Mountain View

Discover the Meaning Behind Red Ink Tattoos

There is more to red ink tattoos than their vibrant crimson appearance. From ancient tattoo techniques to the rise of pop culture, the symbolism behind this tattoo style is rich and diverse

grace in Guides

From a vibrant red dragon tattoo to eye-catching anatomical hearts, monochromatic red ink tattoos are popping up on our social media feeds more and more. But, why red ink? Red has always been a color that transmits strength, passion, and energy. In the world of tattoos, this adds a deeper level of meaning to many iconic designs. Whether used as an accent color or as the protagonist, red is a favorite for those wanting to break away from traditional black ink and distinctively upgrade their body art. Yet, while red ink tattoos may appear simple, there are a few things to consider before opting for color tattoos.

History and Meaning of Red Ink Tattoos

The origins of red ink tattoos can be traced back to many ancient cultures. While the ancient Egyptians used red ink to symbolize vitality and life force, the Maori people of New Zealand honored the dead with their red ink tattoos. However the color red holds a particularly strong significance in Asian culture. In Japanese culture, the ancient Ainu people viewed the color red as sacred and mixed red ink with soot to create their intricate facial tattoos for protection and strength.

Today, in China, red ink is considered to bring good luck and wealth to those who wear it. Meanwhile, in Japan, red ink tattoos are associated with the Yakuza organized crime group. This gang is famous for their intricate full-body tattoos which often incorporate the color red into the design to show strength, courage, and rebellion. In the Western world, red tattoos have often been associated with the punk rock movement as well as romantic designs such as red roses and love hearts.

Red Thread Tattoos, a Story Steeped in Symbolism

In Asian culture, it is believed that people who are predestined to meet and love each other are united by a red thread woven by the gods and tied to the little finger. It is the symbol that connects people with their soulmates. Many couples choose to get red thread tattoos to represent eternal love and fate.

Be Inspired By These Red Ink Tattoos for Men and Women

If you are thinking of getting inked for the first time or you are curious about adding a pop of color to your existing body art collection, read on. Discover the best tattoo styles for incorporating red color inks into your designs.

Be Romantic With a Bright Red Rose Tattoo

The most classic red design of them all is a red rose. The colorful nature of flowers makes them one of the most beautiful designs in nature tattoos. Bring this beauty to life with a red ink tattoo of a rose- a symbol of passion, love, and pride. The red rose is also the national flower of England and when worn as a tattoo, it doubles as a patriotic symbol. Cheryl Cole’s red rose tattoo is perhaps the most expressive symbol of national pride. Yet you don’t have to go as big or as bold as her full-on design. A rose looks just as pretty in a fine-line design as it does when depicted in a watercolor style. When it comes to this red color design, the styles are endless.

Red Line Snake Tattoos

A common design when it comes to red ink tattoos is the serpent. The curved lines of the snake’s elongated body present endless placement options. You could place a small snake along the curve of the neck, behind the ear. A medium size ink could curve around your forearm or thigh meanwhile, a larger design would look incredible snaking up your spine. When it comes to symbolism, snakes are closely associated with divine feminine wisdom and internal strength for overcoming complicated situations. Since snakes shed their skins they are also a powerful symbol of fresh starts and transformation. When depicted with red ink, serpents become a sign of seduction and personal protection.

Red Dragon Tattoos

Red dragons are often tattooed alongside snake tattoos and are a symbol of power and prosperity. Often our minds conjure up images of elegant Chinese or Japanese dragons, raising up almost as if they are dancing through the air. These mythical beasts date back almost 3500 years and are symbols of good fortune. The emergence of Asian-inspired films and video games during the 90s propelled the image of the red dragon into pop culture where it remains influential to this day. In the West, it is a different story. Often depicted as fire-breathing, evil creatures Western dragons are portrayed to intimidate the onlooker. Famous dragons from Western society include the red Welsh dragon (as seen on their national flag) and the Nidhogg Nordic dragon, yet they do not appear as commonly within the world of red ink tattoos. If you are keen to try this ink before committing to the real deal, why not opt for a Welsh dragon transfer tattoo and pay homage to Celtic culture full of myths and legends?

