successful hunt—or a tragic accident. This would make the moth a rather apt symbol for stoic beliefs as it can signify the lack of control one has in their own fortune.
Change and Transformation
From the moment a moth larva hatches from its egg, it enters a state of relentless pursuit—for food. The only thing on its mind is to rack up enough nutrients so it can grow big and fat. When it’s had enough, it starts building itself a cocoon so it can safely begin its metamorphosis.
In society, many people have their own personal metamorphoses. The obese teenager heading to the gym for his second day after a humiliating first. The woman trapped in a woman’s body, gradually transitioning. And the heroin addict of 3 years, now sober for a month. These people struggle every day in an emotional battle with themselves—but they push on. They swear they will transform.
And after several weeks, the caterpillar completes its transformation and emerges from its pupa—ready to soar and face the world. Because of this iconic process of transformation, the moth (along with the butterfly) has become a symbol of empowerment for those in the process of transforming themselves.
As our world continues to push for a more accepting society rid of prejudice, the moth has become an apt symbol of self-acceptance. Just like butterflies, moths begin as larvae and then emerge from pupae, transforming into an entirely different looking creature altogether.
The thing is, even though the moth has transformed and become the best version of itself, developing an exquisite wing pattern and the ability to fly, it’s still seen widely as a “rugged” version of the butterfly. Whereas butterflies are perfect and bring joy—moths are graceless and dull.
But this is only in comparison to butterflies. On their own, moths are marvelous creatures. True, they don’t have the same luster that butterflies do, but moths are entirely different creatures. The sight of a butterfly doesn’t compare to an encounter with the unearthly aura of the ghostly white moth or the sheer awe that the atlas moth can impose.
In the same vein, someone good at one thing should never compare themselves to someone else who’s skilled at another. “Perfection” is subjective. Anyone can be perfect in the eyes of someone who can truly appreciate beauty. This is why the moth is such an apt symbol of self-acceptance. When you truly appreciate who you are and what you can do… you will fly as well as the best.
So it’s no mystery why people are so fond of moth tattoos. Not only are moths awesome looking, but they’re also creatures with a lot of depth and symbolism.
When you go and pick out a design for your moth tattoo, make sure to pick a species you like! There are hundreds of them, and each one has its own unique pattern. Choose one and make it yours.
Did you enjoy these moth tattoo designs or are you looking for more inspiration? Check out the following links to see more designs from talented artists.