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125+ Grim Reaper Tattoo Ideas That'll Make You Look Mysterious!

by Sherri Owens

I've been a tattoo artist for a little over a decade now, but I'm still surprised by how many different grim reaper tattoos there are. The range of possibilities really is endless, as you can either go simple and cartooney, or venture into realistic, tribal, or even add different concepts to it like clocks.

I actually had the pleasure of doing a reaper tattoo in the Japanese style earlier today, which just has to be my all-time favorite tattoo style: it's just so rich in colors! While sketching it, it hit me that I've done at least 5 different Grim Reaper tattoos this year. So, today, I thought about running you through all the different Grim Reaper tattoo designs out there.

What are the Best Grim Reaper Tattoos?

Here are all the best grim reaper tattoo designs that you can get.

Simple Traditional Grim Reaper

When you think of the grim reaper, you think of this skeleton figure in a black hooded cloak with a scythe in his hand. To start this list off, you can get a simple tattoo of the reaper, without any concepts or aesthetics added on.

Frown Grim Reaper Black and Grey Tattoo

Image by @amandabegonia via Instagram

Japanese Grim Reaper Tattoo

Whenever a client comes in wanting a Japanese-style tattoo, I get excited. It's a cool art style that has sharp black linework and shading, and super vibrant colors: it generally focuses around Japanese folklore but getting the reaper in it is definitely something you can do. Like I said, it happens to be my favorite tattoo style.

Japanese Style Grim Reaper Tattoo

Image by @mochiyokai via Instagram

Floating Grim Reaper in the Sky Wearing Printed Skull Clothes Tattoo

Image by @newlifetattoos via Instagram

Grim Reaper With Clock Tattoo

Clocks are associated with time and often are linked to the circle of life. The combination of the grim reaper with a clock is a cool idea, as it symbolizes the idea it's only a matter of time before death comes knocking.

The artwork for this can be added anywhere you want, but I'd suggest that you go big with it - you want the clock to be really noticeable so that whoever sees your tattoo gets the message you're trying to say.

Grim Reaper Holding an Ancient Clock Tattoo

Image by @allan.shredz via Instagram

Detailed Grim Reaper with Long Sharp Nails and a Vintage Clock Tattoo

Image by @brianhubisbodyart via Instagram

Grim Reaper Holding a Classic Wall Clock Black and Grey Tattoo

Image by @davidekstromtattoos via Instagram

Hooded Grim Reaper and an Antique Clock Tattoo

Image by @marco.arte via Instagram

Smoking Grim Reaper Glowing Blue Eyes and Nose Holding a Clock Tattoo

Image by @codyfortson via Instagram

Grim Reaper Head, Time Loop Vintage Clock, and a Red Rose Tattoo

Image by @tattoo_bandit via Instagram

Angry Grim Reaper Holding a Clock Tattoo

Image by @ralphnaveatattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper With Hourglass

Similar to getting a reaper with a clock, you can get a tattoo of him with an hourglass. It pretty much has the same symbolism as the clock tattoo, as it represents an impending death that is yet to come.

Close Up Grim Reaper With Hourglass Black and Grey Tattoo

Image by @13ingle_tattoo via Instagram

Ghost Grim Reaper and Shining Hourglass Tattoo

Image by @beyondtheillusiontattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper Reaching the Broken Skull Hourglass with Red Blood Tattoo

Image by @_ninjart via Instagram

Grim Reaper Holding an Hourglass with Evil Eye Stars and Crystals Colored Tattoo

Image by @thedolorosatattoo via Instagram

Violet Highlights Decaying Grim Reaper While Carrying an Hourglass Tattoo

Image by @stevestontattoocompany via Instagram

Gold Hourglass Held by a Grim Reaper Tattoo

Image by @medusamonroe via Instagram

Skeleton Grim Reaper and Human Skull Hourglass Tattoo

Image by @stevotattoos via Instagram

Grim Reaper With Hourglass Black and Gray Tattoo

Image by @the_electricsharpie via Instagram

Candle on Top of the Hourglass Being Held by the Grim Reaper Tattoo

Image by @tattooabel via Instagram

Grim Reaper Looking at the Hourglass WIth Skulls Hanging Around Detailed Tattoo

Image by @franki_tattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper in a Forest Carrying an Hourglass Tattoo

Image by @manuel_valenzuela via Instagram

Grim Reapers Ace of Spades tattoo

The ace of space usually is associated with luck, but it's also known as the death card in playing cards. So, seeing it with the grim reaper is an interesting concept.

