Ever wondered what category all those interesting designs with loops, swirls, and hooks inked mostly in black, belong to? Well, those are tribal tattoos, each belonging to one of several popular tribes from around the world. That said, there are different types of tribal tattoos you should know about before selecting a final design for yourself. A tribe’s rich culture, history, as well as centuries-old heritage are a few reasons enthusiasts get inked with at least one tattoo inspired by their favorite tribe. If you’re one of those enthusiasts, you’ve landed on the right page.
In this article, I’ve covered the 12 most popular types of tribal tattoos. I’ve also handpicked trending tattoo design ideas falling under each of these popular tribal categories. These 104 designs in total are stunning, meaningful, and downright beautiful. Besides the history and symbolism behind each of the types of tribal tattoos, the source of each design is also mentioned. This way, you’ll be able to explore more work by talented artists.
Types of Tribal Tattoos
Given below are 12 different types of tribal tattoos and several handpicked, praiseworthy design ideas under each type, along with everything there is to know about their incredible appeal.
1. Indian Tribal Tattoos
Indian tribal tattoo designs include traditional simplistic body art that makes use of straight lines and Indian deities, symbolizing great power and strength. Indian tribal tattoos also depict ancient carvings, floral patterns, geometric designs, and animals and creatures. Common animal and creature choices for the designs are tigers, elephants, and dragons. Owing to their incredible aesthetic appeal, ancient Indian tribal tattoos of jewelry-like carvings were preferred over real jewelry and accessories. These days, modern Indian tribal designs are large in size.
Indian Tribal Back Tattoo
The above full-back tattoo shows the goddess Kali. Kali is the perfect embodiment of female power or ‘shakti.’ She is an embodiment of destruction. She looks scary and bloodthirsty, yet acts as a protector against all evil.
Indian Tribal Calf Tattoo
Life is never-ending, and everything in the universe is connected. That’s what this lion mandala represents in addition to pride. The lion further represents loyalty, wisdom, and protection among other things.
Indian Tribal Chest Panel Tattoo
This is the quintessential ancient tribal tattoo art originating from Gujarat in India. It’s associated with the Rabari tribes as well as other remote tribes of the Kutch region. Some noteworthy elements are the peacocks and geometric designs.
Indian Tribal Style Full Sleeve Tattoo
This traditional, Indian tribal piece is relatively easy to ink and cheap too. It looks amazing on the full arm.
Indian Tribal Neck & Upper Back Tattoo
Floral patterns are an inherent part of traditional Indian Tribal art. In the above neck and upper back tattoo, the lotus symbolizes purity, enlightenment, and rebirth. Even when a lotus’s roots are immersed in the dirtiest waters, a beautiful flower is produced.
Indian Tribal Animal Tattoo
In Indian culture, Tattoos showcasing a tiger or other animals are symbolic of mourning for losing your loved ones.
Indian Tribal Geometric Tattoo Design
In Indian tribal culture, Geometrical designs represent trapping evil beings to safeguard them till they meet their ancestors during the afterlife. Geometrical tattoos applied on women signify safeguarding them from sexual predators.
Indian Tribal Chest Tattoo For Men
This is another amazing black ink tattoo of the goddess Kali. This one is perfectly inked in the center of the man’s chest.
2. Hawaiian Kakau Tribal Tattoos
Hawaiian tribal tattoos are loved for their wonderful black-inked look, sea animals, and geometric patterns. The rich tribal artwork of the region teaches us strong stories of their culture. The tribe’s culture is among the most popular among tattoo enthusiasts. Besides the love of water, flowers, and sea animals such as the turtle, Hawaiin Kakau tattoos are sought by men who want to show their warrior-like status.
Tribal Hawaiian Pectoral Tattoo
This chest piece is the perfect example of artsy Hawaiian geometric patterns used in creating stunning tattoos.
Tribal Hawaiian Upper Back Tattoo
The turtle is the most popular sea animal for a Hawaiian tribal tattoo. The above back piece looks elegant due mainly to the beautiful Hawaiian flower.
Tribal Hawaiian Hand Tattoo
The hand is one of the coolest placements for a tribal tattoo. The above black tribal design on the front of the hand is sure to seek attention.
