13 Badass Shark Tattoo Design Ideas

For many people, sharks are sources of fear and terror. Jaws, a movie about a human-killing shark, created this shark phobia for some, while others might have developed their aversion from stories of shark attacks or from personal encounters with sharks. Others are just scared of the predatory nature of sharks. However, a shark tattoo is symbolic of many positive attributes that one would want to embrace.

Sharks can represent power, fearlessness, authority, strength, and energy. Shark tattoos can also be a protective charm, keeping the wearer safe. Sharks appear calculating, intelligent, confident, assertive, knowledgeable, and bold. They also move with an unexpected litheness and grace that seems to contradict their strength and power. Sharks are the ideal predator, but also an amazingly resilient survivor.

Shark Tattoo Meaning

Interestingly, sailors and pirates often selected sharks as symbols of protection and safety while at sea. Unlike some modern ideas that sharks will kill those who fall overboard, seamen historically felt that the shark was their protector and a shark tattoo was helpful in a safe return to port and to avoid drowning or falling overboard. Along with this idea, some people feel that a shark tattoo helps people to navigate life, guiding them through trials and tribulations, helping them find home or peace. Sharks are incredibly adept at finding prey and sensing movement in the water. They rely on these innate senses for survival. Perhaps some people shark tattoos are hoping to rely on their own skills to get them through life. Furthermore, sharks represent action, seizing opportunities and making the most of situations. A shark will not hesitate to attack if given the chance and won’t take unnecessary risks if the situation takes a turn for the worst. Shark tattoos can convey this meaning, too.

Shark tattoo designs vary greatly. Some designs are fanciful or cartoon-like, while others are realistic. Shark tattoos might be fearsome, or they might even be cute. Much of the tattoo design depends on what the individual is looking for in terms of meaning and symbolism. Someone who wants a shark tattoo to represent strength and power is unlikely to choose a cute, little, cartoon shark. Likewise, someone who wants a tattoo to represent the history and culture of the Maori or other Polynesian tribes, will most likely choose a traditional tribal design, rather than a realistic and diagrammatic representation. Sharks can be scary, prehistoric predators, or they can be so much more than that.

Hammerhead Shark Tattoo

Hammerhead shark tattoos are popular choices because they look very distinctive and fearsome. Hammerheads are also one of the few species known to attack humans unprovoked, thus their image conveys fear and danger. The meaning of hammerhead shark tattoos is one of intimidation as they are fearless predators. These tattoos are often large and placed in a visible part of the body.


Hammerhead Shark Tattoo

The whale shark is the opposite of the hammerhead. While they are the largest sharks on earth, they are peaceful as their diet consists mainly of planktons and fish eggs. They are the gentle giants of the oceans, thus the meaning of whale shark tattoos is that of peace and inner peace.

Whale sharks are continuously roaming the oceans, they are on a permanent journey just like the people who have whale sharks inked on them.

Often whale sharks are tattooed with blue ink or in gentle, cartoonish ways rather than the traditional and tribal designs of other shark species.


Whale Shark Tattoo​

A shark tooth tattoo is very common in Polynesian cultures, in fact it is the most used symbol there. Shark teeth tattoos (called niho mano) in Maori culture represent victory and superiority. Victors and champions would sport such a design. The rulers of tribes and those who hold the power would have niho mano tattoos.

Shark teeth are a symbol of protection, Polynesians often wore them to protect them from dangers at sea. They are also a symbol of transition and growth, sharks being known to shed their teeth continuously throughout their lifetime.

Shark teeth look different, when it comes to tattoo designs, megalodon teeth tattoos are the most common, they are the largest sharks to have ever roamed the waters.


Shark Tooth Tattoo

Traditional Shark Tattoo

Traditional shark tattoos are often found in Hawaii and in nearby islands where the presence of sharks was a part of everyday life. In the past sailors have inked their body with shark tattoos to offer them protection before long sea journeys. Traditional designs are often colorful, blue being the most common color for inking sharks and the arms are the most common place for getting a tattoo like this.


traditional shark tattoo

Tribal Shark Tattoo

Tribal shark tattoos are often inspired by Polynesian art. In island cultures, the shark is often viewed as the lion of jungle and safari cultures. According to the Maori of New Zealand, a Polynesian tribe of indigenous peoples, the shark is very sacred and often called “the king of the waters.” This parallels the belief that the lion is the king of the jungle. Both creatures seem noble and majestic, able to rule all the other creatures who are less impressive, weaker, and humble.

The tribal shark tattoos are often minimalistic and placed on shoulders or arms preponderantly.


tribal shark tattoo

Great White Shark Tattoo

The Great White Shark is the most well-known shark. It is the ultimate predator, stubborn, fearless and powerful. The great white shark tattoo designs often feature sharks with their mouth wide open, ready to bite. These tattoos can be done in any style, minimalist or traditional and can be placed on any part of the body. Usually a great white shark is a prominent tattoo that grabs the attention and making it small is not advisable.

great white shark tattoo

Shark Fin Tattoo

Shark fins symbolize an underlying danger, the fin can be seen, but there is something dangerous underneath.
The advantage of a shark fin tattoo is that it can be as small or as big as the individual wants to, it can fit anywhere, even at the back of the ear or on a finger.


shark fin tattoo

Minimalist Shark Tattoo

Minimalist shark tattoos often feature only the outline of the shark or only its jaws. They can be a great choice for those who love minimalist designs and don’t want to stay too long under the needle. They can also look classy if the outline of the shark is done correctly. Often only the upper body part of the shark and the fin are included, other times a minimalist rendering of a great shark’s jaw.


minimalist shark tattoo

Geometric Shark Tattoo

Geometric tattoos are in vogue. A geometric shark tattoo may have a futuristic or abstract look, something that is more intriguing and thought provoking. They can combine the ancient symbolism of sharks with a contemporary design and often this mix is what makes these geometric shark designs appealing.


geometric shark tattoo

Cartoon Shark Tattoo

Sharks were often portrayed in cartoons as playful characters. Whether we talk about Zig and Sharko or more recently about the Baby Shark song, they are not only fearsome but also cute. A cartoon shark tattoo may be pretty and colorful.
cartoon shark tattoo

Shark Bite Tattoo

Shark bites are often designed in places where a scar is present such as a surgery or a bite mark. These types of tattoos depend a lot on the situation of each specific client and how good the tattoo artist is to come up with a good design.


shark bite tattoo

Thresher Shark Tattoo

Thresher sharks are some of the most distinctive sharks out there, largely due to their very long tails used by them to hunt for prey. As large and distinctive as they are, they pose no real threat to humans and people who choose to get thresher shark tats do so largely because of their beauty rather than some hidden meaning. Their long tail makes these creatures mermaid-like, elegant and special.


Thresher Shark Tattoo