How to Design a Polynesian Tattoo


Polynesian-style tattoos, although similar and often compared to tribal tattoos, actually utilize bolder abstracts or specific figures that represent different totems based on a deep history of the various Polynesian islands. Generally rendered in black, these ancient styles can vary depending on what area of the world inspires you.

  • Determine which Polynesian island you want to focus your design on. Polynesian-style tattoos can include Samoan, Maori, Marquesan, Hawaiian and Tahitian artwork among others. You'll find different styles in every Polynesian island and every tattoo artist also has his own take on these designs.

  • Incorporate the Tiki god, often depicted with closed eyes because legend said he smelled trouble before he saw it. Any Polynesian statue with a human form is a tiki. You can use a realistic tiki or pick a stylized one that follows the abstract, geometric patterns regularly used in Polynesian designs.

  • Design a Polynesian tattoo that represents wealth. Shells are a common item seen in Polynesian designs because they were often used as a type of currency and thus considered a talisman to bring you riches.

  • Look for protection by incorporating a shark or shark's teeth in your tattoo design. Many Polynesian cultures considered sharks a sacred animal and thought they would protect them from their enemies.

  • Get a gecko, a popular choice in Polynesian designs. Many regard these creatures with either fear or awe due to their supposed supernatural powers.

  • Think carefully before requesting your name or another word in the Polynesian alphabet. There are different alphabets on the various islands.

Tips & Warnings

  • Choose a tattoo artist who specializes in the Polynesian style. Using someone familiar with the style and experienced in re-creating it is always the best route.
  • Whether you design your tattoo with or without a symbolic creature or talisman, all Polynesian designs utilize geometric shapes within the artwork.
  • Ancient Polynesian tattoo designs told a lot about the person, including his rank in the tribe, social or marital status and more. They were often a rite of passage for those entering adulthood.

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