Tribal Hawaiian Calf Tattoo
The sun is an important element in most tribal cultures, and the Hawaiians are not behind on that front. Leadership, light, and creativity are some important connotations of the sun.
Tribal Hawaiian Thigh Tattoo
The humpback whale is one of the most important sea mammals in Hawaiian tribal culture. The ocean played a crucial role among the islands’ Native Hawaiian inhabitants. The ocean represents spiritual and physical sustenance, while the whale represents a strong connection between spiritual and physical worlds.
Tribal Hawaiian Turtle Tattoo
In Hawaiian culture, turtles or “honu” are the most sacred of creatures. They represent good luck and protection.
Tribal Hawaiian Arm Tattoo
Geometric shapes are the theme of most Hawaiian tattoos. This shoulder piece is an immaculately inked design using black and grey ink.
Tribal Hawaiian Rib Tattoo
Hawaii is all about beautiful exotic flowers. This rib area tattoo is precious and elegant. It’s the type of tribal tattoo design that the ladies would love to show off.
3. Native-American Cherokee Tribal Tattoos
There are several reasons Native-American Cherokee tribal tattoos are popular. The name Cherokee means “people of a different speech.” The Cherokee people are the South-Eastern United States, indigenous tribal people. To the Cherokee, religious teachings are everything. According to their culture, there needs to be balance, harmony, cooperation, and respect within one’s community and nature. There’s a great deal of learning from Cherokee myths and legends. These lessons teach you how to maintain a natural balance, harmony, and health within the community, people, and nature.
Cherokee Tribal Back Tattoo
In Native-American culture, wolves are symbols of virtue. The above image is that of a tattoo featuring a wolf on one side and a Cherokee member on the other. The wolf people, according to Cherokee beliefs, would never kill a wolf. The slain wolf’s spirit would otherwise take revenge for its death.
Cherokee Tribal Leg Tattoo
This leg piece of a Cherokee woman is tattooed to perfection by the artist. This type of realistic tattoo is one of the most sought-after styles when it comes to Cherokee tattoos.
Cherokee Tribal Thigh Tattoo
This unfinished Cherokee skull tattoo would look even bolder and more striking once the piece is done. A skull in Native-American culture signifies strength, passion, fierce pride, and dignity.
Cherokee Tribal Calf Tattoo
This calf and shin piece of a Cherokee looks ideal on this placement. The symbolism is incredible. To the Cherokee, the belief, there should be balance and harmony, etc. is the ultimate religion.
Cherokee Tribal Full Sleeve Tattoo
This full sleeve tattoo looks powerful. You’ll feel pride in wearing such a design permanently on your body.
Cherokee Tribal Forearm Tattoo
This is a beautiful Cherokee design for the forearms. You’ll notice the shades of typical Cherokee colors. As of today, three Cherokee tribes are federally recognized in the United States. These are the Oklahoma-based United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB), the Cherokee Nation (CN) also in Oklahoma, and the North Carolina based Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).
Realistic Cherokee Tribal Tattoo
This is another marvelous Cherokee piece for the forearm. You’ll notice an illustrative eagle at the bottom section of the design. The eagle is mostly shown featured with a feather, and to the Cherokee, it represents strength, honor, mystical power, friendship, and beyond all love.
Cherokee Tribal Chest & Sleeve Tattoo
This chest piece of a woman Cherokee looks almost a natural part of the man’s body. The tattoo is placed by the artist with great skill so that it doesn’t look out of place.
4. Samoan Tribal Tattoos
Samoa is considered a part of Polynesia, yet it does have a distinct tribal flair. Thus, it made perfect sense to give Samoa an independent spot on the list in this article. The several sentimental meanings associated with Samoan tribal tattoos make them stand apart from the crowd. What you’ll love about these tattoos is that they are made of straightforward strokes. These tattoos are amongst the coolest in the tribal category. Samoan-style tattoos are typically used for protection from land or sea animals.
Samoan Tribal Shoulder & Pectoral Tattoo
This vivid, black ink tattoo sits crisply on the shoulder and left pectoral muscle. It’s a typical, cool Samoan tribal tattoo that simply looks amazing.
