Ardent tattoo followers are very familiar with tribal tattoos. These tattoos are about the most famous all over the world and when you see them you wouldn’t wonder why. These tattoos are so cool they make you look like a warrior when you have them on.
Those days, warriors usually used to have their bodies adorned with these tattoos. The idea was to give the Warriors an identity. When you saw a warrior, the tattoo he had on gave off information about what tribe he represented. Some of these tribes were so fierce that at the sight of their tattoos, other tribes fled.
Most tribal tattoos were placed on the arm, either a full-sleeve or a half-sleeve tattoos. This post will provide you a wide array of tattoos to choose from as well as information about this type of tattoos.
History of tribal tattoos
If you know anything about tattoos, you will know tribal tattoos are the oldest existing tattoos. They have been in existence for over 5,000 years and have still maintained relevance. Those days, these tattoos were used to establish an individual’s identity in society. For many other tribes, they were also a way of adding beauty to their bodies.
Other tribes also used these tattoos as a way of connecting with the spirit world. During certain rituals, those who partook were inked with certain tattoos which gave them right of passage. They were also regarded as badges of honor for both males and females in different societies. Moreover, among some tribes, tattoos were a sign of entrance into adulthood.
Usually, the chief of a community had the most tattoos. With these tattoos, they were easily identified by members of their tribes and other tribes as well. It was not strange to discover that most of these tattoos were used to tell stories, just as we have in modern times.
In some cases, the tale is also told of how a man made his way to becoming a warrior. Other times, it told of the deity a person worshipped and the rituals involved in worship. It is for this reason that most of these designs are made up of objects, animals, and even human figures.
If you are very observant of these tattoos, you will also notice that they are mostly of Samoan, Aztec, Maori, and Polynesian origin. Moreover, some of these tribes are still in existence to date and these tattoos still bear deep meanings and thus are still in cultural use among them. As a matter of fact, some of the old tattooing methods, like hand tap tattooing, as still being used by these tribes.
Characteristics of tribal tattoos
As expected, different tribes have unique patterns of inking their tattoos. This is why when you see a particular tattoo you can guess what tribe the tattoo is from. An example is the designs of Aztec origin, as they are usually drawn in black and grey. Those of Micronesian origin have bold blue themes the most common types of tribal tattoos are drawn with heavy black pigmentation, which is also common for modern designs.
Asides colors, these tattoos are made up of predominant shapes. Most common among these shapes are bold loops, geometric shapes, hooks, and swirls. These shapes are used to form human figures, animals, objects, and deities too. These tattoos were also used by the warriors as camouflage while on hunting expeditions those days. For this reason, it is not strange to see twigs and stones as major elements of these tattoos.
Nowadays these tattoos are quite different, even though a few of the old patterns are still in use. The older, more traditional patterns were used to identify tribes and individuals wore them to associate with their tribes.
Types of tribal tattoos
Discussing types of tribal tattoos can be quite dicey and a bit confusing seeing that categories may be indefinite in most cases. Despite how challenging it might be, it is important to group these tattoos into categories for convenience sake.
This will be done based on several criteria. The first will be based on chronology.
Traditional tribal tattoos
Talking about traditional tattoos, we refer to the patterns that are used. Traditional tattoos are those that make use of the original patterns that were used in the ancient tribal tattoos. These days these tattoos with original tribal elements are extremely rare. What we have are tattoos with modern elements.
Despite this, we can’t dispute the fact that many tribes still make use of traditional tribal techniques. Some of these tribes are located in Africa, New Zealand, Hawaii, etc. The natives of these communities make use of the techniques that have been passed down to them from their ancestors.
One of the most famous traditional tribal tattoo designs still in existence is the Ta Moko of the Maori people of New Zealand. The Maori tribe has strong links to tattoos as the term is even derived from the Maori language. In Maori, the term tattoo translates to “bodily adornments.” This style also depicts the exact reasons why tribal tattoos were used in the first place.
Modern tribal tattoos
More often than not, modern tattoos are made up of modified traditional tattoos as the artists pick up elements of the traditional tattoos and then tweak them in several ways. Also, these twists make the tattoos look original and sometimes cross-cultural. At the end of the day, the tattoos look very appealing and adorable.
