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34 Awesome Copyright Free Vintage Octopus Illustrations & Art

Did you know that the plural of octopus is octopuses? Not as I misbelieved octopi. Octopus is a Greek word, not Latin, which is why the plural doesn’t end in i. Here I have curated a fantastic collection of vintage octopus illustrations free to print.

All the octopus prints featured here are in the Public Domain; they are copyright free. The collection covers scientific octopus illustrations, black-and-white drawings and octopuses in art paintings and drawings.

I think my fascination with octopuses started when I first spotted one whilst snorkelling as a child. I just thought they were the most fantastic sea creatures.

If I remember correctly, octopuses did feature heavily in the illustrated books I read as a child. Often on illustrated alphabet charts, the ‘O’ is a big smiley octopus.

As an adult, my interest in octopuses has become more macabre because I love eating them. A treat every year when visiting my parents in Portugal is a trip to the famous Octopus restaurants of Santa Luzia in the Algarve.

Octopus illustration pin

Cool Free Vintage Octopus Prints

There are over 300 species of octopuses, and they are grouped in the same order as squid and cuttlefish. They live in every ocean, and different species have adapted to different marine habitats. 

Scientists regard octopuses as the most intelligent of all invertebrates. That is because they can learn from experience and have short- and long-term memory.

But young octopuses learn nothing from their parents, as adults provide no parental care beyond tending to their eggs until the young octopuses hatch.

Octopuses have even been observed intelligently using tools. They are also brilliant at camouflage.

This collection of vintage octopus illustrations has been divided into three sections; colour, black and white prints and octopus in Japanese art.

Click on the title above the image to download a higher resolution of the vintage octopus illustrations. A larger image will open as a new window in your browser. If you click on that image, you can save it to your hard drive or print it.

Colour Vintage Octopus Illustrations

1. Common Octopus – 1896

A beautiful vintage octopus illustration of the common octopus from the Gulf of Naples. The octopus drawing is from the book ” I Cefalopodi viventi nel Golfo di Napoli (sistematica) : monografia “ (Cephalopods living in the Gulf of Naples (systematic): monograph) by Comingio Merculiano published in 1896.

The common octopus ( (Octopus vulgaris) is the most studied of all octopus species. It’s a global species whose habitat extends from the Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea and the southern coast of England.

The species’ diet consists of crabs, crayfish and two-shelled molluscs which it can break into with its beak. The common octopus hunts at dusk. The octopus can camouflage by changing colour to blend into its surroundings.

vintage octopus illustration

2. White Spotted Octopus – 1896

Another beautiful Mediterranian vintage octopus drawing by Comingio Merculiano. The species of octopus is the white spotted octopus (Callistoctopus Macropus).

The octopus feeds at night by wrapping itself around a coral and probing with its arms among the branches, looking for fish and invertebrates that seek protection there.

Vintage octopus drawing white spotted octopus

3. Illustrations of Octopuses -1904

A plate illustrating octopuses from Ernst Haeckel‘s Kunstformen der Natur (1904). Ernst Haeckel was a German zoologist and artist who pushed the work of theories of Charles Darwin in Germany.

You can find many more of Ernst Haeckel’s art form illustrations of sea life on Pictureboxblue.

vintage octopuses drawings

4. The Cephalopoda (1975)

I’m sorry I don’t know much about this octopus print except that it is from the book Die Cephalopoden” by Carl Chun 1910. It was such a lovely print I just had to include it in this collection.

vintage octopus print free

5. South American Octopus – 1835

An identification poster of Atlantic octopuses from the book ” Voyage dans l’Amérique méridional” (Travel in South America) by Alcide Dessalines d’Orbigny.

vintage octopus poster

6. Octopus salutii (Spider Octopus) – 1896

The spider octopus drawing is from the book ” I Cefalopodi viventi nel Golfo di Napoli (sistematica) : monografia “ (Cephalopods living in the Gulf of Naples (systematic): monograph) by Comingio Merculiano published in 1896.

vintage spider octopus illustration

7. Japanese Octopus Illustration

A painting of a common octopus by the Japanese artist Kawahara Keiga from about 1823.

vintage octopus illustration

8. Velodona Togata A

The octopus was first discovered off the coast of East Africa. It is from the book “Die Cephalopoden” by Carl Chun 1910.

Vintage octopus illustrations

9 Velodona Togata 2

A second illustration of the octopus above from the same book.

Chun octopus drawings

Jean Baptiste Vérany Octopus Illustrations

The next few vintage octopus prints are all from the same book “Mollusques méditeranéens; observés, décrits, figurés, et chromolithographiés d’après le vivant …” (Mediterranean molluscs; observed, described, figured, and chromolithographed from the living ) by Jean Baptiste Vérany (1851).

10. White Spotted Octopus

vintage octopus print

11. Musky Octopus

Another vintage octopus print of a Mediterranean octopus from Jean Baptiste Vérany 1851 octopus identification guide.

musky octopus drawing

12. Octopus salutii (Spider Octopus) – 1851

Octopus saluttii illustration

13. Eldon Genei

Eledone is a genus of octopuses, it’s mainly distributed in the northern and southern Atlantic Ocean

Eldon genei octopus print

14. Eledon Aldrovandi

Eledon Aldrovandi octopus print

15. Eldon Moshaus – Musky Octopus

The musky octopus occurs on the sandy bottom of the continental platform, at depths up to 400 meters of the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent Atlantic ocean.