Fiery Red Heart Tattoo

When it comes to red ink tattoos, a tattoo of a heart is a classic that offers a diverse range of meanings. From love and passion, romance and life, intense emotions, or simply pop culture and aesthetics - this design is full of symbolism. Whether you choose a red anatomical heart tattoo, a fiery sacred heart, a fine line red ink heart outline, or a micro red heart tattoo, this is a timeless design to be worn for life. The symbolism of this design is intertwined with the permanence of the ink - our heartbeat is what keeps us alive and this ink will sit on our skin until the day we die. This is an ideal design choice to commemorate a great love story or as a reminder of your self-worth and love. One glance at this ink and you will be reminded to live every day passionately as if it was your last.

Red Tattoo Color: Here Are Popular Design Styles To Choose From

When considering red ink tattoos, it is a good idea to focus on a specific style that is well-known for colorful tattoos. While red ink can be applied to almost any design, these are the three tattoo styles we recommend for your next red ink.

Trash Polka, An Artistic Mix

With this peculiar and transgressive style, we mix Black and Grey with intense red shapes to give our tattoo a unique and artistic touch. This style's origins lie in the rebellious and rogue late 90s when Simone Pfaff and Volko Merschky, two German artists, photographers, and graphic designers, decided to create a new style of tattoo that would break with convention and reflect their vision of the world.

Simone and Volko drew inspiration from different art sources, such as expressionism, surrealism, Dadaism, pop art, and graffiti, to create a style that would combine the real with the unreal, the beautiful with the ugly, the ancient with the modern, the natural with the artificial and the ordered with the chaotic. From this, Trash Polka was born.

No two designs are the same, it is always a work between the artist and the client, they are usually of a medium or large size and they try to reflect a world full of art and symbolism. In short, the Trash Polka tattoo is a style of tattoo art that is characterized by combining realistic images with abstract elements, in only two colors: black and red.


Minimalist styles such as fine line tattoos emphasize and value simplicity and delicate line work creating intricate, small designs. Their precise, thin lines and subtle aesthetic can be brought to life with a pop of color. A minimalist red ink tattoo can highlight specific elements and add warmth to what would normally be a generic design. Whether you are choosing a single red rose or a delicate red heart, red ink tattoos maintain the overall sophistication and simplicity of the design while adding a fun and quirky charm.


A small quote tattoo is adaptable to almost any area of the body and size of the design. Whether we opt for a cursive handwriting font or a bold, all CAPS design, creating a red quote tattoo adds another level of symbolism to the meaning of the word. Tattoos such as the words “Love” or “Strength” act as mantras, reminding the wearer of their power with each glance. The color red is closely associated with blood and by choosing this color for a quote tattoo it is almost as though you are writing the words on your skin in blood- a permanent promise and reminder of their significance.

Thinking Of Getting a Red Tattoo? Consider This First

Anyone connected to the tattoo community will know that red ink is notorious for causing adverse reactions. From itchiness, bumps, and rashes to slow healing and tattoo infections, there are many common side effects from red ink. But don’t panic, if you do your research beforehand there are ways to avoid an allergic reaction. Red ink is known for its heavy toxic load.

Ordinarily, the red pigment would have come from a cochineal bug but this lengthy process is not viable for many ink manufacturers. Later cinnabar, a form of mercury sulfide was used but this raised safety concerns due to the presence of heavy metals. In recent years, red dye is generally made from synthetic organic pigments or iron oxide-based pigments to achieve its vibrant ink color. These pigments are often mixed with carrier solutions, such as alcohol or glycerin, to create a liquid ink suitable for tattooing.

Yet it is not just skin irritations that have been associated with red ink, skin cancer in the form of skin carcinoma has also been reported. However, thanks to increased studies and awareness of red ink tattoos, fewer skin reactions are being reported and more red tattoo ink is being removed from the market. If you are tempted by this style of ink, always visit a professional tattoo artist for a better understanding of this tattoo style and its healing process before committing to a design. Making an informed decision will ensure you are aware of any potential risks and give you the best results possible.

Not Convinced? Try a Red Temporary Tattoo Before Getting Inked

If you are debating whether to add a red tattoo design to your collection of body art designs consider opting for a transfer tattoo first. Experiment with different placement options, tattoo designs, and sizes, and have fun playing around with tattoos without the pain or commitment of the real deal. What’s more, with companies such as Tatteco creating lifelike designs that last up to two weeks, it is easier than ever to experiment before getting a new tattoo.

Mountain View
filter bychevron_right
Body partchevron_right
chevron_left back