These modern tattoos open the door for us to be able to discuss other subtypes of tribal tattoos. The subtypes include:
- Borneo tattoo designs. The natives of this tribe have been recognized the world over as having strong powers to heal diseases and dissipate pain. This is why their tattoos have become very popular since they were a key part of their healing rituals. The tattoos also comprise pf skulls and roses and are still in use to date.
- Marquesan tattoo designs. The people of this tribe are residents of French Polynesia. Their tattoo art was a major part of their culture and identity which is why the tattoos were never hidden. The bogus tattoos were placed on their ears, chests, thighs, shoulders, and lips. All of their designs are very much in use today.
- Hawaiian tattoo designs. The natives of Hawaii are synonymous with tattoos as their tattoos are a major part of their culture and heritage. Their tattoos mostly constitute of crescents, squares, triangles, and other geometrical designs. Their tattoos, which they consider as magical and very spiritual, sometimes have animals like lizards and sharks.
Other modern tribal tattoos
- Polynesian tattoo designs. The Polynesian islands refer to almost all the islands of the Pacific region. The people of this region are renowned for their strong cultural values and traditions. Their unique tattoos brought them so much recognition worldwide, including the famous Captain Cook tattoo design. For several centuries, these tattoos have existed among the Polynesian people. Consequently, the tattoos have since spread to the rest of the world by the travels of soldiers and European explorers and sailors.
- Native American tattoo designs. These designs are made up of figures of snakes, eagles, bears, and many other animals. Other objects added to these designs include feathers, dream catchers, anchors, and stars. These tattoos bear several messages including identification, faith, power, and protection.
- Maori tattoo designs. This is one of the biggest tribes in New Zealand and they are recognized majorly for their beautiful body art tattoos. Each member of the clan bore these tattoos and the tattoos carried information about the parents, background, and the person’s societal status.
- Aztec tattoo designs. A part of Central America was occupied by the Aztec people for three centuries, between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Aztec warriors were easily recognizable because of their impeccable body art. The elements used in designing these tattoos included the sun, eagles, and the deities worshipped by the people. These elements were all regarded as very symbolic to the Aztec heritage.
- Chinese tattoo designs. A couple of Chinese tribes are recognized for their unique tattoo art. The most prominent of these are Li, Dai, and Drung. Though very ancient, their tattoos still hold relevance today and artists have worked with them to create new designs using a lot of creativity.
Meanings of tribal tattoos
Usually, the meanings of tribal tattoos are not just dependent on the designs alone, they are also related to the cultures that are represented. It is worthy of note that a certain symbol or object may bear different meanings across several cultures. This is why for you to understand the meaning of any of the tattoos, you may need to inquire about the background of the tattoo and learn more about it.
The Ta Moko tattoo design of the Maori people is very unique as it covers most of the face of the wearer. The design is designed with so much detail and unique for each individual. The tattoos bear much significance to the culture and tradition of the Maori people.
Dead people were believed to be translucent by the Maori people. This is why they inked these unique tattoos on their people so that whenever they appeared, the light would not be able to pass through them completely. By so doing, their loved ones and friends would be able to recognize them.
Some of the tribal tattoo designs were created majorly for spiritual purposes, mostly for rituals and for protection from evil forces. As you would expect, not all these tattoo meanings have been carried forward into the modern era. Truth be told, a number of tattoos in the modern tattoo culture do not have any deep meanings. They are just designed for fashion purposes alone.
Ideal tribal tattoo placement
The placement of these tattoos is varied to a large extent, mostly depending on the taste of the wearer and the tattoo design. The idea of tribal tattoos is that they should be large and very visible. Due to this, the tattoos are mostly placed on the hands, face, and neck. These days, however, it may be unwise to have a tattoo on your face considering the fact that you might need to cover the tattoo at some point.
For a person who is conservative and wants something discreet, it will be best to place the tattoo somewhere hidden. You may decide on a location covered by hair, clothes, or your shoes. One fact about tattoos placed in hidden locations is that they are always more painful. These are because these hidden places are tenderer.
