A tribal tattoo is a cool and traditional choice that allows you to pay tribute to ancient cultures and traditions with meaningful ink. While artistic and beautiful, tribal tattoos for men are generally patterned designs that symbolize strength, courage and masculinity, often relating to fighting ability and social status within tribes for warriors.
When looking for tattoo ideas, you can choose a Maori, Aztec, Hawaiian, Samoan, Indian, Native American or African tribal-style design to create artwork that reflects your personality, heritage and creative preferences. Whether you want a badass and intricate sleeve or a small and simple shoulder piece, these stylish tribal tattoo designs will spark your creativity and help you show off your inner strength.
For inspiration, here are some examples of the best tribal tattoos for men that will make a powerful statement.
- 1 Tribal Tattoo Designs
- 1.1 Tribal Forearm Tattoo
- 1.2 Tribal Sleeve Tattoo
- 1.3 Tribal Hand Tattoo
- 1.4 Tribal Thigh Tattoo
- 1.5 Tribal Back Tattoo
- 1.6 Tribal Chest Tattoo
- 1.7 Tribal Arm Tattoo
- 1.8 Tribal Shoulder Tattoo
- 1.9 Hawaiian Tribal Tattoo
- 1.10 Polynesian Tribal Tattoo
- 1.11 Filipino Tribal Tattoo
- 1.12 African Tribal Tattoo
- 1.13 Aztec Tribal Tattoo
- 1.14 Native American Tribal Tattoo
- 1.15 Cherokee Tribal Tattoo
- 1.16 Indian Tribal Tattoo
- 1.17 Tribal Warrior Tattoo
- 1.18 Tribal Name Tattoo
- 1.19 Tribal Armband Tattoo
- 1.20 Tribal Leg Tattoo
- 1.21 Full Body Tribal Tattoo
- 1.22 Simple Tribal Tattoo
- 1.23 Small Tribal Tattoo
- 1.24 Meaningful Tribal Tattoo
- 1.25 Cool Tribal Tattoo
- 1.26 Tribal Wrist Tattoo
- 1.27 Tribal Wolf Tattoo
- 1.28 Colorful Tribal Tattoo
- 1.29 Tribal Dragon Tattoo
- 1.30 Tribal Lion Tattoo
- 1.31 Tribal Sun Tattoo
- 1.32 Tribal Phoenix Tattoo
- 1.33 Viking Tribal Tattoo
- 1.34 Tribal Flower Tattoo
- 1.35 Tribal Tiger Tattoo
- 1.36 Tribal Owl Tattoo
- 1.37 Tribal Skull Tattoo
- 1.38 Tribal Bear Tattoo
- 1.39 Cover Up Tribal Tattoo
- 2 What Is A Tribal Tattoo?
- 3 Tribal Tattoo Meaning
Tribal Tattoo Designs
Tribal Forearm Tattoo
A tribal forearm tattoo can be a rugged and sleek look for men who want to stand out with their ink. Forearm designs will take advantage of the large and flat surface area on the lower arm to create a flattering and handsome piece that can be covered up at will. This is a prime placement for anyone who wants to look at their art throughout the day since cool patterns will be highly visible if you are not wearing a long-sleeve shirt. A stylish cuff design can look incredible stretching from the mid-forearm to the wrist. If you want a standalone design that works well as part of a sleeve, a single image can look incredible on the inner forearm.
Tribal Sleeve Tattoo
A tribal sleeve tattoo is an ideal choice for daring guys who want to express their heritage with a bold and unique piece that instantly commands attention. The surface area you get with a sleeve design lets you play around with detailed shading, intricate patterns with negative space and even narrative artwork with heavy symbolism. You can incorporate the entire arm into a cohesive design for an edgy look or combine individual images for a creative patchwork design. Whatever you decide on, carefully research your sleeve to avoid being accused of cultural appropriation.
Tribal Hand Tattoo
A tribal hand tattoo is a popular option for men looking for highly visible and daring ink that showcases their roots. Tribal markings on the hand are virtually impossible to cover, but you can choose smaller artwork that traces along the fingers if you enjoy subtle artwork. If you prefer larger pieces, swirled patterns across the thumb and wrist can be refreshing as they directly incorporate the natural curve of the hand. For a standout piece with a unique edge, consider dark red ink or different line weights to add dimension to your ink.
