40 Dainty Behind The Ear Tattoos For The Subtlest Hint Of Ink

Looking for a little inspiration for your new behind the ear ink? Then look no further, because we've got you covered. Women.com is bringing you some of the daintiest and most subtle ink you can get behind either ear — which is probably for the best, seeing as the area isn't exactly known for being pain-free when it comes to the needle. The area actually contains a lot of bone and features thin skin, which can make it pretty uncomfortable when that tattoo needle hits. See, we told you it's probably a good idea to go smaller!

Just make sure you do your research before getting inked in this area, though, as it's also not always the easiest to cover up, especially if you don't have long locks. "It can seem like a daunting place to get tattooed, as it's fairly visible and anywhere near your head, neck, or face can seem a bit scary at first!" tattoo artist Emily Louise admitted to Stories & Ink. "To combat the nerves, make sure you research your artist to find someone who's going to do the best job for you of the style of tattoo you're looking for, and chat to them about any worries you have," she added.

Electric energy

Lightning bolt fans (or fans of Taylor Swift and Fall Out Boy's "Electric Touch"), bring the electricity with a dainty version of the symbol behind your ear. In tattoo circles, this simple yet bold design can relate to a number of different emotions, from creativity to fear and even admiration, as well as being one of the best ways to encapsulate that brash (though sometimes destructive) nature that can take people far.

Feeling floral

How gorgeous is this floral sprig? We love the dainty line work that's gone into this simple yet colorful design, as well as the fact that it can be modified to your own preferences. If you're not quite feeling this version, then you could go for whatever flower you want in this same design, which could make this ink super sentimental if you feel a special connection to a certain plant.

We heart hearts

One of the most adorable and delicate of behind the ear tattoos you can get has to be the heart. The love heart has so many obvious meanings we don't have to tell you here, so it goes without saying that having this symbol tattooed onto you can say so much while still being so subtle. Opting for red ink adds that little extra dose of fun and passion, while doubling up on the hearts can represent anything from platonic to romantic love with another person.

Look to the stars

This delicate moon and stars line work is another ink idea that can be personalized to suit you, all while looking super chic behind the ears. If you're into astrology, you could customize ink like this to incorporate your own on-theme symbols that mean something to you. That could mean incorporating different astrological signs, or you could change up the placement of the stars to however you like them.

Never far from home

This Texas state outline has a pretty obvious meaning: a love of home, of course! Ink like this in the shape of your state would be a great choice for anyone looking to show off their love of home in a simplistic way, as well as being a solid choice for anyone who may have moved away from home but wants to let the world know where their heart still is.

Know your number

If you have a special number that means something you, this understated and simple yet super effective tattoo idea may well be for you. It's definitely minimalistic, which makes it perfect for behind the ear, but it can have a whole lot of meaning depending on what number you opt for. Why not go for your lucky number, the number of an old sports jersey you used to wear, or the birthdate of someone close to you?

Your favorite animal

Animals are popular in the tattoo world because they can have a lot of symbolic meaning. In this case, the elephant has been known to represent good luck, strength, and loyalty, and having it created using simple, thin line work makes it the ideal intricate animal to have behind your ear. A fun way to make a design like this your own is to get it in colored ink, like here.

Butterfly fly away

It's no secret that butterflies are very popular animals to have inked onto your body, and there's a reason for that. Well, there are a few, actually. The butterfly has been known to symbolize a number of important concepts in the tattoo world, from the obvious notion of a new beginning, to feelings of happiness and vitality. This ink proves a butterfly can be super effective rendered only in black, but if you wanted to take your small behind the ear tattoo just a little bit further, a colored one will bring a little vibrancy to your life.

Paw pals

This one's for all you animal lovers out there — and dog owners in particular who are looking to honor a four-legged friend. One of the cutest and most subtle ways to honor a doggy who touched your heart is by getting these tiny paw prints tattooed behind your ear. Such a small tattoo packs in a whole lot of sentiment, and would be particularly poignant for anyone looking to remember a pet who may have passed away.

Get musical

This stunning musical note tattoo is absolutely gorgeous and packs in a whole lot of detail for such small and delicate ink. It seems like there's something new to see every time you look at it, and we can't take our eyes away from how the music grows out of the stunning flower stem. Perfect for anyone looking for something dainty that combines a love of music and nature.

The sun and moon

No matter if you love the sun or the moon more, because this tattoo design has both. The astrology-esque symbol incorporates a dark crescent moon into the outline of a sun, which we think could represent night turning into day and a bright new beginning coming your way. If you like the look of this ink but want to take it one step further, you could add a little color to the design.

