Woodcut Tattoo Meaning, Design & Ideas

The way to get the woodcut look is a pain and is created by etching into a wooden block with special metal tools, to take a picture that you wanted to display.

Once this woodcut is finished, you can paint the piece of wood and press it against a surface to display a piece of work where the carved-out sections show light while the non-carved parts press the paint. This is the idea behind the woodcut print and some people that value the old ways will look into getting a woodcut tattoo.

The woodcut tattoo is really unique. Not in the sense that it is a new revelation but in that most people don’t even know it existed outside of their wood shop class in high school. However, this style of tattoo has gained a great deal of popularity over the years with some tattoo artists specializing in this style of work. Some people will go so far as to only have this style of tattooing on their body. Their skin is an ode to the olden days and we think that is great.

In this post we will talk about the history of woodcut printing and how it impacted the tattoo scene. We will also go over many variations of this tattoo in case someone isn’t sure what kind of images can be tattooed in the woodcut fashion. By the end of this post, we hope you feel more informed about the woodcut tattoo and all the different ways it might be inked on a tattoo enthusiast’s body.

History of Woodcut Printing

The woodcut technique is considered relief printing. As previously stated, an artist will carve an image into a block of wood. Usually, they will gouge the wood and leave the printing parts of the of the wood level with the surface. The parts that artists carve out of the wood will carry no ink and therefore, it creates a piece of art relying on negative space. The block of wood is cut with the grain of the wood as opposed to wood engraving where the wood is cut in the end grain.

You can even use multiple colors by making sure the printing surface frames around the wood blocks. The art of carving these wood blocks is called “xylography”. This style of printing became popular in the 15th century in Europe. As opposed to an illustration in a book, a single-leaf woodcut is a woodcut that shown as a single print or image.

Woodcut Tattoo Meaning

The woodcut tattoo meaning is all about the image and what the person with the tattoo is trying to portray. While the style, itself, is reminiscent of the European 15th century, there isn’t any well-known symbolism for this style of tattooing. It just reminds of the old days.

Woodcut Tattoo Variations

When getting the woodcut tattoo, there you can use many images to complete your tattoo. Below are some of the more popular ways we have seen the woodcut style used in creating a tattoo.

Nature Scenes

Nature scenes are great options for your woodcut tattoo. There is something rustic about the woodcut style and when paired with a scenic image, it really works well together. We have seen woodcut tattoos that involve mountains, rivers, trees and homes. All of these give the onlooker a feel of something natural and beautiful. It really is a perfect fit as the style is based off the carvings of wood templates anyways.


Animals are always popular choices for woodcut tattoos. There are a great deal of animals in the world so you know when you get a woodcut version of one of these animals, you can be sure it is going to be a unique tattoo. With the woodcut animal tattoo, you almost get the feel that you are looking at hieroglyphics which gives the tattoo and an old school look.


Ships are one of the top choices for a woodcut tattoo. The ship tattoo is both beautiful and has a great deal of meaning. With a ship tattoo, it might represent your journey in life. Going through storms and calm water and eventually coming out a better person. The cool thing about a woodcut tattoo of a ship is that it almost looks like a natural fit because these ships are made of wood. You get more of an authentic feel when you get this tattoo.


Angels and other religious figures are always a good choice for woodcut tattoos. Because of the ancient back stories of these angels and other figures, the woodcut tattoo gives the tattoo a feel of legitimacy. It’s almost as if the image was taken directly from the old books and graphed right onto your body. It just feels like this is the way an angel is supposed to be tattooed.


Skeletons and skulls have long been a popular choice for tattooing. They can look even better when they are tattooed in the woodcut style. The skull symbolizes the person’s acceptance of their mortality. People might use this tattoo as a source of motivation. What’s really nice about using the woodcut theme for a skeleton tattoo is it makes you feel like you are looking in an old picture book. This is an old-soul kind of tattoo style.


Flowers are a great choice for almost any style of tattooing as each flower holds its own meaning. No matter how you look at yourself or what you aspire to be, there is a flower for all of these characteristics. When you add the woodcut tattoo style for these flowers, it just makes it even more beautiful.

These are just a few examples of the woodcut tattoos you can get and what we have seen. Any image that your heart desires can be tattooed in this way so don’t let what others have done limit your ideas. If you need help finding an artist that is well versed in woodcut tattoo, let us know and we would happy to make a recommendation.

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