Samoan Tribal Lower Leg Tattoo
Samoan tattoos are often meant for placement in the lower body regions, and this awesome calf and shin peace is typical placement.
Samoan Tribal Full Back Tattoo
This full-back piece is a commendable piece of body art. The use of blank spaces for the divisions gives it a neat look.
Samoan Tribal Sleeve Tattoo
This sleeve has intricate Samoan tribal patterns inked with precision.
Samoan Tribal Upper Back Tattoo
I love how the bird design is created with a tribal pattern. This is a gutsy piece that only the bold amongst us would envision getting inked with.
Samoan Tribal Half Sleeve Tattoo
This macho arm piece is what it is because of the dark color and dense Samoan tribal design.
Samoan Tribal Multi-Placement Tattoo Design
This design is Samoan to the core. If we date back to the original Samoan tattoo art styles, the tribesmen and women had various tattoos all over their bodies that were in synergy with each other. None of the unique elements are interconnected in the above imagery, yet each looks in unison with the other.
Samoan Tribal Half Back Tattoo
This curved back piece is unique in more than one way. The distinct Samoan tribal pattern and the curved styling set it apart from other half-back tattoo designs.
5. Irish Celtic Tribal Tattoos
Celtic tribes are famous for their fierce warriors. They’re also known for their architecture. Celtic tattoos you’ll come across often have a modern touch, setting them apart from other tribal categories. The typical symbols inherent in Celtic tattoos are knots, warrior symbols, birds, and animals. A few exceptional Celtic tattoos could also be colorful. In the Celtic tribal culture, animals signify courage, protection, and power. Other Celtic symbols used in tattoos are circles and trinities to represent the natural environment, organic energy, and time.
Black Line Work Celtic Tribal Tattoo
If you’re looking for simplistic black linework tattoos, the above Celtic tribal piece could be a perfect choice.
Irish Celtic Tribal Tattoo On Tricep
The two wings represent an angel. This Celtic tattoo looks excellent on the upper arm region.
Colorful Irish Celtic Tribal Tattoo
This colorful option is to die for. This Irish, Celtic tribal tattoo symbolizes nature and organic energy. I love how red is incorporated within the design in such an artsy way.
Irish Celtic Half-Back Tribal Tattoo
This is another half-back and arm piece inspired by Celtic tribal culture. The subdued, colored shading adds to the overall vibrancy of this great piece.
Irish Celtic Tribal Cross Upper Back Tattoo
Are you interested in knowing and experiencing the unfolding mystery of life? If yes, this Celtic tribal cross tattoo symbolizing just that is the perfect pick as your next tattoo.
Irish Celtic Tribal Arm Tattoo
Those wonderful knots, creatures, and the sun are all symbols that are typical elements for Celtic tribal tattoos.
Irish Celtic Tribal Dragon Tattoo
As a symbol of bringing Earthly and Heavenly forces together to the Celtics, dragons are revered like gods
Irish Celtic Tribal Owl Tattoo
The Celtics believe the owl is a symbol of wisdom. This tattoo then is the perfect choice if you want wisdom to be with you always.
6. Maori Tribal Tattoos
Face tattoos, that’s what the Maori tribe is popularly known for. Their tattoos consist of clear black lines and attractive Maori symbols. The turtle, symbolizing “health, longevity, and fertility,” is one such symbol. According to the Maori, the face and head are the most popular placement because this sacred area of the body is the perfect place to showcase social status, rank, and prestige. In modern times, the head and face aren’t as frequented as other body parts like the chest, arms, and legs. Hence, Maori tribal tattoos are still being loved but more so in non-traditional placement areas.
Maori Tribal Chest & Half Sleeve Tattoo
This handsome chest piece depicts the Maori style of patterns that exhibit the essence of the Maori tribal art form.
Simple Maori Tribal Back Tattoo
This sexy, meandering back piece is the perfect portrayal of Maori mixed with modern styling.
Maori Tribal Shoulder & Arm Tattoo
I love how only half the pectoralis muscle is inked alongside the sleeve. Such quirky surface use adds to the fun of this tattoo.
Small Maori Tribal Ring Design Tattoo
This calf band looks extremely tribal. It’s like the armor tribesmen would wear during their missions to save their communities.