The Reaper with the Ace of Spades was actually one of the first grim reaper tattoos that I did, and my client at the time said that she was getting it to remind her that life and death were controlled by factors that are out of her control.

Grim Reaper with Left Human Eye and Playing Cards Tattoo

Image by @chrisnantz via Instagram

Grim Reaper Looking at the Ace of Spades Tattoo

Image by @mariusz_r_tattoos via Instagram

Glowing Eye Grim Reaper with Ace of Spades Tattoo

Image by @blackmarktattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper Face Tattoo Holds an Ace of Spades Near His Eye Tattoo

Image by @pab_whiteinctattoo via Instagram

Typically when it comes to this design, it's the grim reaper holding the ace of spade card. But there's also this alternative version with the reaper inside of the card/spade.

Grim Reaper Inside the Ace of Spades on Top of Big Red Rose Tattoo

Image by @larrylockwoodtattooing via Instagram

Grim Reaper Scythe Blood Dropping Playing Card Spades With Flowers Tattoo

Image by @miekedevliegertattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper in Spades Symbol Tattoo

Image by @mikeyfishhook via Instagram

Grim Reaper Horse Tattoo

The grim reaper on a horse plays into the whole concept of the four horsemen of the apocalypse: one of them is supposed to be the Angel of Death, and he rides on a pale horse. So, the reaper noticeably fits into this design. If you're going for this, remember to include the scythe as people might confuse the reaper for just one of the horsemen otherwise.

Violet Grim Reaper Riding an Horse While Carrying a Broken Lamp Full Back Tattoo

Image by @adam_bomb_ via Instagram

Pale Grim Reaper and Horse Tattoo

Image by @rich_infamous via Instagram

Chained Grim Reaper and Horse Tattoo

Image by @estriverside via Instagram

Grim Reaper With His Horse of the Dead Tattoo

Image by @artistlaurenpower via Instagram

Grim Reaper on Skeleton Horse Walking Away From the Castle Tattoo

Image by @denton_tattoo__ via Instagram

Big Head Grim Reaper on Horse Jumping Black and Grey Tattoo

Image by @ianhillart via Instagram

No Face Black Grim Reaper with Beautiful Horse Tattoo

Image by @dani_tat2 via Instagram

Grim Reaper and Horse Running Tattoo

Image by @guerillaartsociety via Instagram

Cartoon Grim Reaper Tattoo

The grim reaper is supposed to be this scary figure, but you can turn this around and make him a fun cartoon character. Cartoon-style tattoos generally are exaggerated, which can be a hit or a miss depending on the tattoo artist you're working with.

Cute Little Ghost Grim Reaper With Halo Tattoo

Image by @josie.tattoos via Instagram

Clown Grim Reaper Tattoo

Image by @androidoh via Instagram

Grim Reaper Sitting on a Chair

Image by @bybrytattoos via Instagram

Little Grim Reaper Colored Tattoo

Image by @mordecaitattoo via Instagram

Left Leg Up No Face Grim Reaper Tattoo

Image by @anttheelder via Instagram

Grim Reaper in a Tricycle Colored Tattoo

Image by @zombielliotpr via Instagram

Grim Reaper Riding a Skateboard Tattoo

Image by @onemoretattoolu via Instagram

If you've ever turned on Cartoon Network, you might remember Grimm from the Billy & Mandy show. He's a good example of a cartoon-style grim reaper. Plus, you'd be killing two birds with one stone if you get a tat of him, as he may have been a part of your childhood.

