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Tribal Tattoo Design Ideas and Meanings (With Pictures)

Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.

Tribal tattoos are one of the most popular tattoo styles in the world.

Tribal tattoos are one of the most popular tattoo styles in the world.

Tribal Tattoos and Art for Men and Women

The tribal tattoo is one of the most popular tattoo designs in the world. They can be designed in many different ways, often portrayed alone or designed with other symbols and elements. These designs are mainly worn by men, but women sport them, too.

The origin of this type of tattoo goes back to tribal communities. The designs were used to mark a person's membership in a particular tribe. Needles were not around during these times, so the skin was cut and filled with soot or ash. The Maori community in New Zealand used this method, for example.

Traditionally, tribal tattoos were drawn in solid black ink with continuous lines. Today, however, colors can be incorporated into these designs.

Tribal Tattoo Design Ideas

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Tribal Tattoo Designs

Tribal tattoo art can be designed in many different shapes, styles, colors, and sizes.

  • Size: Some designs can be quite large; for example, a full-length arm tattoo that covers the entire distance from the shoulder to the wrist. Others, on the other hand, can be small and discrete.
  • Symbolism: Some designs depict recognizable symbols or pictures, like flowers, plants, or animals like bears or butterflies. Other designs are more abstract. They can be traditional patterns that have tribal meaning but that do not depict a recognizable object.
  • Color: Black ink is traditional for these designs, but contemporary designs can certainly incorporate color. Four colors that I think complement black very well are yellow, pink, silver, and turquoise.

More Tribal Tattoo Art Ideas

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Consider Before Inking

If you are considering a tattoo, make sure you give it a lot of thought, first. You never want to rush into the process because you don't want to end up with something you may regret for the rest of your life.

Many people take months or even years before they eventually choose their design. Be sure to explore many different design ideas, read up on the meanings behind them, and make sure the concepts will stand the test of time. Will the design still be meaningful to you next year? Ten years from now?

You may also wish to consider what others might think. I say this only because some people can be judgemental, and this may come up, for example, when you are looking for employment. You may want to choose to get tattooed on a part of your body that can easily be covered up with clothing, if needed.

The bottom line, however, is to do what's right for you. Be thoughtful and be creative. You're sure to come up with the perfect design for you!

Even More Tattoo Design Ideas

Comments

Good Man on September 15, 2012:

This is fantastic. I like the tribal art tattoos very much. Just like in the other page I found: http://epsos.de/10-Best-tattoo-design-ideas-for-me...

Keep thinking about getting one.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on December 06, 2011:

Mary, just to play devil's advocate, tattoos are often a sign of rebellion. Telling your child you die if they got one, might encourage them to get one :-) I know I got my first one the day after my mom told me she hates them and thinks they're ugly :-)

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 29, 2011:

Xethonxq, thanks for coming by and I appreciate the comment. I agree with your thought. They are good for first tattoos, but if you already have a few, it just really don't work. That is a good point though. I appreciate the expertise.

xethonxq on November 29, 2011:

Great hub!! I love the pics. I have have three tattoos, but none are tribal. I think if I were younger and just starting out picking my tattoos I might consider getting one.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 23, 2011:

Thanks for coming by Mary and for your comment and time. As a parent, I can understand for sure. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and no offense taken. Certain tattoos would offend me as a parent as well, especially my daughter. But if she decided on it and wanted a butterfly or dolphin, I don't think I would object. Thanks for coming by and have a great day Mary.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on November 22, 2011:

As a Mother of 6 daughters, I would DIE if one of mine got a tattoo. I just don't like them, sorry if this offends anyone , but that's how I feel. This Hub was very informative.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 22, 2011:

KBEvolve, thanks for checking them out and for your comment. I am the same, if I see one on someone or in a book, I am thinking of how I can get it. Thanks for coming by and best wishes.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 22, 2011:

Jdatwell, thanks for coming by and for your comment and time. I always appreciate a visit. Best wishes and take care.

Kenneth Brown from United States on November 21, 2011:

I really like the dragon tattoo. It tempts me a little into thinking about actually getting some ink.

jdatwell on November 21, 2011:

not bad some of them are so beautiful words can't describe them. nice and well written.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 21, 2011:

PDX, lol.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on November 21, 2011:

lyricwriter, I never kid. I'm stone cold somber

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 18, 2011:

Deborrah, thank you bunches for coming by and for your comment and vote. It is greatly appreciated. Thanks for the blessing and God Bless you. Keep on doing your thing sister:)

Elder DeBorrah K Ogans on November 18, 2011:

Thelyricwriter, This was very educational & informative! I have learned something... I do not personally subscribe to tatooos! The designs here are very interesting & creative! Thank you for sharing, Peace & Blessings! Voted UP!

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 17, 2011:

PDX, you weren't kidding was you:) None the less, appreciate the comment.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on November 16, 2011:

I actually just don't like the way they look and most people I know that have them are kind of douchey, but, to each his own!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Hate-Tribal-Tattoo...

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 15, 2011:

PDX, thanks for the visit and your expertise. Interesting because some tattoo artist have certain beliefs like you describe. I know a few myself that think this way. Me, I don't, but I could see the respect side of it all.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on November 15, 2011:

i have several tattoos and I've always found tribal tattoos to be stupid, unless you actually belong to a tribe. The artist that works on me feels the same. But, to each his own, I guess. Good hub.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 14, 2011:

Donna, thanks for the visit. The organge peel is a close comparrison of real skin and it is an inexpensive way to practice.

