From polar bears to grizzly bears to panda bears, there is such a wide variety of bears that it is difficult to sum up all the different meanings! Bears are known mainly to symbolize courage and strength. Bears are also associated with friendship and childhood through teddy bear imagery.
They are also often portrayed as goofy animals getting their heads stuck in jars of honey. They are also prevalent in folklore and mythology.
What is the meaning of a bear tattoo?
Polar bears and panda bears are also gaining popularity in tattoos, especially for people who have a passion in caring for the environment. They are also often used to symbolize family.
Bear tattoos are becoming popular among my own client base, so I decided to look into my top 20 bear tattoos.
Want to add more wildlife to your tattoo inventory? Take a look at our eagle tattoo and spider tattoo articles.
1. Family of bears
I really appreciate the attention to detail in this tattoo. The bears all look extremely peaceful, and the composition of the tattoo makes a perfect heart to represent a little family. The artist has used an effective texture for the fur and left the baby bear nice and clean so as not to clutter the tattoo
2. Half geometric, half realistic
I often see these geometric/realism mashup tattoos that are done badly. This one is the exception! I love the angle of the bear that the artist chose, and you can really see their understanding of form and shape. Not only that, the straight lines on the geometric bit are clean and bold which is tricky to achieve on the ribs!
3. Illustrative bear
I really love how the artist chose to do the bear’s paws. The perspective is an interesting take, and I enjoy the symbolism of a bear holding a tiny plant. It conveys a very lovely message, and the line work in this tattoo is executed beautifully.
4. Realistic teddybear
I am personally not the biggest fan of micro portraits, but this artist captured the client’s stuffed teddy so beautifully, with subtle use of color. I love the tiny pink bow and it looks like you could touch the tattoo and feel a fuzzy, soft toy
5. Dwight Schrute bear
Beats. Bears. Battlestar Galactica. Who isn’t currently obsessed with The Office? I love how this artist took this iconic scene and turned it into an easily recognizable tattoo. I know firsthand how difficult it is to achieve this and give them props for the outcome!
6. American Traditional bear
I am utterly obsessed with how clean and simple this traditional chest piece is. The artist took into consideration the placement so well and produced such a bold, striking and clean tattoo. I also like how they made the eyes yellow with no pupils – makes the bear look even more badass.
7. Beanie bear
My favorite part of this tattoo is the beanie and the shirt collar. It really looks like I could touch the beanie and feel the knitting in the fabric. I also really like the little acorns at the bottom of the tattoo – it finishes off the bottom of the design well. The color palette is clean and powerful and the line work is strong
8. Realistic panda
I absolutely love this tattoo – from the negative leaves to the panda mid-snack, to the beautiful soft fur. This artist knew exactly how to keep a lot of skin breaks, making the tattoo breathe, and it fits really well on the arm. The background is perfectly executed, and I often find with realistic tattoos this is hard to achieve
9. Care Bear
This artist took such a creative spin on a Care Bear tattoo, making it into an easily recognizable It character. I love the extra details they included such as the paper boat, the clown makeup, and the tiny heart on the butt. The artist knows color theory really well and I love their choice of grey and cream on this tattoo.
10. Zombie bear
I was instantly drawn to this tattoo because of the color palette. The artist was able to play with the light source to create such a creepy, glowing effect. I love how they chose to end this tattoo with the bear’s guts spilling out of the rib cage. The heart-shaped nose and the smile makes you think that it is quite happy being a creepy zombie bear.
I really enjoy this Neo-traditional take on a blackwork tattoo. The artist used a lot of texture, including dot work, pepper shading, and different line weights, which can sometimes look quite cluttered but I think they executed it perfectly. It really does look like the lady is wearing a bear headdress. My favorite part of this tattoo is the composition – it fits perfectly onto this client’s arm.
12. Neo-traditional autumn bear
This Neo-traditional black bear is so soft and gentle. I adore the color palette as it reminds me of autumn in a forest. The bear has a docile facial expression, and its hefty claws are positioned downwards, making it appear gentle and non-threatening. I especially love the composition of the berries and leaves around the bear and how it fits the arm perfectly
13. Traditional dagger and bear
Traditional animal tattoos are notoriously hardcore. I enjoy this tattoo for its simplicity and almost juvenile take on a roaring bear. The artist produced very clean lines and strong, simple colors making this tattoo a stand-out piece.
I like that they used berries on the side of the bear’s face instead of flowers – this is something a little different!
14. Paw print
The first thing that stands out for me about this tattoo is how the artist got the wetness on the eye and the nose of the bear. That shows a great understanding of using white ink sparingly in a realistic tattoo. I also really like that they incorporated the bear’s face into a paw – this is something a little different!
15. Man carrying a bear
I just had to include this tattoo on the list because of how fun and playful the imagery is! The little bear suit on the man has subtle attention to detail with the zip and the paw print on the bottom of the foot. You can see that the artist had a lot of fun with the client’s request.
16. Embroidered bear
How unbelievably cute is this embroidered family of bears? The artist really hit the nail on the head with their choice of colors. Each piece of “thread” has been tactfully placed and colored to look like it is sewn into the client’s skin. I am not sure about the longevity of these tattoos, but they sure do look incredible when they are fresh.
17. Bear with skull
My partner does a lot of tattoos in this style, and I know just how long a tattoo with this much detail takes to do.
I absolutely love the composition and placement. The textures used really bring this tattoo to life. I also like that the artist chose to make the bear’s eyes blank, giving it an even more creepy appearance.
18. Realistic backpiece
This one makes me feel a mix of emotions. Firstly, the bear is so ferocious and terrifying. It looks like it’s coming straight for the viewer.
But on closer inspection, the color palette and the background’s beautiful flow make it a little bit softer, making it an all-around beautiful tattoo. From experience, I know that the artist could have spent up to 50 hours on this back piece. Props to them and their client!
19. Bear playing accordion
This illustrative style of tattooing is becoming increasingly popular. There is a fine line between making it look messy and making it just messy enough and I think this artist hit the mark!
I enjoy the playful nature of this tattoo – it almost makes me wish I was jamming alongside the bear around a campfire! I also love the attention to detail with the small flower on the accordion and the little beer at his feet.
20. Feminine bear
This artist took a typically ferocious animal and made it beautifully soft and feminine. I like the moon in the middle of the head, and the gentle portrayal of fur. I like the earthy color palette and the facial expression of the bear. The soft shading is extremely well done and smooth