for tattooed people, and those who want to be

On symmetry and balance


JM’s comment on my post about geometric designs, concerning symmetry intrigued me.

Many of us feel that our body art should be balanced.  That is, if we have a certain number of tattoos on the right side, we should have an equal number on the left.

Thus, after getting my first tattoo over my right collarbone, I got the second on the inside of my left ankle.  Then I got another over my left shoulderblade.  My original intention was to get a fourth tattoo on the outside of my right leg, but you know how life sometimes interferes with your best-laid plans.

I see the balance as right/left, inside/outside.  None of my tattoos even slightly resemble each other, although the tattoos over my collarbone and over my shoulderblade cover approximately the same area.  I added on to the tattoo on my left ankle, making it much bigger than it started out, and I would have balanced that with a fairly large design on the right.

But I had an unplesant reaction to the red ink in the “upgrade” on my ankle tattoo, so I have put further ink on hold for a while.  It still feels as though I should get one more to achieve that balance.

Now, in my mind, balance and symmetry are entirely different concepts.  One can have balanced designs that are not symmetrical, and symmetrical designs that are not balanced.  Put a gorgeous mirror-image artwork on your right hip and leave it at that, and you’re not balanced.

I admit my view on the matter is somewhat quirky.  Some people feel that in order to be balanced the artwork has to be pretty much the same on both sides.  Some people feel the subject matter has to be either the same or closely related.  Some see balance only as symmetry and require the artwork to be symmetrical across the center line, wherever it’s placed.

What are your views on symmetry and balance?  Did you make an effort to achieve one or the other or both when you got your ink?  I’d be interested to hear how we all feel about this.

Creative Commons License photo credit: bobster1985,

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Author: infmom

I got my first tattoo when I was 46. I hope the people who read this blog don't have to wait that long. I love talking about body art.


  1. The link didn’t follow.

  2. I had my red bunny for a short while before I realized when it was showing I would be conscious how my body was positioned and who was looking at it. I either wanted it seen, or I would be embarassed by it a bit (A guy with a playboy bunny is unusual)

    So, I took the next step and got a symmetrical blue bunny on the other arm. For some reason I feel better knowing it’s always being seen.

  3. I don’t have a tattoo because I’m too dark but I love them when they’re done properly. I think the most beautiful are the very intricate full body art works that are popular among the Japanese Yakuza (I think that’s what they’re called). A single theme but not necessarily perfectly symmetrical is very cool. I hope that makes sense.

    • I agree! Those full body suits are some of the most beautiful artwork anywhere, on skin or not. I can’t imagine the time and patience it would take to get that done.

      Everything conforming to a single theme is definitely one form of balance. 🙂

  4. I think the only symmetry or balance I’m aiming for is that now that I have a tattoo honoring my FIL, I feel like I need one for my Mom, my dad, and my MIL. Yet, I don’t want anything around my first tattoo, because that’s for me. It will stand alone 🙂

    • That sounds like perfectly balanced ink to me! 🙂

      I didn’t want anything around my first tattoo either, but lately I’ve been thinking about going back to the artist and getting him to turn it into a half sleeve. Decisions, decisions.

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