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Power Tattoo

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The Way of the Arrow.

One of the many components of a Power Makeover, the Power Tattoo is a mark that shows a character has a certain set of powers. It may only appear when the time is right, or it may be visible at all times, but it frequently tends to glow. Expect it to be placed somewhere on the body that reflects its usage.

The more benign version of Mark of the Beast. If the powers were granted to them, may overlap with Claimed by the Supernatural.

Compare Marked Change, where the marks generally cover more of the body, but only when someone has powered up. See also Volcanic Veins and Tron Lines, which similarly glow. If the tattoo can move, it's also an Animated Tattoo.

It's also a Distinguishing Mark if it's, well, distinctive. If each mage has their own tattoo with their own design, then it counts. If all mages have the exact same symbol on the exact same place, not so much.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted and deconstructed, like just about everything else, in Bokurano: The kids get tattoos when they're chosen as the next pilot, which superficially resemble Power Tattoos. They aren't the root of any powers, though, and serve only as a warning to the recipient that Your Days Are Numbered and a small hint as to the nature of the upcoming opponent. They're a very visceral reminder of one of the show's central themes: having the weight of the world on your shoulders sucks.
  • The Geass mark from Code Geass. Geass users have it on their eyes, whereas those who can grant Geass powers have them elsewhere, typically the forehead.
  • D.Gray-Man: Kanda has a huge tattoo over his chest. It's related to his Healing Factor.
  • Ai from Dragon Crisis! has red markings on her right shoulder caused by the Lost Precious inside her body.
  • Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai:
    • When the Dragon Knight taps into their power, a glowing crest resembling a stylised dragon face appears on their forehead. This crest contains the fighting instincts of all previous Dragon Knights, and is "collected" by the divine Mother Dragon after each Dragon Knight's death. It can also fire a blast of energy as a surprise attack, blasting a hole in the shape of the mark.
    • When the Dragon Knight enters the Dragonoid/Ryuumajin state, fully awakening their power as a human-dragon-demon hybrid, their Dragon Crest floats above their forehead and manifests additional lines resembling rays of light.
    • As the child of the Dragon Knight and a human, Dai possesses a replica Dragon Crest which grants the power but not the combat experience of the original. Because Dai's body is imbalanced towards humanity, later in the series through a surge of intense emotion his human heart manages to overwhelm his demon and dragon sides, compressing them into a single part of his body - this grants him the ability to move his Dragon Crest from his forehead to the back of his hand, greatly increasing his power and control. Still later, Dai's father convinces the Mother Dragon to end the Dragon Knight line and transfer the true Dragon Crest to Dai as well, causing him to become a monstrously powerful "Super Dragon Knight" with Crests on both hands.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Averted by most alchemists who use circles since they either have them sewn or carved onto gloves or gauntlets. This method can present obvious difficulties as shown notably during Mustang's fight with Lust because his he's usually useless without them. He ends up playing it straight when he has to carve his cricle into his hand in desperation.
      • Kimblee plays it straight as he just has them tattooed onto his palms.
      • Scar's just happens to be a little more multi-purpose. In the first anime, his brother eventually upgraded to Human Notepad.
    • And those Homunculi are easily identified by their Ouroboros mark tattooed on their bodies.
      • Lampshaded in the omake when Lust is identified as Havoc's new girlfriend due to the tattoo on her sternum above her breasts.
  • All the HOMRA clan members from K bear a stylized, flame-shaped tattoo somewhere on their bodies. Its location is different for each person and it appears to be burnt onto their skin (or inside an eye for Anna) if they were able to pass Mikoto's test to join the clan. Notably, in this case the tattoos only signify that the clansman has officially joined and shares the same power as their King. As a result, they seldom glow except when their King's power is going out of control, during which they appear to cause the clansman some physical pain while glowing. Additionally, after Mikoto's death, all the tattoos - including Fushimi's - eventually glow while leaving their bodies and float up into the sky at the same time.
  • Apollon in his God Form in Kamigami no Asobi has lines up and down his arms, with circle parts. Some of the other gods also have them, particularly Loki and Thor.
  • Inverted in Kekkaishi: Gen and other part-Ayakashis employed by the Urukai usually have a tattoo that limits their abilities through pain.
  • In King of Thorn, Marco Owen is a Tattooed Crook to begin with, but one in particular marks his upgrade from Badass Normal to Empowered Badass Normal: when Alice alters his body so that he'll stand a chance against Zeus, he gains a large tattoo on his chest resembling the anarchy symbol.
  • Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force has the Huckebein, all of whom possess a tattoo on their body to identify their Eclipse infection. Cypha, for example, has one on the left side of her neck. As Tohma shows, these turn into Marked Change when the Eclipse goes out of control.
  • Marimo from the action Shoujo manga "Marimo no Hana ~The Legend of The Strongest Fighting Elementary School Student~"note . She has a glowing magenta flower tattoo on the back of her left hand, which appears when she reaches the breaking point of anger.
  • Naruto has Orochimaru's Curse Marks, although they turn into Marked Changes when activated.
    • In the sequel series Boruto, the Kama grants the user the power of the Otsutsuki clan. Unfortunately, the drawback is that the Karma is actually the backup data for the Otsutsuki that was slain and in time, the Otsutsuki's data will overwrite the user's, transforming them into a clone of said Otsutsuki.
  • Negi from Negima! Magister Negi Magi gets black marks on his arms when he activates his Magia Erebea.
  • Sailor Moon. The Sailor Senshi have planetary marks appear on their foreheads when the plot deems it important.
