Owl Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

An owl tattoo is a great mythological symbol that can be used to motivate and nudge you through difficult periods in your life. There’re many designs to compliment your personality. From different themes to color schemes, here’s everything you need to know.

Owl Tattoo: Symbology and Meaning

Owl tats can represent different ideas and beliefs, but the most common interpretation is that of wisdom and knowledge.


To emphasize this theme, the owl is usually illustrated grasping a scroll in its talons. If the bird is in flight, the symbol implies a determination to improve yourself and soar new heights. It’s a very popular design among students and ink-enthusiastic scholars, who use it as a reminder to strive for academic excellence.

Changing times

These tattoos are also used to represent change and new life direction. They’re popular with people closing a chapter of their lives, or those looking to start something new. An owl in flight shows optimism over the path your life is taking.

This is a fairly common theme among newlyweds who combine a flying owl with some other matrimonial-related art. A common theme has the birds landing on a nest to symbolize that the wearer is settling down.

As a new parent, you may get an owl tat to embody the change of role and responsibility. 

Optimism and Luck 

By the link to wisdom, owl tattoos are often perceived to be lucky for people pursuing an education. They’re popular options to get when going off to college and can illustrate an optimism to get the best out of the lessons ahead. It can also prove useful to nudge students who find college too demanding.


Because of their big eyes and the ability to turn their head around 360 degrees, owls can be seen as all-seeing or all-knowing animals. Consequently, owl tattoos are often associated with self-awareness. Combine the illustration with nature-themed symbology if you want to illustrate a concern for the environment. 

Popular Designs

Below are a few of the most popular owl tattoo designs. Combine these designs or blend with symbols relevant to the message you seek to advance for a truly unique illustration.

Owl Faces

Owl faces are eye-catching tat designs that can be used to symbolize curiosity and a willingness to learn. The face can occur in combination with other symbols to underpin the theme or give the objects new meaning. A popular design places the face in heart symbols to illustrate the pursuit of love, peace, and wisdom.

Some people forego the face and use the eyes on their backs to suggest they’re aware of what’s happening around them. It may also be used to underpin a theme of control.

Full-Owl Gothic 

Another popular tattoo approach depicts a full body owl with full feathers and big eyes. This is usually of a more gothic rendition with dark colors and deep shading. The tat can be combined with dark objects, such as devil wings, to build on the dark theme. 

In this type of design, the eyes may also be illustrated to look and feel real for added effect. In such a case, the bird should be the object of the illustration—with very few objects around it, if any. This is because the idea here is to call attention to the hyper-realistic eyes.

Cute Owls

The outline of this piece is often rounded with solid edges rather than detailed with features. Cute owl illustrations are usually vibrant with bright colors and contrasting backgrounds. They’re fun-looking tats that may be used to demonstrate that the wearer is fun and outgoing.

Most illustrations have a cartoony feel and may be used to illustrate that the wearer is young at heart. Combinations that work well with this design include humorous quotes, funny-looking fonts, and multicolored backgrounds that make the owl pop.

Dreamcatcher Owl

An owl in a dreamcatcher is a very popular design with ink enthusiasts who enjoy a dash of mysticism in their illustrations. The bird almost looks like it’s on a swing with most renditions.

Common alterations capture the owl flying out of the dreamcatcher to symbolize the pursuit of your dreams. Sometimes the dream catcher is illustrated full of thorns and other dark objects to suggest that the wearer refuses to be defined by past misfortunes.

Common Colors and Color Combinations

Your choice of color builds on the symbology and advances the theme of the ink. Below are a few suggestions that work well with owl tattoos:

Black Shading

Black ink gives depth and prominence to owl tattoos. A skilled artist should give your tat an authentic 3D look with enough shading. This approach is pivotal when you’re going for hyper-reality. Black shading could make the eyes look real, and the details on the feathers pop.


Purple can mean wisdom and wealth. It can also be used to emphasize the gothic-look appearance of the owl. It’s popular with the owl in a dreamcatcher tattoo, where it’s used to set the background.

This color works well on feathers in cute owl tats to make the illustration pop. To emphasize the theme of wisdom and its superiority as an attribute, a purple background, in combination with royalty related symbols—like the crown—can be used to enhance the owl tat’s theme of pre-eminence.

Multiple Colors

When the tattoo captures the bird in flight, multiple colors can be used to bring out the contrast and increase the illustration’s appeal. A combination of bright yellow and orange colors contrast well with a blue sky background. This elaborate use of colors also emphasizes the theme of freedom embodied by the flight.

Common Placements

Placement may be used to emphasize the pervading theme of an owl tattoo. Generally, the illustration is perceived to be more optimistic if it’s inked onto the left breast. Find more creative placements below:


Owl tattoos are often seen on the forearm because both the arm and tat are cylindrical. This area is big enough to accommodate a decent-sized owl or a composite illustration of the bird and relevant objects.


The chest is a very popular place for owl eye tattoos as it complements their shape. These tats usually go under the collar bone and above the nipples—right onto the pectoral muscles. 


Owl tattoos complement the shape of the shoulder for an eye-catching finish. Owl’s eyes on this part could imply the cliché ‘eyes on my back’. A melancholic bird could also be placed here to imply a broader outlook on life. This is an especially popular idea among the older ink enthusiasts.

Owl wings could also be placed on the shoulders to imply a readiness to learn and move from the past. This is a popular theme among people looking to immortalize a failed relationship. To enhance the theme, the wings could be illustrated to carry a broken heart or shriveled rose.


The shape of the legs complements the owl tat. These tattoos are typically inked onto the calf because it allows enough room for details and symbol combinations. For example, a landing owl could imply that the wearer is looking to settle down. It could also be taken to suggest a willingness to move on to new things.

Complementary owl wings on each leg are popular designs for illustrating the wearer is ready to pursue their goals. They would make excellent reminders to keep your goals in focus, and your determination fresh.

Best Owl Tattoos

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