Butterflies are a timeless motif that can elevate any tattoo design. However, finding a tattoo design that meets your personal criteria can be tough. But you don’t have to search alone – we’re here to help!

Scroll down to learn more about the meaning of a butterfly tattoo and see top butterfly tattoo designs and placement ideas.

What Is the Meaning of Butterfly Tattoos?

The most general meanings of a butterfly tattoo are that of metamorphosis, development, joy, and freedom. For many cultures, the butterfly also symbolizes the human soul, making it an incredibly meaningful tattoo to receive.

Many people find the humble life of a butterfly particularly meaningful – they undergo rebirth to mature, live only a short amount of time, enjoy ultimate freedom, and embody delicacy and beauty. People who get the butterfly tattoo usually have experienced tough times only to emerge with newfound strength and character. On a deeper level, a butterfly tattoo can be seen as a reminder that our lives are precious and short, so it’s vital to learn to let go and enjoy each moment.

The monarch butterfly is particularly significant, as it can mean the presence of an angel who has descended from a celestial realm to give your support and protection. It is also a symbol of confidence and power to move forward.

The color of a butterfly tattoo can give it a special meaning too. For example, a blue butterfly means good luck and being at peace with yourself. A black butterfly may signify loss and remind of mortality. White butterflies are a symbol of purity and resurrection. A yellow butterfly is all about joy and happiness, while a purple butterfly tattoo may speak of spirituality or offer a hint of an unnoticed health problem.

Floral butterfly tattoos symbolize serenity, innocence, and one’s appreciation for nature’s wonders.

Check out some of the best butterfly tattoo designs along with diverse placement ideas.

1. Trio of Butterfly Wings. The most striking feature of a butterfly is its wings. With three detailed butterflies, you won’t be able to ignore their beauty. Experiment with different butterfly poses for a dynamic tattoo design.

Three Butterfly Tattoos on Forearm

via @tahdahofficial

2. Butterfly Tattoo with Movement. Capturing movement in a still image is difficult, yet this unique butterfly tattoo does it well. Thanks to high-quality shading and artistic paint strokes, this black butterfly tattoo offers a majestic finish for all styles.

Butterfly Tattoos and Swirls of Wind on Apper Arm

via @who_is_ryu

3. Fine Art Butterfly Tattoo. Any art buffs reading? Transform your all-time favorite painting into the wings of a butterfly. This is an ideal style for anyone who enjoys fine art and color – as seen in the Van Gogh example! Amazing.

Van Gogh Painting on Butterfly Wings Original Tattoo Idea

via @aggiegonz

4. Flora and Fauna Butterfly Design. Butterflies are at home in the wild, so why not choose a design that incorporates their natural habitat? We love this design with delicate black leaf outlines, but you can add hints of color if desired!

Jungle Leaves and Butterfly Tattoo Above Elbow

via @mirandaroseart

5. Single Needle Tattoo on Ankle. Single needle tattoo is a technique that uses a single round liner needle to produce dainty fine lines. If you’re interested in more minimal butterfly tattoo designs, this tattooing technique could compliment your aesthetic.

Feminine Single Needle Butterfly Tattoo on Calf

via @bunami.ink

6. Tiny Butterfly Tattoo. Butterfly tattoos come in all shapes and sizes, and these tiny butterfly tattoos always look super cute. Add these dainty insects onto your collarbone area for a “framing” effect.

Collarbone Butterfly Tattoo Ideas

via @beautybysugandhi

7. Vibrant Butterfly Flower Tattoo. If you enjoy seeing the world in technicolor, make sure your tattoo uses a vivid color palette. This butterfly uses bright reds, yellows, and pinks to give a distinct sunset-palette finish. Gorgeous and artistic.

Beautiful Butterfly Tattoo with Flowers for One Wing

via @tilda_tattoo

8. Double Butterflies Tattoo. Double butterflies double the style! This simple butterfly tattoo takes two actual butterfly motifs for a simple yet stunning finish. You could even make this a meaningful tattoo by adding a butterfly for each of your loved ones.

Two Butterflies Tattoo in the Collarbone Area

via @youdlauren

9. Blue & Pink Watercolor Tattoo Art. Calling all color lovers, the watercolor shading technique is here to complete your butterfly tattoo design. With powder blue and pastel pink ink, this butterfly stands out from the rest. Ideal if you want to add some soft colors to your skin tone.

