Industrial Ink: Your Guide To Steampunk Tattoos

Steampunk Forearm Tattoo @koittattoo

What do steam-powered technology, science fiction, and Victorian top hats have in common? These things are all present in Steampunk, a subculture that has influenced many spheres of society, including body art.

If you’re intrigued by stories of history meeting sci-fi, keep reading to learn more about what Steampunk is and Steampunk tattoos to be inspired by. 

What Is Steampunk?

What if the evolution of society was based on steam instead of electricity? This is the question that the Steampunk subculture attempts to answer.

Inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery, Steampunk sets up an alternative history that often incorporates elements of the Victorian era or the Wild West days of America. 

Steampunk Fish Tattoo

Canadian poet, Douglas Fetherling, explains,

“Steampunk is a genre that imagines how different the past might have been had the future come earlier.”

So, think lots of copper pipes, goggles, Victorian-era corsets and top hats, and airships. 

Books such as Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, and earlier books such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells have heavy Steampunk themes. 

Steampunk Tattoo Of Face

Popular Steampunk Tattoo Motifs 

There are a number of recurring design themes you can find in Steampunk-inspired tattoos:

Gears and Machinery

Gears, cogs, and other mechanical elements are used to create intricate and detailed designs that hark back to the industrial revolution.

Clocks and Timepieces

The Steampunk subculture is associated with time travel and alternate realities; what better way to reference this than with clocks and timepieces? Think highly detailed clocks with visible gears.

“…a clock tattoo might symbolize a range of meanings from simply time to life and death, mortality, existence, infinity, endless love, stability, and structure, or referencing a specific special moment in one’s life,”

Custom Tattoo Design
Steampunk Airship Tattoo @marieroura.epureatelier


Air travel – usually taking inspiration from blimps and hot air balloons – is a key element of Steampunk.

This is because the Golden Age of airship aviation coincides with the Late Victorian Era, one of the inspirations for this subculture. Getting an airship Steampunk tattoo can represent your wanderlust and need for adventure.

Scientific Instruments

Telescopes, microscopes, and chemistry equipment represent scientific discovery and experimentation, key themes in Steampunk. 

Steampunk Moon Tattoo @ltlivia

Mixing Of Natural And Machine Elements 

Even though this genre is in large part about machinery and industry, natural elements are still a popular design element. Butterflies, dogs, octopuses, and even human hearts have a mixture of their natural forms and mechanical gears and Victorian fashion in Steampunk tattoos.

Steampunk Heart Tattoo @liza_vettaa

Steampunk Tattoo Placements

Steampunk tattoos usually include many details. This is due to the intricate gears and machinery that are so entrenched in this genre. Many tattoo artists will advise you to go bigger with your tattoo the more details there are in the design. 

This is because highly realistic tiny tattoos use fine lines.

“…fine line tattoos do tend to fade quicker due to the fact that the ink isn’t as densely packed under the skin as with other thicker tattoos. This then makes it easier for your body’s immune system to attack and break the ink down before flushing it out of your system,”

Steampunk Hand Tattoo

Obviously, the size of your tattoo will have a big impact on where it can be placed on your body. Daniel Meyer Tattoo explains,

“The body part determines the size of a tattoo, to maintain a visual flow and aesthetic. Every tattoo just has its right fit. It’s almost how you would place a picture within a frame. For example, a small photograph in the right bottom corner of a huge frame can look visually unbalanced.”

If you opt for a large design and want it placed on your forearm, there will be elements of your tattoo that will wrap around, distorting the overall look.

Steampunk tattoos are generally intricate and complex designs, so it’s important to think carefully about the design you want and where you want it placed on your body. Consider how the design will look in different sizes and locations, and whether it will complement your personal style and lifestyle.

Steampunk Dial Tattoo @taigutattoo

Choose a professional tattoo artist for your Steampunk tattoo. Someone who is experienced will be able to advise you on the best route to take based on your chosen design.

What You Need To Know Before Getting A Steampunk Tattoo

There are a few things to consider before getting any type of tattoo, namely pain and aftercare. Getting a tattoo is getting a wound, so you’ve got to prepare yourself accordingly. This means not drinking alcohol before your appointment, staying hydrated, eating a nutritious meal, and getting a good night’s rest.

Doing this will help you handle the pain and discomfort better. Then there is the aftercare process. When you leave the tattoo parlor, you’re in charge of how your tattoo heals. Washing and moisturizing your fresh ink and keeping it out of the sun are all important steps to follow.

Steampunk Plague Doctor Tattoo @imbrosetattoo

Steampunk tattoos are not the easiest of designs due to the many details involved. So, make sure you go to a tattooist who is well-versed in creating intricate tattoos. Look at portfolios to ensure the person you’re choosing has a high level of skill and pays attention to details. 

Then, like all permanent body art, Steampunk tattoos are a long-term commitment. Carefully consider the elements you’re choosing and the symbolism behind them to make sure this choice of tattoo isn’t just a phase, but something you’ll be happy with in the long run. 

Steampunk Key Tattoo @eatdiamonddust

Steampunk tattoos are a creative way to express your personal style and love for this imaginative subculture. Not only do Steampunk tattoos ‘wow’ with their intricate designs and attention to detail, but this tattoo theme can also incorporate meaningful symbolism.

Before rushing off to book your tattoo appointment, make sure to carefully consider factors such as design, placement, meaning, and artist so that you make an informed decision that you will be happy with for years to come.

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