Maori Tribal Upper Arm Tattoo
The upper arm is one of the most popular placement areas for any tribal tattoo. A design such as the black ink Maori composition above looks amazing!
Maori Tribal Black Stylized Feather Tattoo
This is the stylized version of a huia feather. The feather is a revered treasure for the Maori that signifies leadership and mana (prestige or moral authority).
Colorful Maori Tribal Lower Leg Tattoo
It’s always interesting to add color to a tribal design. Red is the first one that comes to mind. It’s an adequate choice to go along with the black ink work on the leg.
Black Ink Work Maori Tribal Leg Tattoo
This dark, bold leg piece is the perfect symbol of the Maori tribal art form.
7. Mexican Aztec Tribal Tattoos
Aztec tattoo art started in Central America and Mexico in the 14th century and kept building up in popularity well into the 16th century. Each Aztec tattoo would correspond to a fascinating god-honoring ritual. Aztec tattoos were also a means to exhibit warrior-like prowess and to assist the Aztec people in differentiating different tribes. Suppose you’re looking to honor original mesoamerican culture. Why not sport a trendy Aztec tribal tattoo and look great doing so.
Aztec Tribal Tattoo For Upper Arm
The above is an Aztec calendar design. This is a special design symbolizing leadership and strength conveyed through the ancient Mexican divinatory tool.
Colorful Aztec Tribal Quetzalcoatl Tattoo
Quetzalcoatl is the gigantic feathered serpent in Aztec mythology. It’s considered one of the most powerful gods, and he symbolizes fertility, learning, art, and dawn. A Quetzalcoatl tattoo, hence, symbolizes strength, knowledge, and creativity.
Aztec Tribal Mexican Eagle & Aztec Calendar Tattoo
This is another interesting Aztec piece. It’s the artsy version of the Aztec Calendar.
Simple Aztec Tribal Band Design Forearm Tattoo
Looking for something simple yet meaningful? This Aztec tribal band looks perfectly inked along the circumference of the forearm.
Black & Grey Aztec Tribal Quetzalcoatl Tattoo
As per the Aztecs, the creature ‘Quetzalcoatl’ was the world’s ultimate protector, symbolic of offering protection against evil forces. It was also a symbol of possessing an incredible degree of intelligence and lifelong learning.
Aztec Tribal Pectoral & Upper Arm Tattoo
Aztec tribal elements inspire this half chest and sleeve tattoo. The green-tone effect makes this a less vivid yet attractive tattoo to have.
Aztec Tribal Sleeve Tattoo
This black ink tattoo depicts Aztec gods that protect you from evil. The use of blank spaces gives an astonishing effect.
Aztec Tribal Calf Tattoo
These identical Aztec tribal designs on both calves are inked with perfection.
8. Polynesian Tribal Tattoos
Polynesian tribal tattoos first served the purpose of expressing the feelings and representation of each tribe member. The symbols used in Polynesian tattoos are mainly inked in black ink. Generally, there is a mix of different elements with the use of appropriate negative spaces within the design. The overall effect is breathtaking as the tattoo looks crisp, clear, and quite vivid. The symbols used for most Polynesian tribal tattoos are turtles (for luck), shark teeth (for strength and guidance), spearheads (sting of other animals), the ocean (changes in one’s life), Tiki carving, and Enata (human figures) among others.
The placement of a Polynesian tattoo is of utmost importance. For instance, an upper body tattoo signifies the link between Heaven and Earth. A backpiece tattoo signifies past mistakes.
Polynesian Tribal Marquesan Hand Tattoo
This Polynesian tribal hand tattoo is a design patterned based on the culture of Marquesan Island tribes.
Polynesian Tribal Marquesan Ankle & Foot Tattoo
In ancient times almost everyone in Polynesian society wore a tattoo. This stunning tattoo with black tattoo ink looks ideal on the lower leg, ankle, and foot area.
Polynesian Tribal Pectoral & Sleeve Tattoo
Masculinity is one of the main characteristics of Polynesian tattooing. This design further highlights the physical strength of the tattoo owner.
Polynesian Tribal Shoulder & Upper Arm Tattoo
The link between Heaven and Earth is reinforced by the portrayal of this striking, bold Polynesian tribal arm piece.
