If you think a pricey tailored suit is expensive today, consider the armor back in the Middle Ages. Needless to say, protection came with a hefty price tag but in comparison, so did death in the grueling blood-soaked battle fields.
In order to become a walking fortress, you’ll need to take a trip back 4th century in Japan. Here you’ll find horsemen bearing keikō and foot soldiers with tankō. Though different, both sleeveless designs followed similar standards with leather thongs and iron plates.
After reaching Italy the iron plate armor surged in popularity and eventually replaced chainmail for a good reason. Following the Black Death labor prices were at an all time high, which in return, made the less labor intensive plate significantly cheaper to produce. Yet, even well beyond the 15th century mail still had a place in the armpit and elbow areas where flexibility was required.
With the new armor among the battlefield, any man could be certain of protection from swords, spears and of course punches to the gut. However, it didn’t make a knight truly invincible. The pollaxe, long tapered sword, and halberd still meant death among impact.
By the 17th century, the popularity of plate armor had fallen, making it more or less reserved for the cuirassiers and nobility. It stood no chance against the invention of the flintlock musket, though it did make for revisions in the breast plate design during the Napoleonic wars.
As time progressed towards World War II, you could find flak jackets with plates of steel sewn inside of them. Next was fibre-reinforced plastics which emerged around the 1950s. The rest is history..
With that in mind, I’ve put together a collection of the top 90 best armor tattoo designs for men. You’ll find bold ideas featuring more than just armor plate. I’m talking about things like shields, gauntlets, helmets, and more. Most of these military themes are based around larger portions of the arm, however some are small in size and just as intriguing to look at!
1. Full Sleeve Armor Tattoos
Few tattoo designs lend themselves to a sleeve design quite like an armor tattoo. Armor is literally designed as a sleeve, so adapting it into a tattoo allows you to follow the natural flow of something designed to fit a human arm. The style and application can take on 3D aspects, full color design, or some realistic black and gray shading to give it that dynamism that flows with the shape of muscle and bone structure of your arm.
2. Colorful Armor Tattoos
If you’re a fan of the unique and unexpected, colorful armor tattoo takes a quirky approach to what can too often be a very static, mundane design. As most armor is typically monotone metal or leather, there often isn’t a lot of color choices available. But in tattooing you’re only limited by imagination (and budget).
Bold color choice can make an armor tattoo explode, adding accent and depth otherwise unattainable in a real piece if armor. The whole piece doesn’t need to be emblazoned with garish neon to be effective, even a small splash of color against a stark black backdrop can make this application stand out memorably.
3. Savage Armor Tattoos
Armor is part of a warrior’s attire so if you wish to amp up that sense of savage power, these brutal design techniques can take armor ink to the next level. Details like torn flesh, or seemingly metal surface texture that’s been made to look worn, dented and scratched during the heat of battle makes these applications of technique stand out. Too succeed using these style choices requires creative design, out of the box technical skill, and painstaking attention to detail in getting the tattoo done carefully.
4. Massive Armor Tattoos
A real suit of armor is just what the name says, a suit. An entire body covering of clanking metal or rustling, rubbing chain. Getting a whole body armor tattoo is definitely not feasible, however the bigger you can go with a cross section of realistic armor the more impressive it will look.
Armor tattoos that extend from the shoulder and arm to the back and chest really are superb examples showing off technical detail, precision linework, and intuitive shading to make these massive applications look their best.
5. Intricate Armor Tattoos
While armor can be plain and lacking in contrast and intricacy, there are ways to make bold, intricate armor tattoo that really stands out on your skin. Creating elaborate designs, making use of filigree and texture variation allows your artist to transform a flat image into something captivating and full of life. The linework must be tight and precise for this to be most effective, as do the shading effects, fill, and use of negative space. If the detail and precision isn’t captured correctly the tattoo will look muddy and amateurish, spoiling the whole effect.
6. Black and Gray Armor Tattoos
A black and gray application is one of the most common for armor tattoos as, realistically, most kinds of armor don’t feature a rich color palette to begin with. Forgoing that aspect of the design, artists can focus on using black and gray to create textures, angles, and even three-dimensional illusions through the use of shadow, linework, and negative space that are exciting and dynamic.
Black and gray is the most common style choice for an armor tattoo, and they can create some of the most striking and memorable expressions of ink that will hold up over time without suffering extensive fading or loss of detail.
7. Realistic Armor Tattoos
Realistic armor tattoos are deceptively hard to accomplish. Capturing the right texture of the steel or leather, the appropriate use of shading and negative space to make light play off the body art in a realistic way, or producing the overall three-dimensional look most often takes a master artist’s skilled hand. As the examples above demonstrate, the end result can be absolutely amazing if the armor concept has been properly executed.
Enjoy these armor examples but looking for more ink ideas to investigate? Click on the links below for more old school galleries: