Trying to decide between a lion tattoo and a tiger tattoo can be pretty tough. I mean, one of them is king of the jungle and the other one rules the African savannah. You literally can’t go wrong with either one, and no matter which way you decide to go, you’ll know that many, and I do mean many, others have gone there before and are in love with their ink. When it comes to animals, both lions and tigers are among the most popular designs. While we rarely come across these majestic animals in nature, all it takes is one visit to the zoo to realize how memorable and awe-inspiring these creatures truly are. With that said, it’s no surprise that many people choose to get lion and tiger tattoos.
A chest piece
Nothing is more in-your-face than a large mural front and center. This photo really doesn’t do this tattoo justice, but just imagine the reactions you’ll get when everyone you encounter comes face to face with an almost life-size representation of a tiger.
This tattoo is cool. But the fact that you can scratch away the lion like a lottery ticket to reveal a galaxy full of stars and colorful cosmic dust makes it priceless. But on a more serious note, this creative abstract design boasts a beautiful combination of colorful and monochromatic properties that work perfectly together.
A tricep tat
After you’ve decided to get a tiger tattoo, the next thing you’ll need to consider is where to put it. Do you want people to see it? Do you want to see it? Do you want to be able to conceal it? All of these are questions you’ll need to ask yourself, and of course there is no right or wrong answer, it all depends on your personal preference. With that being said, the tricep area is a fun and fairly unique place to get inked.
A clear image
I’m not really sure how he did it, but Rob Holterman managed to create one of the crispiest, yet smoothest designs on this list. When getting any type of tattoo, it’s always important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your artist and plan your design accordingly.
This is the second time I’ve featured this design because obviously you can’t just use a design of this caliber once. The way the clouds transition into the lion’s fur. The subtle hint of blue ink in the lion’s eye. The negative space lightning coursing through the design. All of these things come together to make this design one of my favorites on the list.
A watercolor tiger tattoo
As you’ll soon discover, colorless black and grey ink designs dominate this list, but the designs that are in color are some of the very best. Adrain’s watercolor style is one that I’ve come to love over the years, and this tiger shows off both his eye for color as well as his incredible illustrative skills.
Some of the most stunning designs on this list are the photorealism examples. It’s not too often you see a design set to a black backdrop—usually it’s the opposite. The way this artist uses negative space to complete this work is a feat that most artists wouldn’t even attempt. Even the leaves on the wrist are worthy of a photo op of their own.
A rib cage work
As you’ll soon find out, there are a million different ways to get a tiger tattoo—which is the point of this list of course. You’ve got your realistic designs, your dotwork designs, your colorful watercolor works, but of course nothing comes close to being as cool or as unique as a tiger in full stride.
The first word that comes to mind when viewing this piece is “texture.” The father back you get from this design the more complex the textures start to get. A great sleeve is always about dimension and complexity. So when choosing only a single subject, it’s important to incorporate a lot of detail into the design.
If you’re going to get a tiger tattoo, you might as well get something original. Abstract and geometric designs aren’t usually the first things that come to mind when designing a tiger tattoo, but there are of course some pretty great ways to go about doing it if that’s what you’re after.
A sketch style lion tattoo
Instead of a hyper realistic lion tattoo, if you’ve got an artist that can do it, a sketch style representation of a lion can be extra cool. While this example isn’t your typical sketch style design, it does feature a few of the traditional elements as well as a dotwork style that makes the rest of the design look as if it was done in the trendy sketchy style of design.
A forearm piece
Tigers are beautiful creatures. And if you’re a woman, making your design even a little more beautiful with a feminine floral touch can make things even more interesting.
Half a lion
For those of you out there that can’t stand getting a design that someone else may or may not already have, this black and grey ink watercolor example is something you’ll definitely approve of. Thinking out of the box may not be the safest route, but those who wonder are often rewarded.
If you’re looking to capture everything that’s beautiful about a tiger, then freezing them in their natural habitat is a must. Vivid color and a natural predatory pose will get you started. Here’s a fun fact: Tigers are the only cat species that are completely striped. They even have stripes on their skin.
