Geometric Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning
Geometric tattoos are both simple yet mesmerizing, as artists draw inspiration from ancient geometry and its meaning.
There’s a lot of freedom in design when it comes to geometric tattoos—you can choose different shapes and sizes to create intriguing pieces. Should you choose a geometric tattoo next time you’re getting inked?
What Is a Geometric Tattoo?
Geometric tattoos, in general, draw inspiration from shapes and patterns you can find in the natural world. Some tattoos can be tied with ancient or religious iconography, such as the Gordian knot.
But what is sacred geometry really? It can be interpreted differently, depending on the artist and where in the world you are.
Geometric tattoos usually start out with very basic shapes that hold great meaning. For example, circles generally portray community and relationships, whereas squares portray stability.
Where these tattoos become very interesting is when the artist combines different shapes as a way to create a balance between the meanings.
The Meaning Behind Geometric Tattoos
Geometric tattoos are based on sacred geometry that is full of fascinating concepts and symbolism. One of the most common geometric tattoo designs is the flower of life. This design consists of several overlapping circles, all of the same size.
The flower of life can be traced back to various cultures and religions throughout history. It’s said to represent the most sacred patterns in the universe—creation. This includes life and all existence.
The Gordian knot is another ancient symbol commonly replicated in tattoos. This design is based on an ancient Greek myth. The knot was utilized to secure Gordias’—a farmer who was prophesied to become king—ox-cart.
Many tried, but no one succeeded in untying the knot. It was finally cut by Alexander the Great after several attempts.
The Gordian knot has since become a metaphor for complicated problems that require you to think outside the box.
Although there are no images of the actual knot, it’s generally depicted using a simple design. You can often find it as three or more rings interlocking.
When used in tattooing, the Gordian knot usually represents the complexity of life. It can also represent our appreciation for the beauty in life’s unsolvable mysteries.
The different elements are also represented by shapes. For example, the cube symbolizes the Earth, tetrahedron represents fire, octahedron symbolizes air and water is represented by the icosahedron.
History of Geometric Tattoos
Geometry is a core element of mathematics, and it dates all the way back to the 6th century BCE. Geometry was used as the core principle behind ancient architecture. One well-known example of this is the ancient Egyptian pyramids.
Ancient Egyptians were among the first to adopt geometry into tattooing. However, at the time, tattoos were exclusively done on women, which is shown on many female mummies.
They would use a poking technique to create different shapes and patterns—often across the abdomen, thighs and breasts. Researchers believe that tattoos were used to alleviate pain during pregnancy and childbirth.
Some of the oldest documented geometric tattoos were found on the inhabitants of the Micronesia islands.
Because Micronesia is made up of multiple small islands, the meaning behind and design of tattoos differ. In saying that, across the islands, it was mostly women who were tattooed.
This was usually done when a girl reached puberty, showing that she was ready for marriage. Common places for the tattoos included the pelvic area, abdomen and buttocks.
For some, it was a way to seduce their husbands. For others, tattoos were used to protect their bodies after childbirth.
Similar to ancient Egypt, men were rarely tattooed.
Commonly Used Geometric Designs
We mentioned two common designs above—the flower of life and Gordian knot. However, geometric tattoos certainly aren’t limited to these designs only. Here are a few other designs that incorporate geometry:
- Mandala: Mandala tattoos hold high symbolic significance, especially in Hinduism. When done well, mandalas can look very impressive, using different colors to make it come to life. Mandala tattoos can consist of different shapes, starting at the center and making their way outward in a circular pattern.
- Ouroboros: Rooting back to Greek mythology, the Ouroboros is a common design in geometric tattoos. These tattoos commonly depict a serpent or dragon devouring its tail. The symbol represents self-reflexivity and the circle of life as well as death.
- Double Ouroboros: Found in ancient Greek culture, this design features two serpents that join each other’s ends. It commonly represents volatility, but it can also symbolize opposite yet complimentary spirits or energies—similar to yin and yang.
- Owl: Geometric animals are often incorporated into tattoo designs. Although any animal can feature in a geometric tat, the owl takes the lead in being the most popular. Owls symbolize intelligence and wisdom. But the bird is also often associated with the night and secretiveness.
Skills and Techniques Required
Geometric tattoos involve a significant amount of detail; therefore, it requires a steady hand. These tattoos often use straight lines and strategically placed dots that are important to get right. The slightest movement could throw the artist off the line, possibly ruining the tattoo.
Choosing the right artist and design is essential to have the best possible outcome. Before settling on an artist, ask to see their portfolio and ask them if they have good experience with geometric tattoos.
Instagram is a helpful platform where you can see the works of different artists—maybe you’ll find someone who specializes particularly in geometric tattoos.
Nowadays, technology has helped to improve the preparations for tattoo designs. Artists can create digital designs as well as printed stencils that help to make getting the tattoo spot-on easier.
In saying that, many artists still prefer to hand-sketch designs and ideas. Whatever you and your artist decide on, allow them to advise you on placement as well as scaling of the tattoo design.
Tips for Picking a Suitable Design
There are many great sources of inspiration when it comes to geometric tattoos—after all, the designs are based on natural shapes and patterns.
Geometric tattoos also offer great choices when it comes to incorporating colors into the designs. Unlike dotwork tattoos that generally only use black or grey colors.
However, you can also choose stronger outlines or all-black lines with dots to help make your vision a reality.
Work With the Artist
After choosing an artist, it’s important to work together to create your desired design. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to settle for one specific shape. Geometric tattoos allow you to combine different shapes to create various patterns that hold different meanings.
One of the most beautiful things about geometric tattoos is that you can symbolize any sentiment through a few lines. So don’t shy away from telling your artist a personal story that you want to portray.
Give your artist a few points of what you want to incorporate and let them create something unique for you.
Placement is another important consideration—not only for aesthetic reasons but also for spiritual importance. Many cultures believe that the placement of the tattoo holds its own significance. Moreover, many believe the right placement can have a positive impact on not only your spiritual well being but also your health.
Although geometric tattoos can be placed anywhere you desire, there are a few areas that are most common:
- Shoulder or arm: One of the many perks of a shoulder or arm tattoo is that you can easily expose or hide the tat when needed. However, this area is best suited for smaller designs.
- Back: A design with lots of detail requires a bigger canvas; therefore, the back is the ideal option. You also get a lot of choice of whether you want the tattoo to only cover a small part or a larger part of the back. A downside is that it’s not always easy to show it off.
- Chest: Similar to the back, the chest is also easily suitable for larger designs. Moreover, the area is easily covered or exposed when needed. Before settling on an area on your chest, consider how visible you want it to be. The top and middle part of the chest will be more visible, whereas further down or the sides will be more hidden.
- Legs: This is probably the most common area for geometric tattoos, more specifically the back of the calf. Again, where to place the tattoo on your leg depends on how visible or easy to cover you want it to be.
It’s essential to consider the amount of detail you want to include in your design. An artist is likely to suggest a larger scale if you’ve chosen a very intricate pattern. A larger design will be able to show the details better.