The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy Colored Tattoo

Image by @larus_tattoo via Instagram

Grim Head From The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy Tattoo

Image by @koronellos_tatts via Instagram

Grim Reaper Standing The Grim Adventure of Billy and Mandy Tattoo

Image by @marcoscarpittitattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper Mouth Open The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy Black Tattoo

Image by @dead_beat1 via Instagram

Something I really like about cartoon-style tattoos is that artists get creative with them. I've seen sketches of different cartoon and movie characters combined together for a really fun custom piece. And you definitely can do this with the reaper too. Just take a look at the below examples.

Casper the Friendly Ghost Wearing Black Cloak Tattoo

Image by @thetwist365 via Instagram

Duskull From Pokemon With the Background of Moon and Stars Colored Tattoo

Image by @bunnitattoo via Instagram

Little Grim Reaper Wearing Violet Cloak and Calcifer From the Studio Ghibli Tattoo

Image by @dmueller1919 via Instagram

Alien Wearing Grim Reaper Costume Colored Tattoo

Image by @grimjaw_jaggertats via Instagram

Cute Baby Standing in Pink Cloak with Black Heart Printed Tattoo

Image by @genromotattoos via Instagram

Grim Reaper Smoking Tattoo

If you want to go more comical with the tattoo design, you can have the reaper smoking tattooed on you - think about it, he's this big-bad guy, yet he's stressed and having a cigarette. Plus, it's kind of ironic, as smoking kills, yet he has a cigarette in his hand.

Most tattoos of the grim reaper smoking are in the cartoon design that I touched on, so they're whimsical.

Grim Reaper Chilling on a Rocking Chair Colored Tattoo

Image by @ernie_norris_art via Instagram

The Grim Reaper Holding a Flower as a Scythe and Smoking a Cigarette Tattoo

Image by @bluelasstattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper Smoking Pipe Cigarette Colored Tattoo

Image by @adamfortunetattoos via Instagram

Smoking Grim Reaper While Holding his Scythe Tattoo

Image by @jakegranata via Instagram

Grim Reaper Wearing Floral Hawaiian Polo Shirt and Holding a Cocktail Drink With an Umbrella and Cigarette Tattoo

Image by @sinercaballero via Instagram

Stressed Grim Reaper Sitting at Table With Beer and Cigarette Tattoo

Image by @tattooingbysamuel via Instagram

Smoking Grim Reaper Carrying a Candle Lamp Colored Tattoo

Image by @zackindertattoos via Instagram

Instead of a cigarette, he can always have a tobacco pipe in his hand. I helped one of the tattoo artists in my studio stencil out the reaper smoking a cigar pipe once, and I thought it looked more his vibe than the ones I've seen with a cigarette.

Blue Grim Reaper Exhaling the Smoke of Tobacco Pipe Tattoo

Image by @integritysupplyusa via Instagram

A Grim Reaper With Gold Tooth Smoking a Tobacco Pipe Tattoo

Image by @princesspegan via Instagram

Grim Reaper Smoking Tobacco in Pipe Colored Tattoo

Image by @glensidetattoo via Instagram

But take it from me - tattooing smoke is not that easy. So, I'd suggest you speak to your tattoo artist before booking the guy.

Grim Reaper Santa Muerte

In Latin American culture, Santa Muerte is the female saint of death, and if you look up a picture, she's a skeleton wearing a cloak that's very reminiscent of the Reaper. She actually has several key elements of the Virgin Mary incorporated with her too. So, a grim reaper tattoo design combined with her makes for an interesting piece of work.

Santa Muerte Holding a Globe in Her Right Hand Tattoo

Image by @insightosidetattoo via Instagram

Floral Santa Muerte Tattoo

Image by @yoyoventura via Instagram

Santa Muerte Carrying a Red Shining Lamp Tattoo

Image by @benfuentesromerotattoo via Instagram

Santa Muerte With a Chain Black and Grey Tattoo

Image by @bomcconaghie via Instagram

Praying Santa Muerte Standing in Three Roses Tattoo

Image by @paynetattoo via Instagram

Glowing Halo Santa Muerte and a Rose Flower Head Tattoo

Image by @bigbadwolftattoos via Instagram

Santa Muerte is a pretty colorful character, with blue and red being her primary colors. So, you can ditch the plain black ink and go with a more colorful look if you want. Here are some examples:

Praying Santa Muerte With Halo Crown and a Red Rose Tattoo

Image by @santamuertebook via Instagram

Santa Muerte Grim Reaper Chain on her Chest With Two Blue Flowers Tattoo

Image by @renatochido via Instagram

Santa Muerte Hands Together and Three Red Roses With Flames Background Colored Tattoo

Image by @azcatattoo via Instagram

Santa Muerte Head Bowing and Praying With A Rose Colored Tattoo

Image by @frankysharpz via Instagram

Grim Reaper and Angel Tattoo

The grim reaper with an Angel is another tattoo design that's rich in symbolism. Angels represent guidance and light, while the reaper represents death and the end. So the juxtaposition of the two can be a twist on the concept of life and death.

Grim Reaper Cloaked Skeleton Hugging Naked Woman Tattoo

Image by @softchicktattoo and macondobktattoo via Instagram

Naked Angel Girl Sitting on a Pile of Skulls in Front of a Grim Reaper Under the Sun Tattoo

Image by @raineyxentattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper in Graveyard Tattoo

The grim reaper is the collector of souls, so getting a tattoo of him in a graveyard makes perfect sense. This tattoo can represent you not being scared of death, as it's inevitable, or as a reminder of the impermanence of life.

Blind Fold Grim Reaper Walking on a Graveyard Tattoo Tattoo

Image by @yoshi_tats via Instagram

Graveyard Inside the Skull Tattoo

Image by @cookietattoos via Instagram

Grim Reaper Gun Tattoo

The grim reaper holding a gun, or having one behind him is another popular tattoo idea. People mostly get this tattoo to represent the war and destruction done by man. But personally, I'd just go with the tattoo as it looks cool - the reaper's made more relatable as he's ditched his scythe for something modern.

Grim Reaper Pointing a Gun Tattoo

Image by @tattooseanohara via Instagram

Grim Reaper With a AR15 Gun Tattoo

Image by @seanaddytattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper Shooting a Gun Tattoo

Image by @inkmastermak13 via Instagram

Gold Tooth Grim Reaper Firing a Gun Tattoo

Image by @trader_rob via Instagram

Grim Reaper Skull Tattoo

You can go simple with it and only get the grim reaper's skull tattooed on. The artwork can either be small or big, it's really up to you.

Grim Reaper Chest Tattoo Piece

Image by @reelflytattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper Showing Middle Finger Tattoo

Image by @lukedrapez_tattoos via Instagram

Grim Reaper Skull Tattoo

Image by @drews_tattoos via Instagram

Grim Reaper Skull Light Shines From Below Tattoo

Image by @bigbadwolftattoos via Instagram

Grim Reaper Skull and Bones Tattoo

Image by @dan.gtk via Instagram

Realistic Grim Reaper Tattoo

On the flipside of the cartoon style that I talked about earlier, you can go with a super realistic-looking reaper tattoo instead.

Realistic tattoos have an extra dimension to them that makes them come to life, so you'd be looking at death whenever you look at your tat - I'd say this is one of the more intimidating tat designs on my list.

The thing with realistic tattoos is, not everyone can nail them. Some of the other artists at my studio actually send their clients to me whenever they have to do hyper-realistic pieces because they know they can't nail them.

Grim Reaper Skeleton Tattoo

Image by @bnginksociety via Instagram

Realistic Grim Reaper Tattoo

Image by @exink.tattoo via Instagram

The artwork for the tattoo can be the whole reaper or just a headshot - this usually is the most common route people take. A lot of the artwork I showed for the reaper skull tattoos can work here.

Grim Reaper Wicked Tattoo

When I think of the grim reaper, I think of this scary, intimidating figure. So, you can amp this up and get a tattoo of him looking super intimidating. There are really so many ways you can do this, but having him reach out is a must.

Like I said earlier, making him realistic also adds to the intimidation factor. However, you generally want him to look angry. This tat design will send a message to people not to mess with you.