A dotwork lion
It’s not too often that a tattoo actually takes my breath away. And while this one doesn’t exactly do that, this is about as close as you can come without having to desperately gasp for air. This dotwork two dimensional design has a smoothness and style to it that makes you want to hang it on the wall.
A gorgeous forearm piece
Another floral design. Another perfect example of why every woman should skip that lotus flower tattoo and go straight for a floral tiger. Florals by themselves are beautiful. But add a regal tiger to the mix and you’ve got yourself something far more fascinating.
A decorative design
Apparently Brian Woo takes whatever subject matter you choose and adds these intricate little extras onto it until it becomes an absolute work of art. Now I’m not saying that regular tiger tattoos are boring, it’s just that when I come across designs like these, everything else just seems so basic.
Becoming a parent is a momentous occasion that often inspires a tattoo or two. And while there’s nothing wrong with a life-size portrait of your son or daughter that occupies the better part of your chest, taking a more creative approach can make your design a little more interesting while still managing to achieve your original goal.
A tiger by the river
Ideal for anyone looking to capture a tiger in its natural setting, this down-by-the-river pose is the very definition of beautiful, but probably not something you’d want to witness first hand while going for your morning swim.
A geometric design
Usually lion tattoos are realistic in nature. But for the sake of variety, I did my best to include examples of a wide range of different designs which of course include a few pretty crazy geometric designs. This design was created by piecing together geometric shapes but instead of the usual symmetrical vibe, the abstract characteristics of this design reign supreme.
A tiger’s eye
What’s more intriguing than the eye of tiger? Apparently not much, considering how many likes this particular design got. This mysterious design offers just enough to distinguish it as a tiger’s eye while not making it too obvious upon first glance.
The best of both worlds
What do you do when you can’t decide between a realistic representation and a more minimalistic approach? You get both of course. The geometric portion of this design is the very definition of basic which actually complements the realistic portion by acting as a quasi frame for the focal point of the design.
A beautiful thigh piece
Over-the-top murals are something that you don’t see too much of these days. A piece like this takes a lot of time and dedication but the end results are almost always worth the effort. Nature is beautiful; embrace it.
A sprawling tiger
It’s not everyday that you see something this spectacular. Large tiger tattoos of this nature are usually found in asian cultures especially in Japan and Korea. However, those tigers are usually done in a very distinct illustrative style, which this particular design couldn’t be any further from.
A segmented design
You would never guess it, but segmented lion and tiger tattoos are extremely popular. I came across so many great examples while putting together this list that I had a hard time only selecting a few for the list. This design is my favorite, but the other segmented designs on the list are just as good.
A green-eyed tiger
Or are those blue? Adding just the slightest bit of color to an otherwise colorless design can have a dramatic effect. The lightly-illustrated nature of this design almost looks as if it incorporates subtle green hues into the negative space areas as well.
A massive lion
This brilliant and all-encompassing design is something that you have to see in person to fully appreciate. This list features a number of large murals which no doubt provide their owners with celebrity status whenever on display.
A large back mural
Whether you’re looking for something to define you for the rest of your life or you just love tigers, this stunning back piece will make you the most interesting person to stand behind in any waterpark in the world.
A full leg wrap
The traditional Japanese style of ink is arguably one of the most famous and most recognizable styles in existence. Its rudimentary illustrative nature makes Japanese ink easily distinguishable from other styles of design. Which is why the uncharacteristically polished appearance of this legging make it truly fascinating.
A forearm piece
The majesty and beauty of a lion is something so powerful that any extras added can sometimes be viewed as counter productive from a design standpoint. This simple and straight forward illustration showcases just how regal a stand alone lion tattoo can be.
Negative space leaves
We like to picture tigers staring at us through the leaves in the jungle. But did you ever wonder why lions, not tigers are often referred to as “the king of the jungle” even though they don’t actually live in the jungle? Well, I did a little digging and it seems that the word “Jungle” in Hindi actually means “not an inhabited place,” thus fitting the plains that lions are commonly found on.
Another geometric design
This design was executed extremely well. So well in fact that you can almost picture the tiger in the night’s darkness due to that amazing perspective fade seen towards the rear of the subject. Tiger tattoos are meant to be cool, and this one definitely fits the bill.
