by Tori Jones
Plague Doctor Tattoo

Dive with me into the intriguing world of Plague Doctor Tattoos, unique body art inspired by a historic era, tinged with symbolism, history, and a hint of gothic horror. Our journey today will illuminate the captivating symbolism behind these distinctive figures, explore the artistic elements contributing to their allure, and spark your imagination with a gallery of my favorite Plague Doctor Tattoo designs.

No matter if you’re a tattoo connoisseur or a budding enthusiast, this post is your ticket to a profound understanding of tattoo culture, history, and artistry, all centered around the enigmatic Plague Doctor. You may even be inspired to commemorate these historical figures in your own unique ink. After all, what better canvas for storytelling than our own skin?

Plague Doctor Tattoo
@apso_tattoo Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

Plague Doctor Tattoos

Plague Doctor Tattoo
@andreytattooing Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

One thing is for certain when it comes to tattoos – nothing is off-limits. Among the intricate galaxies, daring dragons, and ornate dreamcatchers, we find the oddly captivating Plague Doctor tattoos. This fascinating design, which unearths the eerier corners of history and human nature, has become an alluring choice for those with a penchant for the dark and macabre. So, let’s shed some light on this gothic figure and help you map out your own rendition of a Plague Doctor tattoo.

What is a Plague Doctor Tattoo?

The first time I inked a Plague Doctor tattoo, I was taken aback by the profound mix of symbolism it carried. These designs are a throwback to the times when the Black Plague swept over Europe, and these eerie bird-masked figures traversed the cobbled streets to attend to the sick. While their arrival was a grim omen, they have transcended history to become an inimitable symbol of death and the inevitable.

It’s no surprise that Plague Doctor tattoos have found a devoted fan base among horror aficionados. The design’s instantly recognizable bird mask is not just creepy but it held a significant purpose. Back in the day, these elongated beaks were filled with sweet-smelling herbs and spices as an attempt to combat the omnipresent stench of death – a haunting blend of desperation and innovation.

Plague Doctor Tattoo
@krishtattoo Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

These tattoos might not vary drastically in terms of the design base, but there’s no shortage of ways to add your personal spin to it. Some choose to soften the dark undertones, making it less terrifying, while others lean into the grit and horror associated with it. The choice is as diverse as the tattoo community itself.

Why a Bird Mask?

You might wonder, as I did during my first few Plague Doctor pieces, why the bird mask? Was it a grim fashion statement? The truth is both intriguing and steeped in superstition. Back in the plague times, birds were thought to be the harbingers of the disease. So, in a peculiar ‘hair of the dog’ approach, they tried to become the bird itself, particularly the crow – an omnipresent symbol of death in many mythologies. Quite the curious case of medieval symbolism, isn’t it?

Plague Doctor Tattoo Meaning

Plague Doctor Tattoo
@trash.wizard Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

Every tattoo tells a story, and the Plague Doctor is no different. It’s a multifaceted symbol representing:

  • The fleeting nature of life
  • The certainty of mortality
  • A personal journey of illness recovery
  • A nod to the history of medicine

Reflect on what a Plague Doctor means to you before you get it etched onto your skin. The long-beaked mask, the towering hat, the dark robes might stir up a shiver in your spine, or maybe it carries a different resonance for you. The beauty of this design is in the flexibility it offers.

Plague Doctor Tattoo Styles

Selecting the tattoo style is half the fun in your tattoo journey. Here are some popular choices that might inspire you.

American Traditional Plague Doctor Tattoos

American Traditional Plague Doctor Tattoo
@inkapothecary Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

The traditional approach to Plague Doctor tattoos is a popular one, capturing the gritty realism of the Dark Ages. Often composed of black and grey ink with expert shading, this style brings the haunting history of the plague doctor to life on your skin.

New School Plague Doctor Tattoos

New School Plague Doctor Tattoos
@darkmatter____ Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

For those who wish to add a pop of color and playfulness to this otherwise grim figure, the New School style is a fantastic option. Defined by vibrant colors, thick lines, and a cartoonish touch, it highlights the defining features of the plague doctor in a less daunting way.

Plague Doctor Tattoo Ideas

Whether you’re going for a terrifying representation or a softer interpretation of the Plague Doctor, here are some ideas to kickstart your creativity.

Horror Plague Doctor Tattoos

Horror Plague Doctor Tattoo
@kikekrebs Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

This has been a personal favorite of mine, especially for horror movie buffs. Incorporate the Plague Doctor into a comprehensive sleeve, blending it with your favorite horror movie icons or imagery. The result? A chilling, awe-inspiring piece of art that nods to a dark period of human history.