Grim Reaper Reaching Out a Hand Tattoo

Image by @affiliatedtattoofamily via Instagram

Shouting Grim Reaper Tattoo

Image by @inkbymegan via Instagram

Evil Grim Reaper Tattoo

Image by @unwrittenmystery via Instagram

Grim Reaper Scythe Tattoo

One of the first things that pop up when I (and probably you) think of the grim reaper is a large scythe. You can pay homage to him and just get his scythe tatted on. It's less in your face, and is great if you only want a very simple grim reaper tattoo.

Thin Scythe Colored Tattoo

Image by @cursecartertattoos via Instagram

Web Scythe Tattoo

Image by @sarahpeters_tattoo via Instagram

Scythe With Word Phrase Ribbon Tattoo

Image by @jmarshtattoo via Instagram

Funny Grim Reaper Tattoo

Why not get a funny grim reaper tattoo? It'll show people that you have a sense of humor about death. Plus, you'll get a chuckle out of whoever sees your tat, which will almost always be an ice-breaker.

I think the reaper smoking design I talked about earlier falls well into this category, but there definitely are other routes you can take with this.

Grim Reaper Sitting Beside a Dead Body Tattoo

Image by @3ravenstattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper in Love Talking on a Phone Tattoo

Image by @tall_garrett_tattoos via Instagram

Tribal Grim Reaper Tattoos

Tribal tattoos are designs inspired by indigenous cultures. There are probably hundreds of tribes globally, so tribal tattoo designs can vary. But they mostly consist of black lines and geometric patterns.

Many indigenous cultures view death as sacred, as they cherish their connections with their ancestors. So, the grim reaper in a tribal style is a fitting choice. The tattoo would be ideal if you're someone who has a deep connection to their ancestors.

But also, a reaper tribal tat would be great if you want something that's more minimalist: the design style uses thick black lines and very minimal shading.

Tribal Grim Reaper Skeleton on Black Ink Tattoo

Image by @tattoosforyourenemies via Instagram

Tribal Grim Reaper Tattoo

Image by @taylorstreettattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper Holding a Sword Tribal Tattoo

Image by @derpwaara via Instagram

Female Grim Reaper Tattoo

Who's to say the grim reaper is not a woman? This tattoo design oozes feminine energy as you turn a character that's almost always a male into a powerful female. This tells people that you're someone who's all about girl power, while also someone who's mysterious and not afraid of death.

Female Grim Reaper Flower Behind Her Ear Tattoo

Image by @sketchydoctor via Instagram

Small Grim Reaper Tattoo

A lot of grim reaper tattoos are kind of big, so I understand it if you'd rather get a smaller tattoo. It's really up to you what you do with the design. I wouldn't go with anything that detailed when getting a smaller tattoo, though, as there's not much space to work with.

Small Grim Reaper Floating Tattoo

Image by @calbkrart via Instagram

Grim Reaper Head in Front of the Scythe Tattoo

Image by @theaustintattooco via Instagram

Grim Reaper Holding a Flowers Tattoo

Image by @oopsydaisytattoos via Instagram

Grim Reaper Sleeve Tattoo

You can have the grim reaper be a part of a sleeve, along with other characters and details in there: these other details can be elements of the designs that I talked about, like clocks and hourglasses, but it really can be anything you want.

Since you have such a large space to work with, keep in mind that you're going to be getting a lot of detail-work done, so the whole piece will likely be divided into sessions across multiple days. In our studio, we typically try to finish a sleeve off in around 3-days.

Grim Reaper Arm Full Sleeves Tattoo

Image by @terminuscitytattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper Sleeve Detailed Tattoo

Image by @castandbrandtattoo via Instagram

If you're not feeling like getting a whole sleeve, you can always get the reaper as a part of a half sleeve. It sounds exactly like you might've guessed - you'd only be covering half of your arm, starting at the elbow and going to the wrist, or in reverse. You'd have enough black space to go with some other designs if you ever want.

