Lighthouses are used to signal to sailors that the coast is nearby and they are easy to see from miles away. Lighthouses are a fairly common tattoo in American Traditional tattooing. They are often paired with waves, frames, and islands.
What’s the meaning of a lighthouse tattoo?
Lighthouses symbolize guidance, safety, and hope.
The designs were popular among sailors and fishermen, but people who love the ocean or who grew up on the coast also tend to get them. They are also commonly used as memorial tattoos.
I personally do not have a lighthouse tattoo (yet), but I’m thinking of getting one soon. So let’s take a look at some of the best lighthouse tattoos out there:
1. Lighthouse and Ship Tattoo
A bold, clean, and bright traditional tattoo, just the way they are supposed to be. What I love most about this tattoo is the color palette. It’s not as simplified as traditional tattoos usually are.
I love the addition of the birds in the sky, the sailing ship, and the flowers that frame this tattoo beautifully. The line work is extremely clean, and the color is well-saturated.
The calf is the perfect spot for a lighthouse tattoo! If you like this tattoo, I recommend you check out our article on 30 Incredible Ship Tattoos.
2. Dot Work Lighthouse
The thing that first caught my attention was the beautiful way the artist illustrated the clouds. There is so much movement in them and the waves below.
I love the use of both thick and thin lines, and the open skin where the light is shining off of the lighthouse. The shading has been applied very effectively, and the composition fits the calf brilliantly!
3. Black and Grey Lighthouse
Black and grey tattoos have started to grow on me and this is the perfect example of why. These tattoos have stood the test of time – black and grey tattooing has been around since the 1970s and is believed to have originated in prisons.
I love the heavy use of white and the shadows really make the lighthouse look like it has pointed sides. I like the splashes coming off of the waves and the subtleness of the clouds.
4. Illustrative Lighthouse
I absolutely love these illustrative black work tattoos, especially when they have a child-like feel. I like the bold line weight and the heavy use of well-saturated black areas.
The little flowers are so cute and I like the story that this tattoo tells of a girl in her dungarees looking out at a lighthouse while a bird flies by.
5. Sketched Lighthouse
This tattoo is super unique because of the space-like feel, as if the lighthouse has been shot up into the sky. The line work in this tattoo is almost perfect and the dot work shading is a nice touch.
I love the subtle bricks in the lighthouse and the waves’ flow. The Fibonacci spiral is a lovely extra touch to the geometric elements of this tattoo.
6. Lighthouse Lady
A lighthouse tattoo doesn’t just have to be a tattoo of a lighthouse by itself! This design is so interesting and dynamic. I like how this artist illustrated the birds on this tattoo, going from black to white to blue.
The dots on her face are an interesting touch, and I like the lighthouse cutting across her eye. The shading in the nose is so soft, and I love the white highlights in the eyes, on the lips, and the nose.
7. Small Lighthouse Tattoo
I love how simplistic this little lighthouse is. It is very well designed for a smaller tattoo – sometimes artist try to squeeze too much detail into these smaller tattoos but this one has space to breathe.
I like the little bit of cross-hatch shading and the tiny birds. I love the lines illustrating the light coming off of the top of the lighthouse and the rocks that the lighthouse is sitting on.
8. Watercolor Lighthouse
Here’s a great take on a watercolor tattoo – it looks just like something my grandmother would have painted while she is sitting out on the porch looking at the ocean. There is a misconception that watercolor tattoos don’t hold up well over time, but that is not always the case.
The use of black in this tattoo makes for great contrast and stops the tattoo from looking too muddy, which can often happen with watercolor tattoos.
I like the color palette and the splashes coming off of the waves. The middle of the lighthouse is so delicate and almost looks like it is covered in moss.
9. Soft Black and Grey Lighthouse
This tattoo is so soft and smooth and full of movement! I love the light rays coming off of the lighthouse and the waves twirling up the building.
Check out the detail in the banister and the glass on the lantern. The line work is super fine and the white highlights are gentle and effective.
10. Neo-Traditional Lighthouse
I love this take on a neo traditional tattoo with a twist! The color palette is so unique and I love the single needle line work next to the bold outline. I especially like the texture of the green sea and the rocks.
