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100+ Sea Turtle Tattoo Ideas That Are Sure to Make a Splash With You!

by Sherri Owens

From simple shell designs to complex tattoos with realistic artwork, there are so many ways to depict a sea turtle in a tattoo!

Having had the opportunity to observe sea turtles on my travels, I always get excited when a client comes in with a sea turtle design. We get to talk about how amazing these creatures are and the individual significance that we have each placed upon the sea turtle. Not to mention, there are so many creative designs to come up with here!

In this post, I will show you the top sea turtle tattoo ideas that you can choose from and give you some insight into what the various designs can mean!

The Best Sea Turtle Tattoo Ideas

Here are the top sea turtle tattoo designs for you to choose from:

Minimalistic Sea Turtle Tattoos

If you are looking for simple sea turtle tattoo ideas, then I have you covered with this category right here!

Line Art Sea Turtle Leg Tattoo

Image by @madebyling via Instagram

Of course, everyone has their own idea of what a minimalistic sea turtle tattoo looks like. For some, such a sea turtle tattoo is pretty bare bones. For others, a simplistic sea turtle tattoo will contain a bit more detail.

A Little Fine Line Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @alien.titties via Instagram

If you want a really simple sea turtle tattoo, then you can simply get an outline of a turtle. If you want, you can add small squares onto the back of this sea turtle tattoo design to create the shell.

Artistic Version of a Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @ananjtattoos via Instagram

In case you would like a bit more unique tattoo, then go with an abstract linework tattoo style. Your sea turtle tattoo will still be defined by its simplicity but the overall design will be unusual.

Tiny Line Work Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @inkordyestudio via Instagram

This kind of sea turtle tattoo can be designed in such a way that it can work as an ankle tattoo.

Curvy Lined Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @inkbox.lca via Instagram

Blue Sea Turtle with a Sand Dollar Shell Tattoo

Image by @jenuinerose via Instagram

Tiny and Cute Sea Turtle Single Needle Tattoo

Image by @alessandromelas via Instagram

Colored Finger Turtle Tattoo

Image by @redgrizzly123 via Instagram

Black Line Sea Turtle with Sun Rise Tattoo

Image by @cameronhobbs_art via Instagram

Tiny Little Sea Turtle Back Tattoo

Image by @tinytattoos_feathertouch via Instagram

Baby Sea Turtle Tattoos

Want a cute sea turtle tattoo? It doesn't get any cuter than a baby turtle! This kind of tattoo design can also work if you want a small sea turtle tattoo.

Greyscale Baby Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @darksidetattoostudio via Instagram

Now, when it comes to your baby sea turtle, it is important to pay attention to details. This is the best way to ensure that your baby turtle looks like a baby rather than a smaller sea turtle.

Small Little Grey Ink Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @mint.brain.tattoo via Instagram

Make sure to show your tattoo artist a picture of a baby turtle so they know which additional details to include in your sea turtle tattoo.

Portrait Style Baby Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @holierthanthoumanchester via Instagram

You may also want to make the eyes bigger and have their flippers a bit bigger than their body. Now, if you do want a realistic sea turtle tattoo, you should definitely get one.

Sketch Style Baby Sea Turtle on the Egg Tattoo

Image by @theblackpencil_ via Instagram

At the same time, with such sea turtle tattoo ideas, you also have the option of creating a slightly more cartoonish version of a baby sea turtle.

Green Ink Baby Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @huuzole_ink via Instagram

Baby Sea Turtle Colored Tattoo

Image by @ting_tattoo via Instagram

Realistic Sea Turtle Tattoos

One of the cool things about realistic sea turtle tattoo ideas is that they can work just as well as a small sea turtle tattoo as a large one! So, if you do want to get an ankle tattoo, this type of beautiful sea turtle tattoo is still an option for you.

Real Looking Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @youranink via Instagram

Of course, the smaller sea turtle tattoo ideas can be a bit trickier as you do have to work a lot more detail into a more compact area. Still, with a good artist, this can be accomplished.

Greyscale Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @mccollumtattoo via Instagram

For such a sea turtle tattoo, you should take a photograph or scientific drawing with you to your artist. This will let them know exactly what kind of image to reproduce.

Patterned Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @swomp.lord via Instagram

Despite what you may think, realistic sea turtle tattoo ideas don't always have to be done in color. You can still get a really realistic design with black and grey. Subtle shading and attention to detail can really bring your sea turtle tattoo to life.

Blue Ink Sea Turtle Watercolor Tattoo

Image by @chopztattoo via Instagram

Also, just because you want a more realistic tattoo style doesn't mean that you can't have a little fun with your sea turtle tattoo. You can use unique colors or get a watercolor sea turtle tattoo to add some interest to the tattoo design.