    • The members of the Royal Moon Family (Queen Serenity, Princess/Neo-Queen Serenity, and Small Lady) have permanent crescent moon markings on their foreheads. When using the power of the Silver Crystal, the markings glow.
  • In Saint Seiya, the Bronze Saint, Dragon Shiryu has the likeness of a Chinese long tattooed on his back. It's barely visible most of the time, but reappears as his Cosmo ignites. Unfortunately for him, it also reveals his weakness: the raised claw of the dragon matches the location of his heart, pointing out a fatal flaw in his attack style (he lowers his defense when punching.) Also, when he's close to death, the tattoo vanishes almost completely.
    • The Spin-Offspring anime Saint Seiya Omega has Shiryu's son Ryuhou, with a tattoo exactly like that, minus the weakness. In his case, it didn't appear until the Pallas arc, but when it did, the fandom went wild.
    • His master has a Tiger tattoo on his back. Notice a trend here?
  • Sekirei: The Sekirei are superpowered aliens and all of them have a crest tattooed on their upper backs.
  • In Tenchi Muyo!, when Tenchi activates his Light Hawk Wings, three glowing blue triangular stripes appear on his forehead. The goddess Tsunami also has two blue circles on her forehead that glow when she's using her powers. Before reincarnating herself in human form, Tsunami's older sister Washu had three green circles, and regains them whenever she accesses her old powers. Washu's daughter Ryoko will gain the same markings at some time in the future when she reaches full power. Tenchi and Ayeka also get black stripes on their cheeks when their strength-enhancing Juraian battle armor is active.
  • In Tokkō people with phantoms inside them develop tribal-looking tattoos when they first awaken their powers.
  • The Tokyo Mew Mew girls have marks on their bodies, indicating that they have been infused with endangered animals' DNA.
  • After being electrocuted by god, Olgrius is covered in markings in Wild Wind. These pass on to his descendents which mark them as masters of manbeasts. Mikhail's are natural but Syon's are actually genetically engineered.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the Eye of Anubis fulfills this trope. Sometimes mistaken for The Eye of Wdjat, which is the symbol on Yugi's Puzzle, it can appear on the foreheads of bearers of the items when they use shadow magic. Glowing gold. It has also turned up on the Steves those under the power of Marik through the Millennium Rod.
    • The Orichalcos symbol also counts. It does turn up, glowing, on people under its influence like the Eye of Anubis.
    • The Signers from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds each have a glowing red mark from the Crimson Dragon on their right arms. Their antitheses, the Dark Signers, have purple marks corresponding to the Earthbound Gods on their left arms.
    • The Crests used by the Arclight family, gifted to them by the Barians in exchange for their help in destroying Astral World. They grant various powers such as teleportation, mind control and protection from the Numbers, all at the cost of being tied to the user's soul.

    Comic Books 
  • The various manifestations of the Sigil in CrossGen Comics.
  • DC Comics:
    • The Green Lantern villain the Tattooed Man (both of them) takes it a step further. His power is making his tattoos spring off his body and come to life.
    • The same goes for Tattoo, his Distaff Counterpart from the short-lived Aztek series, and Tats, his New 52 Distaff Counterpart from Power Girl/Huntress: Worlds Finest.
    • This becomes vital in the Final Crisis mini-series when a specific design placed on the face thwarts alien brainwashing efforts.
    • Aqualad, of Teen Titans (Rebirth) and Young Justice (2019), has tattoos down his arms and legs that glow when he uses his hydrokinesis or his electro-shock powers.
    • Kinetix, in Legion of Super-Heroes, when she got her powers restored by the White Witch. In this case, the tattoo was the least unusual part of her resulting appearance, which included white skin, pointed ears, and a tail.
    • In Son of Vulcan, the main character Mikey gets the previous Vulcan's power when the dying hero touches his face, transferring Vulcan's power through a sort of tattoo. The tat is supposed to go on the new Son of Vulcan's chest, to facilitate secret identifying, but because the transfer is rushed, Mickey ends up with a brightly glowing hand-shaped mark right on his face.
    • In Justice League (2018), John Stewart acquires a fully operational tattoo of a power ring. When people demand he removes his ring, whether it's alien royalty or his fellow Corpsmen, he simply responds that he can't.
  • In Death Vigil, necromancers gain their power from sigils tattooed on their bodies.
  • Marvel Comics:
    • The Star Brand from The New Universe — basically a Cosmic Cube in tattoo form.
    • X-Men:
      • Rachel Summers developed a Phoenix tattoo over her right eye for a while when she seriously used her powers. It wasn't necessarily a sign she had the Phoenix, just her connection to the entity in question.
      • Ink has a different power for each tattoo he has. At first he thought he was a mutant who would get powers based on his tattoos, but it turns out his tattoo artist is a mutant who could give people powers by giving them tattoos.
      • Gentle inverts this with his vibranium tattoos. It serves to limit his power of increasing his muscle mass and strength, because if the power goes out of control it'll potentially harm his body. Every time he activates his power, his peak strength increases from the last, reducing the effectiveness of them over time.
    • Doctor Strange has an ankh which will appear on his forehead if he is close to Death, or whenever he most needs an affirmation of life.
  • Smaxx from Top 10. A tattoo unwittingly left on his chest by a dying princess is the focus of much power-usage.

    Fan Works 
  • The fanfic novelization Breath of the Wild faithfully adapts the story of the namesake game. However, an original addition to the story is that three characters receive at least one of these. All of their tattoos glow with different colors.
