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Day of the Dead Tattoo Designs: Sugar Skulls & La Catrina


There are several motifs associated with the colourful festival that is Day of the Dead. It comes as no surprise then that many of these images make an appearance in the form of Day of the Dead tattoo designs.

Below, we run through some of the most popular tattoo designs and aim to explain their significance.

Black Day of the Dead Sugar Skull

What is Day of the Dead?

Día de los Muertos, otherwise known as Day of the Dead is traditionally observed in Mexico. However, the celebration also takes place in many other Latin American countries and by those with Hispanic heritage outside of Mexico. While the day's predominant theme is death, it is not intended to be sad or unpleasant; rather, it is a joyful way of honouring loved ones who have passed.

Day of the Dead sugar skulls and offerings

The annual Day of the Dead festivities occur over two days at the very beginning of November (starting at midnight on October 31st and finishing on November 2nd). On the second day, the boundary between the earthly and spiritual world is believed to dissolve, allowing souls to temporarily return to their earthly homes. In turn, the living perform a number of rituals, which vary from creating paths out of flowers or candles to aid the departed's return back to the home, to leaving offerings of food at their tombstones.

Sugar Skull Day of the Dead Tattoo Designs

One of the most recognisable Day of the Dead tattoo designs is that of a calavera, or sugar skull. A prominent symbol throughout the festivities, sugar skulls are traditionally made from a melted sugar mixture that is moulded by hand. They are often decorated with flowers, ribbons, hearts and other colourful imagery. When placed on top of commemorative altars, they serve as meaningful reminders of departed loved ones. Functioning as both decorations and confectionary treats, they imply that there is some sweetness to be found in death.

Sugar Skull Day of the Dead Tattoo

Sugar Skull Tattoo by Sponsored Artist David O'Neill (@davidoneilltattoer)

Sugar skull tattoos are very popular tattoo designs because they serve as a beautiful and meaningful reminder of lost loved ones. A calavera skull tattoo is usually very detailed and dynamic, featuring lots of linework and colour. Symbolic shapes such as hearts and flowers are often positioned in or around the eye area. Plus, crosses are sometimes depicted on the forehead to symbolise the Christian belief that death is not the end. Sugar skull Day of the Dead tattoos can be small or large, but they're often placed where they will be visible to others—they're an awesomely unique way to honour loved ones!

La Catrina Day of the Dead Tattoo Designs

Another popular Day of the Dead tattoo design is that of La Catrina, a quirky skull character created by José Guadalara Posada to satirise the bourgeoisie. Her image appears throughout the festivities to represent death itself. This famous Day of the Dead female face also dons the same sugar skull makeup as the calaveras.

La Catrina Day of the Dead Tattoo

La Catrina Tattoo by Sponsored Artist Troy Tuck (@troytucktattoo)

Her nose is usually painted black to resemble an Ace of Spades, which is considered to be a symbol of good luck. Her mouth appears as though it is stitched up and embroidery lines are located around her eyes. La Catrina Day of the Dead tattoos are usually done in a realistic style but there is still room to get creative. For example, some people opt for a design that blends her image with that of a skeleton for an interesting effect.

La Catrina Day of the Dead Tattoo (@amy_ellistattoos)

Day of the Dead Tattoo by Sponsored Artist Amy Ellis (@amy_ellistattoo)

Hopefully this blog has helped you understand a bit more about Day of the Dead tattoo designs. Maybe you are even considering a Day of the Dead tattoo yourself to commemorate a loved one? Let us know in the comments.

For all of your other tattoo equipment needs, shop our top ranges at Magnum Tattoo Supplies!

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  • Sarah Crookes