Sea Turtle with Water Splashes Tattoo

Image by @sketchreppinink via Instagram

Colored Magical Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @sharon_tattoos via Instagram

Black and Grey Dotted Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @lauren_the_artiste via Instagram

Patterned Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @eric_manio via Instagram

Greyish Small Sea Turtle Thigh Tattoo

Image by @plantdaddy.tattoos and cloakanddraugrtattoo via Instagram

Watercolor Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @claude_le_tatoueur via Instagram

Colorful Sea Turtle Calf Tattoo

Image by @jay.goodspeed and squidinktattoosco via Instagram

Little 3” Long Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @shawn.mccarthy.585 via Instagram

Swimming Sea Turtle Tattoos

I absolutely love sea turtle tattoo ideas like this - it is such a cute sea turtle tattoo and a pretty creative one to boot!

Sea Turtle with Bubbles Tattoo

Image by @hailstorm.ink via Instagram

Now, you may be wondering what is the difference between a typical sea turtle tattoo and a swimming design. Well, the difference is pretty subtle.

Tiny Greyish Swimming Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @sketchedlilly via Instagram

For swimming sea turtle tattoo ideas, you include a stream of bubbles from the mouth. What's so cool about this concept is that you are hinting at so much with such simple design elements.

Swimming Turtle with Bubbles Tattoo

Image by @bodyworks.tattoos via Instagram

If you are considering slightly more complex or artistic sea turtle tattoo ideas, then you may want to include water or sea currents passing over the sea turtle.

Pink Turtle with Water Bubbles Tattoo

Image by @roberta.tattooartist via Instagram

For a more minimalistic sea turtle tattoo, you can simply stick to a realistic black ink design. In case you want something a bit more colorful or eye-catching, then go with a vivid or watercolor sea turtle tattoo.

Multiple Shapes Swimming Turtle Tattoo

Image by @rachel_meister_art via Instagram

You also have a lot of placement options for such a sea turtle tattoo, although it can work well as a shoulder tattoo.

Sketch Style Sea Turtle with Bubbles Tattoo

Image by @alexherndzstudio via Instagram

Pencil Sketch Style Swimming Turtle Tattoo

Image by @mara.tattoo via Instagram

Sea Turtle with Bubbles Ankle Tattoo

Image by @cocreatetattoo via Instagram

Bright Watercolor Sea Turtle Thigh Tattoo

Image by @mattnormous_84 via Instagram

Sea Turtle with Water Splash Forearm Tattoo

Image by @graw.ttt via Instagram

Black and Grey Sea Turtle with Dotted Water Splash Tattoo

Image by @brenna.eagan via Instagram

Swimming Sea Turtle Colored Tattoo

Image by @willycutliptattoo via Instagram

Swimming Turtle with Shadow Tattoo

Image by @lilyl_blankleaving and blankleaving_studio via Instagram

Multicolored Swimming Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @thejorell via Instagram

Tiny Turtle with Water Splash Shoulder Tattoo

Image by @eggsy_tattoo via Instagram

Sea Turtle with Big Waves Tattoo

Image by @halloweenink via Instagram

Underwater Sea Turtle Tattoos

Now, underwater sea turtle tattoo ideas are a bit similar to those of the swimming sea turtle tattoo ideas. The main difference between these sea turtle tattoos is the level of detail.

Greyish Underwater Sea Turtle Tattoo Piece

Image by @stonee.tattoos via Instagram

With an underwater sea turtle tattoo, you can include details like sea waves, bubbles, etc. At the same time, such tattoo designs can also include other elements like seaweed, aquatic plants, and other aquatic animals.

Multicolored Sea Turtle Underwater Tattoo

Image by @goksisdead via Instagram

Such sea turtle tattoo ideas don't have to be overly complex if you don't want them to be. You can still have a beautiful and unique tattoo done with black ink and just a few strands of seaweed.

Sea Turtle Ocean Tattoo Piece

Image by @domcalitattoo via Instagram

At the same time, you are free to go all out with these sea turtle tattoo ideas. This means that you can get a watercolor sea turtle tattoo, add plenty of creatures into the mix, or even go for different tattoo styles.

Grey and White Ink Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @cachotattoo via Instagram

The number of design elements and how much detail you want to include in your sea turtle tattoo will depend on how big you want your tattoo to be. So, one of the first things to do is to consider if you want a shoulder tattoo, a chest piece, or a back tattoo.