Colorful Polynesian Tribal Thigh Side Tattoo
Exotic flowers are an inherent part of every Polynesian nation. This colorful, floral tribal depiction looks out of this world!
Polynesian Tribal Forearm Tattoo
This forearm tattoo shows beautiful Polynesian tribal shapes and patterns.
Polynesian Tribal Half Back & Neck Tattoo
Need something different? This luxurious Polynesian back tattoo looks sexy, elegant, and super cool.
Polynesian Tribal Upper Back Tattoo
An upper back piece for the masculine contours of this man’s body. If you look carefully, there’s a quirky, 3-D feel to this particular design.
9. The Vikings Tribal Tattoos
The Vikings were one of the mightiest of tribes. Scenes of a powerful Viking fighting a battle are common inspirations for Viking Tattoos. Norse descendants have popularized Viking tattoos more than any other community. Typically, Viking tattoos are black and white, the black ink giving them a dramatic appeal. It’s important to know the incredible symbolism of Viking tattoos. Symbolism includes fierceness, protection, and guidance, giving the tattoo’s owner a sense of security. Furthermore, the famous “Helm of Awe” tattoo signifies might and protection.
Vikings Tribal Upper Arm Tattoo
Featured on the top part of this design is Vegvísir, meaning “the Signpost or the PathFinder.” The Vegvísir symbol would guide the Vikings to their desired destination safely.
Vikings Tribal Multi-Tattoo Design
This multi-tattoo composition includes the “Helm of Awe” as well as the Vegvisir symbols.
Vikings Tribal Wolf Tattoo On Arm
Mighty wolves like Fenrir, Hati, and Skoll were central to Norse mythology. The above tattoo of a tribal Viking wolf makes for a wonderful tattoo idea.
Vikings Tribal Wolf Knot Work On Full Forearm Tattoo
Knotwork is one of the most preferred among tribal Viking tattoo art. This forearm piece justifies everything the Vikings might have stood for.
Vikings Tribal Hand Tattoo
This hand tattoo design is beautiful. If you’re passionate about Viking history and culture, you’ll love to go for this small-sized tattoo.
Vikings Norse Tribal Wolf Tattoo On Upper Arm
Fenrir was among the most remarkable wolves in Norse mythology. He helped the universe to function naturally.
Vikings Tribal Chest Plate & Half Sleeve Tattoo
You’ll feel armored like a true Viking once you get inked with this type of chest plate and sleeve tattoo. The crisp black and white workmanship brings out the best in this design.
Vikings Tribal Intricate Full Sleeve Tattoo
If you have the time and money and love all things Viking, you’ll want to bear the pain and go in for this dense, full-sleeve design.
10. Filipino Tribal Tattoos
Filipino tribal tattoos symbolize one’s original roots. Designs have scenery, diamonds, eagles, etc. to symbolize the sacred elements of the land. Mostly depicted in black ink, these simplistic tattoos have aesthetic linear strokes and characters like men and dogs in addition to the ones already mentioned above.
Filipino Upper Arm Tribal Tattoo
Filipino tribal tattoos have been an important aspect of the Filipino community for multiple centuries. This awesome upper arm tattoo is the perfect example of a breathtaking art form.
Filipino Tribal Upper Back Tattoo
You can see the wave-like pattern, diamond shapes, and symmetry in the above concept. That’s the essence of a Filipino tattoo.
Filipino Tribal Neckline & Upper Arms Combination Tattoo
Here you get an idea of how tattooing must have been an important part of dressing up in ancient times. Permanent though.
Filipino Tribal Hand Filler Tattoo
This hand filler idea is perfect if you’re into Filipino tribal culture and tattoos.
Filipino Tribal Batek Tattoo For Pectoral & Full Arm
Filipino Batek design is known for symmetry and elaborate pattern work. This masculine piece showcases the best of Batek work in black ink with negative spacing.
Filipino Tribal Hummingbird & Plumeria Shoulder Tattoo
This is a super-cute Filipino tribal design featuring a Hummingbird and Plumeria on the shoulder region of the woman.
