100 Exceptional Shoulder Tattoo Designs for Men and Women

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Tattoo placements tend to have a traditionally masculine or feminine connotation. For instance, you rarely see a man with a tattoo on his lower back where the infamous “tramp stamp” is so prevalent on women. In contrast you don’t see as many women with tattoos on their face compared to their male counterparts. Despite the societal tendency to deem tattoo placement appropriate based on one’s gender, the shoulder is a universally accepted location for either gender to get inked. This article compiles 100 photos of shoulder designs for men and women and explains the subtleties of the concepts and execution of every piece. Enjoy the article and tell us what you think in the comments section!

Mountainscape

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The deliberate placement of black ink creates a landscape depicting three mountains on the wearer’s shoulder.

Abstract Elephant

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A series of exceptionally vivid colors composes this tattoo of a bull elephant. Near the feet of the elephant the colors run and imitate watercolor paints. This is a beautiful example of creating images exclusively using bright colors.

Star, Feather, and Cloud

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A cloud, feather, and star are shown attached to lines that travel over the wearer’s shoulder in this simple tattoo.

Mandala Sun

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This tattoo shows a mandala inside a depiction of the sun.

Shoulder Armor

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The design of this black and gray tattoo attempts to replicate shoulder armor. A Celtic knot is depicted next to the wearer’s shoulder muscle and the wearer’s bicep shows two wolves snarling at each other.

Mayan

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This highly detailed tattoo imitates Mayan inscriptions on temple walls. The designs are created using black and gray ink with with white accents to make the images pop.

Heart Outline

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A black outline of a heart is shown just above the wearer’s collar bone in this photo.

Photo-Realistic Lion

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This tattoo, shown on the wearer’s bicep, depicts a hyper-realistic lion superimposed over a black ink blot. The tattoo is an exceptional example of exquisite skills.

Mandala

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A black mandala is shown on the left side of the wearer’s chest in this tattoo.

Japanese Style Dragon

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A dragon wraps across the wearer’s bicep and onto his chest, stopping just above his nipple. The dragon is created with precise details like the shading on the individual scales, the reflective appearance of the beast’s belly, and exact line work. In Japanese culture the dragon is revered as a benevolent being that aids humanity.

Technicolor Skull

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A human skull is created using bright color and black accents. The skull is created by using distinct colors for certain portions and black for the eye sockets and nose bone.

Daisies

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Daisies and what appears to be a rose are depicted in black and gray ink on the wearer’s bicep.

Circle, Circle, Dot, Dot

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A series of circle patterns are shown in black and blue on the upper half of the wearer’s arm and onto his chest.

Halved Mandala Back Piece

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Two half-circle mandala patterns are depicted on the wearer’s back. The centers of the designs are placed around the wearer’s armpits and the size of the piece compliments the wearer’s back without overwhelming the space.

Red and Black Optical Illusion

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A tight series of lines are created using black and red ink and overlap in the middle of the design to create an optical illusion effect.

Wrapping on my Chamber Door

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This unique tattoo shows a raven on the wearer’s chest surrounded by, what appears to be, a schematic for a drill.  The tattoo utilizes the contrast of black and red to add color and make the piece more vibrant.

Boats and Planes and Elements…and a Whale

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This black and gray creates an entire scene including a boat, a jumbo jet, a sea plane, and a whale. The elements of wind and water are depicted using traditional scrimshawing techniques, the water is created using lines while the wind is created using swirls.

Heart-Shaped Face

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The wearer’s left shoulder shows a face inside the outline of a heart over two crossed arrows. The face is detailed with blush, purple eye shadow, and red lipstick. The obscure concept, paired with appropriate execution, creates a unique tattoo that attracts the eye.

Birds and Flowers

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A purple flower illustrated near the wearer’s shoulder socket, while other flowers and birds descend down the wearer’s bicep. Let this picture serve as a warning to men that are considering shaving their chest, chest hair growing back is exponentially more uncomfortable than it is stupid looking.