Sea Turtle and Underwater Coral Reef Plant Tattoo

Image by @legacytattoolondon via Instagram

This will then help you to decide just how much detail to include in your sea turtle tattoo to get your desired effect.

Sea Turtle with Small Fish Underwater Tattoo

Image by @alexa.archer.tattoo via Instagram

Sea Turtle, Sea Horse and Fish Underwater Tattoo

Image by @erickatattoos via Instagram

Octopus and Sea Turtle Torso Tattoo Piece

Image by @speakeasytat via Instagram

Black and Grey Flying Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @nesi_tattoo via Instagram

Sea Turtle with Underwater Plants Tattoo

Image by @annasylvantattoos via Instagram

Greyscale Underwater Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @crowsandvenomart via Instagram

Colored Sea Turtle with Ocean Plant Tattoo

Image by @selahjudetattoos via Instagram

Underwater Sea Turtle Shoulder Tattoo Piece

Image by @dbishoptattoo via Instagram

Sea Turtle Ocean Full Back Tattoo Piece

Image by @deanocook via Instagram

Underwater Scenery Tattoo Piece

Image by @serpentinekattattoo via Instagram

Sea Turtle Ocean Arm Tattoo

Image by @erikespinozac via Instagram

Family of Sea Turtles Tattoos

If you are looking for meaningful sea turtle tattoo ideas, then you may want to consider getting a family of sea turtles inked on you. As the name suggests, this is a great way to honor or commemorate your family.

Neon Ink Adult and Baby Turtle Tattoo

Image by @humancanvastattoostudio via Instagram

For such sea turtle tattoo ideas, you don't have to get your entire family inked on you as this can end up being a pretty large sea turtle tattoo! If you are a parent, for instance, then you can get a sea turtle that represents you and baby sea turtles that represent your children as a sea turtle tattoo.

Momma Sea Turtle and Her Babies Tattoo

Image by @robertbarkerart and studio222.tattoo via Instagram

Or, if you want, you can just include your kids in your sea turtle tattoo. Of course, if you don't mind slightly larger sea turtle tattoo ideas, then you can go ahead and have your nuclear family tattooed on you.

Turquoise Blue Mother Turtle and Baby Turtles Chest Tattoo

Image by @kirstin.young.tattoo via Instagram

There are plenty of ways to get creative with these sea turtle tattoo ideas. From getting watercolor sea turtle tattoo designs to going for more cartoon elements, you can tailor the tattoo to suit you and your family.

Sea Turtles with Floral Tattoo Piece

Image by @balaclava_ink_brisbane via Instagram

Sketch Style Mother and Baby Turtle Tattoo

Image by @mindseyetattoo via Instagram

Polynesian Sea Turtle Tattoos

If you have visited Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, or any other country within the Polynesian triangle, then you will likely have seen symbols for sea turtles. You may have also found many sea turtle tattoos too

Polynesian Style Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @aug_ink_8 via Instagram

Now, the thing to keep in mind is that the concept of Polynesian sea turtle tattoo ideas is a pretty broad term. This is because the indigenous people who live within the Polynesian triangle are called Polynesians. However, they each have their own individual cultures.

Sea Turtle Beach Scene Calf Tattoo

Image by @darinblanktattoos via Instagram

For instance, the indigenous people of New Zealand are Maori and have different traditions, legends, and cultures from the kānaka maoli of Hawaii, for instance.

So, while tribal elements or tribal designs may seem similar, they are actually rather unique to the culture or the country that they came from.

Polynesian Art Sea Turtle Tattoo Piece

Image by @marlolualemana via Instagram

While symbols and stories of the sea turtle are found across the different Polynesian cultures, they are especially prominent in Hawaiian culture. So, if you have ever wondered:

What does the Polynesian sea turtle tattoo mean in Hawaii, it is as follows...

According to Hawaiian legend, the great hero Aiai created honu (the sea turtle) by drawing marks on a rock near the water. Ever since then, the honu has played many roles in Hawaiian legends.

Black and Grey Polynesian Design Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @waiata_arts via Instagram

In some stories, sea turtles have been the very foundation for islands. In others, the sea turtles have acted as messengers. They have also been called forth as protectors and been known to be unleashed upon enemies.

In more romantic stories, the sea turtles have acted as canoes to carry lovers upon their backs so that they may be reunited.

Colored Cartoon Style Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @smallstattooing via Instagram

Sea turtles are also symbols of the relationship between the earth and the water. While the turtles do live in the sea, they are also from the earth and must return there to lay their eggs.

If you are looking for more authentic sea turtle tattoo ideas, make sure to do your research. First, start off by deciding on which culture you would like to base your sea turtle tattoo.