Filipino Tribal Full Chest & Upper Arms Tattoo
This remarkable tribal design grants you super-human-like charm. The fabulous net-type pattern uses different geometric shapes, shading, and basic Filipino tribal pattern to achieve this striking look.
Filipino Tribal Calf Tattoo
This paisley inscribed leg piece is for you if you love Filipino tribal art. The calf becomes a focal area of your body when inked with such a striking piece.
Filipino Tribal Leg Band Tattoo
For the unique look, you could go in for this fantastic leg band. It’s simple, quirky, and stunning to say the least.
Filipino Tribal Ankle Tattoo
This piece is everything Filipino. You have the setting sun, the ocean, and the triangular shapes, all of which signify beautiful meaning.
11. African Tribal Tattoos
There are strong storylines and incredible meanings attached to African tribal tattoos. Africa is a continent with several countries, each known for its unique culture and geography. It’s the only continent today which has a large number of tribes still in existence. African tribal tattoos stand out because of their unique elements like elephants (strength and power), scenery (beauty and riches of the land), flowers (beauty and health of black African man), Gods (men Gods), all shown with stunning black and colored ink.
African Black Tribal Tattoo On Arm
This bold black tattoo uses a thick, black ink design and makes for some crisp, loud imagery.
African Tribal Mask & Patterns Leg Sleeve Tattoo
This fantastic leg piece depicts a tribal element dear to many African tribes — the mask. In many African tribal rituals and ceremonies, the mask signifies a good harvest. Some masks may even symbolize the spirit of deceased ancestors.
African Tribal Mask Tattoo
This awe-inspiring tattoo of an African tribal mask connotes all things positive. It looks fabulous on the arm.
African Tribal Elephant Tattoo
The might and power of the elephant are unmatched. That’s why the tribes love the elephant so much.
African Tribal Matching Arm Bands Tattoo
This is a simplistic take on beautiful African tribal tattoo art. With both your forearms showcasing an identical band design, you’re sure to get inquisitive heads turning.
African Tribal Rib Side Pair Tattoo
Both sides feature a unique vertically flowing tribal design. This pair of tattoos won’t always be seen, yet if you’re an outdoors, adventurous person, you’ll flaunt this more than others.
African Tribal Upper Arm Black Linework Tattoo
This is freehanded black linework at its best. The African art displayed on your massive upper arms will blow onlookers’ minds away.
African Tribal Pectoral & Sleeve Tattoo
This piece will give ‘The Rock’ a run for his money. It’s less dense yet a highly vivid piece of body art for the pleasure of every onlooker’s eyes.
African Tribal Half Sleeve Tattoo
Strength, confidence, and a positive attitude will be your characteristics if you go by this tribal design.
African Tribal Geometric Tattoo
Finally, this geometric design is a stunning example of the best African tribal tattooing.
12. Modern Tribal Tattoos For Further Inspiration
Not into any particular tribe, yet you like the general idea? You could find inspiration in these modern tribal designs, self-created by evolving, creative minds. You will find signs of resemblance to bits and pieces from the above-mentioned tribes in the images below.
Here’s a quick look at some beautiful modern tribal tattoo designs:
Modern Tribal Forearm Tattoo
Modern Tribal Full Back & Sleeves Tattoo
Modern Tribal Arm Tattoo
Modern Tribal Neck & Collar Bone Tattoo
Modern Tribal Black Ink Arm Tattoo
Modern Tribal Calf Tattoo
Modern Tribal Rib Tattoo
Modern Tribal Ornamental Shin Tattoo
Modern Tribal Geometric Dotwork Tattoo
Modern Tribal Full Chest, Abs, Upper Arms Tattoo
Modern Tribal Circuit Board Design Tattoo
Modern Tribal Calf & Shin Tattoo
The wonderful thing about tribal tattoos is that they depict an image of the particular tribe’s gods, animals, and other symbolic creatures and natural elements. Each of these depictions signifies the tribe’s powerful culture and history. To feel a sense of pride in wearing your chosen tribal tattoo, it’s important to be personally pleased with the aesthetic and cultural representation of the design. Remember, once you get freshly inked, it’s your personal effort that will ensure your tattoo heals properly and remains protected. I’m sure by gaining knowledge through this article, you now know what makes each tribe unique, fascinating, and to be proud of.