Steampunk Plague Doctor Tattoos

Being a tattoo artist, I’ve seen the rise of many trends, but nothing quite like the Steampunk Plague Doctor. One memorable instance was when a client came in asking for a Plague Doctor design but with a twist. They were a big steampunk fan and wanted to incorporate that aesthetic into their tattoo. What unfolded was a fascinating journey into this retro-futuristic fantasy.

Steampunk Plague Doctor Tattoo
@rockymountaintattoo Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

Steampunk, originating from science fiction, reimagines a world where steam power is at the forefront. Picture advanced technology wrapped in vintage knobs and cogs. So, how did the Plague Doctor find a home in this realm? Well, it’s probably the ‘what if’ factor. What if our world ran on steam power? What if bird-beaked doctors were the pinnacle of medical science? Steampunk thrives on these curious, fun questions, making it the perfect backdrop for a Plague Doctor tattoo.

Gothic Plague Doctor Tattoos 

Not far from the steampunk world, I’ve seen plenty of interest for Gothic Plague Doctor tattoos. Once, I had a client who was deeply into the Gothic scene. They wanted a Plague Doctor that encapsulated the essence of the gothic culture, embracing the shadows of life.

Gothic Plague Doctor Tattoo
@davidhutsontattoos Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

It’s not hard to see why. The Gothic scene has always been comfortable with the concept of death. With the Plague Doctor having been around when the Black Plague claimed millions of lives, it takes on the role of a Grim Reaper. The isolation associated with the Plague Doctor, due to their link with death and disease, also resonates with the often misunderstood nature of the Gothic world.

Things to Consider before Getting A Plague Doctor Tattoo

If you’re now considering a Plague Doctor tattoo, you might be a little uncertain about where to begin. Here are some factors to think about while planning your design alongside your tattoo artist.

Tattoo Color Scheme

Plague Doctor Tattoo
@jseate Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

Traditionally, Plague Doctor tattoos lean towards darker shades. I’ve inked many a Plague Doctor design using only black and grey. However, there’s no rule saying you need to stick to tradition. If a burst of color is what you’re after, go for it! Whether you prefer a New School design or a watercolor approach, don’t hesitate to add vibrancy to your design.

Tattoo Size and Tattoo Placement

The Plague Doctor tattoos I’ve worked on range from intricate sleeves to petite designs. They can be placed anywhere on the body. I’ve found that fans of the horror genre often opt for visible areas such as the upper arm, leg, or ribs. This gives the tattoo artist enough space to include all the necessary details. But if a smaller tattoo is what you’re after, there’s no shortage of options. Smaller tattoos on parts of the arm, leg, or shoulder can be just as striking.

Tattoo Artist

Plague Doctor Tattoo
@all_the_things_tattoo Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

The right tattoo artist can bring your vision to life. You’d want to select an artist who specializes in the style you have in mind. If you’re after a traditional Gothic-inspired design, an artist specializing in realism would be a great fit. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a quirky spin on the Plague Doctor, an artist experienced in Neo-traditional or American traditional styles might be your best bet.

How Much Will Your Plague Doctor Tattoo Cost?

When it comes to the cost of your Plague Doctor Tattoo, a few factors come into play. One of the primary determinants is your chosen artist. Specialized artists with a high demand may charge more for their expertise. Another consideration is the time it’ll take to complete your tattoo. As artists often charge by the hour, a more complex or larger design could take longer, increasing the cost. Your tattoo shop’s location can also impact the price, with urban-based studios often charging higher rates than those in less populous regions. So, while it’s challenging to put an exact price tag on your Plague Doctor Tattoo, these elements will give you a clearer picture of what to expect when budgeting for your unique piece of body art.

Plague Doctor Tattoo
@speakeasytat Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 


It’s been a joy to share my insights and expertise on Plague Doctor tattoos with you, truly a unique and powerful design choice. Whether you’re drawn to the intricate aesthetics of the steampunk culture or the depth and darkness of the Gothic realm, this iconic symbol can be tailored to fit your personal style and story. Remember to take your time planning the perfect design, considering factors like color scheme, size, and placement. Choosing the right tattoo artist is crucial, and while specialized artists might cost a bit more, their skills can turn your vision into an incredible piece of body art. Be aware that the cost of your tattoo will also depend on its size and the location of your tattoo shop. But don’t let that intimidate you. Every tattoo is an investment in yourself, a piece of art you carry with you every day. Ultimately, your Plague Doctor tattoo should be something you love and feel proud to wear. So go ahead, get excited about your tattoo journey, and when you’re ready, take that next step. You’re about to become a part of an age-old tradition of self-expression. Happy tattoo planning!

You may also like