    • As Link frees each Divine Beast and gains the Champion's powers, he also gains tattoos that look like each Champion's respective Divine Beast on various parts of his body. Each of them glow a different color when he channels the power.note  He gains another tattoo in the shape of a wolf carrying an orb with the Master Sword symbol in it after he earns the power of the Wolf Spirit. Its glow and the powers from the Wolf are blue.
    • Zelda only has one in the shape of a owl with its wings outstretch and an orb with the Triforce symbol in its talons. Its glow and the powers of the Owl glow gold.
    • Impa gets one in the shape of a swimming frog with its front legs holding an orb with Hylia's bird symbol, and the Sheikah symbol in both its large eyes. It and its powers shine a bright white color.
  • In the Worm x Dishonored crossover fanfic, A Change of Pace, Taylor has the Outsider's Mark, proof that he's given her his power.
  • In the Inuyasha Continuation Fic Beyond Tomorrow, Ren possesses a dragon tattoo on his back that enables him to morph into a dragon. His younger sister Tomoyo has a phoenix tattoo on her back that gives her similar powers.
  • In The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum, Marcus Renee's superhuman body and magical abilities come from arcane runes tattooed all over his body with ink that's been mixed with ground-up enchanted crystals.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic I Am What I Am, Cordelia's sword Subtlety can be carried around as a tattoo on her eye.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Constantine (2005), the title character has two symmetrical tattoos on his forearms. When he puts them together they form an alchemy design: A fire triangle with three radiating arrows below representing the “Perfect Red King,” the Sulfur of the Philosophers.
  • Ink, a minor X-Men member in the comics, appears in X-Men: Days of Future Past in Vietnam with Toad and Havok, as well as the Bad Future in a concentration camp. He possesses his phoenix, telepathy bolts and biohazard tattoos at least, the latter of which he uses to incapacitate some guards.

  • In the Malloreon sequel series to The Belgariad, the Grolim priestess Chabat's face is scarified with a flame motif that comes alive when she uses sorcery. However, it's more a sign of her fanaticism than of any exceptional power: she's a middling sorceress and quickly gets eaten when she summons a demon in a Wizard Duel.
  • A variant appears in Burying the Shadow involving dyeing the teeth as a visible sign of someone's powers. Soulscapers dye their teeth pink. Scryers dye their teeth indigo.
  • Cassandra Palmer from Karen Chance book series has a pentacle tattoo on her back that's a ward.
  • In the Chaos Gods series, Ki has a tattoo on her forehead which marks her as a Servant of the god Tavk. It glows when she invokes Tavk's power.
  • In The Children of Man magic-users get glowing Instant Runes on their body when they use their powers. If you use your magic enough, this dyes your skin and gives you permanent tattoos.
  • In Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Renn gets lightning-bolt tattoos in the third book to protect her from demons. They later become a Chekhov's Gun in the fourth book when a delirious Torak thinks Renn has found him and grabs her arm, only to notice there are no tattoos. It turns out to be Seshru, Renn's mother.
  • Members of magically-inclined families in Collegia Magica are required to bear a tattoo of their family crest on the back of the left hand, whether they themselves are magically talented or not.
  • Implied Trope in The Crocodile God. The Filipino sea-god Haik has his arm covered in a sleeve of crocodile scales, plus a back-piece of crocodile-ridges. He got his arm tattoo after killing a saltwater crocodile when he first came to the islands (not knowing the Filipinos revered them as dragons), so he ate its flesh in penance and is now a crocodile/dragon-shifter. It's later stated that all Filipino tattoos are magical to some extent, being spiritual connections to one's community. Haik used to have even more tattoos: The Samoan pe'a, anklets, a crocodile-scale chest-piece, bird-tattoos, and a modern-day sleeve. After Catholicism spread through the islands and he had to "take most of them off" to avoid being MORE mistreated than he already was, he later realized the other gods couldn't find him.
  • Shade from Dark Life is a variation. His tattoos are a manifestation of his Dark Gift, which is to alter the color of his skin.
  • Eugenie Markham of Richelle Mead's Dark Swan series has multiple tattoos, most of which invoke the powers of the assorted deities she uses to enhance her magical abilities.
  • In The Death Gate Cycle book series, a magician race called the Patryns uses tattoos for protection, amongst other things.
  • Cabaline wizards in Doctrine of Labyrinths are tattooed from elbow to knuckle as a display of their power and status.
  • The half-vampire members of the Fellowship of St. Giles in The Dresden Files have tattoos that indicate how much they are utilizing their vampiric powers, and thus how close they are to losing control.
  • In The Envoy, the protagonist gets a Bequeathed Power from the previous Envoy, when the latter is ambushed and killed by the Big Bad's forces in the form of a tattoo that, eventually, allows him to tap into the interdimensional energy/knowledge (sort of like Akashic Records), as well as his Genetic Memory (granting him the skills of his warrior ancestors).
  • The Fallen's protagonist Aaron has this whenever he activates his angelic powers.
  • Food Of The Gods by Cassandra Khaw: Rupert's full-body tattoos are the physical embodiment of the myriad ghosts and spirits he's contracted as bodyguards; they Animate and rise from his skin when the spirits are active. The most go-getting among them wins a coveted place on the surface of Rupert's heart. When Rupert cuts a deal with Nyarlathotep, his body gets covered with an eldritch star map.
  • Gentleman Bastard: Bondsmage Magical Society uses simple black ring tattoos around the wrists to mark a mage's power and rank. A three-ring mage is a deadly Outside-Context Problem in the first book, so the protagonist is very concerned to meet a five-ringer in the third book.
