Are you looking to nature to inspire your next tattoo? There are so many different environments to be in awe of in the world, from the unforgiving desert to verdant forests and the powerful ocean.
Each habitat has its own set of inhabitants including complex animals and interesting plants, some of which have symbolism that transcends the physical realm.
This symbolism can relate to specific circumstances and situations that people have walked through. So, many decide to get permanent reminders in the form of tattoos.
First, let’s dive into the ocean.
Whether you love it or fear it, you can’t deny the power of the ocean. Even just the smell of the saltwater growing stronger as you travel towards the coast builds anticipation. Many humans even feel an unexplainable pull to the ocean, which some theorize is a response to a stage in our evolutionary journey.
The theory is that modern humans had an “aquatic ape” evolution phase.
“The Aquatic Ape Theory states that our ancestors once spent a significant part of their life in water. Presumably, early apes were plant and fruit eaters in tropical forests. Early hominids also ate aquatic food; at first mainly weeds and tubers, later sea shore animals, especially shellfish,”Science Direct
If you feel a pull towards the ocean and love whiling hot summer days away along the shore, a tattoo of a wave could be for you.
Large crashing waves, or simple ripples caressing the shore, the ocean can take many forms as it nears the land. A tattoo of rough seas can represent life and strength.
If you want to go simpler with your tattoo, you could opt for a single-wave tattoo.
“The water element represents compassion, adaptability and sensitivity. The single wave is the best way to express your alignment to the qualities of the element of water,”Authority Tattoo
When it comes to the placement of a mini-wave tattoo, a good rule of thumb is to opt for an area that’s small, too, such as the wrist or ankle. This way, you won’t have a lot of blank space surrounding your design.
If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on land and want your tatt to represent that, look for inspiration in what’s found among the sand.
If you’re looking for a super cute tattoo that doesn’t take up a lot of space, a seashell tatt could be for you.
Plus, it is an adaptable design: You can go simplistic by opting for a fine black outline, or you can incorporate colors. Splashes of pink and blue watercolors within the black lines of a seashell tattoo can add a whimsical, fairytale feel to your ink.
There isn’t just one single meaning behind a tattoo of a seashell. It can simply represent your love of the ocean and remind you of days at the beach with your family and friends. It can also symbolize protection, as the hard exterior of a shell protects the small animals that call it home.
“Another cool meaning that you can use with a seashell tattoo is prosperity. Back in the day seashells were actually used as currency all over the world, so they are great symbols of success.”Tattoo SEO
If you’re fascinated by the creatures that call the ocean home, there are many to be inspired by, two being the dolphin and octopus.
Due to their playful nature, a dolphin tattoo can represent fun and free-spiritedness. But, let’s not forget how smart they are.
“Dolphins have many intelligent behaviors. They are extremely social animals with complex communication and relationships. Dolphins are able to pass information between generations, teaching skills to their extended family!”Earth.com
A jumping dolphin tattoo can represent your spontaneity and playfulness; you could also get a pod of dolphins tattooed to symbolize your love of family.
Another marine animal that is known for its intelligence is the octopus. In fact, they’re known as the world’s most intelligent invertebrate. This sea creature can do things like break their way out of tanks to get back into the ocean, they’ve been known to use rocks as weapons, and can even make tools out of shells.
Different cultures around the world attach different symbolism to octopuses. In Japanese folklore, there is a huge octopus monster that has a starring role.
“The Akkorokamui is dangerous, yet holds incredible powers including healing and religious knowledge. A Japanese-style octopus tattoo either symbolizes intelligence or wildness – there’s no in-between. So if you are deciding to get a Japanese-style octopus tattoo you must either choose to show the light or the dark side of this remarkable creature of the deep,”Tatt Mag
Octopuses are also a popular theme in Polynesian tattoo culture. However, the meaning behind Polynesian tattoos has a lot to do with what the tattooee needs to improve on within themselves.
“Therefore, the tattoo meanings of a Polynesian octopus tattoo should be deeply personal to how you want to better yourself. One meaning could be overcoming fears that are relentless and hold you back.”Tatt Mag
As tribal tattoos are entrenched in the cultural practices of specific groups of people, these designs are not to be taken lightly. Do your research before getting any type of tribal tattoo.
While a desert can look like a harsh, unforgiving place on the surface, if you look a bit deeper you’ll be able to explore a complex network of life that can inspire incredible body art.
Cacti are fascinating plants. Native to the Americas, cacti are perfectly adapted to thrive in the heat and drought of the desert.
It doesn’t need a lot of water (in fact, if you have a cactus at home, it is better underwatered than overwatered) as it is able to store moisture in its roots, leaves, and stems, and can regulate its own food intake.
As such, a cactus tattoo can symbolize resilience and independence.