Tribal Thigh Tattoo
A tribal thigh tattoo is a cool look for guys who want attractive artwork that will take center stage in the summer. Tribal leg designs are ideal for first-timers as the thick skin and muscle in this area make the poke of a needle feel more bearable. Complex artwork with negative space can look exceptional on the side or upper thigh, highlighting bulging muscles. You might also want to choose smaller pieces on the ankle or the bottom of the calf for a fresh and relaxed feel. If you want meaningful ink that can be hidden easily, a cuff around the ankle can be a dapper choice.
Tribal Back Tattoo
A tribal back tattoo is a cool and refreshing choice for modern men who want a large canvas for textured and masculine artwork. You can incorporate the rear delts, traps and upper back into your artwork if you want sprawling ink or stick to the scapula if you prefer standalone artwork. Traditional tribal markings in black ink always look classic. Otherwise, you can take advantage of the real estate on the back to incorporate mandalas, eagles with spread wings or even vertical totems down the spine for a badass look.
Tribal Chest Tattoo
A tribal chest tattoo is an awesome choice that offers a powerful and masculine look. When looking for stylish ink, the most common chest designs generally cover one pec and sometimes expand into the shoulder and back for a badass finish. For extra flair, connect your tribal chest piece with a sleeve down to the wrist. If you adore symmetry, a mirrored design across both sides of the chest can look impressive with some negative space and bold black inkwork. To emphasize strong muscles, consider carefully highlighting chest and shoulder striations with lines and circles.
Tribal Arm Tattoo
A tribal arm tattoo allows you to create a visually stunning design with deep meaning. You can either get creative with huge sleeves that cover the shoulder and bicep or keep your artwork simple with small cuffs or a fresh piece on the inner elbow. As the arm is a visible placement that will start conversations, you’ll want to work closely with an artist to create a piece that represents protection, wisdom and everything in between.
Tribal Shoulder Tattoo
A tribal shoulder tattoo is a fashion-forward design that allows guys to showcase their heritage with trendy artwork. As a popular placement, the shoulder can accommodate versatile artwork while balancing discretion and visibility. The rear delt can be an excellent choice for professionals who want to cover their ink, while a design on the capped area of the deltoid will turn heads during the summer. Complex pieces with delicate shading can look beautiful swirled around the shoulder, but you can extend Aztec or Polynesian artwork to the chest for a masculine vibe.
Hawaiian Tribal Tattoo
A Hawaiian tribal tattoo is strongly influenced by nature and creatures of the ocean, making it an excellent option for carefree guys who appreciate Mother Earth. Most Hawaiian designs feature turtles and other water-based animals but also include impressive shading, negative space and geometric patterns for visual interest. These symmetrical pieces look incredible on the cuff of the shoulder or around the calf, but you can also dedicate your artwork to larger placements for a breathtaking result.
Polynesian Tribal Tattoo
A Polynesian tribal tattoo is characterized by strong black linework, natural imagery and an impressive amount of negative space. These designs traditionally hailed from communities based around Tonga and Samoa, but there are hundreds of islands in this region with different takes on Polynesian tribal artwork. Classic pieces usually spread across the pecs, shoulders and arms, but the waist and side of the leg are also exceptional placement for large designs.
Filipino Tribal Tattoo
A Filipino tribal tattoo is a heavily layered design that relies on linear patterns and symmetrical shapes. Sometimes called “burik” by locals, these striking pieces are inspired by Filipino culture and the natural wonders found around the country. They were traditionally designed to bring the wearer blessings and protection from the gods. These days, Filipino-inspired tattoos are a meaningful and refreshing way to highlight your heritage with thin outlines and repeated motifs.
African Tribal Tattoo
An African tribal tattoo is an excellent choice for guys who enjoy making bold statements with their ink. Traditional African designs incorporate stark black linework and clever use of blank space to create a textured image that draws the eye. You can get creative with the use of different line weights for a contrasting sleeve. If you prefer subtler artwork, ink a single section of skin to represent an important life event like a marriage, the birth of a child or a change in your career.
