Free Delivery over £99*
Same Day Dispatch before 4pm*
Price Match Guarantee

Owl tattoo design and their varied meanings


Owls are known for their detailed designs and rich symbolism, representing wisdom, mystery, and change. However, figuring out the different meanings and ensuring the design fits your values can be confusing and stressful.

To help with this, it's important to learn about the various meanings behind owl tattoos and consider how they connect with your life and style. In the next parts of this article, we'll explore the symbolism of owl tattoos their cultural importance across different traditions, and provide tips for picking a design that truly reflects what you want to express.

Historical significance of owls in different cultures




Owls have held a remarkable place in the myths and traditions of various cultures throughout history. Their mysterious nature and nocturnal habits have often made them symbols of wisdom, protection, and prophecy.

Look at the historical significance of owls across different cultures below:

  • Ancient Greece: Owls were sacred to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare. The presence of an owl was often seen as a symbol of protection and good fortune. The owl's association with Athena also led to its symbolising wisdom and knowledge.
  • Native American Cultures: Different tribes had varied interpretations of the owl. For many, the owl was a protector against harm and a symbol of truth. In some tribes, however, owls were seen as omens of death or messengers from the afterlife.
  • Ancient Egypt: An owl is associated with death and the underworld. Their ability to see in the dark was linked to watching over the deceased and providing protection in the afterlife.
  • Hinduism: In Hindu mythology, the owl is the vahana (mount) of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. In this context, owls represent the ability to see what others cannot, thus embodying wisdom and helping to overcome the challenges associated with darkness.
  • Nordic Mythology: In Norse culture, the owl is connected to the goddess Freya, who is associated with wisdom and foresight. Owls in this mythology symbolise wisdom and the ability to see through deception.
  • Japanese Culture: In Japan, owls symbolise luck and are believed to protect families from suffering. They are also seen as omens of impending change or transformation.
  • Ancient Rome: Owls in Roman mythology were often considered omens. An owl's hoot was sometimes interpreted as foretelling death or disaster, reflecting the Romans' superstitions regarding these mysterious birds.

Symbolic meanings of owl tattoos


owl tattoo design


Owl tattoos are rich in symbolism and can represent different meanings depending on the cultural context and personal interpretation.

These are some common symbolic meanings associated with owl tattoos:

1. Wisdom and knowledge

Owls are traditionally associated with wisdom. This comes from ancient Greek mythology, where the owl was linked to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Many people choose owl tattoos to symbolise their pursuit of knowledge or to represent their intellectual achievements.

2. Mystery and magic

Due to their nocturnal nature, owls are often considered mysterious creatures. In various cultures, they are seen as keepers of sacred knowledge and are associated with magic, mysticism, and the esoteric.

3. Protection

In some cultures, owls are seen as guardians. Their keen eyesight and ability to see at night symbolise the ability to see through deception and keep watch over personal truths and secrets.

4. Transition and change

Owls are also symbols of transition. This stems from their ability to navigate the darkness, suggesting the guidance needed to transition through difficult or unknown phases of life.

5. Death and the afterlife

In certain cultures, owls are associated with death and the afterlife, often seen as messengers or companions to the departed. This symbolism can reflect a respect for the deceased or an acceptance of mortality.

6. Independence and solitude

Owls are solitary hunters, and as such, they can symbolise independence and self-reliance. An owl tattoo might represent personal strength and the ability to thrive alone.

Popular owl tattoo designs and styles


tattoo artist doing an owl tattoo


Owl tattoos are popular due to their rich symbolism and aesthetic appeal. Here's a rundown of some of the most popular owl tattoo designs and styles:

  • Traditional owl tattoos: These tattoos stick to the classic American traditional tattoo style, featuring bold black outlines and a limited colour palette. The designs often depict the owl with its wings spread or perched, exuding wisdom and protection.
  • Realistic owl tattoos: Aimed at capturing the true essence and details of the owl, realistic tattoos are intricate and lifelike. They often portray the owl in mid-flight or sitting quietly, emphasising the owl's eyes and feathers.
  • Tribal owl tattoos: Using black ink and swirling lines and geometric patterns, tribal owl tattoos draw on various indigenous cultures' styles. They often symbolise a deep connection with nature, spirituality, and wisdom.
  • Neo-traditional owl tattoos: These tattoos blend bold lines of traditional tattoos with vivid colours and art nouveau-inspired elements. Neo-traditional owls may incorporate floral patterns or mystical elements.
  • Watercolour owl tattoos: Known for their vibrant and flowing colour, watercolour tattoos mimic the brush strokes of watercolour paintings. An owl in this style looks dynamic and ethereal, often highlighted by splashes of colour.
  • Japanese owl tattoos: In Japanese culture, owls symbolise luck and protection from suffering. These tattoos often feature elements like cherry blossoms or waves, blending the owl into the rich tapestry of Japanese tattoo art.
  • Celtic owl tattoos: These designs incorporate interlocking lines and knots typical of Celtic art, emphasising the mystical aspects of the owl. They often symbolise wisdom and guidance.
  • Minimalist owl tattoos: Focusing on simplicity and subtlety, minimalist tattoos use fine lines and limited detail to depict the essence of an owl. They are perfect for a more understated yet meaningful tattoo.

Placement and size considerations for owl tattoos

Owl tattoos are a popular choice due to their rich symbolism and striking visual appeal. These are some placement and size considerations if you're thinking about getting an owl tattoo:

Size Considerations:

  • Small tattoos: Small owl tattoos look great on areas like wrists, ankles, and behind the ear. These are subtle yet striking, capturing the essence of an owl without the need for a large space.
  • Medium tattoos: For more detailed work, medium-sized tattoos work well on forearms, calves, and the upper back. This size allows for more intricate details like feathers and eyes without being too large.
  • Large tattoos: Large owl tattoos are perfect for the full back piece, chest, or full sleeve, where there is ample space to include detailed imagery and even integrate other elements like the moon, trees, or stars to create a fuller scene.

Placement Options:

  • Forearm: A popular spot for an owl tattoo because it allows for visibility and provides a good canvas for detail. The owl's face or in-flight pose can fit nicely here.
  • Back: The back offers a large area, making it ideal for a full-body owl tattoo, possibly perched or in flight. This placement is perfect for those who want a larger, more dramatic tattoo.
  • Chest: For a personal and prominent tattoo, the chest is an excellent placement. An owl tattoo here can be symmetrically placed in the centre or off to one side.
  • Shoulder: An owl perched on the shoulder can blend well with the body's natural curves, making for a tattoo that looks natural and dynamic.
  • Leg: The thigh or calf can be great for larger owl designs, providing enough space for a full figure of an owl or an owl in a natural setting.

Best ink colour for owl tattoos

Black and grey:

  • Classic choice: A black and grey palette is timeless and versatile, suitable for both realistic and stylised designs. This choice highlights shading and detail, particularly effective for showing the texture of feathers and the depth in the owl's eyes.
  • Subtlety and depth: Greywash inks, which are specifically formulated for black and grey tattoos, can be excellent for creating smooth gradients and soft shadows, giving the tattoo a more three-dimensional appearance.

Full colour:

  • Vibrant and expressive: A full-colour palette can bring your owl tattoo to life. Popular colours include deep browns, golds, and ambers for a natural look or even more vibrant hues like blues and purples to give it a mystical or magical feel.
  • Realism: If you want a realistic owl, natural colours like browns, whites, and blacks can help achieve lifelike detail. This approach is perfect for portraying specific owl species accurately.


  • Artistic flair: Watercolor tattoos use bright, flowing colours that seem to blend into the skin. This style can add a unique, artistic touch to your owl tattoo, making it appear like it's been painted onto your skin.
  • Combination with black ink: Often, watercolour tattoos are outlined or accented with black ink to enhance details and ensure the design stands out.

White highlights:

  • Adding Details: Regardless of the main colour scheme, white ink can add highlights to the eyes, feathers, or around the edges of the tattoo to enhance contrast and depth, especially in darker or more colourful designs.

Final thoughts

Owl tattoos are a popular choice for their deep symbolism and striking design. Representing wisdom, mystery, and the ability to see through deceit, these tattoos are meaningful for those who value insight and transformation. Whether for aesthetic appeal or personal significance, owl tattoo collection provide a powerful way to express individual beliefs and experiences.


Previous Post Next Post

  • Mark Joshua Luz