“People who have overcome obstacles or going through big changes in their lives usually get [a] cactus tattoo to represent their toughness or to remind themselves to adapt and grow like the cactus,”Tattoo Me Now
While plants and animals have evolved to withstand the desert environment, it is still a harsh place. But, it is not just endless sand. The desert provides visitors with a respite in the form of an oasis.
Palm trees, a clear pond, fruit – what better place to relax?
A tattoo of a desert oasis can symbolize safety and peace. It can be a reminder to take a moment to reflect and react to the sometimes harsh conditions of moving forward.
An oasis tattoo doesn’t have to be large just because it has a lot of details. You can opt for a small, delicate tattoo.
However, it’s important to get tattooed by an artist who is experienced in this style. Smaller tattoos with fine lines can be a challenge, as the thinner the lines, the easier it will be to see any mistakes and the more difficult it would be to correct them.
If you want a picturesque view of an oasis with its bright hues, then it’s important to know what exactly you’re getting yourself into with a color tattoo. The lighter the color, the quicker it tends to fade. So, take extra special care of your ink by layering on the sunscreen when you go out.
Often when you think of a desert, you think of camels. These are strong and resilient creatures that are able to walk thousands of miles in the scorching heat of the desert. Because of this, a camel tattoo can symbolize travel.
“The image of physical travel and movement can also represent the idea of life as a long journey, and the path we need to take in order to achieve our dreams and goals. A camel tattoo can, therefore, signify a journey into the unknown and the adventures that may occur along the way.”Noteworthy Tattoo
When you’re traveling great distances in a harsh environment, you need to have the courage to keep taking step after step and have faith that you can make it to your destination. A camel tattoo can speak to this by representing the endurance and bravery needed to go on a journey of self-discovery and change.
There are many different types of trees, many with their own specific symbolism. The Tree Of Life represents the connection between heaven and earth. A willow tree tattoo can mean flexibility and strength as it’s able to adapt to its surroundings and thrive. A cherry blossom tree can be a reminder of non-attachment.
Instead of a single tree, you can get a forest tattoo. An inking of a forest can represent mystery and adventure.
“Traditionally, the forest has come to represent being lost, exploration, as well as the mystery that’s happening around us and within us,”Saved Tattoo
A forest tattoo can be a good design to wrap around a placement, making it perfect for around the wrist, the forearm, or the calf.
You can incorporate different forest creatures into your forest tattoo to make it more detailed, such as a wolf or owl.
A wolf can be the perfect addition to your forest tattoo, especially if the themes of protection, strength, and loyalty mean something to you.
“Native Americans viewed the wolf as a totem animal or spirit sent to help guide us through life, symbolizing loyalty and perseverance. In legends, the wolf had great powers given by the Great Spirit. Wolves also had the power to change into people,”Tat Ring
Because wolves hunt in packs and tend to mate for life, a wolf tattoo could also represent family bonds.
Bears are one of the most common residents in forests around the United States. While many of these bears may look cuddly (just like a teddy bear!) these creatures should never be underestimated. They’re extremely strong and protective.
“The bear is associated with many powerful and positive characteristics – primal power, sovereignty, intuition and instinct,”Tattoo Stylist
If you’re looking for a wolf tattoo that’s more on the mythical side of the spectrum, you delve into Gothic literature of the 1800s and beyond to explore werewolf stories.
Today, werewolves have evolved into something more than just evil characters. A werewolf tattoo can symbolize strength and the beast within all of us.
“Those who decide to get werewolf tattoos are not frightened of conflict. These are the type of people that you will want to work for you since they are ambitious, strong-minded, and, more significantly, persistent,”Tattoo Art From The Heart
Owls are often associated with wisdom and insight, not just on the intellectual side, but also spiritual.
“Even though most associate owls with intellectual wisdom, they are truly connected with the wisdom of the soul. Their ability to see in the darkness symbolizes the idea of seeing past illusions and deceptions,”Chronic Ink Tattoo
Owls are also associated with intuition because of their nocturnal habits and connection with the moon.
“…owls live in the darkness, magic, mystery and ancient knowledge of the night.”Chronic Ink Tattoo
When the sun goes down, the only light available deep in the forest is the moon. A full or crescent moon can be a great addition to a forest-themed tattoo, or as a simple tattoo on its own.
A tattoo of the moon can mean different things depending on what phase it’s in. A full moon can represent letting go of things that no longer serve you, while a waxing crescent moon can symbolize wishes and intentions.
There are so many different habitats to explore across the world, each with its own fascinating ecosystem. From the animals that call these spaces home, to the plants that thrive here, there is so much to feel a connection to in nature, making the outdoors the ideal spot to wander for tattoo inspiration.