Everything You Need to Know About Ear Tattoos

The ear has become a popular place to get a tattoo, often to add to (or replace) ear piercings. Because ear tattoos are not easily hidden, it’s important for you as a tattoo artist to understand how do one correctly.

In this article, we’ll break down:

  • How much ear tattoos hurt
  • How much ear tattoos fade
  • Design ideas for each part of the ear

What To Know About Doing an Ear Tattoo  

flower tattoo in a small space on the ear

How Much Do Tattoos on the Ear Hurt?  

tattoo behind the ear with geometric shapes

Tattoos on and around the ear can be very painful. An important consideration with an inner ear tattoo is that there are a lot of nerve endings in that area. There also isn’t a lot of fat around the ear to protect the client from the pain of the ear tattoo. 

For an ear tattoo behind the ear, the skin is right on top of the skull, which will increase the amount of pain. 

And while on-the-ear designs aren’t on bone, ear cartilage is also extremely painful to have tattooed.

How Much Does an Ear Tattoo Hurt Compared to Other Areas?

As we explain in the Tattoo Pain Chart, tattooing thin skin, areas near lots of nerve endings, and skin right on top of a bone can be quite painful for the client. An ear tattoo is going to rate up there with the spine, hips, and knuckles for how much they hurt. 

On top of that, the buzzing and vibration of the tattoo machine that close to the client’s ear might cause additional pain, so check in with your client to make sure they’re okay.

How Much Will A Tattoo on the Ear Fade?

geometric shapes with tiny dots ear tattoo idea

Tattoos on the ear generally fade quickly, likely because ears are often exposed to the sun. Hair and hats can help shade the tattoo from the sun while it heals, but clients should use sunscreen on their ear tattoo once it heals to keep it from fading so quickly. 

Things like hair products and holding a phone up to the ear can also irritate a new ear tattoo and cause it to fade more quickly than usual. Similar to tattoos on the finger where the skin is thin and exposed to the elements, tattoos on the ear will generally start to fade fairly quickly.

Designing an Ear Tattoo

optical illusion ear tattoo to look like flower jewelry
tiny dots and stars tattoo

Common Ear Tattoo Designs

Some of the most common art you’ll see for tattoos behind the ear are related to the Harry Potter series. Lightning bolts and the groups of stars found at the bottom of the pages of Harry Potter books are very popular. 

Flowers are very common design requests for tattoos both on the ear and behind the ear. They’re versatile, so they can be made to fit within the contour of the ear and don’t take up too much space.

Things to Think About When Designing an Ear Tattoo 

Because of the small space, an ear tattoo design generally needs to be simple. Trying to fit a complicated design into such a tiny tattoo will make the design unreadable, and when the ink expands, the tattoo will look like a dark blob. However, there are a ton of different designs you can still do that complement the shape of the ear.

Minimalist tattoos like dots and line work are great for the inner ear because they really pop in a small area. You can add dot work to a minimal tattoo to make the design stand out even more. 

When you’re looking for cool inspiration for ear tattoo designs, try looking at something like a crescent moon, dragon, fish, or something else that has a flow similar to the shape of the ear.

An Ear Tattoo is Complicated, but Cool

body art

As a tattoo artist, there are a few important things to think about when a client requests an ear tattoo. As mentioned above, you should let a client know that ear tattoos are very painful and are likely to fade quickly. It’s important that your client understands this so they are prepared for the pain and able to take good care of their new tattoo. 

They should also understand that they will be able to see the tattoo machine in their peripheral vision (which can cause some clients to get worried). 

And, of course, if their tattoo wraps around in front of the ear, it borders on becoming a “face tattoo.” Your client needs to understand that public perception of them will change, and that some job positions will not accept a person with face tattoos. (This is why most tattoo artists refuse to tattoo young clients who want designs too close to the face.)

Ear Tattoo Design Inspiration Gallery

Nature-Inspired Tiny Tattoo

small, cute tattoos of tiny leaves
cute butterfly tattoo idea on the inner ear
lavender body art

Lines and Dotwork

delicate tattoos and tiny dots complement ear piercing
dots and lines ear tattoo to compliment ear piercings
flowing lines with white ink

Classic Designs

spooky tattoos behind the ear
creative tattoo placement
spider web detail on ear

Animal Tattoos

snake tattoo behind the ear
low key paw prints in black ink
bird form tattoo

Prepare for a Tattooing Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Learning the differences between tattoo styles is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

However, finding the straight-forward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start tattooing full time faster…

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

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  • 500 video modules
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Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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