How To Draw Original Tribal Tattoo Designs

Updated on February 8, 2016

Step-By-Step Guide to Designing a Tribal Tattoo


Many tribal tattoo's have specific meanings behind them, but if you are looking for a complete one-off design, one that cannot be accessed by the millions then making your own or getting an artist to design one is definitely the way to go.

As an avid drawer, I have personally designed all of my own tattoo and so have never seen any of mine on someone else.

Body art is an extension of a persons personality, so I believe that your tattoo should reflect that. Obviously everybody has different ideas about their own body art, so in my opinion the best way to get the most individual design, which reflects your own personality is to do it yourself!

The sketch I have here on the right shows the steps I would take in order to come up with a simple yet very effective and professional-looking tattoo.

Step 1 - Start Simple

I started with two curved lines that cross over just above the half-way point, or the "heart" of the tattoo. If the design is going on a part of the body such as the lower leg or the upper arm, you can re-arrange the location of the "heart" to accentuate the curves and shape of the body.

Step 2 - Thickness

The next step is to decide on the thickness of the design. You do can make it thicker by doubling up the lines as seen opposite. Two things to bear in mind:

  1. If the tattoo is going to be solid black, the area between the two lines will be the bit coloured in, so you should make sure you're satisfied with the thickness of the lines.
  2. Make sure you're happy with the thickness. Everyone has their own preferences and each to their own, but the overall look of the tattoo is ultimately your choice, as you will be the one wearing it for many years.

Step 3. Decoration

After the settling on the thickness, the next stage involves adding some decorative "spikes" to the curves. The ones I have put on this particular design have a more masculine look about them but there is obviously nothing stopping you from making the "spikes" more feminine or opting for some more flowery decorations.

The Finished Product

Once you have the main structure of the design, there isn't much left to do as far as construction is concerned, all that is needed is that, as you can see here, where the lines overlap other lines, the sketched lines inside the main body of the design will need to be erased, leaving a 'clean' tattoo design. It is very helpful to keep a totally clean copy aside, this is to allow you to experiment with the filling of the tattoo.

Most tribal tattoo's are solid black but that by no means pigeonholes you into having a black one. You could leave it as a simple outline, or have the tips solid and gradually fading into the flesh of your body or another colour entirely. You could also put an inner line of red inside the black outline giving it a shadow effect/ the choice and possibilities are endless and it is totally up to you how you want to go with it.


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