    Locke: All I ever heard was that more is better. Just how many can one of you people have, anyway?
    Archedama Patience: This many.
  • In The Girl from the Well, Tark has five tattoos which serve to seal the woman in black. To those with supernatural sight, they seem to glow and writhe with power.
  • The Imperium from The Grimnoir Chronicles brand kanji onto their operatives that enhance physical attributes as well as superpowers. The good guys know some that weaken captives and apply them in ash.
  • In Kristen Painter's House of Comarre series, the eponymous comarre (essentially geishas for vampires) have special gold tattoos called "signum." These serve to identify them, and the process of creating signum also purifies their blood. In the course of the series it's revealed that certain signum have other functions.
  • In The House of Night, the fledgling vampyres initially get a crescent moon on their forehead. When it fills in completely, they have finished the Change into an adult vampyre. The main character Zoey Redbird's crescent tattoo has already filled in of course, along with getting various tattoos as she gains numerous special abilities.
  • Dragon Riders in the Inheritance Cycle are marked with the gedway ignasia, a silver mark on their palm.
  • The Iron Druid Chronicles: Atticus, and other druids who care to exist are connected to the Earth via tattoos, giving them their awesome druidic powers.
  • The Lythande stories, the first of which appeared in Thieves' World: The Adepts of the Blue Star like Lythande have a blue star tattooed on their foreheads as the symbol (and price) of their powers. It glows when the bearer feels strong emotions or performs powerful magic, and tingles to show proximity to magic.
  • The Malazan Book of the Fallen features handless ex-priest Heboric, who is covered from head to toe in script and ritual symbols. The tattoos' power is hinted at when he is first introduced, and eventually they grow off his body to replace his severed hands.
  • The Mortal Instruments:
    • The Shadowhunters have the ability to carve (usually temporary, occasionally permanent) tattoos on themselves, giving them a variety of abilities, such as Super Strength, Super Speed, etc. However, not all of these are good. Valentine's endgame plan is to have the entire Clave enslaved and under his control by having all Shadowhunters accept a permanent Obedience Rune.
    • In City of Glass, Simon receives the Mark of Cain, which dates way back to the book of Genesis. Clary puts it on him to save his life. It actually comes in handy several times during City of Fallen Angels, as anybody who tries to lay hands on him gets punishment laid down on them sevenfold. In City of Lost Souls, the angel Raziel removes the Mark of Cain when Simon summons him, in exchange for a heavenly sword to sever the bond beyond Jace and Johnathan/Sebastian.
  • The Charter Mages in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. Among other unspecified things, the forehead marks allow "uncorrupted" Charter Mages to identify each other with a touch.
  • In Pact, Blake Thorburn, the protagonist, has tattoos of birds and branches along his arms. The state of the birds serves as an indicator of how much spiritual damage he's taken, with them growing increasingly ragged or having their heads cut off as the story goes on. When he becomes a bogeyman, the tattoos begin to spread across the rest of his body and the birds move around openly.
  • Phaeton has the tribal brands which will glow upon activation of a non passive power.
  • Mr. Dark, the Big Bad of Something Wicked This Way Comes, controls the other carnies this way.
  • In Sparrow And Bright, the princess Hope has tattoos all over her body that absorb power from the sun. This means she likes to sunbathe naked to take in as much power as possible in the morning.
  • In the Spirit Animals series, the titular Bond Creatures can each enter something called the "passive mode", in which they become a tattoo somewhere on their partner's body. While convenient for transport, the spirit animal is incapable of aiding their companion in this state.
  • Gorlist, Drow warrior from Starlight and Shadows of Elaine Cunningham, has a dragon tattoo. Its glow indicated the presence of a dragon somewhere around, as well as its kind (which is needed to prepare for the encounter).
  • Sunshine: Protective Charms can be crafted as items or tattooed directly on the bearer, linking them to the bearer's Life Energy. This link makes the charm's magic much more reliable but can be exploited by hostile sorcerers.
  • Jennifer Lynn Barnes' novel Tattoo is about this. A woman from The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday gives a girl named Bailey and her friends some stick-on tattoos that last for a week. Each of them gets a different power for the time they have their tattoos, though they don't know this when they get them.
  • Junichiro Tanizaki's The Tattooer, a short story wherein a sadistic artist drugs a young geisha and tattoos a black widow spider on her back, thus releasing the cruel seductress hidden within her.
  • Inverted in Touch (2017), where Caleb and his fellow "assets" have a tattoo that functions as a Power Limiter/Power Nullifier. Their masters use this to control them, and if they try to escape it can drain their powers so much that they'll die.
  • Alek Fitz, the protagonist in Brian McClellan's Valkyrie Collections series, has three magical tattoos. The two on his hands are under his control, and grant him the ability to do ridiculous amounts of damage with "bare-handed" attacks. The third, a barcode over his heart, is a Slave Brand that lets his owner inflict as much pain as she feels like if he doesn't follow orders.
  • The protagonist of The Warded Man and The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett covered himself in magical wards, each of which had a different power.
  • In "Warlocks of the Sigil" warlocks tend to have a tattoo that represents their power.
  • Whateley Universe: Some mutants have tattoo-like markings due to their powers, some of which are Animated Tattoos as well. Also, magical tattoos are not unknown among wizards (e.g., Glyph, who inherited hers with her inherited magical powers) or those who pay wizards to place them in order to empower them. Zigzagged with Eldritch, who inscribed herself with magical tattoos to prevent anyone else from doing so (which would have turned her into their mind-controlled slave).