Donna Cosmato from USA on November 14, 2011:

Beautiful images! It was interesting to learn that some tattoo artists practice on oranges :) Thanks for sharing - voted up.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 13, 2011:

AE, you make a good point. Many people feel better when they are at an artist that they feel comfortable around, environment included. They understand the emotions that come with a first tattoo. As AE said, they are not there to push your decision.

f on November 13, 2011:

always exploring:

Like thelyricwriter says, it's quite normal before the first time. Without committing yourself (and tattooists don't tend to push a 'hard sell'), simply talking to your local tattooist in a good parlor can often enlighten. Whether it also 'emboldens', depends more on you.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 13, 2011:

Alastar, thanks for coming to read the hub and for your comments and input. Interesting question may I add. The lotion doesn't work great on blue and green ink, the two toughest colors to get off. More then likely, laser removal will be needed for these ink colors. I have heard mixed reviews about the lotion, both good and bad. I have never tried it or seen it done myself. I always say laser is the best method. You know, anyone that can draw has a good chance at being a tattoo artist. If you can draw what you see, it is worth a shot. Many artist practice on oranges, nearly resembles the skin. The flower tattoo is a mix itself, tribal and Pacific Islander. Very good looking on a woman if I may add. Thanks for the input Alastar. Good question and statements.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 13, 2011:

AE, thanks for coming by my dear. It is perfectly normal to feel like that on your first time. Smaller tats offer the same feeling with less pain. The pain really isn't as bad as someone would think. On certain parts of the body, the pain is very low.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 13, 2011:

SusieQ, thanks for the comments my friend. A smaller version tattoo would be less painful and tollerable as someone else has mentioned. I do agree, your artist could help with any questions or concerns that you may have. If you really want it, I say go for it. Live life, no regrets:) Thanks for coming by.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on November 13, 2011:

Man, those are some wicked good tats lyric! That's something with the tribal and Celtic mix. The one with the flowers all way down the woman's back stand-out too. Great tat hub lyric. BTW, do any of those tat lotion removers work on green ink ? Someone could start in the biz with what's on display here. Decent prices on em as well.

f on November 13, 2011:

SusieQ42:

You really like the idea of a classy, little colorful butterfly, then? without committing yourself, just talk to a good local parlor tattooist: s/he may be able to offer some constructive suggestions, and maybe help with any hesitations you might have. Using a numbing agent can help, too, and make it a pretty painless and satisfying experience, if YOU want it, that is. Blessings.

SusieQ42 on November 13, 2011:

I want a butterfly and I don't the nerve to do it either. Plus I'm afraid of ink poisoning.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on November 13, 2011:

Some of these tattos are beautiful. I've always wanted a heart on my ankle, just never had the nerve to do it. Thank you..Voted up..

SusieQ42 on November 13, 2011:

Wow! I don't have any tattoos but these are beautiful. Voted up and awesome.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 13, 2011:

Thanks for the visit from Facebook:) I always appreciate your comments. Take care and thanks again.

HBN, thanks for coming by, the comment, and all your votes. I really do appreciate your thoughts and expertise. They are a good way to remember someone and mark that person's life or even death. They can show value in birth, life, and death. Hope all is well and thanks for the visit.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 13, 2011:

Gypsy, so glad to hear from you. Thanks for the visit. I am glad you like the images. Hope you have had a good weekend. Take care:)

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 13, 2011:

Zen, thanks for stopping by and for the comment and vote. I am so glad you like it. I believe many people don't realize the thought process that takes place when it comes to tattoos. Some people think for years on a design. It is so good to hear from you.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on November 13, 2011:

Very informative, comprehensive and well-written hub about tribal tattos with excellent illustrations.

On Veteran's Day our local paper did a two page spread on war veterans who get tattos to "honor" someone who died in their unit or tattos that others in their unit have gotten.

Thanks for sharing this information. It was very interesting and I voted it up across the board except for funny.

f on November 13, 2011:

Interesting hub. I don't think tribals are confined to male wearers any longer.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on November 13, 2011:

Wow some wild and crazy tattoos. Love those pics.

Hillbilly Zen from Kentucky on November 13, 2011:

Awesome Hub, lyric! I've been wanting to get another tat for years now, but haven't found the right design...yet. Thanks for the cosmic nudge. Voted up and awesome!

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 13, 2011:

Hey there MM. Yes, my 15 day streak at work is officially over. I am so tired. I am getting ready to watch football as we speak. Hope all is good on your side of the world. Have a good one MM and I will talk to you soon:)

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 13, 2011:

Hey there b Malin. I believe a tiny tattoo is the way to go for the in between per say. Some area that can be covered perhaps. I try to loo at it as art. But when you get older, that is a thing to think about. I believe many people don't consider what a tattoo will look like years down the road. It is something to keep in mind for sure.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on November 13, 2011:

Proud, thanks for the comment and your time. I am pleased that you liked it.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on November 13, 2011:

Some of these tattoos are a work of art, quite beautiful!

Hope you have a day off today?!

Best wishes MM

b. Malin on November 13, 2011:

Wonderful Hub, Lyricwriter, the pictures were also quite Interesting...Some, actually quite Beautiful. I guess I always wonder what these people were thinking about when they cover half the bodies in this Fashion. Like how will they look at say age 50? However, sometime I think about a "tiny" Tattoo on one shoulder, or knee!

proudmotherof5 from Hawaii on November 13, 2011:

I love it

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