23 designers and their awesome tattoos

Whether it's an ultimate homage to a favourite artist's work or is motivated by something deeply personal, many creatives don't stop at their first tattoo. And there's one thing upon which the vast majority of designers we've spoken to agree: respect the artistic flair of the person with the needle – they're called tattoo artists for a reason. 

And we're inspired by them too, using tattoo fonts and or checking out other inspiring tattoo designs and amazing watercolor tattoo art. So have a look at these awesome tattoos, and find out who was the artist behind them.

01. Gordon Bonnar

Gordon Bonnar's geometric leg owl may yet expand into a sleeve

Gordon Bonnar's geometric leg owl may yet expand into a sleeve

Senior digital designer at RRDCreative in Edinburgh, Gordon Bonnar already had a number of tats before deciding he wanted a leg tattoo with the potential of developing it in to a leg sleeve. "I wanted something that reflected wisdom and guarding," he tells us. "I liked the idea of an owl, so my tattoo artist worked up a geometric owl design."

Tattoo artist: Ellis Philip, Dagren Tattoo, Dunfermline

02. Douwe Beckmann

Douwe's minimal design is a tribute to his late father

Douwe's minimal design is a tribute to his late father

Online communication specialist Douwe Beckmann got this clean and simple tattoo to commemorate his father, who passed away on 5 May 2015. "It might not be a very large tattoo," he says, "but it has all the elements I wanted in a simple, single line: a scar, Roman numbers and the specific date (5-5-15 or in this case V V XV)."

Tattoo artist: Dragon Tales Tattoo, Landgraaf, The Netherlands

03. Ryan Carson

awesome tattoos: ryan carson

Ryan Carson's tattoo is designed in honour of his wife

"The tattoo is for my wife, Gillian," explains Ryan Carson, web designer, entrepreneur and CEO of Treehouse. Colorado-born Carson recently moved back to the States from Bath, England, where he'd lived with his wife for many years. "The lion and unicorn are from the British passport and the teacup symbolises England, as she's from St. Helens, UK," he adds.

Tattoo artist: Kirsten Holliday, Portland, Oregon

04. Steven Bonner

awesome tattoos: Steven Bonner

Steven Bonner wanted something timeless featuring birds and skulls. Sorted!

"I wanted something timeless," says designer and illustrator Steven Bonner of his impressive tattoo. "So I chose two things that have consistently appealed to me all my life: birds and skulls. I like black and grey, and trusted my tattoo artist to do something great, as he's a brilliant illustrator with a great style. Done in around 10 hours."

Tattoo artist: Marcus, Custom Inc, Glasgow

05. James Oconnell

awesome tattoos: James O'Connell

James Oconnell drew his own Japanese-inspired design on his arm

After admiring the fine detail in the Hokusai Great Wave at an exhibition, James Oconnell decided to get an oriental sleeve tattoo. "The whole idea is to make the elements big so they can be recognised from a distance, so I decided to go for a couple of lilies surrounded by those famous waves and a couple of koi carp," he explains. The artist drew straight onto his arm with a pen for an hour before the inking began – and the work took around 35 hours in total.

Tattoo artist: Danny Rossiter, Studio 81, Manchester, UK

06. Dustin Hostetler

awesome tattoos: Dustin Hostetler

Dustin Hostetler's arrow-based tattoos are bang on target

After graduating from high school, illustrator, artist, curator and publisher Dustin Hostetler opted to get a colour wheel tattooed on his wrist to represent his commitment to the arts. "As my life moved forward as a graphic designer, getting arrows tattooed made perfect sense," he suggests. "To me, the arrow is the perfect representation of a distilled graphic design image. For the most part, I've basically just said, 'Draw me some arrows, and fit them on my body', and they do it."

Tattoo artists: 

07. Elizabeth Carey Smith

awesome tattoos: Elizabeth Carey Smith

Carey Smith's typographic tats are uneconomical but look great

Over the years, graphic designer and typographer Carey Smith has covered her body with 26 tiny letters: "I didn't start off thinking I'd get the whole alphabet," she admits. "I got the first one (j) on a whim, then the next few (g, a, q) without thinking much about it." It grew from there: every time she drew a letter frequently, it was inked onto her. "It's the most uneconomical way of getting tattooed ever," she smiles. "You pay by the hour, and these little letters take about seven minutes each."

Tattoo artist: Stephanie Tamez, New York Adorned, New York, USA

08. Ryan Sievert

awesome tattoos: Ryan Sievert

Tattoos run in the family for Ryan Sievert

Before he was old enough to get tattooed, designer, illustrator and photographer Ryan Sievert opted for piercings instead: "That was the best thing I could have done," he believes. "By the time I was old enough to get any work done, I knew I was too picky to settle on a tattoo that wouldn't make me cringe later on." He and his younger sister got matching tattoos, based on how they settled fights when they were younger – and most of his others also have family ties of some description.

Tattoo artists: 

Next page: 8 more awesome designers' tattoos

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Nick Carson

Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.