Skeleton key tattoo

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Key Tattoos – Key Tattoo Designs, Ideas & Meaning


The Meaning Behind Key Tattoos

Key tattoos are not just your typical lock and key tattoo anymore. There are more meanings to key tattoos other than the device to open a lock. Keys are also things we press that connect to make sound or to cause an electrical response. For example, keys on a piano and keys on a keyboard. Additionally, a key can be the little box with symbols and words describing their meaning on maps and other publications using signs that require explanations.

If you’re really into keys that open locks and want the very first one, it’s a block of wood with three pegs on one end; it kind of looks like a short pasta server. Still, the most popular key in terms of keys that open locks is the skeleton key. While the skeleton key is not the most ancient of all keys, it runs a close second place. This key has been around for about three thousand years. People use it because of its range from classic simplicity to elegant, ornate beauty.

Types of Key Tattoos and Their Meanings

Key and Lock Tattoos 

Key and lock tattoos are unique in their meaning and very mysterious. One might wonder what is so valuable that you must keep it under lock and key. It can represent freedom after a time in time in your life when you’ve felt imprisoned. It could also mean you are unlocking a new chapter in your life. In key tattoos, people use old locks and keys because of their style. Their unique-looking designs and craftsmanship are hard to find in modern-looking keys and locks.

Couples generally wear key and lock tattoos. One wears the lock, and the other wears the key. You will need to decide if you want body art or to keep it personal, meaning hidden. Either way, agree on style because you’ll want them to match, just like you! Most intricate key and lock tattoo designs come from Victorian times when a great deal of effort went into metal art. This same art is imitated in tattoos today.

Key to My Heart Tattoos 

Key to my heart tattoos are a very personal statement. This type of tattoo usually represents a beautiful moment in your life. The key to my heart tattoos will most often represent meanings such as; the love you share for someone who can only unlock your heart. Negatively, key to my heart tattoos can also express deep sorrow and betrayal. A heart with a tear or crack and a broken key can symbolize this meaning the best. Additionally, you can add things like torn ribbons, roses, or even thorns to these key tattoos.

Key to my heart tattoos with a message of love is very popular these days among couples. Their message is quite simple but very powerful. Only you can unlock my heart, or you have found your true love.

Skeleton key tattoos 

Skeleton key tattoos are among the most popular of the key tattoos. It is probably due to their versatility in design. Skeleton keys range from very plain to extremely ornate. A single key alone has many different meanings. These meanings are personal, and a viewer would have to question the wearer of these key tattoos as to their meaning. Keep in mind that there may not be any meaning. Many people wear body art for the sake of art. Most certainly, skeleton keys are considered metal art.

The art of creating skeleton keys is hundreds of years old. If you’re considering getting a skeleton key tattoo, be sure to study images of skeleton keys. Minimalists would enjoy the simplicity of designs created during that period. If you’re looking to wear a skeleton key simply because it fits in well with your body art, consider elaborate skeleton key tattoos.

Coloring for these keys can be all over the place. Original coloring, of course, would be realistic metal colors, steel, grey, black, and rust, anything metal oxidizes into. If you gravitate towards fantasy, cartoon, or overstated, you can use any color. Remember, the more elaborate the key, the more skin it will take; you’ll want to show that detail. However, the size of this tattoo allows placement just about anywhere on your body.

Piano key tattoos 

Piano key tattoos are popular with musicians, especially if they play the keyboard or piano. However, using piano keys in a tattoo is also appropriate for a person who may want to show a grouping of instruments to represent their membership and ability to play in a group. It can also express your love of music and especially music created from the piano.

Computer key tattoos 

Computer key tattoos are a fabulous new category emerging in the tattoo world, and the possibilities are endless. Using these key tattoos in very clever ways provides an opportunity for a unique piece of body art. For instance, commands that require multiple keys, such as control, alt, delete, for rebooting have been seen, and the meaning is obvious. For you, non-computer users, control, alt, delete, pressed all at the same time reboots, or allows stopping a program in its tracks. Using a delete key next to an inked name could be pretty humorous.

Small key tattoos

Coloring of Key Tattoos

Because of the types of key tattoos we’ve mentioned: key and lock tattoos, key to my heart tattoos, skeleton key tattoos, piano key tattoos, computer key tattoos, this coloring topic could be a little lengthy; but we’ll save that for another time and try to keep this section brief, this writing. Some of these key tattoos are self-explanatory in terms of color, and some can use some ideas. 

Key and lock tattoos beg for color. Metallic and realistic would be nice, but that, of course, depends on your choice of lock; whether you choose a new and shiny lock or an old and rusty lock. Computer key tattoos are the most intriguing in terms of color. You can virtually use any color you want. Of course, if you’re a Mac user, you may want white instead of black; but any color would be appropriate; it’s the key tattoo itself that will be significant in meaning. Piano key tattoos will require an excellent tattoo artist. The shading on these key tattoos makes or breaks the superb quality of the design.

