Turtle Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

Turtle tattoos can symbolize almost anything you want them to — from immortality and protection to gracefulness and patience. When you come to think of it, turtles are truly magical creatures. Despite its body lacking conventional aerodynamic streaming, the animal manages to glide effortlessly in water and even thrive there. Perhaps this ability has earned the turtle its larger than life status in ethnic mythology. 

On the Indian subcontinent, for instance, natives believe that the Earth rests on the back of a pair of elephants. These elephants, in turn, stand upon an enormous turtle shell. Native Americans of different cultural traditions also ascribe mythical creation power to the turtle. In Mohawk creation myths, a giant turtle carries the world on its back. When the turtle stretches under all that weight, the mortals on the surface feel this as an earthquake.

Variations in Turtle Tattoo Designs

Turtle tattoos don’t belong to one monolithic group. There are distinct classes and variations to offer appeal to people of different tastes and cultural persuasions. These design variations include:

Baby Turtle Tattoos

Nothing is quite as charming and sweet as a baby turtle. Born on land where they are often vulnerable to predators, baby turtles need all the luck they can get. Many people can identify with this hapless situation in life. 

Baby turtle tattoos often appear with plenty of curves. Tattoo artists who are proficient in depicting the designs often complement the drawing with a few geometric shapes. They usually ink them in one color with very little in the way of embellishment. 

Water Bubble Turtle Tattoos

There’s something artistic and redolent in an artistic expression of a sea turtle with rising water bubbles. It expresses the miracle of life in all manner of mediums. It’s also a depiction of the turtle’s impressive zest for life and adaptability.

Adding bubbles to embellish a turtle tattoo adds a measure of liveliness to the graphic. The languid motion of the turtle flippers is discernible owing to the rise of bubbles in the water. For greater realism, you can add a measure of color to depict the bubbles and waves released because of the turtle’s movement in the water.

Celtic Turtle Tattoos

The term “Celtic turtle tattoo” sounds like a misnomer. What could ancient Celts have had to do with turtles in their frigid climes? Turtles exclusively inhabit equatorial waters as they’re incapable of regulating their body temperatures. 

Celtic turtle tattoos have earned a place in body art culture because they are inked in the distinctive Celtic style. They may be a modern invention, but they bear an uncanny resemblance to the body art of ancient Celts. 

Cartoon Turtle Tattoos 

The world is undergoing a revolution in the art of animated storytelling. Movie animations and TV series have spawned endless cartoon characters. Some have captured the public imagination. Subsequently, they have become something of style icons, perennially found on turtle tattoos. 

The Teen Mutant Ninja Turtles are arguably the most famous cartoon turtles in popular culture. They have been immortalized in print comics, movies and television series. The rise of the affable crime-fighting androids has inspired several iconic cartoon turtles as a result. Chances are that you already know someone who bears a tattoo of these pizza-loving and tail-kicking green-hued marine turtles. 

Meanings Associated With Turtle Tattoos

Turtles have an enduring place in human culture and the arts. Individual turtle tattoos have varied meanings. There are, however, general associations afforded to turtles that apply across many (if not all) turtle tattoos. They include:

  • Longevity
  • Immortality
  • Wisdom
  • Wellness
  • Protection
  • Cosmic transcendence
  • Endurance
  • Stability
  • Fertility
  • Flexibility

Individual turtle tattoos can express these specific meanings:

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

People have always marveled at how such a slow-moving animal as a turtle manages to thrive in dangerous sea waters. The trick is the thick, impenetrable shell. The rock hard coat of armor protects the marine reptiles from the most aggressive sea predators. 

The resilience of the turtle has become an inspiration to people who have had to live through hard times. These people see the sea turtle as the ultimate idiomatic expression of the ability to “grow a thick skin.” They celebrate their ability with tattoos that depict the turtle. 

Gracefulness and Certainty

One of the major attractions for tourists visiting Polynesian islands is the experience of swimming along with giant turtles. The turtles receive admiration for the gracefulness of their swimming motions despite their bulky form. This ability has inspired people to depict a similar attitude as a mark of fortitude. 

Getting a turtle tattoo is often someone’s way to express their aspiration for graceful transition through life events. It’s also an homage to the philosophy of making slow but certain progress in life. Such people see themselves as coming out of pressure situations stronger and not feeling crushed or overwhelmed. 

A Symbol of Immortality

In certain cultures, turtles are the guardians of human souls transitioning to the afterlife. This makes them immortal, capable of transitioning between our world and that of the dead. 

Some variations of the turtle tattoo offer meaning as an expression of the immortality of the human spirit. Turtles do indeed live extraordinarily long lives for animals of their kind. It’s a soaring aspiration to live beyond limitations and encumbrances. 

An Expression of Patience

The hustle and bustle of modern living is a turnoff for many people. They detest the pressure to make rapid progress and show results by the whirlwind method. When such people experience the unhurried but thriving resilience of turtles, they feel a connection and attachment beyond the ordinary. 

Such people seek to express their disdain for the loveless, fast-and-furious world. These turtle lovers turn to tattoo artists as a permanent expression of their frustration. When they spot the distinctive turtle tattoo, it becomes a constant reminder that an alternative approach to life is valid. 

A Mark of Wisdom

The association of turtles (and by extension, tortoises) with wisdom is immortalized in traditional fables and legends. The most iconic tale of the wisdom of turtles appears in the ancient Aesop’s fables. 

The tale of the “Hare and the Tortoise” symbolizes the triumph of calculative wisdom set against brute force. It emphasizes that the brain will always trump strength. 

In its depiction of wisdom, a turtle tattoo is often part of a larger motif. It can be a visual retelling of a tale where the person managed to use wisdom to decimate great odds. An individual turtle tattoo can express this triumph over adversity in another sense too. 

Common Colors Used to Depict Turtle Tattoos

As turtles are a special group of marine life, certain colors and hues are better suited in depicting realistic turtle tattoos. In the end, the use of color is just one aspect of the art of making realistic tattoos. The tattoo artist must be sufficiently talented to accomplish the art with ease. 

The colors most often used to depict turtle tattoos include:

  • Black
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Brown

Placement of Turtle Tattoos on the Body

Turtle tattoos are among the most resilient in the industry. They can appear on prominent parts of the body as well as in some that are more inconspicuous. Here is a list of the most common locations for turtle tattoos:

  • Upper back
  • Chest
  • Shoulder blades
  • Upper arm
  • Foot
  • Around the ankle
  • Midriff

It’s impossible to catalog all the turtle tattoo designs in the world and their associated meanings. This needn’t be a bad thing. You, too, can pick a unique design and color combination when it comes to turtle tattoos. A versatile and proficient tattoo artist will help you embellish the tattoo to suit your personality or life’s philosophy.

Best Turtle Tattoos