The composition is also fantastic! The rope border and the anchor add to the ocean theme and frames the tattoo beautifully.
11. Sketchy Lighthouse
Another gorgeous stand-alone lighthouse tattoo!
I like the tiny bricks and the lines indicating the rays of light coming off of the lantern. This tattoo has a slightly more sketchy feel to it and the size is perfect for the placement on the forearm. It is clean, delicate, and feminine.
12. Lighthouse Anchor
I like this mashup of two designs into one – lighthouse meets anchor. Anchors represent strength and perseverance, which works perfectly alongside the meaning of a lighthouse.
I love the dark Japanese-inspired waves on the bottom of the anchor and the whip shading coming off of the lantern. The bold outline packs a punch!
13. Heart Lighthouse
I love the concept of a lighthouse tied to an anatomical heart – I imagine it carries a lot of meaning for this client, especially since they chose to have it in such a bold spot.
The sternum is notoriously tricky to tattoo, but this artist did a good job with the line work and the textured whip shading.
I love the tiny bricks and the way that they shaded the waves. A bold and interesting tattoo! If you like heart tattoos, I suggest you check out our list of 21 Broken Heart tattoos.
14. Lightbulb Lighthouse
Another lovely example of how well lighthouses work in various borders and designs. It’s a lighthouse in a lightbulb!
The line work is clean, the color is extremely well-saturated and they all work beautifully together. I love the clear white highlight along the side of the lighthouse and the little white dots in the waves and on the flower. I especially like the way the artist chose to do the shading around the design.
15. Wave Lighthouse
The shape and flow of this tattoo is super unique for a lighthouse tattoo! I love the way that the wave is cut into a circle. The line work is very clean, and the soft shading works well with this design.
16. Whip Shading Lighthouse
This tattoo is packed full of texture, and I love it. From the clouds to the rocks to the buildings, this artist has spent a lot of time paying attention to the different elements of the tattoo.
I especially like the way they chose to do the clouds as they are full of emotion. The dot work is beautiful and the line work is fine and consistent.
17. Line Work Lighthouse
My partner does a lot of these sketched-style tattoos, and I really enjoy them for their creativity.
I love the movement created in the lines around the whole design, and the addition of the dark moon is a unique touch. This tattoo has a bit of a spooky feel, which speaks to my love of dark imagery. The line work is well-executed and the placement is spot-on!
18. Color Realism Lighthouse Sleeve Tattoo
I am not the biggest fan of color realism, but this one is the exception. I especially like the detail in the little windows!
The sky looks like a beautiful sunset is happening along the coastline, and the artist chose the perfect colors for this. I love the wave splashing against the side of the lighthouse and the deep, rich ocean water. The placement and size is perfect for a tattoo with this much detail in it
19. Black and White Lighthouse Tattoo
The thing I like most about this tattoo is how the artist chose to leave the areas of open skin, especially the light rays from the lantern and the rocks.
The clouds are stunning – lots of texture and depth have been created with dot-style shading. I like how simplified the lighthouse and rocks are against the background, as this creates a great contrast. A beautiful and interesting tattoo!
20. Lighthouse Traditional Tattoo
I love the boldness of this tattoo. The addition of the swallow and the boat helm speaks to the nautical theme of the tattoo.
I love the way that color palette and the way the turquoise waves contrast with the purple details in the lighthouse. The line work is extremely clean, and the whip shading is beautifully textured. This tattoo fits the shape of the calf and is balanced extremely well.
21. Blackwork Lighthouse
I love how weathered and ancient this lighthouse looks.
I love the bold outline and the stripes along the lighthouse. The rocks are full of texture, and the splashes of the waves against the base of the lighthouse are dynamic and full of movement.
22. Island Lighthouse
This tattoo is unique because of the shape of the lighthouse – it is a lot shorter than they usually are!
I love the little individual stones on this island and the birds flying around. I especially like how the water has been illustrated and how the design fits on the thigh.
23. Simple Lighthouse Tattoo
This tattoo is just so gorgeous and simple. I love that they decided only to illustrate a tiny bit of the top of the lighthouse, but we still know exactly what it is.
It reminds me of a scientific sketch of a lighthouse. The line work is very clean, and I like the subtle shading.