Ship Tattoo Meaning, Design & Ideas

The ship is an image that is well-known in tattooing. From Sailor Jerry to new school tattoos, the ship makes its way to all body parts in all styles of tattooing. The ship tattoo has a great deal of meaning and is an important image for those who have struggled. We will talk more about that in this post. We will also talk about some different variations of the ship tattoo and what it means to the person who has this image. By the end of the post, we hope you have a better understanding of the ship tattoo and what it symbolizes.

Ship Tattoo Meaning

A symbol of the aquatic and nautical, the ship can mean many things. Most literally, it conveys life away from the land, living on the undulation of the ocean waves and air. The ship is the vessel of the sea-farer and can serve as a literal representation of a sailor or act as a metaphor. The image of a ship is the image of a place away from the daily grind and away from the pressure of society.

The ship can be a symbol for the individual while the ocean surrounding it is a force that holds them back. Regardless of the type of ship, as a symbol it serves as a means of escape and freedom from life on the land in favor of the vast blue waters. The ship carries the air of adventure and exploration and reveals the soul of a voyager.

In some tattoo designs, the image of a ship can convey isolation, either intentional or unintentional, for many reasons. As a single vessel on the water, contact can be far and few between, leading to a solitary lifestyle. However, the ship often carries a crew of sailors, so while there may be only a solitary ship, within it can be an entire fleet of people.

In this way, the ship can be a metaphor for the seemingly unapproachable individual who may carry a motley of desirable qualities, revealing their complicated personality. The ship can also be an appropriate group, friend’s, or couple’s tattoo, indicating the reliance on others that allows the ship to sail smoothly.

Pirate Ship Tattoo

The image of a pirate ship can emphasize the idea of a crew or gang with exclusive members. As well, the pirate ship is a distinct symbol of life outside of typical society particularly because of the distaste pirating holds for convention, literally pillaging those who live within normal means. Multiple sails on the ship can indicate experience and skill while a single sail can highlight simplicity.

Other nautical symbols are generally added to create a more complex image and a larger piece. Anchors, seabirds, ocean waves, compasses, and other symbols are commonly included. The ship may also be framed in these images or more concretely in a length of rope (or literal picture frame) encircling the ship. Banners are sometimes included in more traditional tattoo-style designs that hold names and dates or nautical-themed phrases.

Ghost Ship Tattoo

Large ships can also be rendered as ghost ships, worn and torn down vessels that contain no living crew. Rather, the crew is supposed to haunt the ship, creating an ominous image of ragged sails and broken masts. The sails of these ships are either missing or tattered or darkly colored to emphasize the ghostly appearance and further the idea of death. A large full moon is often included as well.

Streaks of rain and dark clouds are added to indicate a storm and a tumultuous time in the individual’s life. Skulls, full skeletons, and drooping black seaweed also add to an ominous ship design and illustrate mortality. In some designs, very little detail is used and only a black silhouette of the ship is rendered. The full moon is generally included in this design to add depth and shadow to the image and create a sense of realism.

Viking Ship Tattoo

Like the pirate ship, a single wide-masted Viking boat is a type of longship that conveys an intent of malice. There is an authority that comes with the image of a longship, as well as the pirate ship, a command to be feared. An old Norse Viking-style ship can serve as a representation of a person’s heritage, a tribute to their ancestors. Norse symbols, runes, or words can be placed onto the wide sail of the ship.

New School Ship Tattoo

A very simple design can be created instead, using just the outline of a ship or, for a bit more detail, a cartoon type of ship. In the animated style, bright color is generally used to emphasize the cartoonish appearance. Simpler designs can be designed much smaller and appear more delicate than larger ships. The delicate design creates a feminine tattoo that can be embellished with flowers seabirds, or other nautical symbols.

War Ship Tattoo

Warships, which can include Viking ships or other historical battleships, are another type of design that often features weaponry such as cannons. Modern ships currently used in naval fleets are frequently chosen and designed in the “Sailor Jerry” traditional style. Sleek, multi-leveled, and metal rather than wood, these types of ships can be used as a part of a memorial tattoo to a passed loved one who served in the Navy. Nationalistic imagery is often included in these tattoos like national flags, family or national crests, and personal insignia and is displayed on banners along with names and dates of death or birth.

When getting your ship tattoo, make sure you take some time to research the shop and artist you plan on going to. Look at the portfolios and have a consultation. The artist will work with you to create a tattoo that you will love and if you have gone through the process and aren’t sure about where you want to go, let us know. We have years of experience in matching up customers with tattoo artists. We’ll find an artist that will make your vision come to life.

Leave a Comment