Grim Reaper Half Sleeve Realistic Tattoo

Image by @tattoonow_dot_com via Instagram

Grim Reaper Above the Flower Tattoo

Image by @brock_tattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper in a Dawn Forest and Witch Hand with a Compass Colored Tattoo

Image by @artofmartin85 via Instagram

Grim Reaper Glowing Blue Eyes Realistic Tattoo

Image by @sameer.patange via Instagram

Grim Reaper Hand Tattoo

If you're not afraid of flaunting your reaper tattoo, you can always get it on your hand. But remember that there's a stereotype that only people on the fringe of society get tattoos here. For someone who's job hunting, or has a job where appearance matters, this might not be the smartest move.

I also have to say that getting tattoos on your hand can hurt - there's just a lot of thin skin there, which is why it's one of my least favorite places to tat on newbies.

Hooded Skull Tattoo

Image by @smile_you_sonuvabitch via Instagram

Skull Wearing Black Hood Tattoo

Image by @rockydarkroads via Instagram

Grinning Hooded Skull Tattoo

Image by @oldtraditions_tattoo via Instagram

Hooded Skull With One Eye and Broken Teeth Tattoo

Image by @big_red_richardson via Instagram

Red Glowing Eye Grim Reaper Skull Tattoo

Image by @hocuspocusink via Instagram

Look up Grim Reaper With Droplets Tattoo

Image by @evocativetattoo via Instagram

Side View Grim Reaper Skull With His Scythe Tattoo

Image by @dredsoull via Instagram

Grim Reaper Skull Traditional Tattoo

Image by @left_lung via Instagram

Grim Reaper Scythe Dripping Tattoo

Image by @theo_sanctity via Instagram

Grim Reaper Skull With Gold Tooth Tattoo

Image by @oldgoldtattooco via Instagram

Grim Reaper Chest Tattoo

The chest area is a large canvas so it'll work great if you have a more detailed grim reaper design in mind. Just remember that getting tattoos anywhere near your chest hurts- there's a lot of thin skin here. The chest also works great if you don't want everyone seeing your tattoo, like if you work in corporate.

You can either have the tattoo on a single pec like the below options.

A Skull Holding Tattered Hood Tattoo

Image by @jefftattoos12 via Instagram

Grim Reaper Underneath the Scythe Tattoo

Image by @devilhidetattoo via Instagram

Realistic Grim Reaper Skull Tattoo

Image by @donut_bones via Instagram

Or you can have it on your full chest. I think the best move would be to make the whole chest tattoo into a story and have multiple elements in there.

Grim Reaper Laughing Holding His Scythe Full Chest Tattoo

Image by @fullcircletattoo via Instagram

Reaper with Lamp Full Chest Tattoo

Image by @tonytrustworthy via Instagram

Grim Reaper Holding the Naked Lady Tattoo

Image by @buio_letizi via Instagram

Grim Reaper Holding a Clock in the Graveyard Beside the Eagle and Pale Flower Tattoo

Image by @tattoos_by_sam_terry via Instagram

Grim Reaper Releasing the Flower Wooden Coffin Tattoo

Image by @justin_tyme_tattoos via Instagram

Grim Reaper With Bats Flying Behind the Angel Wing Tattoo

Image by @joshwhaaatattoo via Instagram

Grim Reaper Arm Tattoos

The grim reaper generally is this thin, long figure, so he'd fit perfectly in the width of your arm. You can pick whatever style or design you want for a tat here - a few months ago, I got to do a tattoo of the reaper in the Japanese style for a client here.

Pink Butterflies Flying Around the Hooded Skeleton Tattoo

Image by @geir_north via Instagram

FAQ

Answered below are some popular questions.

1. What Does A Grim Reaper Tattoo Mean?

It really depends on the message you are going for. However, a grim reaper tattoo is supposed to represent death and aspects of it, like how death is impending, or how brief life is.

2. Why Does the Grim Reaper Hold a Scythe?

So, a scythe is a tool used in agriculture to harvest crops. The reaper uses it as his tool of choice to harvest souls before taking them to the afterlife.

Final Thoughts

There are a bunch of different grim reaper tattoo designs out there, so picking the right one can be tricky: I'd recommend going for whatever has the most meaning to you.

Nonetheless, the list I ran you through is in-depth and will provide you with enough references to make the right decision. All in all, I hope that you found all of my points and suggestions useful for your next tattoo!

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