Carpe Diem Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

Carpe diem is Latin and roughly translates to “seize the day,” meaning we should always live our lives in the present. You can use inking elements designed after flowers, ships, feathers, and the like to personalize this tattoo. Different fonts, sizes, and placements will also help you personalize the art.

Carpe Diem: Meaning

Carpe diem is more of a philosophy than a quote. Wearers of these tats believe in making the best of the day or living in the moment. While it’s usually translated as “seize the day,” the original wording is literal for “pluck the day”—an invitation to be the best you can be in the “now.”

This ink design acts as a constant affirmation that the wearer has the potential to be better. People with major anxiety could especially benefit from this aspect of the carpe diem illustration. It will also prove useful for the adventurer looking to edge the envelope of achievement.

Popular Designs

If you want to add vibrance and emphasize the sentiment of the carpe diem tattoo, consider some of these examples.


Flowers are a common element to combine with this text. The original use of the phrase actually refers to plucking flowers, so they’re an appropriate element to add to your tattoo.

They represent vitality and life and are a great reminder of the importance of being in the moment. You can also use dead or shriveled flowers to underscore a more negative meaning for the image.


Butterflies are viewed as beautiful, frail and free, so they serve well as a reminder of life’s fleeting happiness. The combination with a butterfly illustration can easily be adapted to many different styles, from traditional to watercolor. 

Draw the butterfly outline and combine it with the font of your choice. You can also innovate with the placing of the quote around, below, or above the design.


Clocks are a good way to underline the meaning of the text. Time may run out if you’re not careful to be in the moment and enjoy what you have. To emphasize this idea, the text may be printed on the clock’s face. A top or bottom placement would also work.


Hourglasses are another way to emphasize the tat’s ‘time’s running out’ theme. Even though they’re a classic tattoo element, there are many different ways to use them. Make the hourglass more intricate or simple by tweaking the style and color. 

Use different hues for the text and glass if you want to contrast the desire to live in the moment against the limitation of time. That said, an hourglass is symbolically different from a clock. The glass is more definite and brings out a feel of finality or limitation, whereas a clock is cyclical, starting anew every 12 hours.


A compass indicates a future that’s open, almost a crossroads. Every direction is available, so which one should you take?

Combined with the quote, this tattoo would be great for free spirits who don’t let other people’s opinions influence them. Seize the moment and follow your heart to be happy because tomorrow is always uncertain.

Ships or Helms

The steering wheel of a ship follows the same line of thought as a compass, but with even more determination. Sometimes, you need a reminder that you can steer the ship of your life wherever you need to. 

This tattoo evokes you to trust yourself and follow your own course. Adding a ship or other nautical settings to your tattoo emphasizes a message of liberty and independence.


Feathers have an element of freedom to them, as they fly with the wind. They look really nice with the quote added above or underneath. The feather is light and subtle, and the design is especially common for women, combined with a delicate font.

Feathers underpin the theme of flexibility—you’re ready to embrace whatever will help you enjoy life more.

Ancient Scrolls or Books

Sometimes the quote is incorporated in an ancient scroll or old book. It highlights the fact that the phrase is full of antique wisdom and universal truth. This style should work especially well with more traditional or realistic themes. It’s also great for writers, seeing as text and paper are their tools of trade.

Musical Symbols, Paintbrushes or Other Artistic Elements

All of these, when combined with the quote, can symbolize the need to express yourself. If you’re the creative type, this should work. Pick elements that complement existing ink. This way, the carpe diem tattoo will merge seamlessly with your other illustrations.

Skulls and Skeletons

Images related to death are a reminder of the inevitable end we all must meet—a powerful reminder to make the best of life. These kinds of designs work best with darker colors, traditional fonts, colorful Mexican-style work, or a combination of all of these.


While the options for adding other elements are wide, this tattoo doesn’t necessarily need anything else. The universal appeal and recognition of the quote guarantee it will work on its own.

If you like this idea, show personality with the choice of font. For a minimalist, a simple one can already make your ink stand out. Big and bold letters will also make an impact. If you’re more quirky, the choice of an unusual font will make the tattoo truly yours.

Olde English

Probably the most traditional fonts for tattoos with quotes are old or biblical letterings of all kinds. They go well in big or small sizes, horizontally and vertically, and as parts of bigger work.


Different cursive styles are among the most common for this kind of work. They’re subtle and adaptable to different personalities and many other elements. Still, they work best with more delicate designs and objects, such as birds, butterflies, and feathers. 

Typewriter Font

This font is a little more unusual and will work very well if you’re looking for something that stands out. It pairs well with birds or butterflies, or more traditionally masculine elements like Vikings and dragons.


Different kinds of graffiti designs allow you to use your imagination with colors. With the right coloration and shading, you can add depth, vibrancy, and emphasis to the illustration.

Block Letters

All simple, block letters can be impactful and give the traditional quote a twist. It’s not for everybody, but if you’re all about standing out, you should enjoy this design.


Using handwriting is another nice touch to make the tattoo even more meaningful. Your handwriting or that of a loved one, who you want to pay tribute to, can personalize the tattoo.

Black Background With White Letters

If you really want your tattoo to stand out, how about a black sleeve with the non-colored letters standing out? It’s a very effective symbol for hope during troubling times—embodied by how the text breaks through the dark background.

Common Colors and Styles

The most common color for this and other text tattoos is black. If you want something a little different, add more color to the text or the objects around it.

Birds, butterflies, and flowers allow you to set your imagination free in matters of color combinations. Skulls, roses, and nautical themes are very versatile as they can adapt to different styles, from Mexican to hyper-realistic. If you want more color for your carpe diem tattoo, go with a nature theme.

Common Placements

The most common placements are the upper arms and the back. If you want to experiment with something a little different, write it vertically.

Areas where the skin stretches a lot can make your tattoo unreadable after some years. It’s ideal to keep that in mind when choosing a location. The choice of location also depends on the writing. More delicate fonts adapt well to smaller parts of the body. Old, biblical styles may need more space to look good.

Best Carpe Diem Tattoos