Owl Tattoo Meaning & Placement Guide

When tattoos initially became popular in the 1800s, people show them as a mark of deviance. They were only for the criminally-minded and the mentally unstable. Religious sects viewed tattooed people as evil and ungodly.

However, time and space have changed this backward mindset. Nowadays, even my grandma rocks a tat.

Growing up in the 90s, the barbed wire armband and the infamous tramp stamp were all the rage. I was always fascinated by a barn owl that perched in a tree just beyond our garden. Their majestic nature and independence enthralled me. And I knew what I would get for a tattoo should the day ever come.

As soon as I blew out the 18 candles on my birthday cake, I was well on my way to see a tattoo artist. Over the years, I had meticulously planned out my first ink design. Finally, I visited a tattoo parlor and got a consultation.

The tattoo artist took my ideas and gave them a twist of his own. As a result, I now sport a brightly colored Japanese owl tattoo with intricate feather detail.

Meaning of Owl Tattoo

The significance of an owl tattoo meaning is symbolism.

It is, in fact, one of the most popular animal tattoos available today. They come in many shapes, colors, and sizes.

Throughout history, owls have been seen as wise, revered, or feared. It’s linked to the supernatural, medicine, mortality, birth, and the weather.

Here we take an in-depth look at owl tattoos to establish their various meanings.

Wisdom and Intelligence

Beak lips, the owl in Winnie the Pooh, and Harry Potter’s Hedwig are film adaptations symbolizing wisdom. Owls are even used in logos of educational institutions, as is seen in Kennesaw State University’s emblem. Even Florida Atlantic University refers to their undergraduate research journal as ‘The Owl‘ symbolizing intelligence, agility, and strength.

Some people will get an owl tattoo honoring knowledge and wisdom of the universe. The ancient Greeks drew a relation between the owl and goddess Athena, the female deity of knowledge and foresight.

These birds of prey are associated with the wisdom of the soul. Years of evolution enable the owl to see in the dark, representing the ability to see what many cannot.

Independence and Freedom

Owls are typically solitary birds. They might roost in pairs in areas where they are endemic but will be spotted solo most of the time.

Most see this as a true reflection of independence and wish to be associated with such traits.

Respect and Strength

The owl safeguards the dead souls from the dark forces of the universe in Celtic mythology. In Celtic tattoos, owls are a representation of both respect and fear for this majestic bird.

Owls are birds of prey, after all, and have great prowess as stealth hunters. So you can see why they are symbols of strength.


Many people regard the night as a mysterious time, and the fact that owls are nocturnal adds to their mystery. You will rarely see an owl during the day, but as soon as dusk comes and darkness replaces light, you begin to hear the telltale hoots of nearby owls. This has led to an association between the moon and owl.

The owl’s intimate bond with the moon and the night is one of the many reasons it’s referred to as a bird of intuition.

Some believe they are gatekeepers of the holy and represent spiritual purity. And nothing spells out mysticism than the unworldly. So you will often see owl tattoo designs with a moon illuminating up the background.


We all know of someone who is utterly fascinated with the dark side. You will probably see them incorporate an owl into a tribal tattoo to denote troubles and death.

Others choose to take the owl’s role as guardian of the night and get one tattooed on your skin to represent protection from evil.


Owls have a deep connection to the occult and magic. The owl tattoo’s meaning could be a link to the supernatural or a belief in realms beyond ours. We can trace this connection back to ancient mythologies.

The wisdom associated with owls encompasses ancient knowledge to which we have never accessed.

Other than the above mentioned, owl tattoos are known to represent:

  • Stealth
  • Transition
  • Death – symbolic or literal
  • The hunter
  • The afterlife

So what would drive someone to get an owl tattoo? People who do not understand this form of body art are ever questioning why people get tattoos.

Why Do People Get Tattoos

About 40% of people in the United States have permanent body art.

The reasons vary from person to person, so there will be numerous motivating factors for getting an owl tattoo. They include:

Aesthetic Appeal

Tattoos are spectacular forms of art. And it is a fact that tattoos are beautiful in their own unique way. So don’t be shocked if someone tells you they got an owl tattoo because they love how they look.

Others use tattoos as a permanent fashion accessory.

They believe these works of art complement their style. Tattoos are like makeup—only permanent.

Imperfections like scars, discoloration, and stretch marks can conveniently be covered using tattoos. In addition, designs like owls are recommended due to their intricate pattern, making for a great mask.

Express Artistic Freedom

In the same way, talented artists draw or paint on traditional mediums; a particular group views the skin as the ultimate canvas. They aspire to become walking, talking works of art.

Believe it or not, there are numerous world tattoo events worldwide. These conventions are the perfect way to experience the world of tattoo arts. For instance, the annual NY Empire State Tattoo Expo gives artists and fanatics a platform to showcase their body art.

Means of Self-expression

For some lovers of tattoos, they prefer bold pieces that are a physical manifestation of their personality.