Here is an added tip. Before concluding on your decision to get a tribal tattoo and the placement, be sure of how much pain you will be able to bear. When most people consider this, they prefer just placing the tattoo on their shoulders, upper arms, or the legs.
Preparation tips for tribal tattoos
Really, preparing from this type of tattoo is not exactly different from any of the other types of tattoos. As usual, the first step is taking a survey of tattoo artists and establishments where you can have your tattoo done. If you are to put a percentage to it, at least 50% of your tattoo preparation lies in doing this. After all, you need to be able to trust any individual that will be given the opportunity to put a permanent mark on your body.
The working environment of the artist must also be neat and comfortable for you to stay. Thus you shouldn’t just focus on the skill and portfolio of the artist, which are very important by the way. Moreover, you should beam your floodlights on the artist’s environment. The studio, as well as the tattooing instruments, must be neat so you don’t jeopardize your health.
To know if your artist is neat enough and the working environment is healthy, check for the following:
Things to Check
- Look at the general outlook of the shop or studio. The state of the environment will also tell much about the equipment used and how healthy they are. The advice is that if they are not healthy enough, move away as fast as you can.
- Check for a sterilization autoclave for the needles. Try to observe if they use it and how often they do. You need to find this out so you don’t catch some nasty infection from getting your tattoo done.
- Does the tattoo artist make use of gloves while working? It is standard practice that the artist makes use of these while working. If the artist doesn’t, then credibility is definitely questionable.
- Does the artist open new packs of needles in front of clients? It is required that for each procedure, new needles must be used. If the artist does not open a new pack of needles in front of the client, it is likely the needles used are not new, which is not safe.
Other Things to Note
It is wise to check for reviews about the artist you have chosen. The artist description might be a bit biased but when you contact past clients, you will have the real gist. You can even see and feel their tattoos if they let you, never be shy to ask.
Once you are satisfied with the artist, the rest of the preparation is simple since it is done on your own body. You must be sure that you are in great condition health wise before even considering getting a tattoo. Even if you have scheduled an appointment and you get as little as a cold the previous day, it is wise to cancel and postpone.
This is important so that you don’t expose yourself unduly to infections when you already have your body battling one infection. You should also ensure that you stay away from alcohol at least a day before. Alcohol makes your blood thinner which could lead to you bleeding a lot during the procedure and making the process more painful.
As a woman, it is advised that you avoid the tattoo parlor during your period. At this point, you are usually more sensitive than regular. Add this to the pain of the procedure, and you become an exposure waiting to happen.
Cost of getting a tribal tattoo
Tattoos cost money and the charges are mostly based on the size of the tattoo, the difficulty of the procedure, or the number of hours spent. The cost for a small tribal tattoo begins from around $50. If the tattoo is as big as a palm, then we may be talking of a couple of hundred dollars.
When the tattoo is large, most artists will charge based on the number of hours put in to bring it to completion rather than charging a flat rate. The flat rates are charged on the smaller tattoos since they are finished a lot faster.
For best quality tattoos it is wise not to skimp on prices. When you do, there is a probability of getting a terrible tattoo at the end of the day. What you pay for is the skill and time of the artist so you need to pay handsomely to get the best quality.
Maintaining tribal tattoos
It is imperative that after getting these beautiful tattoos you take proper care of the tattooed area so it can heal fast enough. The skin gets injured during the procedure which is why aftercare tips are necessary to get it back in shape within the shortest possible time.
More importantly, the aftercare processes are necessary to eliminate the risk of infection. The infections could be fatal or could lead to a loss in body parts. If an infection is noticed, the case should be reported to the hospital immediately.
After the tattoo procedure, the artist may advise you to cover the surface with a bandage for a period which could last between a few hours to a few days. Asides these, a few other tips will be provided by your artist. You are required to follow these instructions religiously so that you can heal up fast.
You will need to make use of certain skin products, it is best to pick a list from your artist. Make sure you keep the surface clean and avoid any abrasions or rubbing. Also, keep away from immersing the tattoo in water.
