Discreet yet cool, behind-the-ear tattoos have become very popular in recent years. That’s because dainty and feminine designs look particularly beautiful with this placement. At the same time, it’s the perfect spot for a tattoo that represents the most important things in your life. These tattoos can be as large or small as you like; some of the most popular ones are delicate symbols near the top edge of the ear, so they remain largely hidden when hair is worn down. Pain levels vary depending on where on the ear you choose – closer to and lower down on the cartilage will hurt more than away from it. Before getting inked, make sure to select an experienced artist with specific training and experience in creating behind-the-ear tattoos.
1. Flower Tattoo
Floral tattoos are a favorite for a reason. Each bloom has a different meaning, from friendship to love, hope, joy, and courage, so there is a great flower tattoo option for everybody. Plus, flowers come in various colors so that you can customize your inking with your favorite hues and shades. Because flowers look beautiful as a small tattoo, they are an excellent option for behind your ear placement. A particularly stunning option is a floral vine that follows the shape of your ear. Other popular choices include roses and bouquets.
2. Butterfly Tattoo
Butterfly tattoos have become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly for women. Not only are they beautiful, but they also have a deep meaning. Butterflies are associated with transformation, growth, change, and freedom. As a tattoo, butterflies are very versatile and suit many different placements, including behind your ear. For ladies who love pretty and feminine inkings, a small butterfly or multiple butterfly design, or even the on-trend butterfly with flower wings, is the perfect option.
3. Star Tattoo
Stars represent hope and guidance as they create light during the darkness of night. For this reason, a star tattoo could be the ideal option if you have made it through dark times in life. They are also a beautiful tribute tattoos to a loved one who is your ‘guiding star.’ There are many different options for star tattoo designs, which all look great when placed behind your ear. The choice is yours, from simple dot-and-line stars to constellations – which could represent your zodiac sign – and traditional five-pointed stars.
4. Scissor Tattoo
Consider a scissor design if you’re looking for an unusual yet meaningful tattoo. Scissors represent cutting negative influences out of your life and improving yourself – ‘sharpening’ your instincts, becoming more independent, and taking control of your decisions. They’re a great way to communicate that you have made a fresh start and closed a dark chapter. Scissor tattoos look best small, which means they are an excellent ink choice to put behind your ear. Every time your style your hair, you’ll see it and be reminded of how far you’ve come.
5. Dragon Tattoo
Dragons are one of the most versatile choices when it comes to tattoos. They can look masculine or feminine, depending on the artist’s style and design. Dragons have many meanings and associations, including power, wisdom, and protection. They are also a great option if you were born in the Year of the Dragon in Chinese astrology or are a fan of fictional dragons like those in Game Of Thrones. While these mythical creatures can be adapted to fit any placement on your body, a mini dragon tattoo behind your ear is a subtle and feminine option.
6. Words Tattoo
A word tattoo can look beautiful behind your ear. Because the placement is smaller, choose a short, one-word tattoo for maximum impact. The name of a loved one, or a word that’s important to you, such as hope or faith, would be ideal. When it comes to the topography style of your tattoo, choose a font that you love and add delicate and unique elements. Your artist could accent the word with mini stars, flowers, or a heart. Alternatively, a handwritten design gives your tattoo a truly personal look.
7. Dove Tattoo
A dove is a beautiful and delicate choice for a tattoo behind your ear. These birds represent peace, love, forgiveness, and hope. For Christians, doves represent faith in God as well as new beginnings. That is due to their significance in the Biblical story of Noah. Because there isn’t much space behind your ear, it’s best to choose a clear and straightforward dove design to stand out when you reveal it. You could also add an olive branch or cross to emphasize its spiritual meaning.
8. Elephant Tattoo
Elephants are a growing tattoo trend because they are instantly recognizable and represent wisdom, prosperity, and luck. These gentle giants are known for their intelligence and long memories and are associated with patience and loyalty. Elephant tattoos are becoming especially popular with women because they are matriarchal – herds are made up of mothers and their children. While they look great at any size, small elephant tattoos are perfect to place behind your ear and could be a beautiful matching mother-and-daughter tattoo, representing your bond.
9. Simple Tattoo
When your tattoo artist has limited space for your design, it’s best to go with a simple option. Clean and straightforward inkings without too much shading will stand out best behind your ear. Some popular choices include a single flower, star, cross, anchor, or initial. These designs still catch the eye but have less chance of ‘bleeding’ – becoming blurred over time – because they are simple and defined. Often, simple designs look best in black ink, so be sure to discuss your options with your tattoo artist.
10. Small Tattoo
Small tattoos are on-trend right now – and perfectly suited to be placed behind your ear! As there is not much space for the artist to create a larger design, choosing a dainty inking with a fine and delicate look is essential. Alternatively, a simple geometric shape, initials, or a meaningful symbol, like a musical note or cross, could also look fantastic. While behind your ear can be a painful place to tattoo, a small design won’t take long to finish.
11. Anchor Tattoo
Anchors have been one of the most popular choices since the earliest days of sailor tattoos. The ultimate symbol of hope, an anchor, represents a safe harbor and the end of a long journey. For that reason, many people choose the anchor tattoo design as a couple’s tattoo. Anchors are also traditionally inked when someone crosses an ocean, so it could be a great choice if you have traveled extensively. Because it’s a simple and straightforward design, an anchor looks excellent as a small design and is well-suited to be placed behind your ear.
