What do you think is behind the bat tattoo meaning? Would it surprise you to know that people get bat tattoos in order to celebrate literature from the 1700s as well as their commitment to environmentalism?
Bat tattoos come in all shapes and sizes. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common meanings behind bat tattoos and then look at some examples of the image itself.
Bat Tattoo Meanings
There’s a lot to be said about bat tattoo meanings. Let’s start with a few of the most common.
Bat tattoos have a few big associations in our culture. The first has to do with gothic traditions. Bats have long been associated with gothic art. From the earliest days of gothic fiction in the 1700’s to contemporary horror cinema, the bat has always been a symbol of mystery and darkness. It’s not necessarily negative, either, as the bat has been portrayed as a messenger carrying secrets and wisdom of the unknown.
Bats have also become an unlikely icon of environmental movements. Bat conservation is a serious political issue and many people incorporate bats into their tattoos to express their commitment to protecting nature.
Bats also have other symbolic meanings in cultures all over the world. Here in the United States, bats were respected in Native American culture — they represented intuition and being able to “see the truth.”
Bats are thought of by some as symbols of rebirth (emerging from their caves each night) and journeys that can be either physical or spiritual. Bats also represent commuication and can serve as messengers from beyond, bearers of wisdom, or signs of strength and perseverance.
Bats are also all over pop culture. Plenty of bands have used bats in their logos — and let’s not forget the iconic Batman from comic books, TV, and movies!
Bat Tattoo Variations
There are two big splits in bat tattoo art variation. There are different ways of depicting the bat itself, and then there are uses of the bat as a symbol.
The first comes down to how to depict the bat. Bats can be depicted in Gothic or horror context. This connects to a rich literary history stretching back hundreds of years. It might surprise you to know this, but Dracula wasn’t the first vampire to be associated with bats — a Victoria-era serial novel, Varney the Vampire, showed bats in the cover illustration. (Bram Stoker’s Dracula was the first fictional vampire who changed into a bat.)
Bats can also be depicted in cute styles, realistic styles, or as symbols of something else. We would all instantly recognize Batman’s iconic bat signal has its own icon and not really a bat tattoo in and of itself.
Another common variation is just to get the wings tattooed. These are often connected to another symbol. Think of bat wings on a heart or bat wings on a skull. They’re a great way to add a Gothic element to another common tattoo image.
Bat Tattoo Styles
Bat tattoos come in every tattoo style imaginable and the style affects the tone of the meaning the tattoo stands for.
One of the biggest styles for bat tattoos is traditional. This is the classic Sailor Jerry style of tattoo. Bats have been a favorite of this style for years.
Bats are also a great choice for people who like realistic tattoos. Realism is difficult to do and only experienced tattoo artists are capable of executing these designs, but a realistic bat tattoo will definitely have a lot of appeal.
In the world of tattoos, there’s something called filler. Once you start to get a lot of tattoos, you run out of space, but there are awkward gaps in between tattoos. This is where artists and people who love tattoos turn to tattoo filler art.
These are small tattoos that connect to the gaps between larger tattoos. Filler art is often playful and simplistic and designed to help connect different pieces of art. Bats and bat silhouettes are common choices for tattoo filler art.
Bat Tattoo Considerations
This one’s going to be a big surprise to a lot of readers. Bat tattoos don’t have much in the way of negative connotations. This symbol might be a little spooky, but it’s generally positively received. Cultures across the world revere bats as symbols of perseverance, wisdom, and mystery.
The one consideration to keep in mind is that bat tattoos can be associated with occult and spiritual symbology. If you’re a deeply religious person who doesn’t identify with those beliefs, you’ll want to carefully consider your bat tattoo’s design so that it doesn’t inadvertently come across as being a symbol of the occult or magic.
Bat Tattoo Placement
The conversation around bat tattoo placement can get really interesting. While this doesn’t impact the bat tattoo meaning, it can determine what kind of bat tattoo you can get. There’s no set location for placing a bat tattoo — it comes down to your personal preference and body art style.
One of the most popular locations for bat tattoos is on the chest where bats are often part of a large chest piece. Bats can be shown flying above part of a scene or holding up a banner with text on it. Bats are often used as a Gothic alternative to common birds such as eagles and finches.
Bat tattoos are also a common choice on the shoulder blades or the upper back. Bats have a unique shape that lends itself very well to these locations. Speaking of a bat shape, that can also change where the tattoo goes.