Watercolor Blue Butterfly Tattoo

via @tattooist_neul

10. Symmetrical Butterfly Tattoo. Honor your love of symmetrical designs with this alternative butterfly tattoo. This design features traditional patterns, but if you want a more modern design, your tattoo artist will be able to help you find a fitting pattern.

Shoulder Butterfly Tattoo with Patterned Wings and Dot Art

via @hilljo_tattoo

11. Ankle Butterfly Tattoos. Decorate your ankles with these small butterfly tattoos. Each uses minimal shading to provide a “translucent” effect – allowing you to see the fine pattern detail well.

Black and White Butterfly Tattoo on Ankle

via @lozzarachtattooer

12. Fantasy-Inspired Butterfly Tattoo. Forget traditional butterfly tattoos, this fantasy-inspired butterfly tattoo turns an actual butterfly into a mythical creature. With elongated wings and a detailed dagger, this is a unique design that’ll impress every time.

Sword and Butterfly Arm Tattoo for Women

via @cnx_tattoo

13. Moon Cycle Butterfly Tattoo. Want to pick a butterfly tattoo design that represents a new life? This moon cycle design takes an old-school butterfly and places it over a shaded moon cycle line. You can make the tattoo more colorful if needed – but we love the effect the black and white tattoos make.

Monarch Butterfly in the Middle of Moon Cicle Side Tattoo

via @seize_skindokter

14. Nape of the Neck Tattoo. The nape of the neck is a great location for any tattoo, but this unique style butterfly tattoo really uses the space well. Here you fit your design to the length of your neck for a custom finish.

Back of Neck Feminine Butterfly Tattoo Idea

via @cheri122_ta

15. Spine Butterfly Tattoo. Tattoos that frame a body part always look chic, but this butterfly tattoo with light shading is extra sophisticated. This butterfly features subtle shading and intricate detailing to give a 3D effect. Keep the leaves and flowers in the same style as the butterfly for the best result.

Spine Florals and Butterfly Tattoo with Subtle Shadowing

via @katiecurmitattoos

16. Tiny Detailed Butterfly Design. Butterflies don’t need to be large or colorful to be eye-catching, as proven by this tiny design. This butterfly’s wings span different shapes and feature subtle shading and linework for a timeless effect.

Minimal Tattoo with Uncommon Butterfly Tattoo Design

via @umutguzeltattooart

17. Butterfly & Flower Tattoo. If a realistic butterfly tattoo isn’t on your list, consider playing around with a new tattoo style. This design mixes realistic florals, delicate butterfly wings, and watercolor tattoos for a feminine result.

Back of Shoulder Floral Butterfly Tattoo

via @olgacaca

18. Butterfly Tattoo with Roses. Negative space is the art of using empty space to make the main tattoo stand out. This design uses minimal shading to give a “white color” effect, ideal for anyone who isn’t keen on the potential pain from shading.

Side Stomach Flowers and Butterfly Tattoo

via @tattooist.lake

19. American Traditional Inspired Design. American traditional tattoos use bold black line work and strong shapes to give a powerful effect. Tattoo artists can make this design even more authentic with splashes of red and green ink.

Back Butterfly Tattoo with Thick Black Lines for Women

via @louddoodle

20. Double Vision Butterfly Tattoo. These beautiful creatures look gorgeous in most styles, but two butterflies overlayed onto each other provides a striking effect. This “trippy” design is a must for optical illusion lovers.

Flying Butterfly Tattoo on Upper Arm

via @lama_del_ray

21. Monarch Butterfly Tattoo. Located just below the sternum area, this Monarch butterfly tattoo design offers a unique meaning. Monarch butterflies symbolize strength, trust, and transformation – a great symbol for anyone starting a new life.

Large Monarch Butterfly Tattoo Below Breasts

via @iza.tattz

22. Small Butterfly Text Tattoo. Butterflies represent life, but you can take your design a step further with some inspiring text too. This design states “Todo Pasa”, which translates as “Everything Passes”. Motivating and beautiful.

Red Butterfly and Short Quote Thigh Tattoo

via @jbeeink

23. Shoulder Monarch Butterfly Tattoo. The vibrant colors of a Monarch butterfly are hard to miss – so place them on a body part where you can show them off. The vivid colors and the unsusual butterfly tattoo placement make this classic design feel unique.

Big Realistic Butterfly Tattoo on the Shoulder

via @chelsea_randolphtattooer

24. Tribal Snake Butterfly Tattoo. Can you tell what this butterfly’s wings are made from? That’s right, detailed snake heads. This alternative design takes inspiration from tribal artwork and reptiles to give an edgy butterfly tattoo finish. Love it!