Mandalas on Shoulder and Back

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Black and gray mandala patterns adorn the wearer’s upper arm and wrap around her shoulder blade.

Circle

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A circle composed with a thick black line is shown on the wearer’s shoulder.

Geometric Elephant

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An elephant is created using a combination of geometric shapes in this black and gray tattoo. Notice how the artist added texture with a series of black dots around the outskirts of the image.

Dots

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A textured circle surrounds the wearer’s shoulder and leads into dots that decrease in size in each successive row.

Honeycomb Scarification

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This is an example of scarification, the honeycomb design has been carved into the flesh of the wearer’s bicep and as it heals, the scars will create the pattern.

Pacific Islander

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This traditional Pacific islander tattoo is created using black ink and covers the top half of the wearer’s arm and extends onto his chest and back.

Pacific Islander Inspired

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This tattoo puts a twist on the traditional imagery represented in Pacific islander tattoos. Instead of one, bold pattern, the wearer has decided to layer patterns and accent them with negative space.

Mandala Flowers

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This interesting tattoo couples the imagery of mandalas and flowers. The tattoo is created using black ink and is located on the wearer’s right shoulder.

Mandalas, Flowers, and Paisley?

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This tattoo is a bit too busy for my taste, the artist has used elements of flowers, mandalas, and paisley to create the image. However, the black stem that carries throughout the piece overwhelms the subtlety of the surrounding designs.

Cemetery Scene

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This realistic scene depicts an ominous home positioned next to a cemetery and barren tree while bats fly toward the moon. This tattoo is an example of great work, the shading is complimentary, the details are precise and the home and tree are used to frame the image.

Free Bird! Woo!

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This tattoo shown on the right side of the wearer’s back, depicts a sparrow escaping an ornate bird cage, surrounded by red flowers. The color distribution is precise and makes the images distinct from one another while simultaneously merging the subjects into a unified piece.

Paisley Elements

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This black tattoo uses elements of paisley patterns to depict a flower-like shapes and a bird on the wearer’s left shoulder blade.

Mo’ Mandalas

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Mandalas are obviously a popular image for women and with good reason. They are attractive, feminine images that look good in black and colored ink. Here we see the mandala represented on the wearer’s shoulder, chest, and back.

Cat on the Moon

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The silhouette of a cat sits atop a crescent moon filled with Celtic designs that is fused with the stems of a rose bush. This tattoo is a bit gratuitous, remember, while you may have a lot of good ideas for tattoos, you don’t need to shoehorn all of those ideas into a single piece.

Boom! Mo’ Mandalas!

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Another mandala, this piece is embellished by some hanging beads and is located on the wearer’s left shoulder.

Abstract Lion

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A stunning black and gray lion is created using concise line work and impeccable shading. The mane and facial features are created using a series of lines that give the tattoo a unique, abstract look.

Beautiful Arm Band

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This striking black and gray arm band is accented with hanging beads and crystals and does a great job of complimenting the wearer’s upper arm.

Brush Stroke

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A simulated brush stroke circles around the wearer’s left shoulder and is created using black ink.

Hexagonal Pattern

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Before I talk about the tattoo, I would like to point out this man’s surprisingly small nipple. It’s like his body almost forgot to produce nipples and decided to give him a last minute, miniature version of the body part. Now that we’ve all had a good laugh at this man’s anatomy, let’s discuss the tattoo. A hexagonal pattern is created using black and gray ink on the wearer’s upper arm and extends onto his chest where it is given a black border.

Detailed Wing

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Black and gray ink are used to create a hyper-realistic wing on the wearer’s upper arm. The artist accented the piece with a shadow that adds a sense of depth and gives a 3-D effect.

Bada** Rooster

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This demonic rooster is created using black and gray ink and is hyper-defined with with deliberate shading throughout the feathers.

Crow

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A crow is pictured with the head of the bird on the wearer’s chest and the wing of the bird descending down the wearer’s arm. The wing could have been shaded better, as the middle row of feathers are under-shaded and look out of place on the otherwise dark tattoo.

Peacock Feather

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The wearer’s right shoulder blade is adorned with a peacock feather. The tattoo uses a diverse color pattern, however the lackluster line work takes away from the overall aesthetic and makes the center of the feather look muddled.

Colorful Collage

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This vividly colored tattoo is composed of images including roses, diamonds, and butterflies. While the compilation of tattoos looks decent overall, the contributing images are unoriginal and hackneyed.

Barren Tree

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This black and gray tattoo shows a leafless tree on the wearer’s left shoulder blade. While I don’t see anything inherently bad about the tattoo the execution is mediocre at best.

Monarch Butterfly

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A simple, realistic rendition of a monarch butterfly is shown on the wearer’s right shoulder blade in this tattoo. Touches of orange and white coloring give the piece life without appearing outlandish.

Tribal Unicorn Pegasus

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This tribal tattoo is composed with black ink and depicts a bastardized combination of the fictional Pegasus and a unicorn. The design is simple, but sharply inked and appealing, and the piece compliments the wearer’s back well.

Asymmetrical Mandala

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Here we see another mandala, however unlike traditional mandalas this tattoo is asymmetrical and has a flowing shape instead of the typical circular shape.

Colorful Concept

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A unique concept is paired with a color palette utilizing a red, orange, and yellow color palette in this tattoo. A boy is shown drawing butterflies with a giant quill pen that turns into a mass of butterflies near the top of the feather. The piece begins around the middle of the wearer’s back and wraps up around the wearer’s shoulder.

Black and Gray Flowers

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This is an uninspired concept with poor execution. The cliche concept of flowers looks miserable due to the artist’s unsteady hand. The line work is sloppy and it makes the entire tattoo look like a poorly rendered sketch.

Bird Silhouettes

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A simple concept is brought to life through admirable precision. The silhouettes of a flock of birds are pictured on the left side of the wearer’s chest around the collarbone. The birds are very clearly defined and compliment the wearer’s shoulder well.

Mandala Scarification

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The raised skin you see is the end result of scarification. While I don’t particularly care for the appearance of scarification, I understand that proponents for body modification are always looking for new ways to express themselves. While we have seen a plethora of mandala tattoos, this is the first scarified mandala we’ve seen, and it certainly draws attention.

Black and Gray Lotus

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A black and gray top-view of a lotus flower is pictured just above the wearer’s left armpit.

Indian Influence

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This tattoo is composed of bold black lines and uses Sanskrit letters to accent the image.

Birthday in Roman Numerals

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Everyone appreciates their birthday, although not everyone feels the need to tattoo the date on their body. If this wearer ever experiences a bout of amnesia, at least she’ll be able to figure out her age by glancing at her shoulder. The Roman Numerals represent 1/4/93.

Another Shoulder Lotus

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A black and gray lotus is represented above the wearer’s right armpit.

Watercolor Tiger

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A tiger is represented in a style that utilizes bright colors and imitates watercolor paints. The line work is clean and the colors are well defined, both of which contribute to this magnificent piece shown on wearer’s left shoulder blade.

A Whole Bunch of Flowers

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Multiple flowers are depicted with their stems and surrounding leaves. The tattoo starts on the left side of the wearer’s chest and descends down the wearer’s arm.

Great Shading

 

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Shading is the star of this tattoo, showing a flower on the wearer’s right shoulder. The gradual transitions of colors makes the piece life-like and appealing.

Paper Plane

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A staple of disruptive children the world over, the paper plane is a common sight in public schools and anywhere kids get bored. On the wearer’s right shoulder blade we see a paper plane followed by a dotted line that denotes the plane is zipping through the air.

Crescent Moon and Stars

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A crescent moon is decorated with scroll work and accented by three surrounding stars.

Feather

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A black and gray feather de-materializes into a flock of birds in this imaginative shoulder piece.

Oh Mandala

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An intricate black and gray mandala surrounds the wearer’s left armpit in this tattoo.

