How to Create Your Own Tribal Tattoo

By Ann Jones
Tribal tattoos may incorporate recognizable images.

Tribal tattoos are very common designs, seen everywhere from the lower backs of young women to the flash on the walls of most tattoo shops. They consist of bold strokes of solid color, with designs made of swirls and sharp points. Because tribal tattoos are popular and have been around for so long, designing one unique to you can be challenging. Tribal tattoos are some of the first designs beginning tattoo artists learn, but that doesn't mean they're all created equal. Keeping the lines of a tribal tattoo smooth and the solid black fill even and thorough requires a certain level of expertise.

Purchase a fake tribal tattoo kit to begin getting ideas for your design. You can cut up the tattoos, piece them back together and apply them temporarily to your body to get an idea of the placement and size that works for you.

Look at other people's tribal tattoos and determine what you like and dislike about them. If the person will let you, make a rough sketch of the tattoo in a notebook and take it home with you to give you inspiration later.

Incorporate an image into your tribal tattoo to make it somewhat more unique. Look to traditional Maori and Celtic imagery for designs that will integrate well with your tribal piece.

Visit as many tattoo shops as possible and view different artists' portfolios. Most experienced artists will have many tribal pieces in their books. Pay attention to the sharpness of the edges and the smoothness of the color. The solid black fill of most tribal designs can lead to scarring, particularly on keloid-prone skin. Keloids are raised scars more common on darker skin tones. Speak to artists about how they make the black ink look smooth and heal correctly, and choose the artist who seems most knowledgeable.

Take all your sketches and visual references with you to your tattoo appointment. The more information you can give your artist, the better. Listen to her advice and allow her to redraw your design in the way that will make the best tattoo.

Warning

Never get a budget tattoo, even if it's "just tribal." Save your money until you can afford to get your tribal tattoo from a reputable, licensed artist in a clean and professional shop. As the old saying goes, "A good tattoo ain't cheap, and a cheap tattoo ain't good."

About the Author

Ann Jones has been writing since 1998. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies. Her journalistic work can be found in major magazines and newspapers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.