Cross Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

The cross is an ancient symbol commonly associated with sacrifice in Christianity. Consequently, a cross tattoo is used to express hope and conviction. With a few tweaks, you can make it carry a wide range of ideas. Join us as we look at numerous options for personalizing it to your faith, preferred colors, and personality.

History and Meanings 

The cross symbol was used in the ancient world long before being adopted by Christianity in the era of Emperor Constantine. Throughout history, it has symbolized spirituality and power. Cross tattoos are a good reminder of spiritual connection, especially for people who’ve gone through hard times—both physical and emotional.

Sometimes, a cross with a name is used as a personal way to mourn for departed kin and friends.

Types of Cross

Personalize your ink by using unique cross designs, vibrant colors, or combine it with other thought-provoking designs. Below are a few typical cross tattoo designs:

  • Latin: This cross is most commonly associated with Christianity today—it’s the design with a longer base stem
  • Greek: This design has four arms of equal length
  • St. Anthony’s: Also called the Tau cross after the Greek letter, this variation has the form of the letter T
  • St. Andrew’s: In the form of the letter X, with the arms running diagonally instead of horizontally and vertically
  • Jerusalem: One large cross surrounded by four smaller ones, the Jerusalem cross is a representation of the spreading of the gospel
  • Celtic: This cross is like the Latin one with a longer base stem, but with a circle behind it—representing hope and faith
  • Ankh: A cross with an oval loop on top is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol of life
  • Crucifix: A typically Catholic symbol that reminds the wearer of both suffering and love

Design and Common Combinations

A small tweak in the configuration and presentation of the cross tattoo could change both the symbolism and message behind the ink. Below are a few common design options:

Names and Dates

Many use the cross as a way to remember loved ones, especially by adding text. Names can be included inside the cross or around it. They can be written on a ribbon covering a part of the cross, above or beneath it, or as a circle. You can also add a date as a reminder of someone’s passing.


Because of its Catholic origins, a rosary tattoo signifies true devotion to a higher power. You can design it to go under or around your cross—in a loop or tied around it.


Doves are symbols of peace. Combined with a cross, they imply faith. You can depict the dove flying around the cross, or perched on top or by its side. For a darker theme, how about a sickly dove on a crooked cross?


A halo tattoo is usually associated with angelic beings and purity. It works well with cross tats when commemorating departed loved ones. A halo above a cross tattoo with the deceased’s name is a common design in such circumstances.


Tattoos of anchors or ships with crosses represent hope combined with faith. A common theme is to have a cross-shaped anchor still a ship in the rough seas. It’s usually used to illustrate the power of faith to see the wearer through life’s troubles.


A lion is often associated with courage. Combined with a cross tattoo, it evokes a sense of drive and determination. It may act as a reminder to push on, even when things look bleak.


You can design a snake to go under or behind the cross tattoo. This combination implies the need to protect yourself from deceit and stay true to your faith and beliefs. It may prove to be a very powerful symbol for people fighting the negative influences of peer pressure.


Thorns underline the Christian origin of the cross, depicting a part of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice. You can add a crown of thorns above the cross tattoo or leave it around the base to underpin the theme of sacrifice.


A cross tattoo with wings on either side carries the meaning of rising above circumstances. They look especially good on your back or your chest, in a larger size. On the back, the cross typically falls on the spine, while the wings are illustrated on the sides to give the feel that they belong to the tat wearer.


Combine the heart symbol with a cross tattoo to emphasize a theme of enduring love. The cross is usually depicted at the core of the heart symbol to symbolize that sacrifice is what sustains relationships.


Flowers, especially roses, are often included in tattoos with crosses. Place the flowers as a crown underneath the cross or around the stem, or even as a foundation.

The rose-cross combination is largely optimistic—it illustrates the appeal to see the beauty in every circumstance. For a darker feel, use shriveled roses and a gothic-looking cross.

Common Colors and Styles

Black is the most popular color for these tattoos. Dashes of red are also a meaningful addition, as they symbolize Jesus bleeding on the cross. 

Possible styles range from tribal or Gothic-style crosses with intricate forms, to plain and simple outlines. Experiment with different color combinations and themes for a more unique design. 

You can also let the different cross styles guide your inspiration. The ankh, for example, is easily combined with ancient symbols and other hieroglyphics to bring out the feel of antiquity. One popular symbol for this is the eye of Horus, which represents protection and health.

A crucifix, on the other hand, looks good when drawn in a realistic style. If you’re looking to stand out, try to think outside the box and make it more abstract or florid

The tattoo can also really pop with a negative style. Try leaving the cross blank on top of a foundation of elements like flowers, wings or thorns.

Different styles of church art can give you a lot of inspiration for the cross or the imagery surrounding it. Try Byzantine, Medieval, Gothic or Renaissance styles to spark up your imagination when thinking about your new tattoo.

Cross tattoos are also often drawn as simple, black lines. This is an especially good option if you’re looking to add a small tat and don’t want it to be as visible. 

Common Placements

The cross tattoo is versatile and can be added to any part of the body—subject to whether you want it hidden or exposed. Here are a few popular placements to inspire your next tattoo:

Hidden Crosses

In a smaller size, the cross tattoo is a good personal reminder of faith that can be hidden from other people’s eyes. These tats are adaptable to pretty much every part of your body.

On your hands, you can place a small cross on the inside of your wrists or between your fingers. That way, it’s a small reminder you can access during the day, but won’t be seen by others unless you show it. 

Another common body part to place a cross tattoo is on the feet. The ankle or the top part of your foot can hide a minuscule or a slightly bigger illustration. You won’t see it throughout most of your day, but you’ll know it’s there.

Your b is also a good place to conceal a cross, especially if you place it so you can hide it by letting your hair loose. Some people even hide it closer to the hairline or behind the ear.

Others like to keep their ink a little closer to their hearts, either on their chest or on their ribs. Also, a small cross can be kept out of sight by placing it below your arms or your collarbone.

Visible Crosses

Many people get a cross tattoo because they want to show their faith to the world. This is one design that can be easily adapted to any part of the body.

A common placement for a bigger cross is on the shoulder or back. The back is an especially good canvas for ink that needs to be illustrated in great detail. The shoulder is another common inking location, thanks to its great visibility and shape that easily accommodates a vertical tattoo.

Calves are another great place for a larger cross, especially for men. The good thing is that both of these places can be hidden, if necessary.

Best Cross Tattoos