Dragon Tattoos 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Inked

dragon tattoos

So you’re thinking of getting your first tattoo and want something mythical and magical. dragon tattoos are a popular choice and for good reason. Nothing quite captures fantasy and fierceness like a dragon. But before you head to the nearest tattoo parlor, there are a few things you should know. Getting a dragon tattoo is a big decision and you want to make sure you end up with a piece of art you’ll love for life. This guide will walk you through the significance of different dragon styles, placement options, how to find an amazing artist, and what to expect during your first session. By the time we’re done, you’ll be fully prepped to get the dragon of your dreams.

History and Meaning of Dragon Tattoos

History and Meaning of Dragon Tattoos
dragon tattoos

Dragon tattoos have a long and rich history spanning many cultures. Dragons have appeared in folklore and art for centuries, symbolizing power, strength, and good luck.

Chinese Dragon Tattoos

The Chinese dragon is one of the most popular dragon tattoos. In Chinese culture, dragons represent power, strength, and good luck. Chinese dragons are depicted as long, scaled creatures with four legs. They are a symbol of power and good luck.

Japanese Dragon Tattoos

Japanese Dragon Tattoos
Japanese Dragon Tattoos

Japanese dragon tattoos, also known as Ryu tattoos, are also quite popular. The Japanese dragon has a more serpent-like appearance, with two or three toes. It represents wisdom, power and good fortune. A popular Japanese dragon tattoo incorporates a dragon coiled around a cherry blossom tree.

European Dragon Tattoos

European dragon tattoos originate from medieval folklore and tend to look more menacing. European dragons are often depicted with bat-like wings, serpent tails, and breathing fire. They symbolize power, strength, and protection. St. George and the Dragon is a popular European dragon tattoo, depicting Saint George slaying a dragon.

Whether you choose an Asian-inspired dragon for wisdom and luck or a European dragon for power and strength, dragon tattoos make a bold statement. They have a rich history and symbolic meaning that translates across cultures. If you’re looking to get inked, a dragon tattoo is a timeless choice with a story of its own to tell.

Dragon Tattoo Designs and Styles Explained

The classic dragon tattoo can come in many different forms. Here are the major styles to consider:

Tribal Dragon Tattoos

Tribal Dragon Tattoos
Tribal Dragon Tattoos

Tribal dragon tats use geometric shapes and patterns to form a dragon shape. They have a distinctive style and work well as arm bands or incorporated into a sleeve. The bold lines and minimal shading of tribal tats make them popular, masculine choices.

Asian or Chinese Dragon Tattoos

These tats depict the traditional Chinese dragon – a long, serpentine creature with four legs and no wings. They symbolize power, strength, and good luck. Asian dragon tats often feature decorative swirls, clouds, or a pearl that the dragon is chasing. They work beautifully as a full back or chest piece.

Medieval European Dragon Tattoos

Medieval European Dragon Tattoos
Medieval European Dragon Tattoos

These portray the dragon of Western mythology – a fearsome beast with bat-like wings, scaly skin, and a barbed tail. Medieval dragons represent strength, wisdom, and protection. A popular neo-traditional design shows a knight battling a dragon. European dragon tats contain a lot of detail and shadowing so they look best on large areas of skin like the chest, back, or thigh.

Watercolor or Abstract Dragon Tattoos

For a more modern, artistic twist, watercolor or abstract dragon tats use splashes of color, distorted shapes, and an unstructured style to create a dragon in a whimsical, paint-like fashion. They have a fluid, dreamy quality and complement the body’s curves. Watercolor and abstract dragons are perfect for a hip, upper arm, or calf placement.

In the end, the dragon tattoo you choose is a matter of personal style and taste. Whether you prefer a traditional or more modern design, a dragon tat can be a bold, symbolic piece of body art.

Best Places to Get a Dragon Tattoo

When choosing where to get your dragon tattoo, think about visibility and the shape of the design. The back, chest, and arm are popular spots that work well for the large, dramatic shapes of many dragon tattoos.


The back provides a large, central canvas for an intricate dragon tattoo. A dragon design can extend across the entire upper back or focus on one area like the shoulder blades. If you want a tattoo that can be easily covered up at times, the middle or lower back are good options. The back is a common place for a first tattoo.


For a bold statement, the chest is an ideal spot for a dragon tattoo. A dragon that extends from one pectoral muscle across to the other creates a powerful, eye-catching design. The center of the chest also provides ample space for a large, coiling dragon. Keep in mind that chest tattoos can be quite painful, especially for first-timers.


Dragon tattoos that extend from the shoulder down to the wrist are popular and visually striking. The upper arm, in particular, has a broad and rounded shape that suits the twisting shape of a dragon. Forearm tattoos are also popular but may be harder to cover up. Start with just the upper arm for your first tattoo.

