Certain parts of the body are more sensitive than others. Because the way our nerves work, areas of the body with less muscle and more bone are the most painful areas to have tattooed. That makes the ribcage one of the most difficult to get tattooed. Don’t believe us? Pinch yourself on the upper arm near your shoulder. Now, pinch the skin on your ribs. A bit of a difference, right? Most people with normal pain thresholds can only sit for a short period of time while getting tattooed on the ribs. For more elaborate designs, many have to sit for multiple sessions to complete a ribcage tattoo. Not all people are normal and some people really like the way tattooing feels and they can get huge, detailed tattoos without even tearing up. We decided to look at some different ribcage tattoos and bring you some of the most unique, beautiful, and weird tattoo designs. Remember, the bigger and more intricate, the more painful.
This beautiful greyscale tattoo looks so incredibly delicate that it’s floating. The lines that compose the fins of this koi fish seem to disappear like smoke as they fan out. All of the shading probably really hurt, but it’s totally worth this special tattoo.
Take a breath. Take another breath. This extremely large and extremely detailed tattoo of Ganesha probably took hours. We certainly hope that the person who got this tattoo took a break or several. There is no doubt that this tattoo is stunning, however, we’re slightly worried for the person with it. Ouch!
When Live Gives You…
This is more like it! This sweet little black line tattoo of lemons was probably done in one sitting. Nothing too crazy going on here, just a really fun, sweet-not-sour design.
A Deep Dive
This photorealistic tattoo of a humpback with a scuba diver is deceptively simple looking. But you’d be mistaken if you thought this didn’t hurt that much. Because the scale of the tattoo is rather small all of the shading work had to be done in a concentrated area. That means the needles going over the same spots time and again. It’s a gorgeous tattoo, but it came at a cost.
The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo is one of the greatest masterpieces in European art. The hands of this tattoo are expertly done with clean lines and delicate grey shading. Like the whale tattoo, this might seem like a small feat, but in reality, it was probably a doozie to have done.
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These sleeping celestial bodies look so chill. But, we bet it didn’t feel that way! All of the tiny dots used to shade this tattoo are each an individual needle prick. There are a lot of little dots and therefore a lot of little agonies.
This jawdropping ninja-inspired tattoo is a busy one. Busy looking tattoos mean a busy tattoo artist. This tattoo has multiple colors, gradients, shading, fine lines, and so much more. It had to have hurt to get done, but there’s no way the person with this tattoo is disappointed.
Stay Dry Alligator
Ha! A cute little alligator with an umbrella was created with fine lines and crosshatch shading. This tattoo was nowhere near as painful as the last tattoo on the list, but it probably wasn’t a walk in the park.
Photorealistic tattoos like this one take so much time and patience. The person who got this lion tattoo must have had tons of both because this was no easy feat. For the sake of this person’s sanity, we hope this masterfully done tattoo was completed over several sessions.
The butterflies that make up this tattoo look like they could fly away at any moment. The vibrant colors of the butterfly wings contrast sharply with the dramatic “shadows” they cast. The butterflies might appear weightless, but the decision to get them was definitely not taken lightly.
Floral tattoo designs have always been and always will be popular. This person decided to get a tattoo of a bouquet of peonies. The design gently wraps up toward the armpit, which you need to know, is one of the worst places on your body to get a tattoo. The worst!
Somebody has a sense of humor! This prickly cactus tattoo is just so cute. Cactus flowers are symbols of motherly love because they always endure, even in harsh conditions. What a great idea for a tattoo.
Geometric Black Lines
While this tattoo has no grey or shading and is essentially a black line tattoo, it was probably pretty painful. Those sharp, thin lines are no joke. This very unique tattoo design is, however, really visually interesting.
Humming Through the Pain
This gentle looking hummingbird is so sweet, but it probably didn’t feel that way when it was done. There is a ton of detail in this small bird, including colors and feathers that took plenty of time to do. The end result is charming.
Where do we start with this one? A prayer? This heavy line tattoo might be the beginning of a tattoo before it is colored in. Can you imagine adding more to this? It’s a wild, somewhat scary design that we hope the person who got it loves. Metal!
A Woody at Sunset
Surf’s up! This incredible beach scene looks almost like a watercolor painting and not a tattoo. Tattoos like this take a lot of time because they come together in a similar fashion as a painted portrait. The colors in the sunset alone probably took the better part of an hour.
Octopus for Luck
This is a gorgeous black and grey tattoo with tons of detail. We love how the arms of octopus are tangled together and many are holding flowers. This tattoo sits a little lower down the ribcage so hopefully, it wasn’t too terribly painful. It’s a beauty.
The tattoo artist who shared this image called the person who got this tattoo “brave.” We’d say so! This dramatic tattoo of a jaguar has a lot of darkness to it which means a lot of pain. The way the leaves seem to fade as they fan out is a beautiful touch.
This tattoo of a skeleton’s hand with a rose was probably not too crazy to get done. We just really liked the design. If we had to guess, this was probably completed in one (very uncomfortable) sitting.
This watercolor tattoo looks Jackson Pollock inspired with drips of “paint” seeming to spray out from the central design. The tattoo artist has balanced the colors well and this bird has a ton of movement to it. This is also a big tattoo! See how it nearly wraps around this person’s side to the back? Ouch.
We love pandas. We love babies. We love this panda cub design. This rather modestly sized tattoo was probably not too incredibly painful. The shading and the delicate line work that gives the fur its texture were probably the worst part.
A Slithering Serpent
This bright and bold ribcage tattoo of a snake with flowers was a choice! The tattoo artist who shared this photo wrote, “Did this big ol snek [old snake] on Criss today! Thank you so much for sitting like a rock, you were one tough customer.” This huge tattoo took some courage but it really looks fantastic!
The Deconstructed Rose
Have you ever seen a rose like this? It almost looks like stained glass. This deconstructed rose design is so smart and stunning. We love the use of color.
This black ink crocodile tattoo is comprised of a lot of thick lines. We have absolutely no idea why this crocodile has a watch in its mouth. The only reasonable explanation is that someone wanted to visually illustrate the pun “crock-o-clock.”
This had to have hurt. From the giant flowers to the big locket at the center of this tattoo, there was so much work involved here. Every bit of this tattoo is filled with either color or shading which means an unholy amount tattooing. It’s a great tattoo! But, we wouldn’t wish the pain it took to get it on our worst enemy.
Ribcage tattoos are an opportunity for you to get personal. Because most people you meet are never going to see you with your shirt off, you can get a tattoo that really means something to you. That being said, ribcage tattoos are a big commitment. You have to master mind over matter! It’s also imperative to find a tattoo artist you really trust and who will be patient with you if you need to take multiple breaks or have it completed over multiple tattoo sessions.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 Playing Koi
- 2 Glorious Ganesha
- 3 When Live Gives You…
- 4 A Deep Dive
- 5 Mini Michelangelo
- 6 Celestial Peace
- 7 Ninja Inspired
- 8 Stay Dry Alligator
- 9 The Lioness
- 10 The Colors
- 11 Pretty Peonies
- 12 Getting Prickley
- 13 Geometric Black Lines
- 14 Humming Through the Pain
- 15 The Horror
- 16 A Woody at Sunset
- 17 Octopus for Luck
- 18 Jazzy Jaguar
- 19 The Valentine
- 20 Watercolor Bird
- 21 Panda Baby
- 22 A Slithering Serpent
- 23 The Deconstructed Rose
- 24 Crock O’Clock
- 25 The Locket
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