Placement of Key Tattoos

The majority of the key tattoos would wear well in smaller sizes; however, that is entirely subjective. If a giant key is your thing, go for it. Large ornate skeleton key tattoos placed on the upper back could be stunning. On the other hand, tiny skeleton key tattoos are often hidden behind an ear. Hiding key tattoos is part of the fun of getting inked with one of these little gems. Piano key tattoos require a medium to a significant amount of skin. We’re talking length here, so plan on the leg, arm, and back or chest area. 

More Key Tattoo Designs


Skeleton Key Tattoo

Welcome! We are by appointment only. Please take the time to read our current Covid 19 Procedures. 

Skeleton Key Tattoo is a custom tattoo studio featuring artists Ximena Quiroz, Chaz Vitale, and Virgina Marting. We are proud to use vegan-friendly inks and tattoo products.

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Check out our Artists and Portfolio sections to learn more about our artists and see their work. We are all happy to work with you to create a work of art you’ll be proud to wear and show off.  Or visit our FAQ page for appointment and deposit information. If you’d like to see shop photos, announcements, and connect with us and find our artists individual pages, please visit us on Facebook  and instagram!

We love creating custom art for our clients! If you have a specific design in mind, we will be more than happy to work with you and your art. Currently we are by appointment only. When health guidelines permit, we will accept walk-ins on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to artist availability.

Schedule a consultation to tell us what you’re looking for!

Our Location:

1729 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland OR. 97214

Phone: 503-233-4292

Shop Hours:

To comply with COVID guidelines, we are currently operating by appointment only. Please email us orcontact your favorite tattoo artist directly to schedule. Regular hours will return eventually. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

Skeleton Key is closed December 24& 25, December 31& January 1. 

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144 Ingenious Key Tattoos

Key tattoos. Most people love tattoos with a story or meaning behind it. Next time you see one, you might be wondering, why that person decided to get that specific design. Key tattoos are one of the most popular meaningful tattoos. Some people choose to have a key tattoo, because popularly, a key’s job is to unlock. We often use the key as a metaphor, a cliché and a symbol of  a secret. A key is also a mystery which is very interesting because you don’t really know what it unlocks.

We have gathered 44 Ingenious Key Tattoos to inspire you:

1. Skeleton key with ribbon

A key with a ribbon is not what you often see in straight men.

2. Crossed key tattoos

I like the old fashioned design of the key and their big size.


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3. No. 13

A skeleton key with number 13. The number could be meaningful to the person who got the tattoo.

4. Fairy-tale like key tattoo

The artist did a great job, making the key tattoo look like it’s floating on the skin.

5. Realistic key tattoo

This tattoo has 3D effect making it look like a real key on the arm.

6. 2 keys belly tattoo

I wonder which locks these keys open too. LOL

7. Almost arm size antique key tattoo

The white inks turned me off.


8. Lock and key chest tattoo.

The colors are so vibrant, the artist did a great job.

9. Couples key tattoo

They are the key to each others heart. That is so sweet.


10. Crow and keys tattoo

I’m loving the effect on this. The crow looks so alive.

11. Crowned key tattoo

The key to her majesty’s bedroom. Pun intended.

12. Beautiful key tattoo

Detailed yet it looks simply beautiful.


13. Eye balloon and key tattoos

I love the idea, it is very original.


14. This is a nice feet key tattoo with a holder

The key has initials CS too.

15. Key through hand

I have no idea what this means. Usually you see a key and a heart lock, but hand lock, I couldn’t think of any.


16. Harry Potter inspired key tattoo

For the Harry Potter fans, here’s a Harry Potter flying key tattoo.


17. Heart stabbed with key tattoo

This is a morbid badass emo tattoo.

18. “Honesty is the Key”

Great idea.

19. Lock and key tattoo

Nicely done heart lock and key tattoo. It’s so neat and simple.


20. Dove carrying keys tattoo

It’s funny that the keys are bigger than the dove, do you think it will be able to lift it in real life? LOL


21. Inner arm key tattoo

At first glance it looks like scissors.


22. Full back literally speaking skeleton key tattoo

This one has love spelled on it.


23. Lock and key tattoos on both opposite arms

24. 2 keys in 1

A music key and a skeleton key, very cute and clever.

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25. Owl with key and lock tattoo

Nothing is more adorable than an owl tattoo carrying a key and with a lock necklace.

26. Crafty key tattoo

This is a very creative key tattoo, combining craft materials and the key itself. Something I definitely consider of having.

27. Oriental design key tattoo

28. Literally speaking, skeleton key tattoo

29. Black skeleton key tattoo with a skull design

30. Small key tattoo

31. Simple realistic key tattoo

32. Multiple key tattoos

33. Traditional style skeleton key tattoo

34. Traditional key tattoo

35. Feathered watch key


36. Upper arm lock and key tattoo

If you noticed, the key is also shaped like  scissors.

37. Lock and key tattoo

Some people who get a key tattoo, also get a lock tattoo

38. Quote and key tattoo

39. Sparrow with key tattoo

40. Wolf biting the key tattoo

41. Variety skeleton keys

42. Wrist key tattoo

43. Simple realistic key tattoo

Very simple yet very beautiful.