I can’t deny that I have (at some point) seen a tattoo on someone and automatically categorized them into a stereotype. Sailors will often get naval tattoos. Spiritual people will have images that align with their spirituality, like crosses or mantras.

Depiction of a Personal Narrative

People get tattoos as a remembrance of something personal or meaningful to them. It could be the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, or a situation you’ve gone through.

Remember the barn owl I used to see during my childhood that inspired my first tattoo? Whenever I look at the colorful owl tattoo pattern, I reminisce about my childhood and the beautiful moments I shared with my family in that house.

You can even get a tattoo to commemorate your fandom to popular culture or media. For example, there are diehard fans of movies, actors, books, or songs. And what better way to let the world know you are a staunch Harry Potter obsessive than with a cute tattoo of Hedwig.

Love of the Pain

Well, when you might cringe at the thought of pain, some relish in it. Weird as it sounds, that is reason enough for some to visit a tattoo parlor.

The experience is unique to them, and they are always anticipating their subsequent work.

Placement Guide

Owl designs fall into the category of tattoos that remain distinctive regardless of their size. It can be a minuscule image on your inner wrist or an intricate pattern covering your entire back.

However, when picking a spot for your owl tattoo, you should consider a couple of fundamental points: design and size.


The design will help you decide (to some extent). Images with lots of detail will look good on large surfaces. If you try to fit it into a small area, it won’t look good when done. The thighs, back, chest, shoulder, or bicep are excellent spots for a highly detailed owl tattoo.

A silhouette can stand alone as a design concept. It is still recognizable even with all the minimalism. For example, a nape owl tattoo beautifully mimics the creature’s natural lifestyle by concealing the bird in the daytime and revealing it at night.

Most individuals, however, desire to include more complexity in their details. The most popular designs include:

  • The dynamic flight, wings spread out in majestic flight.
  • The static pose perched on a low branch.


If you’re using size as a determining factor, it would be best to consult the tattoo artist beforehand. Size plays more than just one role.

For instance, it helps you choose the colors. Miniature images are better when in black and gray, which ensures the lines don’t overlap, causing a blur.

Small tattoos also look better in areas with little blank space, such as the ankle, wrist, and nape of the neck. Statistics indicate that females show a high preference for smaller owl tattoos.

Women will favor behind the ear, shoulder blade, hands, wrist, ankles, and spaces between the fingers. Men prefer larger designs that fit the forearms, back, neck, legs, biceps, and chest.

Popular Owl Tattoo Design Ideas


Small owl tattoos are best with a few simple lines. They are often all black and are put anywhere on the body. Their beauty lies in their simplicity. Nevertheless, geometric tattoos of animals are becoming prevalent.

Their design consists of an interconnected network of dots and straight lines. This technique is for lovers of symmetrical images.


The photo-realistic appearance of 3D tattoos makes them stand out. They make the subject of the tattoo appear as lifelike as possible.

Pick an artist who is highly experienced in the fundamentals of the 3D method because realism necessitates a high level of detail.


Even though owls’ feathers are ordinarily brown or gray, (depending on the species), you can spot many vibrant owl tattoos. The owl tattoo meaning doesn’t change with the colors; they create an artistic twist.

If you choose a watercolor, the tattoo artist will use a sketch-style outline that’s black combined with delicate coloring to mimic the impression of a freshly painted watercolor masterpiece.

How Much Does an Owl Tattoo Cost?

Well, it all depends on the tattoo artist, technique, materials used, design, and size. A small one is about $30 – $100.

Elaborate designs cost more as they consume more time to execute. For a hip or thigh tat (about 1 ft), be prepared to spend upwards of $500. When fully colored, the price goes up to a few thousand dollars.

Why Should You Consider an Owl Tattoo?

Whether you are a novice pursuing your first tattoo or looking to add to your existing collection, owl tattoos can be a good design idea. They:

  • Are visually striking
  • It can be of any size, thus, it can be tattooed anywhere on the body
  • We can combine owl tattoos with other elements and styles
  • Go well with tribal designs

Word of Caution

If this is your first tattoo, it might be beneficial if you took some time to consider your options. For example, what is your lifestyle like? Will having skin ink negatively impact how you live?

And take it from someone who is about 40% tatted up, be ready to work in an industry that accepts tattoos. Imagine getting an owl tattoo then trying to sell employment at a church whose doctrine views these majestic creatures as satanic.

Moreover, ensure you visit a highly reputable and experienced tattoo artist. Avoid any kitchen-type shops so you don’t end up with botched ink that you regret. It costs a lot of money for tattoo removal, and the pain is unbearable.

All in all, go into getting an owl tattoo with complete clarity to minimize disappointment.

Final Thought

Whether you choose an owl tattoo as decorative art or its symbolism, you must know what it means to avoid being deemed offensive or culturally incorrect.

These iconic birds are a versatile element that we can manipulate to depict your choice’s correct owl tattoo meaning.

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