Aztec Tribal Tattoo
An Aztec tribal tattoo is a badass choice for guys who appreciate ink with intricate shading, strong symbols and dedications to the gods. The most popular Aztec designs feature the faces of deities and strong symmetrical patterns and shading. If you enjoy daring artwork or want to fashion a bold sleeve, sprawling eagles, snakes or even gold coins can look effective inked onto the upper arm. As these pieces are typically detailed and intricate, try and choose larger placements to give your artist enough room to work with.
Native American Tribal Tattoo
A Native American tribal tattoo is an elegant and versatile design for men who want to represent their roots with thoughtful ink. Native American artwork generally features large images of revered animals like wolves and eagles, but you can easily boost your piece with skulls wearing colorful headdresses for a masculine edge. As these designs are said to ward off bad energy and evil spirits, you can also work dreamcatchers or totem poles into your piece for a striking finish.
Cherokee Tribal Tattoo
Cherokee tribal tattoos are specific to the largest Native American tribe in the United States and are fresh and powerful pieces. Traditional artwork looks similar to classic Native American designs and often incorporates symbols like arrows, stars and feathers to represent freedom and a warrior-like spirit. Old-school ink would have been achieved with charred river birch that yielded red and black designs. These days, Cherokee stylings are heavily shaded, packed with symmetrical patterns and filled with negative space for contrast.
Indian Tribal Tattoo
An Indian tribal tattoo combines striking black lines and minimal shading with culturally significant images for a striking and bold design that always turns heads. Traditional artwork usually includes symmetrical patterns that are separated by blank spaces for an eye-catching finish. There is rarely any major shading in Indian designs, but you will often find small opaque images on the back, arms or neck that highlight the wearer’s heritage. To elevate your design and add meaning, consider featuring Krishna, Shiva or Brahma to symbolize strength and spirituality with your artwork.
Tribal Warrior Tattoo
A tribal warrior tattoo can take many forms, but it is generally a large and traditional design that spreads across the shoulder and chest. You can customize your piece with wide strokes and swirls in black ink, but you can also throw swords, headdresses and shields into your design. If you don’t want to get ink across the shoulder, the upper back and waist are also incredible options that will put your manly styling center stage.
Tribal Name Tattoo
A tribal name tattoo is a charming way to immortalize a loved one with cool and creative artwork. You can either weave their name into a heavily shaded warrior design or use the shapes and curves of traditional tribal pieces to form unique text. If you want to incorporate a small phrase or date, encasing your loved one’s name inside a circle can be a great way to separate different elements of your artwork. Depending on your style, you can adorn your piece with images from nature, symmetrical lines and patterns or even work it into an existing sleeve for a subtle nod to your roots.
Tribal Armband Tattoo
A tribal armband tattoo is a unique and timeless idea for guys who want smaller designs that look clean-cut. These pieces wrap around the forearm or bicep area and are meant to look like traditional jewelry. Most Native American patterns are structured to look like braids, but you can experiment with layered pieces that feature different line weights and opaque shading for depth and dimension. To keep your artwork looking crisp, ask your artist to create a clear start and end point for your cuff with two thin black lines.
Tribal Leg Tattoo
A tribal leg tattoo gives you the scope to create a bold and exceptional piece that is heavily layered and packed with detail. This placement has an enormous surface area which lets you design eye-catching and edgy ink that instantly draws the eye. A full-leg design can look exceptional if you have strong muscles, but intricate artwork along the side of the leg looks incredibly unique in bold black ink. For something simpler, a howling wolf or lion in an outline style is perfect.
Full Body Tribal Tattoo
A full body tribal tattoo takes time and patience to achieve, but this statement piece proves to passersby that you are not to be messed with. Most designs start at the neck and move down toward the leg, but some guys will want a cohesive piece with similar lines and shading across the entire body. If you want to turn your body into a varied tapestry, you can incorporate negative space and purposeful gaps of bare skin for eye-catching contrast. As any full-body design takes several long sessions to achieve, it is important to work in structured sections to avoid an unfinished feel.
