hether it’s your first tattoo and you have some reservations or it's your 100th tattoo but you’re looking to go smaller and more discreet, you have a lot of options at your fingertips and choosing the right design is pivotal. After all, you’ll be living with it forever. 

Tattoo’s come in many sizes and designs, and sometimes it’s the smallest design that makes the biggest impact. With only a little space of skin and a few lines, smaller tattoos can elicit strong feelings comparable to those from overly detailed large tattoos. So, if you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by the limitless array of small tattoos designs and places to put them, perhaps our guide can help you narrow down your prospects. Read this article for some guidance, but don’t feel like you have to stick strictly to our advice. Remember, it’s a guide not a rulebook. Tattoos are meant to be customized to fit you! 

1. Dainty Flowers

Delicate flower tattoo
When it comes to flowers and delicate tattoos, there are many! You could even add a touch of color while keeping it posh and refined. Image courtesy of Brighter

Delicate flowers are pretty and can make for a stunning tattoo. What makes this particular tattoo idea different from other flower tattoos is the lack of shading, detail, and color – and of course, the size. The lack of detail and the thin lines reflect a light stroke when drawing this image which in turn provides the appearance of a delicate tattoo. If this is your first tattoo, it may be a great idea since the tattoo will never look harsh and also because flowers are timeless. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll go from loving flowers to hating flowers throughout your life. 

Flowers can also make for meaningful tattoos. This could mean picking your favorite flower, a flower that has special meaning to you, the flower associated with your birthday, or a flower that universally has a particular meaning. Here are some flowers that hold a specific meaning:

  • Daffodils – new beginnings
  • Daisies – childhood innocence, simplicity and joy
  • Pink carnations – a mother’s pure and never-ending love
  • Tulips – love
  • Bluebells – kindness
  • Aster – love (Greek mythology) 
  • Calla Lily – attraction
  • Hyacinth – dedicated to the Greek sun god Apollo, these symbolize games, sports, and play
  • Magnolia – a love of nature

The above-the-elbow placement of a tattoo compliments the discreteness of the small flower tattoo. Having something in this location is a little more hidden and mysterious than the forearm and wrist. It’s a flattering location for both men and women, despite it being a more masculine location in the past. This placement is becoming trendier with time and we love it!

2. A Slithery Snake on Your Bikini Line

Delicate snake tattoo
A delicate snake tattoo blends two elements: edgy (or rough around the exterior) and graceful. Image courtesy of Pinterest

Besides making you look super tough, snake tattoos symbolize a brand new start in life. This is because snake’s shed their skin, allowing them to heal and regrow a new skin. This resonates with many people who are looking to or who have turned over a new leaf in their life. If you think some small snake designs look as rad as we do, and if you’re all about learning how to pick yourself up after you fall down and grow as a person, this could be the perfect tattoo for you. 

As for the location, the bikini line or even the space around the hips  are very hidden and a little provocative. This is great for someone who likes an element of mystery or who wants their tattoo to be covered on a day-to-day basis. But, keep in mind that this little reptile will be out on the prowl when you throw on a swimsuit! 

3. Paw Prints Climbing Up the Ankle

Delicate paw print ankle tattoo
Honor your pup with a small reminder of the big influence they have made on your life! Image courtesy of Pinterest

This is the perfect simple and small tattoo for the ultimate dog lover. Pay tribute to your good boy or good girl with this paw-some tattoo! Despite being filled-in, this design still evokes the dainty look that you’re going for with your tattoo.  It’s not overwhelming for the eye, adds just a little something-something to your ankle, and will definitely make you smile when you get the occasional glimpse. The love you have for your fur baby is sure to last a lifetime as will your tattoo. If by chance the ankle is not hidden enough for you, putting the paw prints on the top of your foot is another really attractive placement option (albeit a bit painful). 

4. Zodiac Sign Behind the Ear

Rihanna zodiac sign tattoo behind the ear
This tattoo that Rihanna has combines two trends that are on the rise: zodiac signs and behind-the-ear tattoos. Image courtesy of Refinery29

Astrology symbols, like zodiac signs, are a popular choice for a small tattoo because they tend to translate well to a smaller size. For example, Rihanna has the Pisces symbol tattooed behind her right ear and it seamlessly matches her aesthetic and pops despite being only a couple of lines. 

