Your Guide To Woodcut Tattoos

Among the many tattoo trends and styles, woodcut tattoos are truly captivating. This style of tattoo refers back to the technique of woodcut printing. A design is created by drawing on a wooden block and carving away the background, then pressing the painted relief areas against a surface to display a work of art. Woodcut printing has been around for centuries, dating back to 9th-century China and making its way over to Europe in the 13th century. It was first used on textiles and later on paper, and we continue to see it to this day, in museums and on our skin.

This art form translates extremely well into tattoos, as artists utilize precise, intricate line work and shading that is often tedious but totally worth it. Woodcut tattoos are often done with just the color black, using the skin as negative space to contrast the bold ink and complete the image. It's almost as if you have a detailed wood carving on your skin. You can get a woodcut tattoo of almost anything you want, but here are some of the most common images seen in this style.

Skulls and dark imagery

Skulls and skeletons have always been a common theme for tattoos, and this is especially true for the woodcut style. The intricate details of the bones, from the teeth to the dark shading of the eye sockets, allow for the tattoo artist to really show off their line work skills. A tattoo's meaning is personal to each individual, but the skull is known to symbolize strength and power as well as death and the celebration of life. If you're a fan of the gothic look or the glam ghoul aesthetic, a skull woodcut tattoo may be just the tat for you.

Wooden ships

A ship is a great fit for the woodcut style, as the line work shows off the details of the wooden body of the ship. These tattoos can symbolize many things:  the journey of life, adventure, and going through rough waters and coming out the other side. The combination of shadows and lines allows you to see the small details of the sails and the water too.

Medieval and fantasy-inspired images

Because of the art style's history in medieval Europe, you might see a lot of woodcut tattoos depicting medieval images and symbols, like this decapitated knight holding his own head. Knights in battles, dragon slayings, swords and shields — all of these symbols pay homage to medieval times. Whether you're a connoisseur of medieval art or just a "Game of Thrones" fan, a medieval woodcut tattoo is another solid choice for your tattoo collection.

Images of landscapes and nature

Many people opt for landscape and nature tattoos that are photorealistic, but the woodcut style portrays these images in a different, more playful way that still captures the beauty of the outdoors. You may not want a Bob Ross painting on your arm; a simpler approach that utilizes line work and the negative space of the skin can still make a beautiful landscape. Getting a woodcut landscape tattoo is an amazing way to showcase your love for nature on your body.

Insects and animals

Whether you want a tattoo of your dog or your favorite bug, the woodcut style is perfect for images of insects and animals, like this detailed tattoo of a beetle. The more you look at this tattoo, the more things you notice about it — from the lines on the wings to the tiny claws. A woodcut tattoo is able to provide a carved style while still achieving a very realistic image of any creature, big and small.


Angels are a timeless tattoo choice, often symbolizing faith, spirituality, and protection. One of the great things about angel imagery is that there is not just one type. There are guardian angels, fallen angels, angels with broken wings, the angel of death, and we can't forget Cupid. Each has a unique meaning you can apply to your own life. If you're thinking about getting an angel tattoo, having it done in a woodcut style can capture the delicate yet powerful figures that angels represent. It's as if you're taking an ancient image and immortalizing it on your skin.

Pop-culture characters

We all have our favorite characters that brought us joy in childhood, and we can carry on that joy into adulthood by getting tattoos to remember them. Many people are putting a modern spin on this older style by getting woodcut tattoos of cartoons and pop-culture figures. The woodcut style gives these images a nostalgic feel to cherish those childhood memories. Feel free to get your favorite Pokémon or Spongebob characters in this style. Who knows? Maybe it'll spark a conversation with someone who notices it.