Simple Tribal Tattoo
A simple tribal tattoo is a fresh and clean option for guys who want to embrace their heritage without committing large sections of their bodies to ink. The most popular simple designs incorporate the classic meaning of tribal artwork but keep linework crisp, clean and bold. Hearts with thick swirled lines can look iconic on the forearm, while outlined designs of animals, skulls or suns can look exceptional with larger placements. To keep your ink looking clean-cut, avoid shading and detailed linework.
Small Tribal Tattoo
A small tribal tattoo can look just as effective as larger designs, giving minimalists the chance to express themselves with a unique and meaningful piece. Getting artwork on the hands or fingers can be a gorgeous option if you want to look at your artwork each day, but you can easily hide small moons, animals or tribal cuffs on the ankle, chest or behind the ear. Whether you want a slim cuff or an animal-themed design that represents a strong connection to nature, it is important to choose artwork that resonates with you.
Meaningful Tribal Tattoo
A meaningful tribal tattoo can take several different forms, but it generally contains timeless images that tell a personal story. You can represent a beloved pet with an animal-themed piece across the shoulder or choose a deconstructed compass that reflects your love of travel. If you are connected to a specific tribe, you can get a narrative image down the arm that tells the stories of your elders. If you are family-oriented, a dimensional piece that includes names or dates amongst symmetrical patterns can be seriously aesthetic.
Cool Tribal Tattoo
A cool tribal tattoo gives you the power to show off your interests with a refreshing and textured piece. Sprawling Māori designs across the shoulder and chest can look incredible, but badass guys may want to experiment with face or neck tattoos to make the ultimate statement. The coolest pieces tend to incorporate intense shading and different pattern directions to create a multi-dimensional design that almost pops off the skin. But if you work with a creative artist, even the simplest concepts can look striking.
Tribal Wrist Tattoo
A tribal wrist tattoo is a delicate and understated choice that allows you to create a timeless and attractive piece. Although this can be a painful place for ink because of thin skin and proximity to the wrist bones, the breathtaking and bracelet-like result will look incredibly sophisticated. You can choose a thin cuff with hints of negative space for contrast or a large cuff that incorporates several layers of pattern and shading for a bolder finish. If you prefer basic artwork, a small image on the back of the wrist can be charming.
Tribal Wolf Tattoo
A tribal wolf tattoo is a fierce and timeless piece that symbolizes strong family values, loyalty and internal strength. Wolf designs are particularly significant in Native American cultures, making this an excellent way to honor your tribe with a spiritual and sexy piece. Simple outline designs incorporating swirls and thick black ink are always reliable options, but you can dial up your ink with shaded moons or braided patterns.
Colorful Tribal Tattoo
A colorful tribal tattoo is a modern and trendy choice for men who prefer vibrant artwork that looks unique. Most colorful designs follow the same rules as traditional tribal artwork when it comes to line weight and patterns. The main difference is that colorful artwork is shaded with colored ink to create a dimensional and bright piece that draws the eye. Native American headdresses look particularly striking in colored ink, but virtually any design can be dialed up with splashes of watercolor or isolated red or blue shading.
Tribal Dragon Tattoo
A tribal dragon tattoo is a daring and dramatic piece that represents a fiery spirit and a wise soul. These mythical creatures look exceptional with their wings outstretched on the back or across the chest. If you want an iconic sleeve design, the snarling head of a dragon looks impressive snaking down the arm in thick black ink. For more dimension, think about incorporating bright red or orange hues into your artwork.
Tribal Lion Tattoo
A tribal lion tattoo can be a fierce and beautiful design that represents courage, strength, wisdom, family and a protective instinct. A lion will look incredible roaring on the shoulder or the back in a bold tribal style. For a subtle approach, talk to your artist about a smaller lion face design on the leg, arm or waist that honors your cultural roots. Artwork in black ink looks timeless with minimal shading, but you can also combine a photorealistic image with tribal patterns for an exciting piece that dares to be different.
Tribal Sun Tattoo
A tribal sun tattoo is a meaningful way to represent anything from a new marriage to inner strength and determination. These designs traditionally suggested a desire for truth and personal growth, but Polynesian tribes see the sun as an eternal symbol of growth and fertility. This makes it a wonderful choice for guys starting a family or entering a new phase of their lives. Minimalistic artwork on the forearm can be attractive if you appreciate visible ink, but you can easily get larger pieces on the back or leg if you want to make a bolder statement.