44. Ankle key tattoo with ribbon

Whether big or small, traditional or realistic, key tattoos are very cute and very meaningful to the wearer. Skeleton keys are very popular because of its beautiful and vintage look. The tattoo artist can make various key tattoos design despite it’s only the same object. Some people use it as a friendship bond, or a couple tattoo, sometimes key tattoos are matched with a heart shaped lock, one partner has the key, and the other has the lock tattoo.

Do you have plans of getting stomach tattoo? Check out our 30 Original Stomach Tattoos.

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144 Ingenious Key Tattoos

Filed Under: Tattoo Designs

60 Key Tattoos For Men

Keys have long been popular subjects to be tattooed. There is a lot of symbolism behind the key which makes them a fun tattoo to get. Keys can be small and unassuming, or they can be bigger with intricate designs. An example of the latter would be a skeleton key. We have all seen a skeleton key before. They look like they give you access to enter a place that is ancient or haunted. This interesting looking key has been around for ages and therefore, has a story to explain its origins.

Skeleton keys have been the subjects of stories and movies. It is fascinating that a key would garner so much interest, but this is the case with the skeleton key. They also make for great tattoos as they have a mysterious look to them and can be placed in almost any spot on the body. These old school keys have an allure to them and will have people wondering about the back story about why you got it.

In this post we will talk about the history of the skeleton key and where they came from. We will also discuss the symbolism behind this symbol and what it means to the person wearing the tattoo. The cool thing about the skeleton key tattoo is that you can make variations of it and add imagery to either boost or change what it is supposed to symbolize. By the end of this post you should feel more informed about the skeleton key tattoo. You might even consider getting one for yourself.

History of the Skeleton Key

Skeleton keys happen to be a hot item these days. From turning them into jewelry or adding them as accents to furniture, the skeleton key is a cool thing to have. Today, people are going beyond that and getting the image tattooed on their bodies. We wanted to talk about the history of the skeleton key to help you understand where they hype comes from.

The sole purpose of the skeleton key is to open a lock, and this is the obvious part. They are also known as a pass key because they are able to open a number of different locks which are known as warded locks. If you were to ask somebody about the name of the skeleton key, they might think it was named that way because the shape resembles a skull but the reason for the name is because it essentially a bare bones key. There is nothing to it except what’s needed to open a lock. The original skeleton keys had a single rectangular tooth and a cylindrical shank.

Back when locks and keys were first being used they were made of wood. You can trace these keys all the way back to Egypt and Babylon. These didn’t last very long because they were big and bulky and could be opened by force. Eventually, the mechanism changed and in the mid 1800’s, flat and modern keys like we know today started to be used. People still used skeleton keys in most houses until after World War II. There are still a lot of cases where homes built before the 1940’s still use these keys.

Skeleton Key Tattoo Meaning

These keys have a great deal of symbolism because of their history. Keys are known to open boxes, cabinets or locked rooms. The symbolism of the skeleton key tattoo starts with discovering or opening something that holds a secret. You might have a lot of things you hold close to your heart and this skeleton key tattoo symbolizes that. Skeleton keys are often able to open more than one door so there is a lot more symbolism in that.

Religiously, the skeleton key tattoo is important too. There are many mentions of “holding the key to heaven”. The hierophant in tarot is a religious person with two keys crossed on the image. When talking about Judaism, the key can be symbolic of impregnating a woman.

In our current culture, having a key can represent having access that most wouldn’t. Getting a key to a city is an honor bestowed upon some. The skeleton key could be symbolic of having a key to your heart. It might also represent having a key to freedom. Your tattoo might represent you discovering something about yourself that freed you in some sense.

Skeleton Key Tattoo Variations

The skeleton key tattoo is often depicted in different ways. It is often a matter of looking cool but some of them have specific meanings to the person with it. Below are a few examples of skeleton key tattoos that we thought were pretty cool.

Skeleton Key with Skull Tattoo

The skeleton key tattoo is often depicted with a skull on the top. Outside of the obvious connection of the skeleton key and the skull, many people are fans of the darker side of life. This tattoo might represent a key opening up the darker side of the person with this tattoo. It also just looks bad ass.

Skeleton Key with Heart Tattoo

The skeleton key tattoo with a heart design at the top is most likely symbolic of a key to your heart. On top of the skeleton key having a unique look, adding the heart adds a different element to the tattoo. Because of the expression of having a “key to my heart”, we often see hearts associated with key tattoos.

Skeleton Key with Crown Tattoo

When you add a crown to the skeleton key tattoo, it is said to be symbolic of having the keys to the kingdom. Many refer to their soul and body as their temple or kingdom and to have the crown might represent you being the king or queen of your domain. It just seems to fit so if you are going to get your own skeleton key tattoo, consider this an option.

If you are considering your own skeleton key tattoo, get creative with it. It is already a cool symbol, but you can make it your own by adding a few things. Your tattoo artist should be able to help you in this department as well.

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Key tattoo skeleton


Skeleton Key Tattoo Meaning


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