A mother and her cub
When lions aren’t eating other adorable and defenseless animals alive in front of their families, they can actually be pretty cute themselves. A mother’s love is a mother’s love. And these two lions are a perfect way to illustrate that love.
A highly detailed lion
Leave it up to one of Korea’s most talented artists to give us one of the most detailed designs on the list. This design features a few minimalistic leaves which serve as contrasting elements to give the piece more depth and dimension.
A third eye
Imagine how much your life would change if you had something as cool as this tiger tattoo on your forearm. Photos would pretty much arrange themselves and people you’ve never met would suddenly want to be your friends.
An extravagant dotwork design
This is one of those designs you can’t really layout before hand. You simply have to put your trust in your artist’s vision and hold on for the ride. That’s the beauty about having a really talented artist at your disposal. Trusting them is a whole lot easier and almost an expected courtesy.
An abstract watercolor design
It’s not everyday that you come across a design as remarkable and unique as this watercolor lion. And it’s not every person that has the courage or desire to get something like this. But luckily for us, there are those brave individuals out there that make designs like these possible.
An abstract watercolor tiger
Like all great abstract artists, Pablo Ortiz has an eye for what works and what doesn’t. This abstract example looks as if it was painted by a brush, and belongs in a collection somewhere hanging on a whitewashed wall.
A curly mane
How every lion doesn’t have a massive mane of dreadlocks is beyond me. This forearm piece takes a unique approach to things by featuring the curly locks of a lion’s mane. Beautiful, original, and oh-so-satisfying.
Emerald green eyes and a smokey demeanor give this piece a cool factor of about a million. The contrast between the dark and white sections of the fur make you want to pull your hair out in appreciation. This is a great stand alone design that would look great on both men and women.
A segmented design
If there’s a more perfect design for the most perfect of all tattoo locales, then I’ll believe it when I see it. This randomly segmented design with no notion of symmetry lives in harmony on the back of this lucky individual’s ankle.
A lion and a swan
Because, well, why not? Tattoos have always been art in my book, but the creativity we’ve been seeing in the last 10 years alone leaves little room for discussion. It’s a good thing we have photography so we can keep these designs forever.
A large forearm piece
While it may not be that unique when considering the context of this list, this large forearm piece isn’t something you see everyday in the wild. It’s enormity makes it difficult to distinguish upon first glance, but once you realize what it is, you simply can’t stop staring.
Lion tattoos are just as popular with women as they are with men. Many women choose to add a feminine touch to things by adding a few flowers, which makes for a lovely theme. Lions + flowers, yes please!
Like father like son
If you’re looking for a little piece of Africa, then you found it. I look at tattoos like this everyday but that doesn’t mean I still don’t get completely blown away by these photo realism pieces.
A tiger eye band
This is a trend I come across more than you think. An armband featuring the eyes of a tiger, lion, or even a bird of prey are popular design themes. If you like this type of design, consider getting just a section of the eyes but don’t limit yourself to an armband—anywhere will do.
This list is mostly filled with large-scale designs but that doesn’t mean that tiny tattoos aren’t just as amazing. A small lion tattoo like the one above can be the perfect way to showcase your love for big cats without the commitment or a larger design.
Lions are the king of the jungle, so of course they’re deserving of a crown. Lions have that wide face, kingly mane, and formidable roar, but tigers are significantly bigger and known to be more ferocious fighters. So if anyone is deserving of the moniker of “King of the jungle,” it’s probably the tiger.
A silky smooth lion
This design almost looks albino in nature with its pale and almost ghostly appearance. Small lion tattoos are great for those of you looking for something less costly and more concealable. This type of tattoo would also be perfect for anyone considering a lion for their first tattoo design.
A cover-up tiger tattoo
A great cover-up shouldn’t look like it’s covering up anything at all. Which is precisely the case here. This tiger has been on our radar for a while as it was inked some time ago but it always stuck in my mind as one of my favorites.
The whole split design concept is perhaps a tad bit overdone. That is, unless you’re creating designs on this level. Doctor Woo loves his linear and circular intricacies, and his choice to use it here makes this design an absolute feast for the eyes.
