If you’re looking for the best turtle tattoos, you’ve come to the right place. Turtles are amazing animals that have roamed the earth for 220 million years, and many people love these unique reptiles. Whether you keep turtles as pets, or just enjoy these animals, turtles are a great subject for a tattoo. While these animals are typically depicted as slow, they frequently symbolize perseverance, longevity, and protection. If you want a turtle tattoo, make sure you ask your artist for references of their previous turtle tattoos. This is particularly important if you are looking for a realistic tattoo.
60 Amazing Turtle Tattoos to Inspire Your Next Ink
Turtles are a group of reptiles famous for both their shells and their habit of withdrawing into their shell for protection from predators. Because of this, very few creatures actually predate upon any species of turtle. When it comes to turtles as a tattoo subject, the most common is the sea turtle, with the large leatherback sea turtle as the most popular. However, you can use any species you like. as there are over 360 living species of turtle, you have plenty of options. Don’t be afraid to customize any of the basic ideas on this list. After all, you should love the tattoo you get since you will have it for the rest of your life.
1. Realistic Green Sea Turtle Portrait
This cool tattoo shows the head and upper body of a green sea turtle. The green sea turtle is found all over the world in tropical waters. This means many have seen this species while on vacation. This can be a great way to remember a favorite vacation memory.
2. Sea Turtle with Galaxy in Shell
This amazing tattoo has a turtle swimming through space with a galaxy in its shell. This could be a reference to the old myth of the world existing on the back of a turtle, or the famous Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. If you love this series or just the image, feel free to get a similar tattoo.
3. Sea Turtle Made of Patterns
This is a unique image of a sea turtle consisting of patterns. The shell itself features a flower pattern that dictates the shape of the shell. This is a great basis for a tattoo since you can use any pattern you like. Just bring references so your artist can create a unique tattoo for you.
4. Tortoise and Snake Tattoo on Waves
This tattoo is in a traditional Japanese style. The snake and tortoise is a reference to the old legend of a tortoise that guards the city of Kyoto against dangers from the north. This myth is also found in China, and in The Journey to the West. If you enjoy these myths, this can be a great tattoo subject.
5. Green Celtic Knot in Turtle Shape
This is a cool way to have both a Celtic knot and a turtle tattoo in one image. These intricate patterns can be made in many shapes, and a turtle can be great for someone who wants a tattoo that refers to protection.
6. Swimming Green Sea Turtle and Fish
This is a wonderful tattoo that has a strong feeling of swimming in the tropics. A green sea turtle is seen swimming towards the viewer with butterflyfish in the background. If you love scuba diving or snorkeling, this is a great idea for a tattoo.
7. Tortoise with a Tree Growing on its Shell
This is a cool reference to legends of tortoises with plants growing on their shells. This example has a lovely young sapling in soft greens, browns, and yellows. You could easily mix this up with different plants on the back, or base it off a tree in a different season.
8. Minimalistic Sea Turtle from Above
This is a cool tattoo of a turtle with a bold, minimalistic feel. The shell itself only shows the outline, while the scales on the head and limbs are rendered in dots of black. This is a cool way to have the pattern of a turtle without too much detail that can overwhelm the tattoo and age poorly.
9. Green Sea Turtle with Sea Anemone
This is a cool tattoo that has a dramatic feel thanks to the angle of the turtle and the dark shade of the water. The anemone gives it a ghostly feel like the depths of the sea. Adding details like this in the background of a tattoo is a great way to make your tattoo more unique.
10. Dramatic Fantasy Bipedal Tortoise Design
This tattoo looks like a sketch of a character from a fantasy series. A bipedal tortoise with a detailed shell and plastron is surrounded by swirls that indicate clouds or mist. If you have a favorite character or one you created, you could get a tattoo of them.
11. Giant Sea Turtle with Tree on Shell
This is another cool reference to the legend of a world on the back of a turtle. This one has a fully grown tree and a human as a passenger. Using a person is a great way to show just how large a turtle is supposed to be.
12. Detailed Sea Turtle on Upper Back
This sea turtle is fairly realistic in style and located on the upper back just under the neck. The shell of a sea turtle is a great place to show off unique patterns if you don’t like the look of a fully realistic tattoo.