  • In The Zombie Knight, Asad has a full-body set of black, abstract tattoos that seem to damp out any hits he takes, flashing yellow as they do.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The tattoos that Lindsay gets in Angel to hide himself from the senior partners.
  • Heroes
    • Played straight with Nikki/Jessica.
    • Lydia could make predictions and read thoughts and feelings using her tattoos.
  • In The Invisible Man, Darien's quicksilver Indicator tattoo on his wrist. Doubles as Mark of the Beast, as when it's red it means he's in the throes of quicksilver madness.
  • The tattoos of the Checkmate Four in Kamen Rider Kiva.
  • Misfits: A tattoo artist can manipulate people through supernatural tattoos; he even managed to stab Curtis with a dagger tattoo.
  • Shadowhunters: Shadowhunters have tattoos that give them powers, in the show they are called Runes.
  • In the first season of Smallville, when nearly every citizen in town got powers from Green Rocks, a gang has tattoos with meteor rock ink that allow them to pass through solid matter.
  • Supernatural: After being possessed by demons a few times and having to exorcise each other, Sam and Dean get protective tattoos to stop it from happening again.
  • This was the point of Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills, an early 90's knock off of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.
  • Gabrielle's back tattoo in the Xena: Warrior Princess finale, which only glows once, but protects her from a fireball that would've seriously injured or killed her.
    • In the fourth season episode "Between the Lines", while traveling through India, Xena and Gabrielle find their souls sent into the future to preserve their Karmic line from the sorcerer Alti. At one point, they paint elaborate Mehndi henna tattoos over each other's bodies, and use the tattoos to channel their souls back into their own time.

  • The heroine of Magic Girl has runes tattooed on her arms and torso.

  • The Magnus Archives: One of the strange burned patients in "First Aid" has tattoos of eyes on various parts of his body. Those are the only unburned bits of skin below his neck.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons features a few options for functional body art.
    • Psionic users can create literal magic (well, psionic) tattoos.
    • In Forgotten Realms the tradition of Thayan Red Wizards teaches personal enhancements (like spell resistance, casting level and ability scores improvement) via tattoo, usually on their faces or shaved heads.
    • The spell create enchanted tattoo (AD&D) / create magic tattoo (D&D3) makes a temporary empowered tattoo, and can be made permanent like other spells. It requires at least some degree of tattoo skill.
    • The Al-Qadim spell tattoo of power allows the caster to make a single-use tattoo with another spell — just like writing a magical scroll, but implanted in the skin and discharged by touch and command word instead of reading; also requires the caster to learn tattooing as such.
    • 3e Forgotten Realms sourcebook Lords of Darkness has Tattoo Magic as item creation feat (mostly, for Red Wizards) — this variety holds an arbitrary low-level spell affecting the bearer, is touch-activated and counts as a magical item worn on the inscribed body part.
    • Dragonmarks in Eberron look like tattoos and grant their bearers spell-like abilities, but they actually appear spontaneously on people of certain bloodlines.
    • Not to mention the new Spellscarred option in Forgotten Realms 4e, those affected by the spellplague (but not completely monster-ized) usually have the spellscar somewhere on the body. It tends to glow with blue fire when activated.
    • The "Monk Tattoo" is basically a magic item that can't be lost, and increases a monk's abilities.
    • There's also the Tattooed Monk prestige class, whose main aim is to get covered in Tattoos of Power.
    • 3rd Edition supplement Relics & Rituals. Tattoo magic allows useful tattoos to be implanted into the user's skin and activated as needed. They include Chardun's Might (+4 to Strength and Dexterity), Corean's Forge (Stoneskin spell on user) and Dragon (gain a dragon's breath weapon attack).
    • 5th Edition's Tasha's Cauldron of Everything features magical tattoos that can be applied to a user's skin as part of attunement to grant various abilities; from being able to disguise themselves as another person once a day, to drawing power from the tattoo to deal extra damage to their target while being healed by the same amount of damage.
  • d20 Modern setting Urban Arcana also features magic tattoos, that act like scrolls and are activated by touching + command word. Also, one of the organizations, the Prancing Pony, a chain of medieval themed fast food, include minor wet transfer power tattoos boosting some skills for around 2-3 minutes in their Magic Meal.
  • Caste marks appear on the foreheads of all Celestial Exalted if they spend peripheral Essence, revealing their approximate specialty to those who know the symbols. Most Lunar Exalted are also marked with intricate full-body tattoos made of magical 'moonsilver', which betray their powers and can even be read by those who understand the secret language involved. That said, there are 'casteless' Lunars who lack the tattoos, and a very simple low-level 'charm' power allows any tattooed Lunar to hide their markings, to better blend in amongst mortalkind.
  • Sample character Kane Taoka in Scion has birthright tattoos, put on his body by the Titan Mikaboshi. One of them is a dragon he can summon at will, and two more are wings.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • Electoos from Warhammer 40,000; they are a combination of tattoo, circuitry and cybernetics, which allow Tech-Priests to do some technological miracles. How they work is something that not even they fully understand.
    • The Savage Orcs from Warhammer, and their Bonesplitterz successors from Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, daub themselves in warpaint that they believe grants them the favour of their savage gods, giving them limited protection from even the most powerful of enemy attacks.
  • In Demon: The Fallen, a tattoo that you can change at will is something humans have been known to make a Deal with the Devil to obtain.
  • In Rifts, any of the various types of Tattooed Men (first introduced in Rifts: Atlantis).