When a bat hangs upside down to sleep at night, it wraps its wings around its body. The image of a bat wrapped up and ready to snooze is a common sight throughout the world. A bat shown in that form would serve as a great tattoo option for the arms and legs.
Bat wings are another consideration to have when it comes to tattoo placement. There are plenty of people out there who get full back tattoos that are just bat wings. This is another Gothic spin on the angel wing back tattoo.
The last placement to consider the hand. The silhouette of a bat has become a common sight for many finger tattoos. The face of a bat also makes a good option for the back of the hand especially in the old school or traditional style.
Now that we’ve been talking about bat tattoos and where you can get them, let’s take a look at a few examples.
Bat Tattoo Examples
There are a number of ways bats can be graphically represented — a bat tattoo has a lot of art style options you might not be aware of. Take a look the following some of the images we found for inspiration about what you might want your bat tattoo to look like.
This is probably what a lot of people think of when they hear “bat tattoo” — bats like the black construction paper cut-outs made at Halloween. But a solid or silhouette bat has a lot of room for artistic creativity, as this image shows. Each bat shape has its own distinct personality. Can you pick just one favorite?
Example 1: This image looks like a bat that would appear in a comic book or graphic novel.
Example 2: This is a great idea for a blackwork tattoo where the bat is created from white space.
Example 3: This is another idea for a blackwork bat tattoo or the outline image for a color bat tattoo
Example 1: There are aspects of the tribal art style in this bat image.
Example 2: Another tribal-inspired image of a bat.
Example 3: A decorative bat image in which the bat has an attractive, cute face. No scary bat tattoo meaning here!
Example 4: While this image is intended as an adult coloring page, in the hands of the right tattoo artist, this could be a stunning bat tattoo. It could either be done in strictly blackwork style, or color could be used as well. There are lots of options with a design like this.
Example 5: These tribal art images aren’t obvious bats at first glance. The bat figure is suggested in the shapes of the wings and the bodies. This would be a great way to add a bat tattoo to existing tribal tattoo work so that the tattoo style is consistent.
Example 6: Another tribal art style image of a bat.
Example 7: This is an image of bat shown in skeleton form — a ghost bat, if you will. A whimsical bat tattoo like this would have a sense of humor in the meaning.
Some people don’t want the entire bat figure and have a tattoo just of a bat’s head. Here are a couple examples of images that could be used for a bat tattoo.
Example 1: This is a classic image that nearly everyone would recognize as being a bat.
Example 2: Again, bats don’t have to be scary-looking. This bat head is actually rather cute…maybe even adorable.
As mentioned earlier in the article, some people choose to have tattoos of bat wings only. The wings might be paired with familiar tattoo images to lend a Gothic flavor to the tattoo.
Example 1: A heart is one of the most popular tattoo images, but it gets a twist when paired with bat wings.
Example 2: Skulls are another popular tattoo. They’re already macabre by themselves, but the addition of highly detailed bat wings is an extra sinister touch.
Example 3: This is a tattoo with a less serious feel to it — bat wings on a cat are an amusing image. Bat Cat!
Bats don’t have to be black images. Color can be used to create colorful images of bats that would make bold statements as tattoos.
Example 1: This image of a bat in different shades of red could be replicated in any color you like.
Example 2: Another example of a “ghost bat” in a Dia de los Muertos art style. This would make a gorgeous bat tattoo, with or without the “Dia de los Muertos” lettering.
Example 3: Another comic book/graphic novel art style image of a bat, but this one makes use of color.
Example 4: This image uses a palette of bright colors to create a very lifelike bat head.
Example 5: This cartoon-style image of a bat head uses very bold colors and heavy lines, perfect for a modern looking tattoo.
You may have been surprised to learn that bat tattoos don’t have a negative reputation. There’s a Gothic feel to the image of a bat, but bats can be represented in all sorts of art styles that set the tone of a bat tattoo and what it stands for.
What bat tattoo meaning connects with you? Are you leaning more to the spooky side of things or do you want a bat tattoo that’s realistic? Does a cute bat appeal to you or does the idea of having a beautiful, decorative bat strike your fancy? Decisions, decisions!
Now we’ve shared the various meanings associated with images of bats, you can decide if a bat tattoo is the right body art choice for you.
If you’re curious about what the meanings of other tattoo images are, click here to access the articles in our Tattoo Meanings series.