Go behind the ink and explore the tattoos from Sons of Anarchy, including interviews with the cast and crew, galleries and more.
Tracey Anderson, head makeup artist on Sons of Anarchy recalls, “The Abel tattoo started with Charlie coming to me at the beginning of the season and wanting a new tattoo. Jax had ended the previous season questioning being in SAMCRO, so we needed to create a tattoo that was part of that story. I suggested that honoring his son – over his heart - was a good symbol.”
This iconic tattoo designed by the legendary Freddy Corbin, is established right from the pilot. Only Opie & Jax have this unique Reaper tattoo and it illustrates their friendship, as well as their bond in SAMCRO. For the younger generation, this was a way to establish their style.
A favorite of actor Charlie Hunnam, the Tombstone tattoo on Jax’s right arm is a memorial to his father John Teller, who played a huge role in his life journey. The concept was inspired by a tombstone tattoo on a biker that Charlie Hunnam had met. It was further enhanced to include crows representing SAMCRO, John Teller’s name on the tombstone, and the text ‘In Memory of Fallen Brothers’.
Designed by Freddy Corbin, show creator Kurt Sutter wanted this tattoo to run down Jax’s arm. Head makeup artist Tracey Anderson recalls discussing why Jax would have this tattoo: “When he is sitting at the head of the table in the clubhouse, everyone can see this tattoo on his left arm. Jax has his kids [and brother] on one side and his Dad on the other. It says - I am the head of the club.”
A simple stock tattoo, the delicate flower on the inside wrist of Gemma is in stark contrast to all she represents. It makes a subtle statement to her femininity.
As the old lady of a SAMCRO member Gemma has the Crow tattoo. The scar she has had since birth because she was born with the “family curse” – a heart problem. Thomas and Abel were born with it, also.
Tracey Anderson had a real challenge with this iconic tattoo after Season 5, when it was brutally blacked out by Happy: “The blacked out Reaper went through many changes. It is a lot of ink and to apply without getting a wrinkle was a challenge - but not half the challenge as it was to remove. It took half an hour to get all the black ink coated in surgical glue off his arm. What a mess! Then we went to making a prosthetic to lay on and remove each time, but it was a big hassle. Finally, I hand drew and colored in the Reaper each day.”
This tattoo is an unofficial military tattoo and motto of the Airborne units. It represented Clay’s combat service with a Paratroopers’ Unit in Vietnam.
Standard Vietnam vet tattoo. Stock, found online, but added to the overall effect of the Vietnam vet having served his time.
The Spider web tattoo is a deeply coded tattoo – meaning different things to different cultures, gangs, etc. A spider web elbow tattoo in North America oftentimes implies prison time, or murder of another in prison, usually warning others. For Clay, the spider web tattoo was a prison time tattoo. For every year served he got another wedge. In Season 5, after Clay goes to jail, Tracey Anderson added more wedges.
An infamous Sailor Jerry original, this is from a tattoo "flash" collection he drew for servicemen in the late 60's. Like the “Vietnam” one, it added a particularly realistic tone to Clay’s overall look.
Tracey Anderson remembers, “When Ron had to wear short sleeves [for scenes], it was an extra 30 minutes in the makeup chair in the morning and more time at the end of the day having [so many] tattoos taken off! Ron just endured having his tattoos applied. He was patient but given the choice he would rather wear long sleeves!”
Like Gemma, this tattoo simply represents she is the old lady of a SAMCRO member.
Juice's head tattoo is derived from one of the tattoos on Kurt Sutter's (aka Otto's) arms. Actor Theo Rossi believes that Juice got the intimidating tattoo on his head when he was young and innocent to inspire respect and fear. "He became what he was trying to portray [a killer], and I think he just wasn't ready for it.”