Intricate Flower

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A bouquet of flowers is created using black and gray ink and bold line work in this tattoo.

Mo’ Flowers

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Another flower tattoo created with bold, black lines.

And Even More Flowers!

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Well-shaded daisies sport a fully realized center in these tattoos shown on the wearer’s right shoulder.

Rose Outlines

 

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A rose outline is shown on the wearer’s right shoulder in this simplified tattoo.

Birds and Boobs

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A series of bird silhouettes are pictured on the wearer’s right shoulder, but I bet it took you second to realize that, didn’t it?

Simple Sun

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This frat party attendee has a simple sun pictured on her left shoulder blade.

Rings of a Tree

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The wearer’s right bicep shows a tattoo depicting the rings visible in a tree stump in black and gray ink.

Shoulder Roses

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Shading brings life to these roses pictured on the wearer’s right shoulder.

Mandala

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This tattoo is created using a heavy amount of black ink and adorns the wearer’s left shoulder.

Roses

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Another example of black and gray roses shown on the wearer’s shoulder.

3-D Butterfly

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This remarkable piece uses shadows to create a 3-D effect for a pink butterfly.

Blue Roses

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Blue ink is used to create bouquets of roses on the wearer’s chest while the quote “I have a charmed life,” sits beneath the flowers.

Lines in Lieu of Shading

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This flower tattoo differs from the rest by using lines instead of shading, creating a unique aesthetic.

Bird on a Branch Silhouette

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Black ink is used to create a bold image depicting the silhouette of a bird perched on a barren branch.

Shaded Roses

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Another example of well-shaded roses are visible in this tattoo on the wearer’s left shoulder.

Collage

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A collage of colorful tattoos adorns the wearer’s shoulder, however the exact images are difficult to decipher.

Simple Lotus

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This lotus flower foregoes patterns on the petals for shading and uses a simple dotted border to accent the piece.

Trapped Inside a Stone

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I have no idea what I’m looking at other than a remarkably well done tattoo that exemplifies great shading and depth.

Hungry like the Wolf

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A photo realistic wolf is depicted near the wearer’s left armpit in this black and gray tattoo.

Winged Skull

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An ominous winged skull is depicted in this tattoo. While the skull has been a popular tattoo image for decades, as shown here, it is difficult to draw without a thorough understanding of anatomy.

 Blue and Black Smear

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Nothing more than a smear of blue and black ink located around the wearer’s left shoulder.

No Bull

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Heavily laid black ink composes this tattoo depicting a tribal style bull.

Hermit Crab Shell

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An abstract version of a hermit crab shell is shown in this black tattoo.

Eagle

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A Bald Eagle is depicted using realistic colors on the wearer’s left shoulder in this tattoo.

Realistic Flowers

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Attention to detail creates a realistic depiction of flowers in this tattoo.

Another Angle

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A second angle of the tattoo we saw earlier.

Moth

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The nighttime equivalent of a butterfly is rendered in a dark coloration on the wearer’s right shoulder in this tattoo.

Man on the Moon

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A small tattoo shows a crescent moon depicted with a face near the wearer’s right shoulder.

Plant Fossil

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A gradient using blue colors composes an image imitating a fossilized plant.

Elaborate Mandala

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An elaborate mandala is pictured in black and gray ink on the wearer’s left shoulder.

Hermit Crab Shell

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A realistic rendering of a hermit crab shell is created using black and gray ink on the wearer’s right shoulder.

Sun

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A grade school version of the sun is shown on the wearer’s right shoulder blade in black ink.

Shaded Tribal

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While traditional tribal tattoos completely black out the designs, this tattoo uses shading to add a sense of complexity to the piece.

Realistic Wing

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An incredibly detailed wing starts on the left side of the wearer’s back and descends down his arm.

Bio-Mech

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This tattoo is an example of “Bio-Mech” or bio-mechanical tattoos. The style uses mechanical devices to replace the human anatomy with the intention of giving the wearer the appearance of a cyborg.

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