  • In the Advanced Fighting Fantasynote  supplement Port Blacksand there is a tattooist who can inscribe tattoos with magical effects onto characters.
  • In Shadowrun, while practically any object can become a magic focus if given enough time and preparation, practitioners of some traditions prefer to use tattoos. The reasoning for tattoos can be for religious significance, effectiveness, or that it's hard to disarm somebody of a focus inked onto the body; but most commonly because they look pretty badass.
  • In Werewolf: The Forsaken, a werewolf's Gifts come from symbols carved into his spirit-self by the spirits that grant them.
  • Ars Magica: Magi of the mystery cult House Criamon spontaneously manifest tattoo-like symbols as they gain magical power and wisdom. They're a mark of accomplishment to each other, but leave them prone to being mistaken for Tattooed Crooks or worse by mundanes outside Magical Society.

    Video Games 
  • In EVE Online, tattoos are a large part of the Minmatar backstory, and in the current setting there are special, nanite-powered tattoos, for example "War Tattoos" activated by adrenaline, or simply by their owners will. A more straightforward example of a Power Tattoo in the EVE-verse are the "Voluval" tattoos that form by themselves after a ritual and a mystical concoction is consumed, these Voluval marks can, among other things, help their recipient become a head of state or cast people out of their whole society - although this is largely because of beliefs and expectations attributed to certain types of tattoos, rather than the powers of tattoos themselves.
  • Fable III has tattoos that start to glow as you gain more magic power and morality. And then there are glowing markings that appear on your clothes if you use flourish attacks, their amount are increased as you gain more magic power. If your morality is good, your tattoos glow blue, just like the tattoos of Maze in the first Fable.
  • In Fallen London, you can get a tattoo from the Lady in Lilac during the Feast of the Exceptional Rose (AKA the Neath equivalent of Valentine's Day). The tattoo choices are based on people you meet and events you witness over the course of the game, with some becoming available only if you've completed certain stories, and you get a point of Bizarre or Dreaded from the tattoo you choose that makes it easier to become more Notable.
  • Jason Brody of Far Cry 3 gets a tattoo on his left arm that continues to grow as he gets new skills or finds new hidden collectibles around the world. It's ambiguous as to whether this is genuine magic or all just in his mind, since he never gets the ability to do anything that's quite beyond human limits, but it does seem to signify how much of a badass he's become due to how much it's grown.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, l'Cie have a tattoo-like mark, though it's referred to as a brand, which varies in design based on the fal'Cie that chose them. It glows when they use magic or summon Eidolons, and changes over time to serve as a sort of countdown. If the l'Cie doesn't complete their Focus before it finishes changing, they become a Cie'th, basically a crystalline zombie-like monster that wanders the world is pain and regret. Final Fantasy Type-0 also features l'Cie, but trade out the physical brand for a floating, glowing version.
  • In the Fire Emblem series, those with unusual heritage or powers often have a "brand" or "mark" of some sort. Examples include those with Holy Blood in the Judgral games, Spirit Charmers and the Branded in the Tellius games, the Mark of Naga and Grima in Awakening, and the Mark of Duma and Mila in Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.
  • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn Himi of Yamatai has Facial Markings on her forehead that greatly resemble the Third Eye Stone. Conveniently, the Third Eye is what she needs to wake from her visions and extract useful knowledge from them. Mysteriously, villain Blados has similar markings on his forehead. Their purpose is unknown, but speculated.
  • The Kabal from the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft are marked by glowing red tattoos. They can be tapped into at any time for extra power, but they also warp their users' bodies.
  • The Palm weapons in Kid Icarus: Uprising manifest on the wielder's arm, allowing them to unleash shots of energy from the palm of their hand. While some Palms transform the arm in question, others take the form of a tattoo; most notably, the Viridi Palm has the titular nature goddess imprinted on Pit's arm.
  • Legend of Legaia:
    • The Mystics in Legaia II: Duel Saga all have tattoo-like birthmarks on their body. One of them, of course, has it somewhere that doesn't get shown.
    • The Hero Lang and Big Bad Avalon have their tattoos in visible sight (Lang's a bit too open about his). Shrinking Violet and Magical Girl Maya shyly refuses to reveal the location of her tattoo. Another character almost too eagerly explains the location of her tattoo. And nobody cares where Kazan's is. Too bad for him. And the other three mystics are minor villains, so it's not even brought up with them.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: Ammon Jerro in the original campaign. Safiya in Mask of the Betrayer. In both cases, derived from the Red Wizards of Thay.
  • Used literally in Planescape: Torment where Tattoos are one of the main pieces of equipment and confer numerous benefits on their wearer, as well as some playing a part in the plot. In addition, one of the Nameless One's Stuck Items is a tattoo called the Mark of Torment, a physical manifestation of pain that he always bears, even if he forgets it's there. Do things right in the game, and his torment ends — and the tattoo falls off.
  • Primal:
    • Jen has a circular design on her back that glows when she adopts various demonic forms. We're told it's important, and nothing else.
    • Lewis has a similar mark on his arm, although it may be just an ordinary tattoo.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • This is a gameplay mechanic in Let It Die. You can buy temporary tattoos for your characters in-game that confer buffs, and the Mushroom Magistrate is able to create these, and she'll sell them to you or exchange them for Skillshrooms.
  • The eponymous Mark in Mark of the Ninja grants its wearer increased agility and perception. However, it also causes mild-to-severe hallucinations, eventually driving the person wearing it insane. Thus, it's only used in dire circumstances, and the one who takes the mark is required to commit Seppuku afterwards.
