How to Make Tribal Designs


Tribal designs are created with curving and angular lines. Traditionally done in black, these tattoo designs historically worked to mark rites of passage, helped identify family members or worked as a charm to ward off evil spirits. Today, tribal designs can stand alone as decoration on the body or can emphasize another pictorial tattoo design. Learn how to make a tribal design to increase your tattoo design portfolio or design one to put on your skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Black marker
  • Red marker
  • Dry erase board
  • Dry erase marker
  • Consider your heritage. Before designing a tribal tattoo for yourself or for someone else, consider your ethnicity and cultural background. Many tribal tattoo designs have sprung from historical clans and tribes that used these tattoo designs to identify the people and families that belonged to these groups. Find out from family members about the history of your ancestors to include as an idea for your tattoo.

  • Brainstorm ideas. Figure out if you want a tribal design with smooth swirls or if you are looking for one with a jagged look. Jot down basic elements you wish to include. Tribal tattoos are typically done monochromatically, or in one color. Popular colors include black, dark gray and red.

  • Figure out what body part you want the design on. Before you draw your tribal tattoo, decide if you are looking for a small design that can fit on the inside of your wrist, or a large design such as one across the shoulder. The size of the design gives you dimension parameters to stay within as you draw.

  • Begin drawing your design. Use a dark, thick marker to create your tribal design. Many tribal designs are emphasized with thick centered swirls with a sharp curled or pointed tip. Add sharp edges, multiple curls and "U" shaped designs to emphasize a tribal look.

  • Continue to add to your design. A tattoo is permanent, so it is important to get your design perfected to your liking. Take a break from you drawing, wait a day or two, and return to it to get a fresh perspective on how it looks. Add more swirls or come up with an entirely new concept. Experiment with different geometric shapes to create a complex design.

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  • Photo Credit Tribal art image by Aleksej Kostin from
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