You have many locations to consider for a dragon tattoo, from highly visible areas like the chest or back to more discreet spots on the arm, leg or shoulder. Think about the overall impression you want to create and how much of the design you want to remain hidden at times. A skilled tattoo artist can work with the shape of your chosen area to design a dragon tattoo that flows with your body. With some planning, you’ll have a mythical creature you can display with pride.

Dragon Tattoo Care Tips

Dragon Tattoo Care Tips
dragon tattoos

Now that you have your new dragon tattoo, it’s important to properly care for it as it heals. Following these tips will help your tattoo heal quickly and stay vibrant for years to come.


Gently wash your new tattoo 2-3 times a day with antibacterial soap and water, then pat dry with a clean towel. Be very gentle when cleaning as your new ink is still sensitive. Avoid scrubbing the area. After a few days, you can switch to unscented lotion.


Apply a fragrance-free moisturizer 3 times a day to keep your new tattoo hydrated as it heals. Look for a moisturizer specifically for new tattoos or that is non-comedogenic and free of dyes and fragrances. Keeping your new ink moisturized will aid the healing process and help your tattoo retain vibrancy.


Only bandage your tattoo for the first 3-5 hours. After removing the initial bandage, do not re-bandage. Bandages need air to heal and too much covering can lead to infection. If your tattoo feels irritated after the bandage is off, you can apply a breathable gauze. But in general, it’s best to avoid bandaging a new tattoo whenever possible.

Sun Protection

Avoid sun exposure and tanning beds while your new tattoo is healing. Too much sun can fade a new tattoo and slow down the healing process. After it’s healed, always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher before going outside to prevent fading. Limit sun exposure when possible.


As tempting as it may be, do not scratch or pick at your new tattoo. Itching is normal, but scratching can damage your new ink, cause scarring and lead to infection. Instead, gently wash the area or apply a cold compress for relief from itching.

By properly cleaning, moisturizing and protecting your new dragon tattoo, you’ll help it heal beautifully and stay vibrant for life. If you notice signs of infection like swelling, oozing or redness, see your tattoo artist or doctor right away. Enjoy your new body art!

Top 50 Dragon Tattoo Ideas and Inspiration

When considering dragon tattoos, the options are endless. Here are some of the top dragon tattoo ideas to inspire your next piece of ink:

Tribal Dragon

Tribal dragon tattoos use the symbolic power of dragons in a tribal style with geometric patterns. They have a powerful, almost mystical quality and the intertwining lines accentuate the dragon’s sinuous form. Tribal dragon tattoos represent strength, wisdom, and longevity.

Japanese Dragon

Japanese dragons, or ryus, are magical creatures in Japanese folklore, symbols of power and good luck. As tattoos, they represent courage, wisdom and strength. A Japanese dragon tattoo with cherry blossoms is a popular choice.

Chinese Dragon

Chinese Dragondragon tattoos
dragon tattoos

In Chinese culture, dragons are a symbol of power, strength, and good luck. A Chinese dragon tattoo represents wisdom, power and prosperity. They are depicted as long, scaled creatures with whiskers and a mane.

Celtic Dragon

Celtic dragon tattoos incorporate the mystical dragon into Celtic knotwork and spirals. They represent magic, power and a connection to ancient Celtic spirituality. The interlacing lines accentuate the dragon’s form in a way that is uniquely Celtic.

Water Dragon

Water dragon tattoos show a dragon rising from or dwelling in waves, representing power, fluidity, emotions, intuition and creativity. The water element gives these dragons a sense of fluid grace and peace.

Floral Dragon

Floral and dragon tattoos are a perfect combination of strength and beauty. Surrounding a dragon with flowers or having it clutch a flower in its claws represents a balance of power and tenderness, wisdom and compassion. Delicate cherry blossoms or lotuses pair well with a Japanese-style dragon.

Whether you want a fearsome warrior or a wise sage, there is a dragon tattoo to suit your style. Talk to your tattoo artist about customizing a dragon design to create a unique piece of art that represents your own personal journey and story.


So there you have it, everything you need to know before getting your first dragon tattoo. Now that you’re armed with the facts about this mythical beast and the meanings behind the different styles, you can start thinking about your perfect custom design. Talk to your tattoo artist, look through samples of their work, and figure out how you want to make this legendary creature your own. Whether you go for a tribal dragon, Asian-inspired dragon, or fantasy dragon, the most important thing is that you get a tattoo you’ll be proud to wear for life. Once you settle on the perfect dragon design, the only thing left to do is book your appointment, get inked, and show off your new fiery friend! The legend of the dragon lives on.

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