Snake Heads Forming Butterfly Wings Lower Back Tribal Tattoo

via @bamming_tatts

25. Hidden Roses Butterfly Tattoo. What’s more beautiful than flower tattoos? Butterfly images with roses hidden inside! Use the sections of your butterfly wings to insert your favorite flowers inside – a great idea for any floral fan.

Black and White Butterfly Tattoo with Rose Design on Wings

via @rafaeldelariva

26. Red Butterfly Tattoos. Not interested in the realistic butterfly tattoo style? Natural beauty looks great in red too! This butterfly tattoo uses red ink to bring the butterfly motif alive – and it’s a great tattoo for the breast area!

Two Small Butterflies Below a Breast

via @talbooker

27. Sternum Butterfly Tattoo. The sternum area is a great spot for any tattoo design, but this butterfly tattoo is extra impressive. Designed to fit in the vertical space, this design includes line-work patterns. However, you can change these delicate lines for bold patterns or geometric shapes, depending on your preference.

Sternum Moth Tattoo for Women

via @undergroundtattoos

28. Realistic Butterfly Side Breast Tattoo. Realistic butterfly tattoos don’t need to be in color – as proven by this white and black butterfly tattoo. If bright colors aren’t your thing, consider this grayscale motif for your next ink.

Side of Breast Butterfly Tattoo

via @thimo.derks

29. Abstract Art Neck Butterfly Tattoo. Take your butterfly love to the next level with this twisted butterfly tattoo. Here, the middle of the creature melts into a swirl while the wings stay traditional. Perfect if you’re searching for new ideas.

Bold Nape of the Neck Butterfly Tattoo Design

via @gemil_grim

30. Shattered Butterfly Tattoo. Tattoo design is an art form that provides infinite possibilities, such as a butterfly with glass wings… This design features a butterfly with one wing slowly shattering. Your tattoo artist can get super creative with this concept.

Shattered Butterfly Tattoo on Unner Arm

via @d____dot

31. Butterfly Tattoo Line. Another popular realistic butterfly design, the triple butterfly tattoo, takes a classic shape and repeats it down your spine. Add elegant line work down the center for a vertical effect.

Women's Spine Tattoo Tree Butterflies Connected with a Line

via @giahi

32. Tiny Butterfly Tattoo. Butterflies don’t have to be large and dominating! A tiny tattoo can add elegant style to your body. This butterfly tattoo would look great with hints of white ink to add some emphasis while remaining minimal.

Tiny Inner Arm Butterfly Tattoo

via @west4tattoo

33. Nature Butterfly Tattoo Style. Butterflies are part of nature, and their habitat makes super unique butterfly tattoos! Add leaves, planets, and flowers for a complete sleeve design.

Botanical Tattoo with a Butterfly on a Wrist

via @maxink5.0

34. Orange & Blue Butterfly Tattoo. Black and white butterfly tattoos are very popular, but this orange and blue colors complements these creatures well and give it a special meaning. These hues also look great on butterfly watercolor tattoos.

Realistic Blue Butterfly Tattoo

via @inkpanthers

35. Classic American Traditional Design. We’ve seen a couple of American traditional-inspired butterfly tattoos in this list, but this design is the most accurate one yet. Large butterfly tattoos look great in this style, and artists across the tattoo world will jump at the chance to practice this style.

American Traditional Butterfly and Flower Tattoos on Chest for Women

via @blacksquirrelomaha

36. Half-Butterfly with Text. Provide some extra meaning and show your love for butterflies with this meaningful tattoo. The butterfly is posed in a closed or “half” position, giving more focus to the cursive text. A great idea if you have a quote that’s close to your heart.

Inner Arm Meaningful Quote Tattoo and Half Butterfly

via @flyingtigertattoos

37. Small Butterfly & Angel Number Tattoo. Butterflies symbolize transformation and strength, so pairing them with angel numbers can give your design a heartwarming effect. This design uses the angel number 1975, which means your guides are affirming your life choices and success.

Black and White Floral Butterfly and 1975 Number Tattoos

via @branlytattoo

38. Half-Butterfly Tattoo with Semicolon. A small butterfly can complement a range of designs, including the well-known semicolon style. A semicolon represents solidarity and affirmation of mental health issues, such as depression and suicidal thoughts. Pair this with a white butterfly tattoo, and you have a beautiful message.

Semicolon Tattoo with Delicate Half Butterfly

via @temptink_tattoo_studio

39. Love Yourself First Butterfly Tattoo. Want to hide secret messages in your butterfly tattoo ideas? This black butterfly tattoo has “Love yourself first” hidden across the three butterfly wings. You can add whatever text suits you, just make sure the text fits the overall butterfly tattoo design!

Under Breast Butterfly Tattoos with Quote Hidden on Wings

via @claracecilia

40. Upper Arm Purple & Blue Butterfly Tattoo. Purple and blue butterfly tattoo ideas are always gorgeous, but this hybrid floral and butterfly tattoo is especially unique. If you want to make your butterflies less noticeable, swap the hues for other soft colors, such as pink or pastel shades.

Colorful Flowers Butterflies and Petals Tattoo for Women

via @palette.tt

41. Mother & Daughter Butterfly Tattoos. A matching butterfly tattoo is a sweet way to show your love to someone close to you. This tattoo design includes floral wings, a butterfly wing outline, and handwritten text, that allows no mistakes it is here to celebrate your mother and daughter bond.

Matching Butterfly Tattoos for Mother and Daughter

via @alisynyattz

42. Repeat Butterflies Arm Tattoo. Why tattoo one butterfly when you can have repeated butterflies? This butterfly tattoo repeats from the client’s finger up until their elbow. All of the butterflies appear in the same style and will look fantastic both with and without extra color.

Several Butterfly Tattoos on Finger Hand and Outer Art

via @___carlyfries

43. Extra Bright Shin Butterfly Tattoos. This blue and yellow butterfly tattoo design is born to catch attention. With bright inks, clashing colors, and placement, which is not common for women, the tattoo screams non-conformist.

Large Blue and Yellow Butterfly Tattoo Below Knees

via @chrisstockings

44. Hidden Butterfly Tattoo. Butterflies are beautiful, but you don’t have to place your tattoo on an obvious body part. This small butterfly design features two dainty butterflies, and it sits perfectly behind the client’s ear. Small, neat, and secret!

Small Behind Ear Butterfly Tattoos for Women

via @a.michellearts

45. Mandala-Inspired Butterfly Tattoo. The Mandala is a popular design for tattoos, and this option mixes the beauty of Mandala art and butterflies. Place your butterfly tattoo on your shin or thigh for the best effect!

Butterfly and Mandala Shin Tattoo for Women

via @oc_art_tattoo_llsk

46. Realistic Butterfly with Shadow. If you’re going for the full realism effect, pair any butterflies with an appropriate shadow to make them look as 3D as possible. This design works best when you choose a specific species for your design.

Large 3d Butterfly Tatto on Hip

via @tattoo__company

47. Small Butterfly Tattoo with Sparkles. This butterfly tattoo mixes an actual butterfly outline with small graphic sparkles and hearts. Super cute, especially when placed in the groin area – as seen on the image.

Groan Butterfly Tattoo with Interesting Half Design

via @cancho.mini

48. Dramatic Stomach Butterfly Tattoo. Butterfly tattoo ideas don’t have to be elegant and dainty. This butterfly tattoo uses sharp wing shapes and thick black lines to give a more edgy finish.

Stomach Butterfly Tattoo with Sharp Thick Lines

via @porvidatattoouk

49. Butterfly Tattoo with Curved Line Art. Forget standard butterfly tattoo ideas, this design mixes butterflies with alternative patterns and dot-work shading. This tattoo looks great on any lower-back area.

Lower Back Butterfly on Fire Tattoo with Gray Shading

via @hannahelizabethtattoo

50. Under Chest Flower & Butterfly Tattoo. Flower tattoos are always a winner for us, and this horizontal sunflower design takes the cake. Finished with a butterfly in the very center, this design frames the client’s under-chest perfectly.

Butterfly and Flowers Tattoo Blow Breasts

via @rhiannontattoos

If you’re looking for a tattoo that represents a fresh start or signifies newness in your life, then a butterfly tattoo is perfect for you. Ready to take the plunge and get inked? Save a few prefered butterfly tattoos, choose the placement and discuss the option with a tattoo artist!

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Isobel Coughlan
Isobel studied at the Arts University Bournemouth and graduated with a First-Class degree in Fashion Design. That's why she's extra passionate about writing for brands with a fashion and beauty focus. Among other things, she loves to cover historical fashion and current trends.

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