Maori Style Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @pejczi via Instagram

Then, do your research on sea turtles in that culture as well as symbols that the people may use to denote this creature.

Keep in mind that tribal tattoos hold a great deal of spiritual and cultural meaning to Polynesian people. So, make sure that the sea turtle tattoo that you are getting respects and honors the culture that you are borrowing the design from.

Tribal Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @rarebreed_tattoo via Instagram

Tribal Art Sea Turtle Calf Tattoo

Image by @tribal_tatau via Instagram

Patterned Sea Turtle Tattoos

If you are looking for more artistic sea turtle tattoo ideas, then you should certainly consider this concept - it is one of my favorites!

Here, you can choose a unique design for the sea turtle shell. Not only does this kind of sea turtle tattoo allow you to create a design that is unique to you, it also allows you to depict your personal association with these turtles.

Canadian Map Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @andywilltattoo via Instagram

For instance, do you associate the sea turtle with your travels? If so, you can then get a turtle tattoo where the shell of the sea turtle consists of the different countries that you have visited.

Patterned Sea Turtle with Water Splash Tattoo

Image by @goldeniron_tattoos_toronto via Instagram

In case you want your turtle tattoo to have a slightly different take on travel, then you can get the sea turtle shell patterned with a compass.

If you are from Hawaii or have visited Hawaii, then you can get the hibiscus flowers on the sea turtle shell. Of course, this kind of turtle tattoo works with any kind of floral design at all!

Floral Sea Turtle with Sparks Tattoo

Image by @teekatatts via Instagram

Sea Turtle with Hibiscus Thigh Tattoo

Image by @nyracruzart via Instagram

Sea Turtle with African Pink Daisies Tattoo

Image by @emilia_paw_arts via Instagram

Black Ink Floral Sea Turtle with Bubbles Tattoo

Image by @daisyhestertattoo via Instagram

Cross Stitch Sea Turtle Shoulder Tattoo

Image by @prestigecollectivetattoo via Instagram

Blue Floral Patterned Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @douglandrytattoos via Instagram

If you want your turtle tattoo to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible, then you can consider a delicate pattern much like you would see on fine china. In fact, if you check out this sea turtle tattoo, it actually has a beautiful gold border included in the pattern as well.

Kintsugi Turtle Arm Tattoo

Image by @tattoosbytri via Instagram

Of course, these are just a few sea turtle tattoo ideas that you can follow if a patterned shell sounds like something you would be interested in. As there are so many designs and patterns for you to choose from, you can easily create one that is perfectly suited to your tastes.

Patterned Sea Shell Turtle Tattoo

Image by @moxietattoo via Instagram

Sea Turtle and Flower Tattoos

Now, this is a bit of a unique and different sea turtle tattoo concept. Here, you include flowers in your turtle tattoo.

Island Floral Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @freakyamandine via Instagram

As you are aware, the reason that this is a rather unusual concept is because the sea turtle is rarely found on land, where flowers go. Still, this is a great sea turtle tattoo idea if you want to capture a more leisurely vibe with your tattoo.

Multicolored Sea Turtle and Purple Flowers Tattoo

Image by @lady.moon.tattoo via Instagram

One of the more common flowers used with a sea turtle tattoo like this is the hibiscus flower. This is because this flower is typically associated with tropical destinations where there is a higher likelihood of seeing a sea turtle.

Sea Turtle with Flannel Flower Tattoo

Image by @lu.cy.ttt via Instagram

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules with a sea turtle tattoo such as this. You are free to choose any flower that you like, including a favorite of yours.

Sea Turtle with Hibiscus and Manta Ray with Plumeria Tattoo

Image by @lilyblu.ink via Instagram

If you would like a more meaningful turtle tattoo, though, I want to remind you that each flower has a meaning. So, you may want to do some research to see how you can add a bit more significance to your tattoo.

Greyish Sea Turtle with Flowers Tattoo

Image by @mikeas4tattoos via Instagram

This kind of tattoo can work as a black-and-white ink design or you can opt for a watercolor sea turtle tattoo if you want a bolder look.

Sea Turtle with White Flowers and Sea Shells Tattoo

Image by @tattoosnob via Instagram

Sea Turtle with Flowers Tattoo

Image by @jeffytattoos via Instagram

Sea Turtle with Sunflowers Forearm Tattoo

Image by @bodytech_tattoo via Instagram

Green Turtle with Flowers Leg Tattoo

Image by @closeencounterstattoo via Instagram

Floral Sea Turtle Tattoo Piece

Image by @onyx.tattoos via Instagram

Geometric Sea Turtle Tattoos

This is a great concept if you want to add a slightly more modern look to your tattoo. For this kind of design, you include geometric shapes or geometric patterns in your tattoo.