Tribal Phoenix Tattoo
A tribal phoenix tattoo is a sharp and clean design that is ideal for youthful guys who want to represent the circle of life. Phoenixes are typically associated with renewal and rebirth, making them a meaningful option for college grads or new fathers who are facing major changes in their lives. The best designs feature detail along the wings, but you can incorporate flames or vibrant red ink if you want to set your artwork apart.
Viking Tribal Tattoo
A Viking tribal tattoo gives Nordic men artistic license to embrace their inner daredevil with a unique and refreshing piece that looks incredibly badass. Incorporating images like the Viking compass or the tree of life can work beautifully with the typical swirls and patterns of tribal artwork. If you would rather represent the darker side of Viking culture, the giant wolf Fenrir or Odin’s menacing ravens can be wonderful additions to any design.
Tribal Flower Tattoo
A tribal flower tattoo offers a softer alternative to harsh and masculine pieces. You can highlight individual blooms with light shading and pops of color or keep your design monochromatic with sharp black lines and opaque shading. If you have Polynesian roots, working the body of a turtle into the image of a hibiscus flower can look striking on the shoulder. If you or your ancestors are from Hawaii, getting a bouquet of frangipani flowers can be a creative way to represent eternal love and a strong connection to your country.
Tribal Tiger Tattoo
A tribal tiger tattoo is a solid choice for men who want to represent their fierce personality and cultural heritage. These badass predators look exceptional on the skin as the natural curves and bold black lines of the tribal style instantly capture attention without bright colors. If you prefer vibrant ink, adding red flames or hints of orange around the tiger’s face can instantly lift any piece.
Tribal Owl Tattoo
A tribal owl tattoo can be an attractive and thought-provoking way to symbolize an old soul or a spiritual side. These intelligent creatures are respected in Native American cultures as they are said to be the spirits that guide tribe members through to the afterlife. As these gorgeous birds have large wingspans and unique eyes, you can embellish your piece with detailed lines, heavy patterns or negative space to create a multi-dimensional piece. To add oomph to your artwork, ask your artist to design an owl in flight with splashes of watercolor ink.
Tribal Skull Tattoo
A tribal skull tattoo is a top choice for guys who want rebellious and badass ink that makes a striking statement. The curves of tribal artwork represent the top of a skull perfectly, and you can easily add shading to the eye sockets and jaw area for more depth. If you prefer abstract artwork, an outlined skull designed entirely with traditional tribal patterns can be a striking way to symbolize your inevitable mortality.
Tribal Bear Tattoo
A tribal bear tattoo can be a unique and chic design that symbolizes respect for the world around you. These powerful animals represent strength and power, and they are particularly popular with Native American tribes who see them as complex and emotional predators. A large roaring bear across the back can be an effective way to command attention, but a simple paw anywhere on the body is also a stylish and manly option.
Cover Up Tribal Tattoo
A cover up tribal tattoo is an effective way to disguise unflattering ink without resorting to a blackout design or laser removal. A cover-up design must generally have dark colors and strong shading that overpower the underlying artwork. Japanese-style artwork with bold colors and intense shading can easily cover botched tribal lines, but photorealistic animals, warriors, dragons, flaming skulls or birds can offer meaningful ink. If you prefer to maintain the tribal look, work closely with a talented artist to work your existing piece into a new concept.
What Is A Tribal Tattoo?
A tribal tattoo is a style that features dark ink and uses thick lines, dots and shapes to create artwork with sacred cultural meaning. The most popular tribal designs vary by culture but are generally symbols associated with power, strength, determination and protection. Historically, tribal artwork offered a visible way to convey a person’s ancestry or heritage.
Tribal Tattoo Meaning
While there are several meanings, a tribal tattoo generally symbolizes courage, achievement, ruggedness, social status and spirituality. Tribal designs can be a simple way to honor ancient cultures and traditions, offering new generations the ability to pay tribute to their ancestors and heritage. In some cases, these tattoos tell a story and can be an attractive reminder of your cultural roots.