How to Design a Shoulder Tattoo

by Maude Coffey ; Updated September 28, 2017

A tattoo design needs to be researched before deciding to visit a professional tattoo artist. Take the time to prepare your design prior to getting a tattoo and you will be assured a more positive experience. A tattoo is permanent; you will have it on your body for the rest of your life. Taking the steps to consider how the shoulder moves and how a design will flow on that part of your body will result in a tattoo that you are happy with.

Think about a subject matter that is meaningful to you or a design that you are comfortable wearing on your body permanently.

Determine how small or large you want the design to be.

Compare color options for the shoulder tattoo design. Tattoos are a form of art so colors do not have to be literal. For example, a sun does not have to be yellow; you can choose to have the sun tattooed in red.

Establish where on the shoulder you want your tattoo. Tattoo designs placed on the upper bicep are also considered a shoulder tattoo along with the actual shoulder and the back where the shoulder blade is located. If the shoulder, back and bicep have defined muscles, consider how the tattoo will move when the muscles are flexed.

Print out designs from your computer that can be used as reference for you or the tattoo artist to draw from. Long, thin designs flow better with the body on the upper bicep; horizontal designs are best for the shoulder blade.

Sketch out an idea of how you want the tattoo to rest on the shoulder. Include the size, color choices and detail. Write down notes for a tattoo artist to draw from if you cannot convey the idea artistically and attach the printed out references.


  • Bring references and be as specific as possible in explaining your idea to a tattoo artist. This will aid in the process of drawing the design.

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About the Author

Maude Coffey retired after 10 years working as a professional body modification artist in the tattoo industry. She is certified in principles of infection control and blood-borne pathogens. Coffey received additional training and classes, such as anatomy, jewelry standards and aftercare, from the Association of Professional Piercers. Coffey aims to educate about safe tattooing and piercing practices while writing for various websites.