Now, there are a few different ways that you can pull off this tattoo. One would be to include the shapes around the sea turtle.

Geometric Shaped Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @jonlimtattoos via Instagram

This is a great option if you want to create a sort of frame around the turtle to help structure the design a little bit more. It also helps to create a contrasting yet complementary design.

Tiny Turtle with Dotted Shapes Tattoo

Image by @graw.ttt via Instagram

The other option is to have a portion of the turtle constructed out of the shapes. This is another good way to create a comparison between two contrasting concepts. It can be a way to compare organic and inorganic elements to one another.

Sea Turtle and Sunrise Tattoo

Image by @alexandyrvalentine via Instagram

Diamond Shaped Underwater Sea Turtle Tattoo

Image by @red_eyed_monkey via Instagram

Geometric Sea Turtle Rib Tattoo

Image by @kaya_tattoo via Instagram

Sea Turtle Geometric Watercolor Tattoo

Image by @sakura790323 via Instagram

Coral Reef Sea Turtle Tattoos

This is such a beautiful tattoo concept and it is a great tattoo to get if you are someone who loves the ocean. So, for this kind of tattoo, you design it so that it appears that a coral reef is growing out of the turtle's shell.

Coral Reef Turtle Calf Tattoo

Image by @bee_stings_tattoos via Instagram

If you want, you can simply leave the tattoo as it is. However, if you want to take your tattoo to the next level, then you can add other elements to the design. This includes fish, other sea creatures, or even a diver!

Coral Reef Sea Turtle Arm Tattoo

Image by @mariafernandeztattoo via Instagram

One of the reasons that I love this tattoo so much is that it can be a rather meaningful design. Having the coral on the shell can be a good reminder of just how many elements of the ocean are endangered. It can remind you that people need to do so much more to maintain what we have as well as undo the damage that has already been inflicted upon the ocean and the creatures living in it.

Black and Grey Coral Reef Turtle Tattoo

Image by @silvercloud.tattoo via Instagram

The other reason that I really like this tattoo is that it does help to remind you that everything is interconnected even though it may not always be obvious.

Coral Reef Turtle with Bubbles Tattoo

Image by @andrespxnce via Instagram

What Does a Sea Turtle Tattoo Symbolize?

A sea turtle tattoo can symbolize a lot of different things. In addition to there being different meanings for sea turtle tattoos, the meanings can vary from one culture to another. What's more, some people may have personal associations or significance regarding their sea turtle tattoo.

Some people associate a sea turtle tattoo with longevity. This is because these creatures are known to have a lifespan that is longer than many other animals - around 50 to 100 years.

While a sea turtle tattoo can be associated with a long life, this longevity could be in relation to anything - friendship, relationship, marriage, etc.!

As turtles are linked to longevity, they can also be associated with wisdom. Due to this, a sea turtle tattoo can be a good design to get if you want to remind yourself of all the great advice that you have been given by your elders.

Or, your sea turtle tattoo can also be a reminder to make wise and logical decisions. Your sea turtle tattoo can help to remind you that you do carry wisdom within yourself and that you should trust yourself when you need to make important decisions.

Some people also believe that sea turtles are guardians. So, by getting a sea turtle tattoo, you can remind yourself that someone is watching over you. If you have a loved one who has passed on, then your sea turtle tattoo can be in reference to a specific person.

A sea turtle tattoo can also be a symbol of toughness and perseverance. As you may be aware, female sea turtles come to lay their eggs on the shore. Once they have laid their eggs, they go back into the ocean, leaving the eggs to hatch and for the little sea turtles to fend for themselves.

There are many predators that prey on these hatchlings, so surviving into adulthood isn't easy for a sea turtle. If they do manage to do this, it can be a sign of their toughness and capabilities. These traits can translate well to your sea turtle tattoo.

Many sea turtles will return to the same beach where they hatched or at least to a nearby region. Due to this, your sea turtle tattoo can be a symbol of how you will always return home.

Because of this, a sea turtle tattoo can be a great option for someone who is a free spirit or likes to travel. Your sea turtle tattoo can be a symbol of how you will return to where you belong once you have experienced your freedom for a bit.

From basic concepts to watercolor sea turtle tattoo designs, there are so many options for you to choose from. It doesn't matter what your vibe or design preferences are, you should be able to find the perfect tattoo for yourself in this collection.

So, take your time and go through this collection and see which ideas capture your interest. You can then work with your tattoo artist to bring your favorite design to life!

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