13. Sketchy Sea Turtle with Polygonal Style
This is a cool tattoo that uses a sketchy style to render a sea turtle. The mostly squared-off edges give it a feel like old video games. The lines coming off of the art also make it feel more like an artist’s sketch directly on your skin. Don’t be afraid to go with a style like this for your tattoo if you like the look.
14. Sea Turtle Tattoo in Tribal Style
This tattoo uses a style common among the Polynesian people. It shows a turtle made up of traditional patterns that can have deep meaning to the people it originated with. This can be a great way to remember your own heritage no matter how far from home you are.
15. Tropical Beach Scene with Turtle Underwater
This whole tattoo feels like relaxing on a tropical beach at sunset. It shows palm trees, birds flying in the air, and life under the sea. Having a whole scene like this is a great way to remember a favorite vacation you have been on.
More turtle tattoos for men on the next page…
16. Bold Sea Turtle Made of Patterns
This is another turtle made of patterns. You can use a similar style with different patterns to create a cool tattoo. Because of their shell shape, turtles are a perfect way to show off patterns and texture in a tattoo.
17. Bold Black and White Abstract Turtle
This cool tattoo is made of heavy blacks and subtle patterns that continue through the turtle and line surrounding it. You could customize this with any pattern you like, just make sure that it isn’t oversaturated or your tattoo may look like a blob as it ages.
18. Black and White Sea Turtle
This is a cool monochrome tattoo that shows a turtle swimming over a coral reef. while it uses no color, you still know instantly what this scene should look like. If you don’t like color in your tattoos, this proves you can still get a tropical tattoo.
19. Tiny Sea Turtle Made of One Line
This is an interesting, simplistic tattoo. The turtle is rendered in only a single line. This makes a great way to have a minimalistic tattoo, particularly on a sensitive area like the ankle. A bold tattoo like this with plenty of negative space will look great for years and still be distinctive decades after you get it.
20. Sea Turtle Made of Patterns
This is another bold turtle made of patterns. The pattern on the shell almost looks like a mask. You could use a mask design you like for the shell, or pick something else you like for your unique tattoo. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your tattoo.
21. Five Swimming Leatherback Sea Turtles
This cool tattoo features multiple leatherback sea turtles swimming on this person’s chest. The leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle alive today, and they are becoming increasingly endangered. If you love these animals, a tattoo like this is perfect for you.
22. Toads Fighting a Sea Turtle
This is a unique tattoo that shows three toads trying to capture or defeat a sea turtle. Most of the tattoo is black and white, but eyes and the flowers all have color. Using color like this makes the touches of color stand out even more.
23. Abstract Sea Turtle Made of Patterns
This is a cool take on the idea of a sea turtle made up of various patterns. The patterns were chosen to look similar to what is on a real turtle, but it isn’t completely realistic. This can be a great way to get a bold, recognizable tattoo.
24. Sea Turtle Inside Two Rings
This is a unique tattoo that almost looks like a shield. The turtle itself is abstract and in the center of two rings made up of patterns. You can use any patterns you like to create a tattoo with a similar feel without copying it directly.
25. Tortoise with Multiple Eyes and a Flower
This cool tattoo features a fantasy design of a tortoise with multiple eyes. The third eye like this could refer to psychic abilities. Going with a fantasy feel to your tattoo and could give it a new meaning that is important to you.
26. Sea Turtle Framed by Triangles
This tattoo has a lovely minimalist feel to it. The turtle is surrounded by bubbles, all framed within large triangles with the points facing downwards. A unique frame like this can give a tattoo a different feeling. Don’t be afraid to switch up the styles to create something you will love.
27. Bold Patterned Sea Turtle Tattoo
This is another cool example of the pattern turtle. This one has a sunburst pattern on the shell. Feel free to swap what the shell looks like to create something unique you can enjoy.
28. Tortoise and Snake with Partial Color
This shows just how much color can change the feeling of a tattoo. Adding color can make the details of a tattoo pop. If you aren’t sure what you want, you can always ask to leave your tattoo as an outline and try using temporary color to see if you like the look before you commit to it.
29. Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda
This cool tattoo features Master Oogway from the Kung Fu Panda movie series. If you have a character you love, they can make a great tattoo subject. Tattoos are a great way to show off your hobbies and interests. They are also great conversation starters if you are shy.
30. Turtle Over Lotus Flower Tattoo
This lovely tattoo looks much like a pond filled with lotuses and a resident turtle. The turtle has algae growing off the shell, making it look like a common symbol of longevity. Look up the meanings of tattoos like this to create one that is meaningful to you.
More turtle tattoos for women on the next page…
31. Sea Turtle Under the Waves
This is a lovely tattoo on an ankle. A sea turtle is underwater, with a line of bubbles reaching the surface coming from its head. This is a cool way to help anchor a tattoo. Using elements like this improves the composition of your tattoo. Make sure to talk to your artist about these considerations when you are designing your tattoo.
32. Simple Turtle on Inner Wrist
This is a wonderful tattoo that will keep looking good for years. The simple line art of a turtle will age well over time. Making sure your tattoo has plenty of negative space and bold lines will ensure that it looks good years after you get it.
33. Cute Simple Turtle on Wrist
This is another example of a tattoo that will age well. The simple style is cute and will still be easy to make out even years down the line. If you want a tattoo that will age well, be sure to discuss the topic with your artist. A good artist will be able to tell you what will look best years down the line even without touchups.
34. Sea Turtle Above the Knee
This is a more detailed turtle that should still look good years later. The style is sketchy without being messy. It would look good as-is or in color. Be sure you talk with your artist about the style of your tattoo. Picking a different art style can dramatically change the look of your tattoo.
35. Turtle with Flower for Shell
This lovely tattoo blends a sea turtle tattoo with a floral theme. You could use any species of turtle combined with any flower you like. Since each flower can have its own meaning, be sure to do your research. You can always go with a favorite flower if you are having trouble deciding on the flower for your tattoo.
36. Tiny Match Polygonal Sea Turtles
This interesting tattoo features matching polygonal turtles. If you love this look, you could get this placed anywhere at any size. Feel free to add background elements or color to help make this tattoo unique to you. A basic idea like this could be taken in many different directions depending on what you add.
37. Sea Turtle with Patterned Shell
This is a cute take on the shell patterns of a turtle. It includes a small heart on it as well as delicate details to give it a distinctly feminine feel. You could use patterns or shapes you like to achieve a similar result. The dots around the turtle help improve the composition and give the feeling of bubbles in the water.
38. Cute Sea Turtle on Elbow
This is similar in style to another turtle on the list. This one is located on the inner elbow. You can change the placement of a small tattoo like this to any area you like since it should fit in many locations. The added detail in the shell is a nice way to make it unique.
39. Colorful Sea Turtle on Shoulder
This is a lovely sea turtle with a unique shade in each portion of the shell. Using colors like this can make your tattoo more distinctive. Feel free to use any color palette you like to achieve a similar result.
40. Tiny Delicate Turtle on Wrist
This is another version of a cute turtle but rendered in finer lines. Changing the thickness of lines used in a tattoo can give the whole piece a different feel. Don’t be afraid to change details like this to get the tattoo of your dreams. Just ask your artist how fine of a line they can create.
41. Detailed Sea Turtle on Wrist
This is a more realistic take on a sea turtle. The scutes of the shell are rendered, and soft shading on the head helps make it feel three-dimensional. You can go for more realism if you like and use shading to help make details pop in the final piece.
42. Massive Turtle Back Piece with Lizards
This cool piece shows you don’t have to go small if you know what you want. A detailed turtle takes up most of the back, with mirrored lizards and bold lines to fill the rest of the space.
43. Realistic Baby Sea Turtle Tattoo
Many people love baby sea turtles. They are cute, and a wonderful sight if you are lucky enough to witness them heading out to sea. The soft shading and details make this a lovely piece anyone would be lucky to have.
44. Single Line Sea Turtle Tattoo
This is another great example of a single-line tattoo. The elegant line forms the unmistakable silhouette of a sea turtle. If you want a bold tattoo that will age well, go with a similar tattoo. Be sure not to get it too small, or it will blur over time.
