20 Ideas for a Grandfather’s Memorial Tattoo


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The truth is, there's never enough time to love a grandfather while he's here with you. When he’s gone, a memorial tattoo can help you honor and remember him—and maybe smile a little. Don't think of it as lowbrow art or hipsterism. Tattoos are just another way to honor your loved one.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Getting inked is a huge commitment and takes a lot of research to find the right artist for your piece. Plus, knowing what you want to get will help you find the best artist with a portfolio that matches your vision.

Take a look below for some ideas to get you started on your search.

Post-loss tip: If you or someone you know could use some guidance through the complex process of losing a parent, grandparent, or any loved one, our post-loss checklist can help. 

Small Memorial Tattoos for Grandpa

Smaller tattoos and uncomplicated designs take a lot less time, plus you don't have to be committed to the full sleeve or back tattoo.

The saying is that you can never have just one, and small tattoos mean you'll have more of a canvas with which to work.

1. Hobbies

After retirement, your grandpa probably started up a few exciting hobbies.

Whether he was part of the morning coffee crew at the local greasy spoon, started a garden club, or joined a birding group, there's plenty to unpack if you're looking for creative ways to honor someone.

2. “Blue Collar” hat

The blue-collar sector is full of proud working-class folks. Here's a way to show your granddad you appreciate the years of hard work and sacrifice and also pay homage to an industry that lays the foundations which make our world possible.

3. Life influences

What early influences helped your grandfather make confident life choices? For instance, did his time as a high school lifeguard facilitate a boat building career?

Or, maybe his love of fossils caused a lifelong search for rare flower seeds. You'll find some great ideas in those beginnings. 

4. Antlers, fish, or feathers

If your gramps was like mine, he was an avid outdoor sportsman with about a million different stories.

So, if you remember him baiting your fishhook or teaching you about the ecosystem while out in the wild, here’s an opportunity to reflect those memories in a tattoo.

5. Religious or spiritual reference

Was your grandpa's devotion to his faith a dominant characteristic? If so, then commission an artist to draw up a small representation of his belief.

Once you've been tattooed, you may think about making additions to it as years pass by.

6. Cowboy boots

Work boots say a lot about a man. Whether your Big Paw was a cattleman or owned some worked land, you can do a lot with a pair of cowboy boots.

Add sunflowers or yellow roses to bring in some sunshine. Or, drape a flag over them to indicate his patriotism.

Tip: Another way to honor your grandpa's memory is with a custom urn. Create an urn that's one-of-a-kind to reflect your grandpa's legacy and passions with Foreverence

Medium or Large Memorial Tattoos for Grandpa

If you're looking to make more of a statement, you're gonna spend more time in the tattoo chair. Because it'll be so much more extensive and costly, you'll want to work with an artist who fully understands the final vision the way you do.

7. Homage to military service 

You might feel lost trying to find the right art for your tattoo, from dog tags to flags, eagles, to specific squadrons or branches of the military.

To help solve this, give your grandma a call. Ask her what she recalls was most important to your Grandpa. Her answers might surprise you.

8. Portrait 

If there's one tattoo that requires a lot of research, it's portraiture.

Whether you choose a youthful or seasoned grandfather, you'll want a professional who can match the photo without it looking like someone else. So, take time to scrutinize their portfolio.

9. Yellow rose

If your pawpaw made everyone in the room smile the moment he walked in, then you might like a tattoo of a yellow rose.

These roses are warm, bright, and cheery, which may be why they're associated with warmth and happiness. Add his name along the stem, and you're finished.

10. First car

Your granddaddy's first car may have been cherry, but it was probably well-used and well-loved.

Regardless, he probably took great pride in the one thing that could take him from home to freedom any hour of the day, and seven days a week.

11. Landscape

When I think of my grandfather, I see train tracks and farm fields. However, you might see the mountains and a valley.

No matter the vista that you’ve got in your mind, translate that into a full back tattoo filled with symbols of things you used to do together.

12. Patriotic emblems

Even if your pops wasn't a military member, chances are he was patriotic to the core. The statue of liberty could rest on your right forearm.

The great eagle and US flag could fill your back. You could even display a collage of all things American across your chest.

13. Birds and beams to the sky

Birds and beams will signify a release from this earthly bind and a renewal of life up in the heavens above. While the tattoo itself isn't too detailed, it'd be very dramatic as a full back tattoo.

Pro-tip: If he was a birder, include one of his favorites.

Grandpa Memorial Tattoo Sayings and Quotes

Here’s how to achieve a minimalistic tattoo with a twist on the familiar rest in peace quotes. With words, sometimes less is more. But, it’s your canvas to do with as you please.

14. “I am because you were.”

Short and sweet quotes make for perfect additions to a heart, ribbon, dove, or the like.

It’s not a  lengthy quote nor an extravagant tattoo, but the meaning is profound. Use it for the granddad-mentor who shared wisdom with you at every turn. 

15. “Back in my day…”

Here's a saying you hate to hear until you realize how useful and accurate it is. Once you do, you'll finally see eye to eye with the man who used to shake his head at your music, clothes, and lingo. 

Pro-tip: Companies make and send temporary tattoos for those who can’t decide on the best placement. Order one and you can test out the location before it's permanent.

16. “Like my grandpa used to say, never trust your grandpa.”

This is the kind of humor a grandpa would use and then time you on how quickly you got the joke. It’s also the kind of joke that you’d hear from Statler and Waldorf on The Muppet Show.

17. “Those we love that never truly leave us. There are things death cannot touch.”

As you've come to realize, even when someone has passed away, they're still in our thoughts and hearts every day. A smell or a sound reminds you of them.

A familiar laugh or a song pops in your head when a room is silent. If these things happen to you, then the saying is spot on.

18. “For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.”

Here’s an excerpt from Kahlil Gibran's poem, On Death. It conveys that both life and death are locked in an eternal embrace; death gives life reason.

It'll work for the Grandfather who taught you to seize every moment rather than sit and wait for the inevitable.

19. “Gone fishing”

These two words would work well beneath a sunset or next to an empty boat, a metaphor by way of an image. Or, add a date to keep the tattoo as simple as possible. 

Pro-tip: Scroll the internet to generate a few ideas before you settle on what you’re going to get inked.

20. “Grandfather, Sacred One, teach us love, compassion, and honor. That we may heal the earth and heal each other.”

This short Ojibway prayer works if your memory of your grandfather’s wisdom began and ended with patience, peace, and gratitude.

Pair the words with small images of animals with their young to represent the two of you. 

Getting Inked for Grandpa

Your Grandpa took his job seriously. He was there to gift you with love, time, and the occasional drops of wisdom that stuck like glue. More people are choosing alternative memorials for their loved ones, like unique urns, tattoos, and memorial jewelry. Whether you create a custom tattoo or a memorial diamond with Eterneva, he's sure to look upon this remembrance with joy. 

That's why getting a tattoo in his memory makes sense. With any luck, we've got you on the right track for the perfect tattoo to remember your grandpa.

If you're looking for more tattoo ideas, read our guides on Army memorial tattoos and cancer memorial tattoos.

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