Follow that star

We're a big fan of this trio star and dot tattoo design for anyone who feels a connection to astrology and likes to look to the stars for guidance. There are a few ways you can tailor something like this to make it your own, such as changing around the placement or appearance of the stars to create your own personal meaning. One of the best ways we think this particular design could be interpreted to make it personal is to represent a parent via the larger ink and two children via the smaller.

The half wing

In a similar vein to a full butterfly, this tattoo is a solid option if you want to put your own twist on the traditional and go for something a little different. This single wing version of the butterfly (which could also be interpreted as a single fairy wing) is a fun way to change it up, but could also have a deeper meaning, like a reminder to never let anyone take away your ability to fly.

The tiny turtle

Another great animal tattoo idea for behind the ear? The turtle! Just like a lot of animals, the turtle has a host of symbolic meanings, including representing the notion of strength, immortality, and even fertility. The latter means it could make a solid, yet not obvious choice for anyone dealing with fertility issues who needs a little reminder to keep the faith. The dainty black heart on its shell is an adorable touch we can't get enough of, too.

Chinese characters

Chinese characters have long been used in Western tattoo practices, even by those who don't speak the language, to express desires and feelings without using Western text. This particular example represents liking or loving something or someone, but there are thousands of different symbols to choose from to represent something close to your heart.

The single initial

Another tattoo idea that could come with a big dollop of sentiment is getting a single initial behind your ear. Of course, the letter you go for could be anything and could represent anything, such as the name of a significant other, friend, or family member, or it could be even more personal than that and represent your own name as an important reminder to put yourself first.

The bees in the flowers

We adore this colorful take on a summer day as a bee pays a visit to two bright yellow flowers. There are several ways to interpret this super cute, bright and sunny tattoo into your own design, though, on this version, we like the idea that it represents sunshine, happiness, and the idea of working together to make things happen as the bee pollinates the plants.

A whale of a time

Sea creatures are popular choices for behind the ear tattoos, and whales are another animal used to create ink because of what they symbolize. In some cultures, seeing a whale swimming in the water is actually seen as a sign of good luck, which is one of the big reasons we see these tattoos around so much. This particular example uses delicate, thin line work to create the sea creature, ideal for anyone who's ready for an ocean-inspired tattoo or feels a connection to the animal (or to water in general).

Quote of the day

Tattoos, of course, don't always have to be all about drawings and symbols — even when you're looking for something small and dainty with limited space to play with. If you have a saying that you really connect to, that can make a great choice for your ink, too! This tattoo proves that, as this person opted to have the words "You make me smile" inked behind their ear. How cute is that?

Cheeky cherries

Isn't this vibrant cherry tattoo super cute? The color in this design really brings the vibrancy of the fruit to life and is a fun way to put a little something behind the ear that's a bit playful and not too serious. If you've properly thought it through (and really make sure you have!), this could be a great ink choice if you're looking to get a matching tattoo with a friend.

See your zodiac sign

We know there are so many tattoos inspired by star signs (like these mysterious Pisces-inspired inks we adore), so why not incorporate one of those into your behind the ear design? This ink is actually the symbol for Leo, but you could literally get any sign delicately placed behind your ear to show off your passion for astrology and let people know a little bit more about you.

Fall in love with love

Another symbol that works oh so well behind the ear is this gorgeous tattoo that's all about feeling the love. This elegant little design demonstrates the way in which love is eternal by incorporating the word into the infinity symbol, a line that never ends. Because this design is so non-specific, it can have many different deep and personal interpretations that can make it uniquely meaningful to you. 

Star light

In the more traditional five-point star shape, this outline tattoo design gives us a little bit of a fun, somewhat retro feel without being too over the top. This fun twist on the classic symbol looks perfect nestled behind the ear, with stars often being used in the tattoo world to represent the idea of protection or embarking on a path to an exciting new beginning.

Remember the date

We've covered number tattoos behind the ear, but not quite in this way. Commemorating an important year behind your ear is another way to keep things a little more understated and subtle while still packing in a whole lot of sentimental value. The date you go for could literally be anything, too, from your own date of birth to a year that had a lot of importance to you.

Show your pride in a tattoo

How better to show your LGBTQ+ pride than by literally inking it onto your skin? A tattoo like this one (or another symbol that relates to how you identify) offers a defiant and important statement about who you are and what you believe, but the size and placement means you won't have to deal with the pain, time, and cost larger ink can bring.

Fly away

Birds are often incorporated into tattoo designs because they have the ability to do what so many people want to: flap their wings and fly away. Not only can this design encapsulate that desire, but having multiple birds behind the ear in a row can represent things like family or friends who choose to flock together. Opting for smaller cartoon versions of the animals will also help keep your design a little more subtle and delicate.

