10 Best Shellback Tattoo Ideas You Have to See to Believe!

by Patrick
Shellback Tattoos

Hoping to ink your iconic years full of pride and experience as a sailor? Don’t go far! End your search here with these amazing shellback tattoos!

Shellback Tattoo
@austin_dyal via Instagram

It’s a common tradition among sailors to get vibrant and eye-catching shellback tattoos.

The traditional shellback tattoo is a pride for navy seals and sailors as a memento of having crossed the equator under their leadership of the sails. It’s a classic tattoo many sailors around the world cherish.

Navigating the vast oceans and seas of the world is no mean feat. It takes courage, determination, leadership, and a whole lot of patience to make it through. Sailors enjoy the honour of riding untamed waves throughout their lives, and there’s nothing better than commemorating their iconic service life than a nautical tattoo! Nautical tattoos signify the hard-earned navy recognition that speaks volumes of their long and resilient journey. Their long years of challenging journeys can be celebrated as tattoos, keeping the old-school interpretations of traditional American servicemen symbols alive. Among the numerous naval tattoo designs, the navy shellback tattoo carries forward an age-old tradition with the history of countless sails behind earning it.

Iconic Golden Shellback Tattoo

Iconic Golden Shellback Tattoo
@port_angeles_tattoo via Instagram

A golden shellback tattoo carries more profound meaning than a regular tattoo. The added hint of golden colour to the regular shellback turtle tattoo denotes having crossed the equator and the International Date Line at the same time. A sailor’s career may take years to gain this rare achievement, so going ahead with the finest tattoo idea is the only way to honor it. This impressive shellback tattoo meaning carries fierce energy, narrating a sailor’s determination to strive through raging waves of the ocean, unfazed.

A Prominent Nautical Star Tattoo

A Prominent Nautical Star Tattoo
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Before compasses were a thing, sailors used the light of stars to seek their way out of the pitch dark of seas. A nautical star represents protection amid stranger tides. Used prominently as a symbol for the US Armed Forces, this tattoo comprises simple monochromatic black shades to deliver a meaningful symbol of naval life. While it symbolizes good luck for sailors in the sea, the nautical star is also seen as a representation of a sailor’s ability to always find his way back home.

Skull Tattoo Design

Skull Tattoo Design
@freedoomtattoos via Instagram

This floral skull shellback tattoo design is a fresh take on basic turtle tattoos, adding colour to create more depth in the artwork. Getting over the black and white patterns, you may use some vibrancy to signify life and lack of fear before death. The chest, arm, and forearm are some of the most preferred places to get skull ink.

Golden Dragon Tattoo

Golden Dragon Tattoo
@danocollins via Instagram

Golden dragon tattoo brings an exotic touch to a sailor’s tattoo collection with its fascinating color combinations and design. The dragon in Sailor Jerry Shellback Tattoo style contrasts with the dragon imagery popular in Asian cultures, but it’s quite popular among sailors. Check out the above tattoo featuring piercing colors in the artwork blowing life into it, making it appear more striking with old-school vibes.

Swallow Tattoo Designs

Swallow Tattoo Designs
@rad.trad.dad via Instagram

Not just a pair of birds, but swallows carry deep meanings behind their portrayal. A pair of swallow tattoo etched in red and blue hues is a great way to commemorate a successful sail of 5000 miles. Along with success, it is also believed that swallows carry a sailor’s soul to their bereaved loved ones if they die in a raging and tumultuous sail.

Anchor Tattoo Design

Anchor Tattoo Design
@elementtattoosupply via Instagram

Anchor tattoos never go out of style, considering they signify strength – a quality that every sailor must possess to successfully make it through the seas. This fully colored graphic tattoo represents various aspects of the seas. From depicting vibrant colors of sunrise to mythical beauties of the sea mermaids, this tattoo captures the very essence of a sea along with the laurel of crossing the equator through an eye-catching shellback text banner.

Hawaii Tattoo Design

Hawaii Tattoo Design
@leolunatattoo via Instagram

Taking inspiration from the vibrant culture of Hawaii, many sailors ink tattoos relevant to Hawaiian cultures. For example, the image of a tribal island, trees, and even a hula girl. The tattoo here is a beautiful hula girl swaying gently to the rhythm of her ukulele. The usage of subtle colors makes it appear extremely peaceful, while the scarce blush of red beautifies the tattoo even more. Sailors can get this ink to depict their Hawaiian story when they are back home.

Pig and Rooster Tattoo Design

Hawaii Tattoos Design
@ginaktattoos via Instagram

A pig and rooster are traditional symbols of good luck in the collection of navy tattoos. Hopeful sailors looking to strengthen their luck might get an American traditional tattoo of a rooster on the right and a pig on the left foot. The above nautical ink brilliantly represents boldness in their expressions, which is the core aspect of this illustration. Splashes of water behind adding a dramatic effect to the whole tattoo, while flowers beneath are making it appear a bit more tamed.

Shark Tattoo Design

Shark Tattoo Design
@gradyspades via Instagram

Sea animal tattoos are extremely popular among sailors, and a majestic creature like the shark is a wonderful choice for a sailor. Here, the shark represents the fearlessness of being the hunter rather than the hunt. The color blue, black, and red in this tattoo creates subtle aggression, usually associated with sea sharks.

Quirky Squirtle Tattoo

Quirky Squirtle Tattoo
@rob2morrow via Instagram

Fun-loving sailors might try adding a little twist to the traditional shellback design with this quirky take of using a water-type Pokemon named Squirtle. The above artwork represents a shellback Squirtle with a sailor cap. The colors in the tattoo are inspired by the original cartoon character, making the artwork authentic and relatable. You can add personal touches to it and give it a unique twist.

This comprehensive guide includes some of the finest shellback tattoo navy artworks and color inspiration you can use for your next ink. Nautical tattoos are an excellent way to celebrate your victories on water. While these tattoos carry deep historical meanings and are usually popular with navy seals, any ardent lover of the oceans can get these tattoos. Make sure you go through a detailed tattoo guide or question your tattoo professional about all the concerns before getting one!

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