A leg mural
For those times when the occasion calls for a European style men’s swimsuit, it’s always nice to have a little art to flash as well.
A bleached tiger
While this could very well just be a black and grey ink version of an otherwise orange and black tiger, I like to think it represents a white and black bleached bengal tiger because, well, that’s what it is right now. The pose and layout of this particular design are unique and original which makes this piece all the more intriguing.
A segmented calf piece
I’ve always wondered why people get tattoos in locations with excessive amounts of body hair. This tattoo is awesome, but once this man’s leg hair grows back it will become all but indecipherable. A+ for execution and originality though.
On the prowl
Having a tiger slowly making its way down your arm is a great conversation piece. In fact, people that have never had a tattoo seldomly realize how much attention (both wanted and unwanted) a tattoo actually attracts.
Here is another epic example of a sort of split tiger design by the renowned Doctor Woo. This is one of the few instances where I’m actually more impressed with the abstract portion of the design that the realistic portion.
It takes a few seconds to fully realize what is going on here. Yes, from this straight on perspective you can tell it’s a lion but this is a view you’re not likely to get in the wild and even then so, identifying it as “half a lion” would take some time. However, the real star of the show is the amazing patterns that can be found in the lion’s mane.
A male lion
This design is similar to those previously featured on the list, but it was so clean and precise that I couldn’t help but include it. Small lion tattoos are way cool, especially when located on the bicep.
A blue-eyed tiger
Everything you need to scare little kids is right here in the photo above. Many adults don’t realize it, but tattoos can be terrifying for small children. My uncle had a little devil with a pitchfork tattoo on his forearm and I remember doing whatever possible to avoid coming face to face with it.
A stylish tiger
In asian cultures, tigers are everywhere. And when it comes to tattoos, tigers are no exception. This playfully distinct illustrative style has always been one of my favorites. In asian cultures, these tigers are usually part of a larger mural so seeing one by itself is really a treat.
A few friends
Tiger tattoos don’t have to be regal or scary. They can also be cute, cuddly, and fun, like in this instance. In a perfect world, tigers and bunny rabbits are friends which enjoy each other’s company while gazing up at the night sky.
A large back mural
This is one of those pieces that you see in every magazine and comes up immediately when you Google “Lion tattoo.” This piece has of course been circulating for a long time, and while I don’t usually like to add older designs to my lists, this example was just too impressive to exclude.
A beautiful watercolor design
This beautiful watercolor piece is charming people with its minimalistic design and abstract addition of color. It appears very feminine while not looking too feminine if you know what I mean.
A cool sketched piece
Decorate your arm with something simplistic yet full of detail. Again, I hope that makes sense to at least some of you out there. Even though it looks like it was sketched on a napkin while waiting for your food to arrive, it also gives you a lot to look at.
A small pup
A baby female lion is called a cub, and yes, if I discovered an abandoned one in the wild I would—against all practical and modern advice—take her home and raise her as my own. But since I live in snoretown USA, a tattoo like this is probably the closest I’ll ever come to realizing my dreams of raising a baby lion cub.
A realistic tiger
A tiger tattoo can be a powerful reminder of just how beautiful nature can be. There are few animals in the world as impressive as say a lion or a tiger, and seeing them in photographs or on TV just doesn’t do them justice.
A pectoral piece
If you’re looking for an in-your-face location for your tattoo, then this is it. Designs that are confined to the boundaries of the pectoral muscle look great by themselves and even better if you decide to decorate your canvas further.
A brush stroke lion
This particular design is full of style with its visible proportion lines and thick brush stroke style. These type of designs are almost always exclusive to artists who practice this particular style, and asking your neighborhood tattooist to replicate the effects isn’t usually the best idea.
A leopard tattoo
Okay, so obviously this isn’t a tiger or a lion (it’s a leopard), but I thought I would include it anyways. This is a recent piece done by British tattooist Ash Higham and oh what a beauty it is.
A hand tattoo
I’m putting together a list of hand tattoos which will be out this week. I dug up this little guy while doing research for that list and absolutely fell in love with the emotion in the eyes.