  • A Nexus Champion from Nexus Clash is covered with tattoos that rewrite their relationship with the laws of physics and grant them phenomenal powers. The only price is that some of these powers give the Champion a duty to maintain the Balance Between Good and Evil.
  • In Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, Abe gets a pair of hand tattoos that allow him to transform into an avatar of Shrykull, the god of lightning. In Abe's Exoddus, he gets a chest tattoo that lets him heal the sick for a bit of a Messianic Archetype.
  • Phantasy Star Universe: Beasts can turn into a large humanoid monster if they get a special kind of tattoo, known as a Blast Badge.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, the Prince becomes infected by the Sands of Time, and occasionally transforms into a unique being known as the Dark Prince, which functions as a Superpowered Evil Side. His whole body is covered by glowing tattoos while in this state. He also has normal tattoos when he isn't transformed.
  • In Promise Of Wizard, the Wizard Mark manifests itself on a wizard's body when they are chosen. It is given at random when the Sage has performed a ceremony, but not at any time as there are a limited number of those who bear it. Every time a wizard dies, the Sage must replace them - hence the mark becomes an indicator of the wizards who work for the Sage. In total, there are 21 holders of the mark.
  • Rift: The Defiant faction's resident stouts tattoo themselves heavily, both to commemorate their accomplishments and to help channel their elemental heritage. Unfortunately, while this can be seen on NPCs, it's not really an option for players.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Digital Devil Saga has the Atma Marks as this. Bonus points because you can get one ANYWHERE on the body and the transformation pose has the character reaching out to touch it or show it off (hint: Jinana has hers on one of her butt cheeks).
    • Likewise, in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, the main character gets glowy sorta-power-tattoos all over his body, "sorta" in that they're a natural part of his demon body. According to Word of God they're a lymphatic system allowing demonic fluids to move through his body.
  • Heraldry in the Star Ocean series, the equivalent of magic, uses symbols drawn on the body.
  • The never-released game Tattoo Assassins revolved around fighters with magic tattoos. It isn't nearly as good as it sounds.
  • When Jin Kazama of Tekken becomes Devil Jin, he grows several Power Tattoos on his chest and especially forehead.
  • Tattoos are the central element of Tokyo Tattoo Girls. After an incident that wrecked Tokyo, many of these suddenly appeared on various women, granting them mystical power. The player, a professional tattoo artist, is capable of further developing their female partner's and help her take control of Tokyo. The more tattoos a girl has, the greater their power becomes, increasing their overall Charisma as well as their power in specific types of wards (commercial, residential, etc.), and often granting some additional benefits (such as adding new map abilities or lowering all potential Honor losses).
  • The Rood Inverse tattoo of Vagrant Story is quite literally a Power Tattoo, as it unlocks the power of Lea Monde and grants its user complete control over the city and its spirits. It makes Sydney effectively immortal. When Guildenstern acquires it, he uses it to much more destructive purposes. Needless to say, the thing is practically Sealed Evil in a Can. Which is why they need Ashley...
  • The Noise in The World Ends with You all have tattoos which make up part of their bodies. In a particular example, the Psychedelifox, Ambiefox, and Progfox, who can steadily gain extra tattoo-tails during battle, which in turn allow them to do more vicious attacks.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night: Magi coming from a lineage generally all have a Magic Crest of one sort or the other. It's a mixed blessing: it tends to make you better at whatever branch of magic that Crest is based on (just needing to feed it mana to access a library of spells worked on by your ancestors), and some have additional powers such as providing mana for usage (as the Crest is literally made out of additional Magic Circuits grafted onto the recipient) or keeping Rin alive after getting stabbed because she wasn't out of mana yet. However, they bind you and drastically limit your options, and it is a burden of responsibility since you have to make it thrive and then pass it on to your child. Rin is somewhat jealous that Shirou was not raised as a proper Magus, because he is not tied down by this responsibility. Therefore he doesn't have one (not that he could inherit his adoptive father's Crest, since they only can be passed onto those of compatible biology, i.e. the same bloodline), and doesn't think he should ever get one.
    • A lesser example is the Command Seal, which appears on the hands of the seven Masters, allowing them three Command Spells to give an absolute order to their Servants. These Command Spells are made of mana, so one good use for them is to empower Servants by these commands - for example, a Servant low on mana commanded to use a high-energy Noble Phantasm will have their mana supply restored by the Command Spell to allow them to use it, while a Servant commanded to arrive at their Master's position will be instantaneously teleported there (whether or not they have any actual teleportation abilities of their own). They can also be converted directly into mana by the Master to boost their own abilities, but this is rarely used because most Masters only have three Command Spells and it would be a waste. Kotomine, however, has access to at least a dozen Command Spells due to being the Grail War's supervisor, so burning a few of them to temporarily increase his strength is a viable tactic for him.
  • In the Nine Series, Artifact Users have a mystical brand called a Stigmata somewhere on their bodies. It manifests as a glowing tattoo whenever they use their powers but is otherwise invisible. If the user overuses their powers, the Stigmata will grow bigger.

  • In Alice and the Nightmare, everyone has a tattoo denoting their Suit, but for oneironauts, they denote their Traumen powers as well.
  • Aurora (2019): Elemental mages commonly get tattoos to help channel elemental energy into themselves and work their will with said energy.
  • Daray of Charby the Vampirate has a tattoo that he can use to turn himself into shadow with an incantation and dragon scale.
  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, Dan's clan mark finally manifests during his fourth battle with Dark Pegasus, indicating that he has exceeded some sort of power threshold.