12. Angel Tattoo
Angel tattoos are a popular and versatile choice of inking. Christians often feel drawn to angels to symbolize their faith and Biblical figures like the Archangel Michael; others choose angels to represent their ‘guardian angel’ or as a memorial to a loved one. Angels can also symbolize your ‘better nature’ and remind you to ignore temptation. Realistic angel tattoos have a lot of movement and detail, so they are usually not suited to a smaller placement, such as behind your ear. However, you can adapt the design by simplifying it into a halo and wings that hug the curve of your ear.
13. Dream catcher Tattoo
Traditionally, in some Native American cultures, dream catchers were woven by mothers and grandmothers to protect children from nightmares. Regarding tattoos, the symbol has evolved to represent safety and protection against negative energy. A dream catcher tattoo could be a great way to honor your Native American heritage. If you feel connected to what it represents, you could add elements like the hoop shape, feathers, or webbing to another tattoo as a subtle nod to the dream catcher. For a small placement, like behind your ear, the dream catcher design should be simplified to stand out.
14. Feather Tattoo
Feathers are a popular tattoo choice for both men and women. They look great in black ink or color, large or small, and simple or detailed. Because feathers are associated with birds and flight, they often represent freedom. People who love to travel and have a free spirit often feel drawn to feather tattoo designs. Feathers can also symbolize feeling connected to the natural world. Because feathers look fantastic as a small, simple tattoo, they look great when placed behind your ear. For best results, choose a subtly curved feather design to fit with your ear’s shape.
15. Heart Tattoo
The heart is one of the most recognizable and universal symbols, so it is so popular as a tattoo choice. When it is placed behind your ear, it acts as a reminder to always listen to your heart. It can also serve as a tribute to a loved one, symbolizing that they are still in your thoughts. For women, dainty heart tattoos are trending – though there are many other ways to adapt the design to make it more personal and unique to you.
16. Tribal Tattoo
Tribal tattoos use black ink and patterns to create a bold final result. They are a versatile choice as they can be adapted to fit any placement on your body, including behind your ear. There are many different options; for example, a traditional Polynesian or Maori tattoo is a great way to pay tribute to your heritage. Alternatively, a ’90s-style tribal tattoo has an edgy and unique look for a standout tattoo that will turn heads, and extend your tribal ink down to your neck or shoulder.v
17. Cross Tattoo
A cross tattoo is a beautiful way to show your commitment to your faith. While these tattoos look great in any placement, they are uniquely suited to small areas like behind your ear. When inked there, it symbolizes hearing the word of God and letting your faith guide your decisions. While deeply meaningful, it’s also a subtle option for those who can’t have visible tattoos at work, as you can easily cover the inking with your hair. However, it will still act as a permanent reminder of your faith.
18. Tree Tattoo
A tree inking is an excellent choice for behind your ear placement, symbolizing knowledge and growth, long life, and protection. You might also feel drawn to these tattoos if you are a nature lover or if you want a more abstract tribute to your ‘family tree.’ Opt for a black ink tree silhouette to keep it simple yet impactful.
19. Moon Tattoo
A beautiful and meaningful tattoo option is a moon. Because the moon is always waxing and waning, it symbolizes times of transition and change. At the same time, many cultures associate the moon with feminine energy, which is why moon tattoos are very popular with women. A small moon tattoo looks excellent behind your ear as it will be more visible. When choosing your moon tattoo, consider the significance of the design; a full moon is often associated with magic and transformation, a half-moon represents perfect balance, and a crescent moon represents the ebb and flow of energy. Those born under the Cancer zodiac sign might also choose a moon tattoo.
20. Cover Up Tattoo
As we grow and change over time, we must cover up our old tattoos with new ink – especially in sensitive places where laser removal might be painful. Bear in mind that cover-ups are often larger and darker by necessity, so they can completely obscure the old design. Simple tattoos are easier to cover than more detailed ink; however, a skilled artist should be able to adapt almost any behind-the-ear tattoo into a fresh new design.
Behind the Ear Tattoos FAQs
What does a behind the ear tattoo mean?
When deciding on placement options for tattoos, behind the ear is a wonderful choice for an individual who wants something discreet yet cool. It is a spot that lends itself well to small designs, and some people like to reserve this place for significant ink, like a memorial piece or the initials of a loved one. That said, depending on your chosen design, there can be several meanings associated with your body art and its location.
Do tattoos hurt behind the ear?
Tattoos inked behind the ear look great, but they are also considered high on the pain scale. The skin in this area is very thin, and the tattoo machine's sound can also cause some discomfort. Additionally, the vibrations this close to your skull can be uncomfortable for some people.
Is a tattoo behind the ear unprofessional?
When deciding on placement for a tattoo, you need to consider your lifestyle and employment. If you work in a corporate environment, having visible body art could be a problem. Behind the ear is usually an incredibly subtle spot, and if you have long hair, you may be able to hide it, but be mindful of your office's requirements and dress code.
How do you prepare a tattoo behind your ear?
Before getting any tattoo, you want to make sure you are hydrated and have eaten well. It may also help to have moisturized your skin and avoid certain substances such as alcohol. After completing your ink, be sure to keep it dry and apply a layer of tattoo aftercare.
Arabella Roden is a skilled writer and sub-editor with over ten years of experience across print, digital, and B2B. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and specializes in beauty, hairstyles, fashion, tattoos, and lifestyle topics. Arabella is currently the Chief Sub Editor at Mecca Brands and has been writing for The Trend Spotter since 2019.
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