Lantern Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Lantern Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Lantern tattoos are beautiful works of art that exude simplicity, elegance, and beauty. These tattoos usually have a plethora of different designs and styles and typically feature an ornate lantern containing a burning candle.

Lanterns themselves have played a significant role throughout history, illuminating the way for travelers and adventurers, and are considered a beacon of hope and guidance in metaphorical terms. In most cases, lantern tattoos symbolize light, guidance, hope, life, and wisdom among other values.

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What is the History of Lantern Tattoos?

Lantern tattoos have been around for quite a while and are really popular due to their simple and elegant designs. While people have been getting lantern tattoos for decades, the history of lanterns themselves is quite interesting and dates back to thousands of years in time.

Since ancient times, lanterns have been used as a source of light and protected the flame from dying down due to the wind. They were more powerful than simple candles or torches and were a guiding beacon for travelers and adventurers alike. 

While the role of lanterns in today’s modern world is greatly limited and they are typically used as decoration pieces (authentic ones are collected as antiques or valuables), their significance is the same as before. Even today, they’re considered symbols of light and guidance and are highly sought-after designs in the tattoo world.

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What Do Lantern Tattoos Symbolize?

Although different lantern tattoos symbolize different values for different individuals, there are some common interpretations that most lantern tattoos share. Most often, they are used to symbolize light, guidance, and hope. Lanterns also symbolize life, spirituality, faith, and identity in some cultures.

Lanterns also hold significance in different cultures and religions. In Chinese culture, floating lanterns represent the victory of light over darkness and symbolize joy, immortality, wisdom, and luck.

Metaphorically, lanterns also symbolize the search for guidance. The light from a lantern is thought to illuminate the way towards light and hope, away from darkness. In a more abstract sense, lanterns also represent one’s quest and journey to discover themselves and to find out the truth.

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What Do Lantern Tattoos Mean?

Lantern tattoos can mean and symbolize different things for different people. While lanterns are commonly known to represent light, hope, and guidance, people who get a lantern tattoo can ascribe their own meanings and representations to it. Here are some of them.

  • Represents somebody who is curious, likes to explore, and is always in search of answers
  • Provides motivation and inspiration to the wearer
  • Symbolize the quest for finding light in the dark or finding the correct path
  • Represents a tough and resilient personality, somebody who doesn’t lose hope in times of hardship
  • Represent a friendly, accessible person who helps guide other people
  • Represent an adventurous soul, embarking on new journeys

So, a lantern tattoo can have many meanings and interpretations depending on the wearer. However, some individuals might simply get a lantern tattoo because they find it beautiful and appealing and may not ascribe a particular meaning to it.

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Characteristics and Styles of Lantern Tattoos

When it comes to design characteristics, lantern tattoos have some unique ones that set them apart from other common tattoo designs. Let’s see what they are.


Most lantern tattoos depict a lantern containing a candle, a flame, or a ball of light. The lanterns are usually drawn with a variety of different colors and contain intricate patterns. Lantern tattoos are usually exquisitely detailed and occasionally feature simple designs. These tattoos are also mostly large in size and cover a significant area of the body.


Lantern tattoos come in a host of different styles and patterns. Besides having a lantern, they also feature skulls, roses, smoke, fire, plants, flowers, and candle wax. The lanterns themselves can be big or small and are drawn with different colors. In some tattoos, the lantern also has an inscription drawn into it. Some styles even feature large, detailed drawings depicting other objects with a lantern at the center of them.

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Where Do Lantern Tattoos Usually Go?

So, on which areas of your body can you get a lantern tattoo? The answer to this depends on the size of the tattoo. If you want a big, wide tattoo with more elements in it, larger areas like your chest will be suitable choices. If, however, your tattoo mostly features a lantern and doesn’t spread much horizontally, your upper arm, forearm, and thighs can be good choices. 

Here are some of the best places to get a lantern tattoo:

  • Upper arm 
  • Forearm
  • Upper chest
  • Thighs and lower legs
  • Back of the neck
  • Back of the hand (for smaller tattoos)
  • Stomach (while this isn’t a popular tattoo location, go for it if you like the idea)
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Some popular Lantern Tattoo designs

There is no dearth of beautiful, elegant, and captivating lantern tattoo designs. And since the human imagination knows no limits, tattoo artists are always coming up with great ideas for lantern tattoos. Here are some of the best and most popular lantern tattoo designs, in our opinion.

  1. Eagle clutching lantern (upper arm)
  2. Intricate lantern-themed tattoo (leg)
  3. Candle lantern with leaves
  4. “Let The Fire Breathe Me Back To Life” lantern tattoo
  5. Lantern and roses tattoo
  6. Lantern tattoo with wolves and roses (upper chest)
  7. Ornate lantern tattoo (back of the neck)
  8. Ornate lantern among ocean waves tattoo (back of the hand)
  9. Candle lantern with smoke (arm)
  10. Simple lantern among leaves (side of the leg)

Final thoughts

A lantern tattoo is definitely worth considering for anybody thinking of getting a new tattoo. Lantern tattoos are beautiful and elegant and convey many different ideas based on the practical and metaphorical significance of lanterns, as well as the meanings the wearer ascribes to them.

In this guide, we went over everything you need to know about lantern tattoos and hope you found it a helpful and enjoyable read. Thank you for reading!

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