Leg tattoos have become more and more popular with guys all over the world. From celebrities to athletes, men are embracing lower body ink. The best part about a leg tattoo is that it stands out from the crowd, yet can be easily hidden under your clothes. For guys who want a huge, intricate tattoo design or a small and minimalist inking, leg tattoos fit the bill.
1. Full Leg Tattoo
A full leg tattoo stretches from your ankle up to your calf, knee, and thigh. It looks striking and bold, making it the ideal choice for men with an unconventional and rebellious style. A tattoo of this size will take more time to complete – and may require multiple sittings as a result – but the final inking will be worth the wait.
2. Tribal Leg Tattoo
Tribal tattoos combine black ink with curved lines and patterns. Because they have a more fluid appearance, your artist can adapt your tribal design so that it moves with your body. Your leg is a great place for a tribal tattoo because the curved lines create a flattering wrapped effect that highlights your calf and thigh muscles.
3. Dragon Leg Tattoo
Dragon tattoos look powerful and masculine while still being versatile enough to adapt to suit your style. From snake-like Chinese and Japanese dragons to classic fire-breathing European dragons, these mythical creatures look great when turned into a tattoo. Your leg provides enough space for a more detailed dragon design.
4. Hawaiian Tribal Leg Tattoo
Tattoos are traditional in Polynesian cultures, including Hawaiian. These tattoos are made using black ink with lines and shapes. They can be angular or curved to fit the body and are usually large and complex. Male warriors traditionally wore leg tattoos – but today they can simply represent your pride and your native Hawaiian heritage.
5. Religious Leg Tattoo
Religious tattoos are a great way to express your faith. You have many options when it comes to choosing a spiritual inking for your leg. Popular designs include a cross, sacred heart, or angel. If you are a fan of the old-school art style, try a portrait of the Virgin Mary.
6. Japanese Leg Tattoo
The Japanese tattooing style is known as irezumi. It is popular for both men and women because it incorporates bold colors and meaningful symbols inspired by nature. For a result that stands out, create a full leg sleeve that combines different irezumi designs, like peony flowers – which represent wealth and prosperity – or koi, which symbolize perseverance.
7. Small Leg Tattoo
While your leg offers a larger canvas for big and complex tattoos, a small tattoo design also works well. Smaller tattoos suit guys who can’t have visible ink at work or have a more minimal style. They are also great if you are getting your first tattoo. A short quote, single word, or simple shape all work well as small leg tattoos. Place your inking on your calf for more impact, or your ankle or thigh for a more subtle effect.
8. Maori Leg Tattoo
Like Hawaiian tattoos, Maori leg tattoos are a traditional part of the Polynesian culture. Maori tattooing is known as ta moko and can reveal personal details such as a person’s tribe, status, or achievements. Thigh and calf tattoos are an excellent way for men to honor their Maori heritage.
9. Mechanical Leg Tattoo
A cool and badass option for a leg tattoo is a biomechanical design. These tattoos create the illusion of machinery below the skin, creating an awesome ‘cyborg’ effect. It’s an excellent choice for guys who want a masculine tattoo with a sci-fi influence. However, biomechanical tattoos are complex to apply – requiring technical shading, color, and structure to create a realistic effect – so choose an experienced and skilled artist when you have yours inked.
10. Angel Leg Tattoo
Angels are a popular leg tattoo choice for religious men. The Archangel Michael – the leader of the Army of Heaven – is one of the most commonly selected as he represents both faith and a warrior’s spirit. Angel tattoos can also have a secular meaning, representing a loved one who has passed away or the concept of a ‘guardian angel’ if the wearer beat the odds, miraculously surviving a situation. Meanwhile, an angel holding a wreath represents receiving your reward after a hard-won victory.
11. Koi Fish Tattoo
One of the most important symbols in Japanese culture is the koi fish. Legend has it that a golden koi spent 100 years swimming up a magical waterfall, and was turned into a dragon by the gods when he reached the top. As a result, koi represent perseverance and determination, as well as the fulfillment of destiny. As a result, Koi fish tattoos are a great choice for men who value these qualities and have overcome the odds.
12. Leg Sleeve Tattoo
Sleeve tattoos aren’t just for your arms. A leg sleeve is a design that covers your skin from ankle to knee or thigh. While not as dramatic as a full leg tattoo, a leg sleeve still has an impact. Because they are so extensive, these inkings can take multiple sittings to complete. Some popular choices for men’s leg-sleeve tattoos are geometric patterns, mandalas, and Japanese irezumi.
13. Celtic Leg Tattoo
If you have Celtic heritage, why not show it off with a leg tattoo? Celtic art is known for incorporating knots and circles, which look great on your legs. A Celtic cross is an excellent option for your calf as it combines the vertical lines of the cross with circular elements.
14. Front of Leg Tattoo
The front of your leg – also known as your shin – is an increasingly popular placement for men’s tattoos. You can easily show off your ink in shorts, and both vertical and horizontal designs will look great. However, bear in mind that a front of leg tattoo can be more painful than other leg tattoos. That’s because the bone is closer to the skin and isn’t protected by a layer of fat.
15. Lion Leg Tattoo
The king of the jungle remains one of the most popular options for men’s tattoos. Representing pride, leadership, loyalty, and power, the lion has a masculine appeal while being instantly recognizable. Try a lion tattoo on your calf, rather than the front of your leg, as your artist will have more space to make the design pop.
16. Quote Leg Tattoo
Quote tattoos are one of the most versatile tattoo design options as they suit any placement on your body. They are a great way to express your personality and start a conversation. You could choose your favorite line from a movie or lyric from a song, or words of wisdom. A popular choice for men is Roman emperor Julius Caesar’s famous quote: ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici,’ which means, ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’
17. Simple Leg Tattoo
While many men choose large and intricate designs for their leg tattoos, a simple inking looks just as good. Banded tattoos in black ink are ideal for guys who want a masculine yet minimalist look. Plus, you can add more lines of varying thickness to create a powerful visual effect without making your ink overly fussy or complicated. Even better, these tattoos don’t take long to apply.
18. Lower Leg Tattoo
A lower leg tattoo starts below the knee and generally refers to any ink that’s placed on your calf, shin, or upper ankle. The best designs for your lower leg are vertical, rather than horizontal. They make your legs seem longer and slimmer and draw attention to your calf muscles.
19. Side Leg Tattoo
The side of your leg – whether it be your calf or your thigh – is an excellent place for a tattoo. They are easy to show off when you wear shorts, yet simple to cover by wearing jeans or trousers. Choose a side placement for a design that ‘wraps’ around your leg or is at an angle.
20. Leg Tattoo for Black Men
Leg tattoos look great on both dark and light skin tones. From detailed portraits to simple geometric designs and bold color, any tattoo design can be adapted for black men. However, those with African heritage generally scar more quickly than those with a Caucasian background. As a result, it’s essential to choose an experienced tattoo artist who will use less pressure and depth when creating your tattoo, and knows which colors will look the most saturated on darker skin.
Should I get a leg tattoo?
Leg tattoos are gaining more and more popular among both men and women. Your legs are a great place to get a tattoo because it's a large canvas that's perfect for creativity and detail. The options for location are varied from calf and thigh to full leg sleeves or small ankle designs. It's also a convenient placement if you want to be able to hide your ink under trousers. As such, it's great for office and professional settings, without compromising your career goals. Keep in mind that different parts of your legs will hurt more than others, so remember this when choosing where to put your ink.
Do leg tattoos hurt?
The pain levels for tattooing your legs are a real mixed bag. Your inner thighs and behind your knees are going to be the most painful areas, as the skin is more sensitive, and there are lots of nerves. The back of the thighs can also be painful for the same reason. However, the front and outer thighs are two of the least painful areas to get tattooed thanks to plenty of padding and muscle, with fewer nerves. When it comes to your lower legs, it's in the mid-range of pain. The exception is your shins, knees, and feet, which are much bonier with less cushioning. Just remember that everyone's pain thresholds will vary and if it all gets to be a bit too much, ask your artist for a quick break.
How long does a full leg tattoo take?
A full leg sleeve is a massive area to tattoo. Consequently, it's likely to take at least 30-40 hours in total; however, some detailed designs can take even longer. It's definitely an investment of both time and money. The inking will be broken up over several sessions, which can be spaced out for healing time. Like all great artworks, it takes dedication and patience to get a full leg tattoo.
Do men get leg tattoos?
Men do get leg tattoos. There's a long history of men getting leg tattoos in traditional Polynesian cultures as a right of passage into becoming a man. There are dozens of styles, types, designs, and placements for men to get their legs inked. Go all out with a full leg sleeve, opt for minimal text design, or get creative with a biomechanical design. You're only limited by your imagination.
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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