Rose Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

Roses are among the most popular designs for tattoos, but they’re very versatile. They symbolize life, love and beauty, but their basic meaning can be modified with other elements. Roses can be adapted to all traditional styles, from Chinese to Mexican or American, as well as geometric forms.

Roses are popular objects not only in tattoos, but also in art, poetry and music, from Shakespeare to Guns N’ Roses. That doesn’t mean they have to be boring.

A perfectly healed and well-moisturized tattoo.

Meanings of a Rose Tattoo

They’re usually associated with romantic love, but roses have multiple other meanings, such as loyalty and life. They’re usually worn by women, but can be adapted to men, as well.

The most common meaning attached to roses is one of deep feelings of love. They’re the flower that couples give to each other on Valentine’s Day, after all. Sometimes they symbolize a beautiful woman.

Flowers and plants, in general, represent vitality and can represent life in a broader sense. That makes them great for memorial tattoos, with names included or not. Roses can also symbolize beauty and its fleeting nature.

They’re also the national flower of England. If you have an important link to this country, a tattoo can be a great reminder.

Popular Designs

You can use the rose, with or without its stem, alone or as part of a bigger bunch of flowers. Here are some more ideas and elements you can include with it.

Young vs. Old Roses

Whether you draw the rose in its bud or later on as it flourishes has an important message. If you decide to depict a withering rose, you’ll symbolize the loss of strength or illness. On the other hand, a vivacious, budding flower represents vitality and youth.


Visible, marked thorns can carry a meaning not visible to others when they see your new ink. They are a subtle way to symbolize the difficulties of life, or the special challenges of your romantic love.


Men often like to use the rose with harder elements. The rose smoothes out the darkness of the skull, bringing it a more delicate beauty. It also reminds of the balance between life and death. Many traditional styles, such as Mexican designs, look good with roses and skulls.


Roses with guns bring a big contrast. On the one hand, you have power, even violence. On the other hand, you have the beauty of a flower.

You can either depict a big rose as the background for guns, or surround them with many smaller roses. You can even design the rose coming out of the barrel of the gun, adding pacifist symbolism to your ink.

Others choose knives with their rose tats. You can have the knife stab the rose, or have roses as a circle around it. This symbolizes the delicate balance between life and death.


Names are often added to roses, especially in declarations of love or memorial tattoos. The rose, in this context, can symbolize either life or love, or both. 

If you want the name to be subtle, you can write it on the petals. You can go big, too, adding a banner below or on top of the flower.


Crosses often include roses, as the flowers add both more color and delicate beauty to the religious symbol. A rose with a cross can symbolize the death of a loved one, especially in memorial tattoos. It can also represent truth if you’re looking for a more religious explanation.


Birds symbolize freedom. If you add a rose and its symbolism, they are a perfect combination of liberty and love.

Hearts and Anchors

Hearts and roses go really well together, and they’re both traditional tattoo objects. Both symbolize love and reinforce each other. Anchors represent hope, and together with a rose, they speak of romantic expectation.


The dragon in Asian cultures usually symbolizes a friendly and benevolent force and is depicted with flowers, even roses. If you go with this option, you can try it with a Chinese or Japanese style.


Roses have played a part in culture for hundreds of years, and they can be included in your ink with many different quotes. 

“Carpe diem” is among the most traditional tattoo quotes, and it reminds you to seize the day. Adding a rose to it helps strengthen the original meaning of the Latin phrase, “Seize the day.”

Other literary examples of the rose focus on its name and take the rose to symbolize some aspect of truth. Shakespeare’s, “A rose by any name would smell as sweet,” is one of the more famous ones. It refers to Juliet and her undying love for Romeo, in spite of his family and last name.

Gertrude Stein’s, “A rose is a rose is a rose,” is another popular one. It’s often understood to mean the way a name doesn’t affect the essence of something. This makes it a perfect quote if you want to remind yourself the truth isn’t skin-deep.

Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose uses the rose as a symbol of the meaning of truth. “Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus,” is a famous quote included in the book. It refers to the way of old and disappeared things, only the names remain. You could use this if you’re looking for a memorial tattoo. 

Color Options and Their Meanings

The colors of roses have been interpreted to mean different things:

  • Red and pink: These colors usually mean romance and love
  • White: White symbolizes purity and innocence
  • Yellow: This color can represent jealousy, but also happiness and friendship
  • Blue: Blue is the color of calmness, but also of mystery
  • Black: A black rose can mean death. On the other hand, it also symbolizes new beginnings

The interpretations for colors can change in different cultures, so you can choose the one you’re personally most drawn to. 

A multicolored rose is also a good option that you can develop with different techniques. You can try tones of black and grey in the outlines, and highlight your rose with touches of color. How about a watercolor splash beneath black outlines?

Different Style Options

Since the rose is such a universal theme, it can easily be applied to different styles of tattoos. You can go from realistic and 3D tattoos to traditional styles. American, Mexican, Japanese and Chinese tattoos often include roses. You can also look for inspiration in religious, Celtic or Medieval European art.

Roses look good as black-and-white outlines or even entirely in black. If you’re looking for something different, try dotwork. While definitely not the easiest technique to perform, it’s subtle and modern. 

A good way to make your rose tattoo more current is by drawing it with geometric shapes like triangles. Use straight lines instead of the traditional shape to make your tattoo interesting.

How about a more abstract or deconstructed rose? To pull off this design, however, you’ll need to have some artistic inclinations or the right tattoo artist.

Where to Get Your Ink

Roses are versatile as far as placements go. You can have one or numerous big roses occupy a large chunk of your skin, from your back to your arms. Another option is to hide a small rose somewhere not visible to the world.


Small roses and outlines are commonly included on the inside of the wrists and the forearm. Since they’re more delicate, these designs look especially good on women’s slender wrists.

Back and Shoulders

Other common places where small roses look good are the neck, shoulders and lower back, and it’s easy to keep it hidden if you want to.

A bigger rose works well tattooed on the back. You can design a single rose, with the stem running along your spine. Another option is a bunch of roses and leaves to cover a wider area. 

Legs and Feet

You can also tattoo a rose on your legs. Have the long stem run down your calf, or try a smaller one on your ankle. Many delicate, small designs and roses with black-and-white outlines look great on your feet, as well.

Best Rose Tattoos