Insects are not the most popular tattoo design, but butterflies are an exception. Butterfly tattoos are a feminine kind of tattoo and come in a great variety of shapes and sizes: colorful or black, stylized or real (like a monarch butterfly tattoo). They are the 4th most popular tattoo design, after tribal, star and cross tattoos and they are probably the most popular design for women and girls.
The butterfly tattoo is pretty and feminine without being overly flowery or sentimental. Butterflies have always been an inspiration for visual arts, such as the hieroglyphics of Ancient Egypt a couple of thousand years ago.
Butterfly tattoos are a good choice for a first tattoo because the design doesn't need to be big to be striking. A small butterfly tattoo (life sized or smaller) on an ankle or shoulder can be a pretty and graceful accent to your natural beauty.
The most popular spots for a butterfly tattoo are:
- Back & Lower back
- Upper arm
They are often combined with other imaginary like:
- Tribal ornaments
- Swirly and curly lines
- Flowers (go here for our flower tattoo designs)
- Hearts (go here for our heart tattoo designs)
- Stars (go here for our star tattoo designs)
Butterfly designs can have a lot of meanings, depending on the person or culture. Here's an overview:
- Often a butterfly tattoo is a symbol of rebirth and transformation: the "ugly" and slow caterpillar transforms inside its cocoon to the beautiful creature that a butterfly is. Having a tattoo of a butterfly symbolizes a new life, a new beginning after having gone through some rough times.
- Delicate beauty: a butterfly is small and very delicate, but also very colorful and full of beautiful details. On the other hand, it is not so delicate like most people think: contrary to the widespread belief, you can't kill a butterfly by touching its wings.
- A butterfly tattoo can be a symbol of freedom.
- In some cultures, like the Christian, the butterfly symbolizes a person's soul. The Greek word for butterfly for example, also means soul.
- In Japan they believe that if a butterfly flies into your guestroom, the person you love the most will come to you soon.
- Also in Japan, a large swarm of butterflies is seen as a bad omen.
- The Russian word for butterfly resembles the word for grandmother.
- In China, two butterflies fluttering together are a symbol for love.
- In some cultures it means good luck when a butterfly lands on you (imagine the luck you'll be having when you have one on you permanently).
- The phrase "having butterflies in your stomach" is a way of saying you are in love (or just very very nervous).
- For the ancient Aztecs, butterflies were the souls of deceased warriors or women who died while giving birth.
- For some people a butterfly means peace.
- And for some people the butterfly resembles a woman's genitals (Rorsach anyone?).
Here's a gallery of butterfly tattoo flash (click pics to enlarge):
Tribal & Lower Back Butterfly Tattoos
Butterfly tattoos combine well with tribal elements, especially on the lower back because of the symmetrical nature of a butterfly. Tribal butterfly tattoos are often black, or a combination of a colored butterfly with black tribal swirls.
Lower back butterfly tattoos are usually larger, more stylized butterfly images that stretch across the lower back, one of the most popular places to get a tattoo nowadays (but also known as a tramp stamp).
Actually, butterfly tattoos lend themselves very well to this location. The butterfly image is very symmetrical, so the middle can easily be lined up with the spine, the wings extending on either side. This makes the butterfly wings longer and more stretched out than they would be in nature, but the image can be very attractive.
Butterfly Celebrity Tattoos
Here's a list of celebrities that have a butterfly tattoo:
- Drew Barrymore: has one on her abdomen, right under her belly button.
- Maria Carey: has a lower back butterfly (fake or not?).
- Paris Hilton: has a small butterfly tattoo on her back (could be temporary).
- Kelis: has one on her stomach.
- Dolly Parton: country star with a butterfly on her chest.
- Julia Roberts: has a lower back butterfly.
- Britney Spears: has one on her left foot.
- Holly Marie Combs: has a butterfly on the inside of her right wrist.
To sum it up: butterfly tattoos are among the most versatile tattoo images, which helps explain their popularity with women. They are inherently feminine, but not necessarily girly, and you can make either a bold or subtle statement.
You will find more pictures of butterfly tattoos in our Tattoo Galleries