45. Patterned Sea Turtle with Starfish
This is a turtle positioned over lines made up of the same patterning. The starfish in a similar style helps give this a nautical feel. Don’t be afraid to add details to get across the feeling you want for your tattoo. Talk to your artist about your options.
More turtle tattoo ideas for girls on the next page…
46. Matching Single Line Sea Turtles
These sea turtles are rendered in a single-line style. A simple tattoo like this is great for a matching tattoo. Make sure you ask your artist for a few examples of this style of the tattoo so you are sure you like the one you go with.
47. Sea Turtle with Continents on Back
This is another cool example of the world turtle idea. A sea turtle has the Atlantic on its back with a sailboat crossing the sea. You could use old maps as a reference image for a similar tattoo.
48. Sketchy Sea Turtle in Blocky Style
This is a similar tattoo to another on the list. The sketchy look renders a boxy turtle that looks much like old polygonal art used in older video games. This is a cool way to do a turtle tattoo.
49. Tiny Sea Turtle with Waves on Shell
This is a lovely tattoo for a surfer. A stylized turtle has waves within its shell. You could change this up with color, or another image in the shell. You could also use different patterns to give this a different feel.
50. Watercolor Style Sea Turtle Tattoo
This is a wonderful example of an intentionally messy watercolor tattoo. The colors are a rainbow and create a sea turtle. You could use any color palette you like if you want a more limited palette.
51. Matching Sea Turtles with Waves
This is a cool idea for a matching tattoo. The turtle is in an abstract style, and the blue water with yellow pops beautifully to draw the eye. This is another great idea for a surfer since the shapes in the water look much like surfboards.
52. Baby Sea Turtle Swimming to the Surface
This lovely tattoo looks like a scene rendered from a photo. A tiny sea turtle is swimming to the surface for air. If you like this idea, feel free to take a photo you like and ask if your artist could make a tattoo based on the image.
53. Sea Turtle Framed with Shapes
This is a delicate tattoo that depicts a sea turtle with shapes made of light dots around it. Using a unique frame like this can change the feeling of your tattoo. Use images like this as inspiration when designing your unique tattoo.
54. Turtle Swimming Through Outer Space
This is a lovely image that also draws to mind the world turtle swimming through space. This is a great tattoo if you love space, and you could use any scene you like as the inspiration for the background. Bring examples of what you like to your artist.
55. Rainbow Watercolor Sea Turtle Tattoo
This is another great example of a colorful tattoo in this lovely style. If you like it, feel free to go with any colors or placement you like. You could also use a color palette you like, or change the positioning of the turtle.
56. Tiny Turtle with Purple Flowers
This cute tattoo shows a turtle standing among the flowers. You could use any flower you like for your tattoo. Using purple does give a nice contrast with the green of the turtle. Be sure to ask your artist about composition when you are designing your tattoo.
57. Black and White Sea Turtle
This is a great example to show that you don’t need color for a great tattoo. The black is lightly shaded to give texture to the turtle’s shell and give it a more realistic feel than many other examples.
58. Realistic Sea Turtle on Shoulder
This is a wonderful example of a realistic turtle tattoo. The shading makes it feel three-dimensional. If you want a similar tattoo, bring in a photograph of a real turtle in the same pose that you want on your tattoo.
59. Watercolor Sea Turtle and Flowers
This lovely tattoo uses watercolor for a soft feeling. The flowers and stars give some strong lines to contrast with the fading outline of the turtle. Using a more artistic, painterly look like this makes for a great tattoo you are sure to love.
60. Sea Turtle with Soft Colors and Bubbles
This cute tattoo uses yellows, purples, and blues to fill in a sea turtle. You can use any colors you like, just make sure they balance well like this example. Look for color palette ideas and show them to your artist.
60 Stunning Turtle Tattoos that will Turn Heads
As you can see, there are many ways you can take a turtle tattoo. You can use many different styles and color choices to create your own unique tattoo. Many cultures and media have turtles in them, so look to these for more design inspiration as you narrow down what you would like for your tattoo. Narrow down the style you would like for your tattoo, then look for a tattoo artist that has a similar style to the final one you want. If you want an art piece, you need to be sure your artist can achieve the result you want.