We love you like XO

In the words of Beyoncé herself, "I love you like X-O / You love me like X-O." And what better way to prove it than having the letters tattooed behind your ears? This super delicate ink is ultra feminine and a really understated way of getting a tattoo, while the placement is ideal for those who have longer hair and maybe want the option of covering their ink from time to time.

Autumn leaves

Fall lovers, why not put your passion for the season on your skin? This totally gorgeous, colorful double leaf design makes all the fun of fall permanent, but the line work is so simple it keeps things delicate. You could make the leaves a little smaller if you wanted something a little bit more understated behind your ear, or you could simply opt for one orange leaf instead of two.

Shell out for a shell

For those looking to get a little reminder of a fabulous vacation or an unforgettable trip to the beach, the shell is a solid choice. In fact, if you've been somewhere specific and really want to be on the nose, try to actually pick a shell from a beach that means a lot to you and have it tattooed behind your ear so that you can take those happy memories with you everywhere you go.

Ink your veganism

Proud vegans, put your beliefs on your skin by inking the vegan symbol behind your ear to let the whole world know what's important to you. This dainty green design with a leaf growing out of the V is discreet enough that it won't be the first thing people see when they look at you, but it does give you the chance to literally wear your veganism on your skin.

Who got the fire?

You! You got the fire with this delicate flame tattoo. This super cool behind the ear tattoo packs a lot of punch while still keeping things subtle, bringing a whole lot of heat in a small package. We particularly admire the way the bottom of the flame is kept open-ended for a more understated effect and twist on the classic, which is perfect for the location on your body.

Angel numbers

For the superstitious among us, tattooing important numbers and symbols like angel numbers (that's 11 11, for those unfamiliar) onto the area behind your ear can be a great reminder to keep the faith in something bigger than us, no matter what you believe. The best part of getting something spiritual tattooed behind the ear, though, is that there's the potential to see it in the mirror every morning to start the day off right.

Incorporate your element

If you don't want to be too on the nose when it comes to displaying the meaning behind your tattoo, going for something a little less obvious could be the best option for you. In this example, though the understated ink looks like a simple upside-down triangle outline, it actually symbolizes the water element that people born under the Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces signs are all a part of.

Grow a new beginning

For those looking to get ink representing a lot of growth or a new beginning, a long stem of a plant with leaves growing off it may just be the way to do this. This unique tattoo symbolizes that idea of growing up in a simple and understated way, while the curvature of the plant works perfectly with the shape of the head and the area just behind the ear. 

Do it with dots

Created using the hand poke method of tattooing this ink, this concept makes use of a lot of dots to create a natural plant sprig surrounded by smaller dots. The hand poke method actually means there's no machine used to create the design. Instead, it's all done by hand by dipping a needle into ink and then creating the shape out of tiny dots, like a pointillist painting. How unique and fun is that?

Shooting stars

Clearly, stars are quite the popular choice when it comes to behind the ear tattoos. This ink proves why, because there's just so much you can do with them to personalize the look to you. This design puts a different spin on the idea of the classic star shape, incorporating both unfilled and filled stars that have tail lines to create the illusion of gorgeous shooting stars making their way across the sky.

Try a dragonfly

Another animal tattoo with a symbolic meaning, this outline of a dragonfly is another example of the hand poke technique being used to create a stunning yet delicate behind the ear tattoo. In the tattoo world, dragonflies are often put onto the skin because they represent the idea of rebirth and prosperity, or they can serve as your good-luck charm. They also have an unwavering connection to the water, just like many of their owners.

Love music

Another fun idea for the music lovers out there, there's nothing that makes a love for music quite as clear as this tattoo. The treble clef in place of the L adds a super fun twist to the start of the design, while the rest of the letters spelled out in other musical symbols (including a semibreve and a rotated quaver) creates an innovative take on a classic tattoo idea.

The single rose

We know floral tattoos can be very deep and meaningful, but there aren't many flowers that hold more significance than a single rose. This tattoo proves why the single stem is such a popular symbol of love around the world, as it represents the idea of love and romance. And, hey, let's be honest, it's also a great option if you're just (like us) a massive fan of "The Bachelor."

Sail away

Ready to forget it all and sail away to sunnier climes? If so, this adorable and super dainty tattoo made up of basic shapes and wavy lines may just be for you. This basic cartoon design brings a lot of fun to the area behind your ear, and boats can also be a solid choice for any tattoo-getter who feel a special connection to the ocean — or water in general.