Butterfly Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

Are you thinking of getting a beautiful tattoo? They’re said to represent love, romance, and femininity. They’re often a popular choice for women and girls as their first body art, but there’s a lot more hidden in these illustrations than a pretty design.

The Butterfly Spirit — What Does the Butterfly Represent?

Butterflies have been an object of fascination since ancient times, so it’s no wonder that they continue to captivate us to this day as a popular tattoo design, and with a few tweaks, they can represent many things.

The beauty and grace associated with butterflies make the equivalent tats very popular among ink enthusiasts. For people whose lives are in flux, the insect’s transformation from the lowly caterpillar into a beautiful new form makes them a popular choice. 


The butterfly only lives a couple of weeks or a couple of months, and throughout their life cycle, they undergo many challenges and changes. From larva to chrysalis to full-grown, they’re always on the move and face many dangers.

This converts into humans whereby change is all around us, and life’s never put on pause. This distinct insect defines this motion through the journeys of its own life. 

Periods of change and transformation in a person’s life can be challenging and painful. A butterfly tattoo can symbolize embracing those changes and making the most out of them. 

These majestic insects assume their beautiful forms at the cusp of adulthood, so they’re common inking options for young women as they reach adulthood. Older women can get butterfly tattoos to emphasize their femininity when going through menopause. 

Transwomen go through a butterfly-like metamorphosis when they come out, and many choose to commemorate that with a tattoo. Transformation and development tattoos are often combined with other symbols that represent change. Cherry blossoms or other heralds of spring are fun choices. 


The freedom of flight represented together with the butterfly’s beauty and grace make it an attractive tattoo for a girl or woman striking out on her own. Girls at the cusp of adulthood or women stepping out after a divorce or break up often embrace their freedom with some body art.

A talented tattoo artist can design the butterfly so that it appears to be sitting on the skin, casting a shadow. This gives it the illusion that its wings are up, and it’s about to fly off, emphasizing freedom. Words or other symbols are commonly added to the wing pattern to add a more personal touch.

Spiritual Rebirth

Due to their primary ecological purpose—pollination—they’ve often been associated with the renewal of life. For this, spiritual butterfly tattoos are often combined with personally important religious symbols. In fact, the ancient Greeks used the same word ‘psyche’ to represent both the soul and butterflies.

In their more general use, people often choose a design that fits in with how certain cultures viewed them. The Aztecs, for example, viewed these insects as spirits of warriors who died in battle. A red one painted on the back of a fallen warrior helped guide them to the afterlife, so the ink of these distinct red wings might symbolize a guardian angel.

Good Fortune, Happiness, and Beauty

With its vibrant colors, free-spirited selves, and motivation to go through the changes in their lives, butterflies bring joy, happiness, and a touch of beauty to all who see them. 

Butterfly tattoos symbolizing beauty, happiness, or good fortune are often colorful and intricately designed. If emphasizing beauty is the goal, an abstract design featuring curves is a good choice to highlight the feminine form. 

The placement of the tat can help draw the eye and emphasize a certain part of the anatomy. These tats are popular near the breasts or on the lower back for this reason.

If highlighting good luck is the goal, placing the tattoo where the wearer can see it is a common option. A gambler might get a small butterfly on the lower arm, wrist, or hand so they can see it when they roll the dice. Use green and silver for these illustrations; they are colors connected to luck.

Popular Butterfly Designs

The constraints of the real world don’t limit tats, so your tat can feature impossible coloring, patterns, and anatomy. Here are four of the most popular designs:

Black butterfly

For those new to body art and afraid of how much pain they’ll have to endure, a simple black tattoo can be a great introduction. The black butterfly tat favors elegance and simplicity, while also symbolizing the soul for the Celts and other ancient civilizations.


Those who choose a geometric tattoo often do so for their beauty. Typically, they’re shown with wings open to get the full effect. An artist can play with the symmetry to further the beauty of the design.

Butterfly with Flowers

Like butterflies, flowers are often used to symbolize the renewal of spring. When used together in an illustration, they magnify the theme. 

Flowers can add beauty, as well. Many people choose to add their favorite flowers into tattoos of these distinct insects for a more personal touch. 

Butterfly with Skulls

Skulls are a sign of death or mortality, while butterflies represent rebirth. Combining them can symbolize the life cycle or act as a tribute to a fallen loved one.

Common Colors

Colors have symbolic meanings that differ by culture and personal significance. Some of the most symbolic colors for a butterfly tattoo include:

Reds and Oranges

The vivid and brilliant hues of red and orange are often associated with passion and happiness. They’re ideal colors for a coming of age tattoo, welcoming a young woman to adulthood with a splash of bright color on her shoulder or arm. 


Purple Atala butterflies are rare in the natural world. This color has long been associated with royalty thanks to the expense and rarity of purple dyes. A purple tattoo can symbolize the introduction of an important person in your life, like a first child.


A common legend around blue butterflies says they grant wishes when caught. As such, a blue butterfly tattoo might allude to luck or renewed hope for the future. A person dealing with sudden changes to their lives might find strength and hope in the majesty of their blue wings.


Often considered a color of energy, new life, and rebirth, yellow is a prime color for your ink. A yellow butterfly tat can memorialize a new addition to your family—perhaps the addition of a new tat for each child on your arm or close to your heart.

Popular Body Placements

Since it’s among the more familiar symbols, a butterfly tattoo can be placed almost anywhere, whether it be personal or in the open.

Wrists and Ankles

For small tattoos, the ankle and wrist are great choices. Wrist tats can be seen by the wearer almost all the time, making it a common location for ink representing something you want to remember. The ankle, on the other hand, is an unobtrusive spot, perfect for those worried about having visible body art.

Shoulder and Back

The shoulder blades can feature larger ink and are often used for tattoos you want others to see. The back itself offers the largest canvas on the body, allowing for expansive body art with intricate designs. Placing one on the lower back draws the eyes to the curve of a woman’s hips, emphasizing their sexuality.

Hips and Breast

The elegant femininity of a butterfly tattoo can enhance and draw attention to a woman’s most feminine features. An illustration peeking through your top, just above your cleavage, will turn some heads, as will one on the hip.

Best Butterfly Tattoos