Head of the makeup department, Tracey Anderson explains Juices' Son Shine tattoo as the representation of the inner conflict that defines Juices' character: "We see how conflicted he is about the things he's had to do and the mistakes he's made." Kurt Sutter was very adamant about the look of Son Shine and it's placement says Tracey, who also notes that Juices' Son Shine tattoo, "was pretty huge for the story point after he (Juice) kills Darvany."
The moth tattoo on Opie's throat was the last tattoo this character received. The beautiful design consists of skulls incorporated into the wings of a moth.
The Anarchy tattoo across Opie's chest was a combination of phrases from actor Ryan Hurst's favorite Yeats poem, and a line from The Rolling Stones.
Opie's 'Kids' tattoo was applied over the top of actor Ryan Hurst's existing Buddha tattoo, which head makeup artist Tracey Anderson had to cover with make-up.
Ryan Hurst chose the Reaper to fill in what he felt was an empty spot on his chest. It was important to him that his character Opie be "tatted up".
Inspired by tattoos on prisoners, Hurst chose Tantum Deus, Latin for 'Only God Will Judge Me', to convey Opie's rebellious side.
The Redwood Originals tattoo was a combination of two separate tattoo designs: a tree with a Reaper and a snake, and the Redwood Originals carved into wood. It’s Ryan Hurst's favorite of all Opie's tattoos.
Jax & Opie established in the pilot that they are the only ones to have the big Reaper (designed by the legendary Freddy Corbin) on their backs. They are best friends and are the young leaders of the SAMCRO gang. They are beginning the new story for the club.
Opie's Donna tattoo was in honor of his wife Donna Winston. After she was killed, actor Ryan Hurst requested wings be added to the tattoo, which was approved by Kurt Sutter. The tattoo was applied over the top of Ryan's existing Superman tattoo that needed to be covered with make-up.
According to actor Ryan Hurst, Grace was originally supposed to be the name of Opie's mother, who ended up being called Mary. Knowing he wanted a tattoo on his neck, Grace and an upside-down cloud were amongst the first tattoos that Hurst chose for the pilot.
Actor Ryan Hurst chose the Skull and Crossbones with the Anarchy symbol to add more ink to his character. The bomb in the skull's mouth reinforces Opie as "the demolitions guy".
After the death of Opie's wife Donna, actor Kim Coates and creator Kurt Sutter decided to have a tattoo designed to honor her, which ended up being a doll with the AK-47 and a rose. This was designed by legendary tattoo artist Mark Mahoney.
Being an ex-Marine, Tig was outfitted with a typical Marine tattoo designed by a WWII vet.
Lucius is the name of Nero's young son, and was purposefully chosen for the character by show creator Kurt Sutter. Always visible on his neck, head makeup artist Tracey Anderson says, “it’s evident that Lucius is everything to Nero, why he changed his life, and what he’s working for”.
Head makeup artist Tracey Anderson took a standard prison tattoo (the spider web) and tailored it to Nero: one section for every year spent behind bars.
Nero’s Sacred Heart tattoo was inspired by his character’s religious side, as well as the health issues he had with his heart.
According to head makeup artist Tracey Anderson and actor Jimmy Smits, the Knight with a Cross tattoo is representative of Nero being a crusader; always fighting for the truth.
Otto’s Luann tattoo is in honor of his wife and was obtained before he went to prison.
Kerrianne is the name of Chibs' daughter. He gets her name tattooed on her chest after he finds her in Season 3 and forms a tight bond with her.
Chibs' RIP Ray Ray tattoo located on his wrist, is a tribute to a costumer on the show who was killed in a car accident during the show's first season.
The money on Chibs' chest wasn't chosen by actor Tommy Flanagan, but according to him, it means "Fuck you, pay me."
The skeletal Snake tattoo was drawn by actor Mark Boone Junior, who was inspired by a California American Indian belief that placing poppies on the eyes of the deceased would bring them back to life.
Drawn by actor Mark Boone Junior, this tattoo, which incorporates a crow into the image of a skull, is his own homage to SAMCRO.
Behind the Ink
Behind the Ink