Both dainty and bold, behind the ear is a popular spot for those smaller tattoos you want to show off when you tie your hair back or conceal when you let your hair down. This placement is prime real estate for tattoos among many celebrities such as Adele, Rita Ora, and Selena Gomez who all have behind the ear tattoos. Moral of the story: a behind the ear tattoo is worth considering even if you aren’t a huge fan of astrology. 

5. Abstract Side Tattoo

the_neighborhood_studio’s Instagram.

An abstract design makes for a great minimalist tattoo because they’re made with basic elements – nothing more than a couple of lines. These tattoos tend to have an element of elegance and appear very artistic. Abstract designs tend to age like fine wine. Because they’re identity is largely up for interpretation, they can’t really go out of style. This tattoo will make an appearance in certain shirts, if your shirt slides aside, or in a swimsuit, but otherwise it’s hidden to everyone but the owner. If you want a tattoo that does more with less and is obscure then this could be the right choice for you. 

6. Stars on the Hands

little.tattoos’ Instagram

Just as the name alludes to, this particular tattoo shop curates small tattoos, like these stars which were tattooed on the hands. Hand tattoos are really unique compared to any other tattoo you’ll find because they seem to be the smallest. If you’ve ever tried a henna temporary tattoo on your hand and loved it, you’ll likely find yourself in awe of a hand tattoo. It really adds a piece of art to where there may already be nail polish, fake nails, or rings. Many of us work with our hands everyday in everything that we do, so to be able to express ourselves through them is truly incredible and something worth thinking about. 

Although the hands are an exposed part of the body, you could even get a tattoo on the side of a finger where people aren’t likely to notice unless they’re explicitly shown. Another great use for the hand tattoo is in replacement of a ring. If your lifestyle or career requires your hands to be bare of jewelry or nail polish, a tattoo could serve as a replacement for a ring or for personal expression. Additionally, star tattoos can be a symbol of ambition and success or hope - such as from looking up at the stars. This is a perfect fit for people who feel like their long strive to succeed despite all obstacles helped them achieve their dreams, and by which their character has been shaped by this. 

7. Cross on the Back of the Neck

Cross on the back of the neck tattoo
If you already wear a cross everyday, you can feel confident that you won’t get tired of a cross tattoo. Image courtesy of SavedTattoo.

Cross tattoos can be a great way to express your faith and commitment to God, while fulfilling your desire to have a dainty tattoo. An added bonus is that the cross tattoo, no matter where you end up putting it, is elongating. In the image above, the cross tattoo really streamlines the neck. It doesn’t get much more simplistic than a cross tattoo, meaning it’s also on the cheaper side of tattoos. Regardless of whether you’re a devoted Christian or not, the back of the neck tattoo is a great canvas for tattooing because it’s flat, just large enough, and hidden from the sun. You can hide the tattoo when you want with your hair or a collar, and because of placement, a neck tattoo won’t age as quickly as more exposed areas of the body

8. Words on the Thigh 

Word tattoos on the thighs work for both men and women. Image courtesy of Body Art Guru

Oftentimes word tattoos are a great personal reminder for the wearer. Maybe others who see them won’t know the impact of the words you’ve chosen to get permanently imprinted onto your body, but for you they can be an important reminder and source of inspiration that helps you through hard times. The thigh is not only an attractive location, but can easily be hidden by pants, and looks especially cool when they peek through ripped jeans. 

You can take your script tattoo one step further towards personalization by choosing a font that highlights featured letters and keeps the others small and basic. The font you choose has a big impact on the overall feel of the tattoo. 

Final Thoughts

So, you’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo for a while but you’re too afraid to take a big leap. You’d rather get your toes wet first before diving in head first. A simple, delicate tattoo is a great choice for you and hopefully you’ve found yourself more decisive after reading this article than when you started. 

Oftentimes the hardest part of getting a tattoo isn’t the needle itself or the finality of the modification, but the actual ability to settle on a design. Sometimes all it takes is putting an idea into illustration for it all to come together and for you to feel confident and excited going under the needle, while other times you go back and forth on an idea until you spiral. This is especially true if you’re getting your first tattoo. 

Nonetheless, when choosing an expressive piece of artwork that will be on your body forever and will come at a cost, you should put some thought into it. Consider what we’ve shown you, explore what else is out there, and utilize the many options to come up with the perfect tattoo for you. This might even come down to finding a tattoo artist who can put your vision into perspective and who’s artwork matches your style. After all, that’s what they do for a living. It’s okay to be picky, but if you’ve been wanting a tattoo for years, it’s time to drop the excuses and go for it. We can’t wait to see what you get! 

May 6, 2022

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