A white tiger
Comprised of the faintest touches of black and grey ink, this design is so dainty that it looks as if you could remove it with a few swipes of a small pencil eraser. It has some pretty clever negative space whiskers that couldn’t have been done any other way.
I’m not too sure if this is an arm or a leg but when the work is this good, no one really cares. Made with black, grey, and white ink, the fur of this tiger is almost reminiscent of a lion’s. The detail the artist was able to capture in the eye really brings the design to life.
A colorful sleeve
As noted before, asian cultures have a fondness for tigers when it comes to tattoos. The Korean culture believes that tigers are guardians that protect against evil spirits. In Chinese culture the tigers represent luck. In Japanese culture the tiger represents protection. Or so I’m told.
A mystical mural
If a lion were to get glamour shots taken way back in the 80’s, they would probably look something like this. But seriously, this design reminds me of a blanket my grandma use to have. Not to take anything away from the absolute perfection of this tattoo of course.
A half lion forearm piece
I’m not exactly sure what the whole fascination is with “half lion” tattoos but I do have to say they only work if the artist is uber talented which is obviously the case here.
A fearsome creature
Lions are scary. And this tattoo confirms that.
An ornamental lioness
Because it’s beautiful, ornamental, timeless, and compatible with pretty much any outfit you own, this lioness tattoo gets a full five-star rating no matter how you look at things.
A lion with a crown
If I was forced to get a lion or a tiger tattoo this very day, then this one would be it. There’s something about the style of this design that just speaks to me. It’s cool, modern, but with a slight vintage air to things. And those colored eyes, ya, those are the key!
A two-headed tiger
We all know that two heads are better than one. So when it comes to tiger tattoos, the same thing must be true. Right?
Half lion half skull
With so much style you could cut it with a knife, this split design features subtle watercolor elements and ultra smooth shading. From lion to human skull—we don’t see that too often.
Another tiger hand tat
There are a few hand tattoos on this list but this one definitely takes the cake. At my age there aren’t many things that I need in my life that I don’t already have. However, this is one of them.
A sketchy watercolor design
Sketch style and the watercolor technique go together like peanut butter and jelly. The slightly abstract nature of the strokes of this design really polish it off like a piece of fine art. Dani’s sketchbook portfolio of tattoos has a few other big cats as well. So if you like what you see here, I’d recommend checking out the rest of his work as well.
A forearm design
I love this tattoo. The legs have a magical appearance to them but I’m not really sure what’s going on between the tiger’s ears. At first I thought it was the hair on the tiger’s back but now I’m not so sure.
A tiger’s face
What do you do when your arms, back, chest, and legs are completely full of ink? Get a tiger tattoo on your hand of course! This tiger has that “you’re probably yummy” look in his eyes and the negative space lines illustrate the leaves in the jungle.
Like a badge of honor or a medal of bravery, this free-standing tiger tattoo looks completely badass mounted high on this man’s chest. This is one of those tattoos every guy doesn’t realize he needs until he gets it. Then it becomes his favorite thing in the world.
An amazing thigh piece
I’m not sure the context of the “33” or the laurel leaves but I do have to say, it really does makes this design more aesthetically pleasing. Thigh tattoos, especially among men, are tattoos you get more for yourself than for others.
A little lion love
No one cuddles quite like a couple of lions. If you’re looking to capture the softer side of lion life, then a scene like the one above might be something to consider.
A small forearm piece
Small and packed full of detail, this little lion tattoo is a perfect example of just how magnificent a design can be no matter how big or small it may be. Large tattoos aren’t for everyone, and it’s tattoos of this particular size that often have the greatest appeal.
A vivid watercolor work
Here we have another fantastic watercolor example by Pablo Ortiz. I mean, if this isn’t art then I don’t know what is. He even signs his photos like a traditional artist would.
A whimsical lion tattoo
In case you haven’t noticed, Doctor Woo doesn’t have an issue with tattooing lions. In fact, by now you’re probably thinking that he has some sort of obsession with them. However, it’s probably more of a coincidence thing, as the Doctor’s body of work is quite substantial.