Musky octopus

16. Octopus Calenutulaus

Pink octopus

17. Octopus Cocco

Octopus cocco

18. Octopus Tetracirrhus

This is also known as the Atlantic Fourhorn Octopus and is found in deep water.

vintage fourhorn octopus illustration

19. Octopus Vulgaris Illustration

Another illustration of the common octopus, it’s one of the most studied of all octopus species, and also one of the most intelligent. 

Common octopus illustration

20. Common Blanket Octopus

Also called the violet blanket octopus due to its beautiful colouring, it’s a large octopus found worldwide in the top surface of warm seas.

common blanket octopus

Black and White Octopus Images

1. Octopus areolatus – Webfoot Octopus

Black and white vintage octopus illustration of a webfoot octopus by A. Pollock 1886.

black and white webfoot octopus drawing

2. Octopus cyanea – Big Blue Octopus

This is one of my favourites and another one of Pollock’s vintage octopus illustrations 1886.

big blue octopus print

3.Octopus Pallidus – Pale Octopus

From the same collection by A.Pollock 1886

Black and white octopus illustration

4. Octopus salutii (Spider Octopus)

From the same collection by A.Pollock 1886.

Octopus print

5. Octopus verrucosus

From the same collection by A.Pollock 1886

Octopus Verrucosus

6. Kraken – Octopus Sea Monster

The kraken is a mythological giant octopus sea monster originating in Scandinavian folklore. According to the Norse legends, the Kraken dwells off the coasts of Norway and Greenland and terrorizes nearby sailors.

This illustration of a Kraken attacking a ship is by the French naturalist Pierre Dénys de Montfort. He studied the existence of gigantic octopuses after being inspired by a description from 1783 of an eight-metre-long tentacle found in the mouth of a sperm whale.

This picture featured under sea monsters in this collection of vintage nautical images.

Giant octopus

7. Common Octopus Underside

A black and white drawing of the underside of an octopus from the (1803) book “Denys Montforts allgemeine und besondere Naturgeschichte der Weichwürmer – Mollusques, als Fortsetzung der Bussonschen Naturgeschichte”. This translates as Denys Montfort’s general and particular natural history of softworms – Mollusques, as a continuation of Busson’s natural history.

black and white drawing of the common octopus

8. 1554 Octopus

A very old black and white sketch of a vintage octopus from the 1554 book “The History of Aquatic Animals“.

1554 history of acquatic animals

Octopus Images in Art

Octopuses are a common theme in Japanese art, especially in the old Japanese woodblock prints.

1. Abalone Diver Fighting Octopus

A female abalone diver wrestling with an octopus. Colour woodcut by Yoshitoshi, 1870s. This is from the Welcome Collection London.

Japanese woodblock abalone diver and octopus

2. The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

This is a woodblock print by the famous Japanese artist Hokusai, it is famous for depicting a female shell diver in a compromising position with an octopus!

dream of the fishermans wife

3. Honcho Suikoden Goketsu

Warrior fighting octopus by  Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1830. From the collection at the British Museum.


4. Tamakatzura Tamatori attacked by the octopus

Tamatora has recovered the pearl from the palace of the Dragon King, while she was threatened by all sea creatures. A Utagawa Kuniyoshi woodblock.

Octopus woodblock by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

5. Tako no asirai

A 1904 print shows a Japanese officer sitting on the head of an octopus which has captured ships disguised as fish in its tentacles. From the collection at the Library of Congress.


6. Octopus Cartoon Map

A cartoon depiction of Europe in 1878, using caricatures and monster kraken, from Library of Congress.

Ocotpus and map

7. Satirical Map of Asia and Europe

A 1904 satirical map of Asia and Europe again depicts Russia as an octopus. I think Russia is an octopus as it illustrates the country’s far reach across many countries and both continents.

There are more pictorial maps on Pictureboxblue.

Satirical map of Asia and Europe

If you liked these vintage octopus illustrations, artworks and prints, then you’ll love these other vintage sea life prints, including Haeckel’s jellyfish and the whale drawings of Robert Hamilton.

There are more sealife posters which include octopuses in this vintage natural history poster collection.

Japanese octopus art pins

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Thursday 2nd of June 2022

Thanks for sharing this interesting collection at Vintage Charm!


Saturday 4th of June 2022

Thank you, octopuses are surprisingly popular.


Saturday 28th of May 2022

Thank you Claire for all your time and hard work on your websites. I use the images for making framed prints for myself and have been looking for something like this for ages ... .... if you haven't already seen the Netflix documentary "My Octopus Teacher" .. it is wonderful to watch and also heart breaking. Good luck for the future.


Tuesday 31st of May 2022

Thank you so much, I will check out that documentary.

Chris Watson

Sunday 10th of October 2021

brilliant thanks


Tuesday 12th of October 2021

Thank you, glad you enjoyed them.

Silver Pennies Sundays Link Party (322) - Finding Silver Pennies

Sunday 11th of August 2019

[…] you love vintage printables? Picture Box Blue has a collection of copy-right free vintage octopus printables that are […]

Julie Briones

Friday 12th of July 2019

Wow! These are so detailed and colorful! Love seeing your printables, and you are so kind to share them with us!


Saturday 13th of July 2019

Thank you, Julie. I just love finding great vintage images to share.