Chest Tattoos: Exploring Symbolism, Pain and Expression

As tattooing has grown more and more popular over the years, as have different styles and sizes. Tattoo enthusiasts often save big areas of skin for certain designs or artists, as the chest is an area that demands attention. 

Chest tattoos can have a variety of meanings, depending on the overall design and interpretation provided by the wearer. With this area being a huge canvas to play with, some people opt for more asymmetrical patchwork style torso designs, whereas others tend to focus more on a symmetrical design with an underlying message.

Chest Tattoos

The fact of the matter is, it’s your skin, so choose as you wish! Today we’re going to delve into some of the meanings behind chest tattoos, as well as discussing some chest tattoo ideas, to hopefully guide you on a path to making a decision about what you’re going to do with that big ol’ patch of empty space on the chest.

A Deeper Understanding to Chest Tattoos

Every chest tattoo has its own narrative in accordance to the wearer. Symbolism plays a crucial role, with each element carefully chosen to convey a message or evoke an emotion.

For a lot of people, chest tattoos serve as tributes to loved ones, with portraits, names and dates often being focal points of these designs. As the design is anatomically closer to the heart, it provides subconscious representation of meaningfulness to the wearer.

Cultural heritage also prominently features in chest tattoos, with symbols, motifs and designs drawn from ancestral traditions. From Celtic knots to Polynesian patterns, these tattoos pay homage to lineage, cultural pride and spirituality, combining past and present in a timeless manner.

In addition to personal symbolism, chest tattoos can often convey broader themes of persistence, resilience, strength and representation. Whether it’s an eagle spreading its wings symmetrically across the chest, or a compass guiding the way of life, these images can speak to the human capacity for growth and change, as well as renewal and rebirth.

Pain Points

The process of getting a chest tattoo is not the most pleasant of experiences to say the least. Unlike more fleshy areas of the body (fleshy doesn’t always mean less pain – just ask anyone with a calf tattoo) the chest is predominantly more sensitive as the skin can be thinner, as well as within close proximity to bone, contributing to the experience being both physically and mentally taxing.

Pain Points

For some, the pain is simply part of the process and needs to be done, almost like a rite of passage that can really test your dedication to the artform. Often enduring hours upon hours of discomfort, the end result can leave the wearer with a sense of accomplishment, for putting themselves through a grueling yet almost meditative experience, whilst also being up close and personal with the artist, due to the tattoo location.

The Power of Expression

At its deepest and darkest level, the allure of chest tattoos lies in the wearer’s ability to endure the pain that is necessary to complete the piece, subsequently empowering the individual with what could be classed as a badge of honor. Chest tattoos can provide authentic expression to individuals as the area is covered for the majority of the time, only exposed to those who it’s wished to be shared with.

Aftercare for a large chest tattoo

Aftercare for a chest tattoo is of utmost importance, as it’s a large canvas that can be exposed to lots of different elements whilst going through the healing process – changing T shirts, wearing bags over the shoulders, sleeping on your chest.. The list goes on. Be sure to focus on minimising any friction between clothing and your fresh piece whilst moving through the healing process.

At The Hangout, we also use Second Skin which can provide a nice protective layer over the piece, for up to 5 days.

We’ve talked about chest tattoos in a previous blog where we’ve mentioned the importance of aftercare and looking after your tattoo in general. Considering the chest is a very prominent spot for a large piece – you don’t want to tarnish the finished results by not looking after it correctly.

Chest Tattoo Design Ideas

We’ve covered the fundamentals, so let’s have a gander at some design ideas to help you on your way to solidifying a decision on what you want to feature in your chest tattoo.

Symmetrical Designs

Symmetry tends to always take the lead when it comes to chest tattoos, as there’s something so aesthetically pleasing about seeing a big symmetrical piece on a torso, highlighting the skill of the artist involved and the inner strength and perseverance of the wearer.

Symmetrical designs often invoke a sense of order and elegance, drawing the eyes in with their precision.

Asymmetrical Designs

In contrast to symmetrical designs, asymmetrical chest tattoos tend to symbolise irregularity and spontaneity. Asymmetrical designs allow for greater freedom of expression, as artists will often play with proportions, angles and negative space to create visually striking compositions.

Below is an example of an asymmetrical japanese style design, fusing colours and harmony together into one big piece.

Patchwork Designs

This style of tattooing embraces the impulsive side to human nature, celebrating diversity and individuality, weaving together fragments of imagery to tell a unified story.
Patchwork designs often incorporate similar sized pieces on each side of the torso, offering a loose feel of symmetry and bringing all the patchwork designs into one unified piece

Patchwork Designs

A popular start to a patchwork torso would be starting up around the collarbone and moving outward from that point, as well as usually sticking to the same style of tattooing for the entirety of the patchwork piece.


By this point you should be on your way to making a decision about what kind of chest tattoo style you’d want to go for. Considering how big of a canvas the chest is, it’s extremely important to put a lot of thought into what you’re going to fill that space with, so that you can continue that style across the rest of the torso if you feel like doing so later on the cobblestone path that is life.

We at The Hangout take pride in having these conversations with our clients, often discussing what their future plans are with tattoos, to make sure that it will continue to align with the style and look you are going for. If you’re travelling through Vietnam and you’re itching to get your chest piece started, feel free to fill out our booking form and drop some dates that you will be in Hoi An and we will be more than happy to organise a free consultation for you.

>> More Acticle: Exploring Chest Tattoos For Men: A Canvas for Expression