Formed by gravity and surface tension, water waves can be terrifying, fun, awe-inspiring, and even therapeutic. Whether you’re running out to sea, surfboard in tow, or just enjoying a romantic walk on the beach while the waves peacefully break in the background, waves are without a doubt one of nature’s most alluring creations.
The first wave tattoos likely originated in pacific islander cultures—most notably the Maori and Samoan tribes. Simple single line designs and reoccurring minimalistic wave patterns were common place way back when and still remain so to this day. Over the years, as body art and technology has evolved, these simple patterns have morphed into more elaborate and intricate works of art. With the resources tattooists have available to them today, if it can be imagined, it can be inked. Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of wave tattoos being created today.
This epic back piece.
This relatively large circular back piece consists almost entirely of linework waves. This tattoo could almost be mistaken for something else if it wasn’t for the single protruding tale of a whale. (Photo: Sasha Masiuk)
This geometric addition.
This rectangular containment.
This circular watercolor wave tattoo.
This colorful barrel.
If this doesn’t make you want to quit your job and move to Hawaii then there’s definitely something wrong with you. (Photo: Tyler Malek)
This watercolor wave.
This blue and white ink chest medallion.
While not used as much as you would think in wave tattoos, white ink creates a bold and exciting design that’s hard to ignore. This magnificent color scheme makes this piece one of our favorites for both it’s composition and color. (Photo: Tayfun Bezgin)
This ribcage work.
These scaled waves.
This wandering chest piece begins on the pectoral muscle before making it’s way up and over the collar bone. The waves are framed with a bit of pattern work while themselves featuring various textures including mild scaling. (Photo: Sasha Masiuk)
This vibrant Hokusai forearm piece.
The Hokusai wave is a phrase given to works done in the image of renowned 19th century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print works. Most of these “Hokusai tattoos,” which there are numerous examples of on this list, were done in the image of Hokusai’s most famous work The Great Wave off Kanagawa. (Photo: Gery)
This Hokusai side tat.
Another reproduction of the Hokusai wave done in the dotwork style low on the ribcage. (Photo: Cameron Copeland)
These delightful dotwork crests.
The anatomy of a wave consists of a crest and a trough. The distance between crests is known as wavelength. (Photo: Dasha Sumkina)
These windswept waves.
A gorgeous example done in black and grey ink that could just as easily be grassy hills as it is rough seas. Or is it grassy hills? (Photo: Won)
This triangular ankle piece.
Another unique interpretation of the Hokusai wave but this time constrained in a diamond-shaped glyph. Triangular, diamond, and circular shaped borders are fairly popular these days. (Photo: Ilwol)