Tribal Tattoo Design Ideas
Tribal full sleeve tattoo for men
A classy tattoo that stretches from the shoulder to the wrist. It is made of different tribal symbols.
Black shaded half sleeve tribal tattoo
It brings together several elements and is shaded in full black color. The tattoo extends a little below the elbow in a classy manner.
Full sleeve disjointed tribal tattoo
This design shows the tattoo separated at several points even though it seems continuous all through, from the shoulder to the wrist.
Double sleeve tribal tattoo
Both hands are covered with full sleeve tattoos. One hand has a tribal tattoo and the other is covered in a flowery tattoo. The tattoos are very obvious and cool.
Full sleeve Maori tattoo
A full expression of Maori tattoo culture. This tattoo brings together several elements of the Maori culture covering every part of the arm except beyond the wrist.
Chest to wrist Maori tattoo
This tattoo begins on one side of the chest and stretches through the arm to end at the wrist. A cool way to link up with your ancestry.
Intricate half sleeve tattoo design
A lot of detail can be seen in this tribal tattoo. It is probably going to cost a fortune and require a lot of time to achieve. After a few days, you will discover that every second spent was worth it.
Full sleeve Celtic tattoo
The different patterns make the tattoo look very attractive, one of the characteristics of Celtic tattoos. They mostly signify fertility and religion.
Extensive full sleeve tribal tattoo
This tattoo shows a lot of detail which means you must be ready to spend quite a while at the tattoo shop. It looks great at the end of the day and is also very adorable.
Celtic inspired full sleeve tattoo
This design is drawn most of its inspiration from a Celtic background. It is obvious from the different Celtic knots seen scattered all through the tattoo.
Arm and chest tribal tattoo
It covers the whole of the chest and spreads to one of the arms, stopping just after the elbow.
Mid-sized male tribal tattoo
The elements of this tattoo are neither too big or small. The tattoo is neat and attractive.
Another detailed half sleeve tribal tattoo
This tattoo also shows a lot of details and it stretches from the shoulder to below the elbow. The different elements making up the tattoo are well defined and it mixes a bit Maori elements too.
Large Celtic tattoo for men
The entire hand is covered by this tattoo drawn in full black color. It is a cool way to represent your Celtic roots.
Abstract full sleeve tattoo for men
This tattoo shows an amazing design which really is just abstract. The tattoo looks like a merger of several vectors.
Hawaiian full sleeve tribal tattoo
This tattoo draws its inspiration from Hawaiian roots and stretches the whole length of the arm.
Multiple faces chest and arm tattoo
This tattoo is made up of several faces and a few Maori elements. It covers part of the chest and the whole arm too.
Thick and thin tribal tattoo
It is made up of thick and thin lines. The thick lines cover the shoulder and stop at the upper arm. The thinner lines stretch from the upper arm to just below the elbow.
Another half sleeve Maori tribal tattoo
This is another beautiful Maori inspired design that is great for men. The elements of Maori tradition are vivid on this design makes look very cool.
Few details tribal tattoo
This is not as detailed as most of the tattoos on this list but it is just as cool as they are. The beautiful tattoo for men extends from the shoulder to the elbow.
Samoan tribal tattoo
This tattoo looks great on our favorite actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It covers his shoulder and stops above the elbow. The black color makes it look very classy.
Mid-Back heart-shaped female tribal tattoo
A great way to express love, this tribal tattoo is drawn in the shape of a heart. It sits in the middle of the back and is made up several tribal elements.
Dogface half sleeve tribal tattoo
A huge dog face sits at the middle of this tattoo which is placed on the upper arm. The face is surrounded by several elements of the Maori tribe.
Flowery tribal tattoo for women
Tribal elements are used to create several sizes of flowers. The flowers are arranged on the upper arm in the most adorable manner.
Religious chest, back, and arm tattoos
This is a culmination of several religious symbols and it is placed on the lower arms and then on the chest and back looking like the man wore the tattoo.
Other Tattoo Ideas
Tribal tattoo roundup
You must have a filled day with the different tribal tattoos designs provided above. You could try any one of them with your artist and you can be sure it will look really great.