  • In The Dragon Doctors this is actually subverted. Kili the shaman has such powerful spiritual sight that she'd lose her mind if it weren't for the tattoos that suppress her spirit vision.
  • Two Gunnerkrigg Court teachers got a magical tattoo giving remote access to the device that that protects from Renard's Body Surf and binds him. And have lots of other... highly useful functions, while they're at it.
  • El Goonish Shive
    • Susan has a mark shaped like Venus symbol on her back. She needs it to call magical weapons, but the specific shape was her own choice. (And its more like a birthmark than a tattoo.)
    • Dex, a background character, seemingly spontaneously develops Summon Magic in one story arc. Other characters realize the power was actually bestowed on him by an Immortal when they see that he has a marking like Susan's, in the shape of a fairy on his chest.
    • Later we find out that Justin has a mark that makes him stronger, and Rhoda has one that lets her make things bigger. Both characters are unaware of the marks or the powers. (And Justin's mark fades, but "awakens" him, so he has the strength as an innate power.)
    • It turns out that Pandora is the one bestowing these marks on unknowing people. Tedd is given one that allows him to change his gender at will, new character Luke has one that lets him detect others' powers and Sarah has one that lets her create a simulated world where time is frozen. It's been established that other characters have marks, but not which characters or what they do.
  • Talies from The Motley Two (as well as other Writer-Mages) has a rune inscribed on his palm that, apart from marking him as part of the order, gives him a sensitivity to the flow of magic.
  • A dressing scene in Sleepless Domain reveals that Undine has an inverted blue triangle representing her water powers on her chest. Such symbols are a trait of Magical Girls in the setting. Each girl has her own unique mark and it can appear anywhere on the body. When their powers fade in adulthood or are otherwise lost, the mark becomes more like a burned out scar, as seen with Tessa in a scene similar to the one revealing Undine's mark. (One wonders what will happen with Zoe's mark, considering hers is in her eye.)
  • Zoe's cursed necklace tattoo in Sluggy Freelance fits the bill, though turning into a camel whenever someone says the magic word "shupid" is a power that very rarely benefits her. The tattoo itself is pretty inconvenient because her mother would blow a fuse if she ever saw it.
  • Unsounded: Aldish marriage brands are tattoos that link the married couple together, and let them feel an echo of their partner's heartbeat.
  • In When She Was Bad, members of the mysterious cloaked order, including Max and Marisol, have mystic tattoos that allow them to track each others' locations.
  • Graham in Wizard School receives a magical tattoo on his face while in a drunken stupor — making him look like "Rainbow F***ing Brite."

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The live-action adaptation provides the page image. The tattoos shown are Aang's airbending tattoos, as explained below.
    • The Air Nomads are tattooed with sky bison arrow marks along their chi paths when they master Airbending. Since Aang is the last Airbender alive, his tattoos are also a dead giveaway that he's the Avatar. They glow along with his eyes when he's in the Avatar State. This carried over to The Last Airbender.
    • Also "Combustion Man" and P'Li can powerful beams from their third-eye tattoo. Tattoo most likely is just there for show as it rests right on his/her Ajna chakra point which serves as an Achilles' Heel; the style requires that chi must flow freely through the chakra point, which is easily blocked by anything be it a pebble or a well thrown boomerang. The latter had deadly consequences as it causes the beam to explode right in front of the user's head.
  • In the Animated Adaptation of BattleTech Clan Enhanced Imaging implants look like green facial tattoos that glow when activated. Though pics of Clanners from the gamebooks seem to suggest that EI subcutaneous implants aren't supposed to be visible.
  • In the world of The Dragon Prince, Sky mages who have mastered the power of flight, such as Ibis, have three runes drawn on each arm that glow and transform into wings. Callum gives himself these runes, and learns how to use them to fly.
  • An episode of Jackie Chan Adventures had Jade apply a fake tattoo to herself by using a combination of ink and wet paper. However, she didn't realize the design for the tattoo she based it on was actually the "Mark of Tarakudo" and in addition to not washing off like she thought it would, it also gave her control of the Shadow Kahn. At first, it wasn't so bad, as she uses them to help her improve her life and does use them for good... However, the mark eventually starts corrupting her and making her more villainous as time goes on. She ends up taking over Section 13, and Uncle had to create a specific potion for removing the mark off her ankle.
    • Near the end of the Oni Mask saga, Tohru is given the same tattoo in order to cross into the shadow world and find Tarakudo's mask. Unfortunately, it isn't long before he starts to get corrupted as well, but Uncle manages to save him before it's too late.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Cutie Marks, a combination of this and individuallized Distinguishing Mark, basically a symbol of a Rite of Passage for ponies, but it means they've gained a magic connected to a skill or set of skills, related to the mark and what they did to achieve it. Sometimes, it's not even them, techinically, as Rarity, a unicorn, had her horn lead her to where she'd get her cutie mark, not something she did by her own volition.
  • In the wolrd of Wakfu, Sacriers (like Kriss Krass) get their powers from their tattoos. This is a Lighter and Softer change from the time of Dofus, where Sacriers instead used Bloody Murder.
  • Young Justice (2010) has Aqualad, whose arms are tattooed. They glow when he is using his hydrokinesis. All Atlantian magic using warriors have these. Those who completed the full training course like Tempest, Aquagirl, or Lagoon Boy (Aqualad dropped out to serve under Aquaman) can even hide the tattoos when they aren't using their powers.

Alternative Title(s): Power Tattoos