Originally posted on February 9, 2022 @ 7:00 pm
It’s official: tattoo time—inspiration time, and more specifically, inspiration for ocean sleeve tattoos. Or really any ocean-themed tattoo sleeve, maybe just an ocean half sleeve tattoo, if a whole arm feels a bit much.
Whatever your objective is, there are plenty of ocean sleeve tattoo ideas floating around online, inspiring copies, or a fully brand new concept waiting to adorn a lucky person’s arm. That person maybe you, and if so, you are in the right place.
The ocean is a beast independent of any human laws or desires, ebbing and flowing, birthing and destroying without consequence.
It is no wonder that this expanse of churning waves serves as an inspiration to many, or as a reminder, a memory, a promise of joy and freedom.
What broader idea exists than the ocean, one that means something different to every person? There is little that can challenge the artistic power of the ocean, both because of what it can do and what it can bring. I think of summer vacations, sand on my back, and bright golden sun on my face. Jumping into frothy waves, salt water giving joy a flavor.
I also think of tsunamis, hurricanes, deadly waves that tower over man’s largest ships. And most curious of all is the life that exists under the waves. Or rather, the life we don’t know exists—mermaids, Atlantis, lost cities, and swimming species that have evaded our prodding curiosity.
According to the people of science, we know less about our own ocean than we do about the moon. Odd, isn’t it?
And tattoo-worthy, to be sure. Perhaps more than anything else, though, that is up to you to decide. The ocean inspires art on canvas, art in words, and art on skin, some of the best of which are in this article.
Ocean Sleeve Tattoos:
1. Beach Tattoo Sleeve
The beach is where we humans do most of our ocean-experiencing time, safe on the sand as we watch the waves or piercingly colorful sunsets. This is where we do our vacationing, our basking, our family time, and often times where our fascination with the ocean begins. We start out safe, but we want to know more.
To experience more, to be on the waves instead of watching them. Perhaps even surfing those waves, crashing down like fickle ski slopes. Whatever instills our love of the ocean and our love of its beaches, there is a tattoo idea for everyone.
2. Pirate/Nautical Tattoo Sleeves
The tales and legends surrounding the ocean are almost as enticing as the ocean itself. I think of our earliest days of exploration, wooden ships braving the rugged sea, some doomed to be engulfed by its power and others destined to find new land and discover different worlds.
There are almost too many stories and legends being passed around to count, telling of pirate loots, hidden treasure, and captains that sailed their ships to glory while others went down with their ships. Ships and sailing are still relevant in our modern world, albeit in sturdy. Sleek boats are better suited to the rough ocean.
3. Mermaid/Atlantis Tattoos
Mermaids are perhaps one of the most desired species, nearly willed into existence by the longing of both children and adults. Though every legend surrounding mermaids is not nearly as docile as the familiar story of Arielle, that is perhaps why mermaids are as intriguing and mysterious as they are.
Would they actually lure us to our deaths, like the sirens of old? Or would they give us air-bubble kisses, playing in the water as sweet and docile as their dolphin neighbors? No one can be sure, which makes mermaids and their possible residence in Atlantis all the more captivating and inspiring.
4. Ocean Wave Tattoos
Arguably, the ocean’s waves are what come to mind first when we imagine the ocean. The waves can be beautiful, twinkling and clear, or deadly and crushing. The ocean’s waves also bring us joy through surfing and sailing, and even the simple act of jumping into a wild wave, rolling with it, and then resurfacing, laughing, and wanting to do it again.
Their white crests and blue curves create a natural beauty unmatched by even some of the world’s largest lakes, beauty, and terror unique only to our oceans. As it often goes, beauty and terror create some of our most vivid ideas and inspirations, leading to some equally impressive tattoos.
5. Sharks! Ocean Sleeve Ideas
Sharks are one of the scarier unknowns of the ocean, claiming human lives and a few appendages here and there. They create an irrational fear simply by being around, commonly going about their days in deep ocean waters and occasionally venturing up to our beaches.
Films and stories have been created solely because of this instinctual fear many of us have, a fear that can become awe and even fascination. For those inspired by the menacing bulk of sharks and the fear they inspire, countless tattoo ideas await. Sharks can also represent courage and a sense of being misunderstood, as many of us fear these creatures without having a due reason.
6. Line Art Ocean Sleeve Tattoos
For those of us with a simplistic preference, line art can create beautiful ocean scenes in a way that is unique and original. Though the effect may be more subtle, the inspiration behind these tattoos is just as bright as more colorful sleeves.
Sometimes the best way to showcase an idea is through simplicity, allowing both the tattoo owner and other curious eyes to fill in the lines however they may desire, creating a tattoo that is uniquely original to every person who sees it. Line tattoos also offer the opportunity to fill them in later with color or perhaps more shading, allowing the owner to manipulate their tattoo in multiple ways.
7. Coral Reef Tattoos
On the other side of the line art spectrum are coral reef tattoos, brimming with color and unique shapes and designs. Diving is a sport not many of us are lucky enough to experience, though the ones that have walked away with fresh ideas and inspiration from the mind-boggling beauty of the ocean.
Coral reefs are also becoming more endangered as time goes on, and the importance of this issue mirrors the importance of choosing something that will adorn your body forever. There is no better cause, then, to etch on to yourself than the gorgeous variety of corals homing fishes and capturing the fascination of divers everywhere.
8. Fantasy/Monster Tattoos
The mysteries of the ocean stretching far beyond the existence of mermaids and Atlantis. I think of the Bermuda Triangle, supposedly containing monsters with long tentacles to drag us down to our deaths. Some of the fantasy surrounding the ocean is much more pleasant, with beings that protect us or simply exist to be admired.
The mystery of the ocean itself causes enough for a tattoo sleeve and depending on what tickles your fancy, a darker version of this fantasy may look most appealing or perhaps one that is more whimsical and cheery.
9. Ocean Life Tattoos
Fascination and inspiration also lie in the real creatures of the ocean, fishes, and aquatic life that we may often see or only once, inspiring a sleeve in their honor. One of the first ocean fishes, I think if are clownfish, made popular by Nemo, but there are countless other fish species that are equally as beautiful and meaningful.
The variety of life within the ocean speaks to the power and limitlessness of the ocean itself, housing the scope of life we can’t even begin to imagine. And that’s only the species we’ve discovered; imagine how many others must lie hidden beyond our reach.
10. Mythology Sleeve Tattoos
Crediting the mysteries of the ocean to an equally mysterious god of Greek mythology makes for an especially rich tattoo idea, one that can be idealized in a myriad of ways. Though few of us actually believe in the existence of Greek gods like Poseidon, their impact and inspiration stretch far beyond our disbelief.
Books and art have likewise been built around the idea of gods looming above us, and that inspiration stretches to the tattoo world as well. Having a specific god control the ocean is a cool idea, shrouded in mystery and unknowns much like the ocean itself.
In short, there is an ocean tattoo sleeve idea out there for everyone. If colorful, detailed sleeves aren’t your thing, line art ideas capture the beauty and mystery of the ocean just as effectively. There are options for those who favor the wildlife living within the ocean and for those who enjoy the mysterious threats of the unknowns slinking around under the waves. For those of us who prefer the safety of the beach, tattoos depicting gorgeous sunsets and waves horizons abound. I hope that one of these fifty ocean sleeve tattoo ideas has struck your fancy or inspired a sleeve idea of your own!