When my dad was 17 years old, he joined his friends at a tattoo studio where the only two available designs were a butterfly or a heart with ‘mom’ written across it in a banner. He chose the second option, reinforcing the idea that there’s nothing more classic than a heart tattoo.
According to Great Big Story, heart tattoos—particularly the ones with ‘mom’ inscribed across them—have been an industry staple since the 1700s, when sailors would get them during their expeditions at sea as a reminder of their loved ones. Now, hundreds of years later, we’re still paying homage to the people we love with tattoos of the symbol. Today there isn’t just one dominant tattoo style though, which means the variety of heart tattoo designs is near endless. Below, we’re sharing 15 of our favorites.
1. This beating bloom
This black and grey design by Meduse Noire, co-owner and resident artist at The Asylum Tattoo Shop in France, is a far cry from the American traditional style heart tattoos worn by sailors back in the day. The artist combines the classic heart shape with the petals of a peony to create a floral tattoo that wraps perfectly around her client’s knee.
2. These crossed hearts
Sometimes words fail us. When that happens, emojis often come to the rescue. Here, Brazilian tattooer Juliano Pereira used three colorful emojis in the matching tattoos he designed for this cute couple.
3. Fine lines, full hearts
If you’re on the hunt for a more subtle way to express your love, his teeny heart tattoo could be the inspo you’re looking for. Done by a South Korean artist known as Pu-reum, this simple wrist piece is small and understated, but still visually interesting thanks to its double lines.
4. This classic take
Artist Lejla J., an apprentice at Giahi Tattoo & Piercing in Zurich, specializes in the American traditional style that most people picture when they think of classic heart tattoos. Her version of the design is a little different though since she’s opted to balance the otherwise bright, colorful piece—an addition to her client’s growing leg sleeve—with a spooky spiderweb.
5. A literal and figurative piece
The Instagram famous Italian tattooer Mattia—he’s better known as Mambo and has an impressive 367K followers at the time of publication—is revered for this unique, minimal style that he refers to as ‘destrutturato’ or deconstructed. Mambo often uses color blocking and negative space in his designs, both of which are seen in this tattoo combining two types of hearts: the anatomical and the symbol.
6. This heart of darkness
This design by Toronto-based artist Brendon, is a blackwork take on the heart-and-banner tattoo. Rather than paying homage to mom though, someone named Max is on the receiving end of this declaration of love. And to complete the bicep piece, the artist incorporated some light dotwork detailing to create a shaded effect along the banner.
7. A heart of stone
Normally, when we tell someone they have a heart of stone, we’re not paying them a compliment. But Haneul, another great South Korean tattooer, designed a stunning gemstone piece that might just be one of our favorite heart tattoos in this gallery. The artist’s use of purple hues combined with pops of white ink helps them create the piece’s 3-D effect. It’s so impressive that it makes us all want hearts of stone, tbh.
8. This heart-shaped hand poke
The artist behind this piece, Yozi, specializes in minimalist hand poked tattoos like this colorful forearm design. While we can’t be sure what inspired this heart tattoo, it sure seems like a visual representation of how we often bend over backwards for the people we love.
9. Mother-daughter love
Tattooist Harry Mckenzie specializes in ignorant tattoos—a style defined by its rough linework, dry humor, and irony. Here the artist uses the style to create an updated version of the sailor favorite mom-heart (or, in this case, mum-heart) tattoo.
10. This sweet seashell
There’s an incredible amount of detail packed into this small seashell tattoo. How is that possible? It’s thanks to single needle tattooing. Using an ultra-thin needle gives artists like Zipin—the tattooer behind this piece—total control over the smallest details of the design, like the ridges of this heart-shaped scallop shell.
11. This heartfelt apology
This blackwork piece by Argentinian tattooist Lea Camargo is another fun take on the heart-and-banner tattoo. Rather than acting as a declaration of love for mom though, this piece pokes fun at the standard tattoo theme by making it an apology instead.
12. A complex love
This design by Celso Lobo, resident artist at Studio La Tinta in Brazil, is a geometric take on the heart tattoo. The fine line design is elaborate but also delicate—perhaps a way of illustrating that although love is beautiful, it can also be incredibly complicated.
13. These candy hearts
It makes sense that Nikko, a tattoo artist and DJ in Edmonton, describes their bold, playful style as EDM tattoos. You can practically hear the bass coming from these neon candy hearts, which are almost tame when compared to Nikko’s more elaborate illustrations.
14. This burning heart
The scared heart is another long-time staple of tattoo design; a religious symbol rooted in the Catholic faith. Always pictured with flames coming out of the top and a spear or sword through its center, the symbol dates back to the 17th century. Here, the heart was tattooed by Italy’s Massimo Gurnari in his signature engraving-inspired style.
15. For the love of cats
If you’re a pet owner, heart tattoos can be used to show appreciation for your animal friends, too. This ankle piece combines fine lines with watercolor style shading to create the cutest tattoo of a clowder of cats (a group of cats is called a clowder, fyi) for this feline loving client.
If you liked our gallery These 15 Heart Tattoo Designs Are The Ultimate Declaration of Love, make sure to check out the 6 Stories Behind These Matching Tattoos.