The forearm is a very popular design placement for tattoo novices and experts alike. “About 90 percent of the tattoos I do are on my clients’ forearms,” Prairie Koo, owner and resident artist at Ink & Water Tattoo previously told Inside Out. Why is it so popular? For starters, the forearm is one of the least painful places to get inked (at least on average, although a forearm tattoo may still hurt quite a bit depending on your individual pain tolerance). It’s also a central location, making it perfect for someone who wants to show off their design, and it’s a relatively flat, taut piece of skin, making it an easy canvas for artists to work with.
If all those reasons aren’t enough to convince you that the placement is great, though, these designs should do the trick. Here are 17 of our favorite forearm tattoo ideas.
1. These colourful cuties
There are few things more classic than a flower tattoo, and we particularly love these vibrant, minimal tulips—they remind us of a picturesque, warm spring day. This floral forearm tattoo was done by Yuwon (AKA @u_ta2t), an up-and-coming South Korean tattoo artist working out of 432hz Tattoo Studio in Seoul. She’s best known for her signature pastel-colored minimalist designs.
2. A literal forearm tattoo
This fun forearm tattoo by Montreal’s Muriel de Mai literally includes forearms; three of them arising out of a minimal potted plant. Forearms on a forearm tattoo—how perfect! The artist behind this piece is also the owner of Minuit Dix, a bilingual tattoo studio focused on inclusivity, particularly for POC, members of the LGBTQA+ community, and other minority groups who have traditionally lacked representation and safe spaces in the tattoo industry.
3. This watercolor wave
New York’s Amanada Wachob found her niche as a watercolor tattoo artist by accident, she previously told Inside Out. The artist started tattooing via a traditional apprenticeship where she “was taught that the ‘correct’ way to tattoo was by outlining everything in black first, and then shading from dark to light”. But when she started giving clients the choice to omit the black outlines, she found her signature style. “People would see my work and the first thing they would exclaim was, ‘I’ve never seen a tattoo like that! It looks like a watercolor painting!’.”
4. Some surrealist script
If you’re looking for a text based piece that still has some interesting illustrative elements to it, Charlie Pepper‘s designs might be the perfect inspiration. Remember, it’s a faux pas to get an exact replica of another artist’s work though, so if you’re really into this surrealist text and want it for yourself, you’ll have to make a trip to Tapestry Tattoo Collective, a queer-owned studio in Toronto.
5. This Harry Potter piece
We’d venture to say that there are few fandoms as active and intense as Potterheads (beside maybe the BTS ARMY). OG Harry Potter fans are now adults, and one of the many ways they choose to express their continued love for the books and movies is through tattoos. This Harry Potter tattoo—a colorful nighttime view of Hogwarts—was done by Daria Stahp, resident artist and owner of AURA Tattoo studio in Poland.
6. Big, bold blackwork
Brooklyn’s Victor Webster is no stranger to large-scale blackwork projects. The majority of his portfolio is made up of pieces that are even bigger than this half sleeve botanical tattoo. His designs are heavily inspired by tribal tattooing, according to his profile on the East River Tattoo website (he’s a resident artist at the shop).
7. This psychedelic submarine
In 1966, The Beatles released one of their most famous songs: “Yellow Submarine”. Two years later, the band also released an animated film of the same name. This tattoo by Bongkee, a Seoul-based tattoo artist who is known for their cartoony, brightly colored designs, shows the iconic submarine from the film with the band members peeking out from behind each window. The playful, trippy nature of The Beatles’ film is perfectly reflected in Bongkee’s design. We especially love the way the artist replaced the body of the sub with rainbows—it really adds to the piece’s psychedelic feel.
8. Some lively lightning
Many of the forearm tattoo designs in this gallery show off bigger, more expansive pieces. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t include a couple of smaller designs too, since the forearm is a placement that works for tattoos of all sizes. Take this black and grey piece by Miami-based tattooist Juan Pedroza Tobar, for instance. The artist combines a realism style floral with a creative composition (the lightning bolt) and packs a ton of detail into a relatively small piece.
9. These cuddling cranes
If you’re an animal lover, you might enjoy this illustrative piece of two cuddling red-crowned cranes (with a third crane flying above them) by UK-based artist Maiko Only. The tattooer is an artistic multi-hyphenate—she’s a dancer and amateur makeup artist—who only recently started tattooing. She’s currently working out of Good Tattoo Studio in Nottingham, a vegan-friendly shop.
10. A real sweetheart
With this design, you can literally wear your heart on your sleeve. Heart tattoos have been around for centuries. In fact, they’ve been a staple of tattoo design since the 1700s. Back then, sailors would get heart tattoos with names written across them as a way of keeping their loved ones close during their time at sea. This forearm tattoo is a modern take on the classic design. The bold line, minimalist piece (which has “âmes sœurs” or “soul sister” written across it) was done by Jean André, a Parisian tattooist and co-owner of Bon Jour Tattoo Club.
11. An amazing armband
For those of you who are more into American Traditional style tattoos, this floral armband by Israeli tattooist Alejo GMZ, could be a great source of inspiration. The design combines the classic traditional style rose—complete with bold black outlines and vibrant coloring—with a more modern blacked out armband.
12. This hand-stitched Spyro
Does anyone else remember playing Spyro for hours on end on their PS1? If you do, welcome to the nostalgic gamers’ club; this design might be the perfect forearm tattoo for you. The embroidery-style tattoo was done by Duda Lozano, a Brazilian artist who is widely considered one of the pioneers of embroidery tattooing.
13. These celestial sisters
Hand poke tattoo artist Emily Trajkovski designed these cute, minimalist dancers for a pair of clients looking to get matching tattoos. Although their designs aren’t identical, they definitely complement each other thanks to their mirrored placements on the clients’ arms and the contrast between the sun and moon on the dancers’ heads. The sun and the moon are a match made in heaven, after all, and clearly so are the two friends who got these tattoos.
14. A magnificent maiolica
Maiolica is a ceramic style that was popularized in Renaissance Italy. At the time, the style, which illustrates designs on a standard white background, was used to decorate everything from sculpture to ceiling and floor tiles. This tattoo is inspired by the tiled variety of maiolica. Fittingly, it was done at The White Whale Tattoo Society in Padua, Italy.
15. This fluorescent flame
Dani, a Brazilian artist and resident tattooer at Estúdio Noturna in Rio de Janeiro specializes in vivid, trippy tattoos. Compared to her typical designs—which include things like a murderous teddy bear and headless, flaming horse–this gradient blue flame is relatively timid. Still, it’s the perfect tattoo for anyone who wants to show off their colorful and fiery personality.
16. A permanent peace offering
Ever heard the expression ‘extending an olive branch’? It’s another way of saying that you’re giving someone a peace offering—something we occasionally have to do when we’ve made a big mistake, gotten into a fight, or offended a loved one. With this Neo Traditional forearm tattoo by Jen Tonic, resident artist at Sticks and Stones Tattoo in Berlin, you’re literally always extending an olive branch, though.
17. This playful primate
Sapajou, a hand poke tattoo artist based in Lyon, France, has a weird (but also very cute) obsession with monkeys. Many of her designs—in fact, five of the last ten tattoos she posted on Instagram—show monkeys participating in various shenanigans. Those pieces include this acrobatic monkey, which seems to be an addition to the client’s growing tattoo collection.