Tribal tattoo

Tattoo styles 3 min read Last updated on August 11, 2020

The Tribal style is characterized by uniform and geometrically simple patterns. But such tattoos are simple only at first sight. First of all, they have a long history that goes back to Mayan times, and therefore often have a special meaning for their owners. But also such drawings require the right technique to be applied to the body.

Now the tribal tattoo is not as popular as it used to be. But look how spectacular it looks on Duane Johnson's shoulder and forget about such stereotypes. With the right sketch and place, this tattoo will look very impressive.

Tribal tattoos are easy to recognize due to the following characteristics:

  • clear monotone geometric patterns with smooth and dark contours
  • patterns with various curves
  • although monotone, black and grey colors are used to create contrast
  • densely colored drawing make patterns on the body look bright
  • bindings, rings, slopes, and shadows can recreate a 3D effect by adding volume to the drawing.

A properly applied tribal tattoo can enhance muscle definition, or narrow the waist. These depend on the selected pattern and location of the tattoo.


The origins of this style can be traced back across centuries to the time of the Maya civilization. At that time, drawings on the body were considered to be symbols that linked the body and the soul. Tattoos were notable for their numerous curves and ornate appearance.

Back then, it was believed that tribal tattoos embodied a person's soul and identity. Women were not allowed to get tattoos. Only men could get tattoos, and only after he achieved certain merits and reached a prescribed age. Tattoos were indications of his exploits and bravery—the larger the tattoo, the braver and more courageous one was. Tattoos also showed how one withstood pain, as tattoos were usually applied in just one sitting. If a man was able to tolerate such a session, he was considered an exemplary warrior.

Interestingly, the tribal tattoo style spread thanks to sailors who discovered these islands and their inhabitants and brought different traditions back home.

The style experienced a wave of popularity in 1996 after renowned director Quentin Tarantino released "From Dusk Till Dawn" where he awarded George Clooney's character a huge tribal tattoo extending from the neck to half of the forearm.

The popularity of this style can also be attributed to the fact that it is simple enough to draw and apply to skin (tattoo machines in the 90s were quite simple).

With the development of more advanced equipment, the tribal style became much more diverse—it became supplemented by various elements, shadow transitions, were attempts to give the pattern semantic plot.

Kinds of Tribal Tattoos:

  • Filipino
  • African
  • Hawaiian
  • Polynesian
  • Native American (e.g. Cherokee)
  • Indian
  • Samoan
  • Celtic
  • Vikings
  • Mexican
  • Irish

Places to tattoo

Such tattoos can be applied to any part of the body: arms, legs, shoulders, or back. It is worth noting that the tribal style requires a large area on the body because a small pattern does not give off the same striking effect. The most popular body parts for tribal style tattoos for men are on the arms and shoulders. Tribal patterns create spectacular sleeves or patterns on the shoulder, transitioning to the chest. Women prefer to tattoo tribal patterns on the thigh or on the arms.