Top 60+ Best Tiki Tattoo Ideas-[2021 Inspiration Guide]
Although many people may associate grimacing tiki heads with exotic cocktails and luau barbeques, these iconic figures have a much more profound significance in Polynesian culture.
Present in traditions ranging from New Zealand Maori, Samoa, Tahiti and Fiji all the way to the Hawaiian Islands, the Tiki figure has an important place in Polynesian mythology and the creation stories of these diverse peoples. The details of the story vary but in all of these traditions Tiki Man is said to be the first man created by the gods who then found the first woman and populated the earth.
However, tradition and meaning has been misinterpreted over time. The figures that we consider tikis are actually more often depictions of god made ancestors that were used to mark boundaries of sacred sites.
While the cultural significance of these fierce figures is often lost in translation, they are an excellent tattoo idea for a variety of tiki tat designs, or even your first tattoo. The pieces in this gallery demonstrate how versatile and exciting a tiki tribal tattoo or illustrative Tiki man symbol can be.
1. Tiki Mask Tattoo Design
A common depiction of tiki figures comes in the form of the tiki mask. A tiki mask is a great choice for a person’s tribal tattoo for a few reasons, the first of which is the variety of expressions that can be applied to these fascinating visages: grimacing, wailing, smirking and solemn expressions can all be applied to a tiki tattoo.
A tiki mask tattoo can also be applied in a variety of styles and using a number of approaches as demonstrated by these excellent pieces. Black and gray work in the Polynesia tradition, full color new school designs and neo-traditional approaches can all be applied to a tiki tattoo with the help of a talented tattoo artist.
2. Leg Tiki Body Art
Many people choose to place a tiki tattoo on their leg, with great results. One reason that many people choose this placement is for the size of the canvas: a tattoo artist can fit much larger designs on the leg than in other locations. Leg pieces also provide the wearer with an added level of discretion in who does and doesn’t get to admire their first man ink.
The tiki tattoo design ideas in this collection are applied in a number of styles-the traditional Maori or Polynesian tribal tattoo are especially compelling-but they all demonstrate just how successful tiki illustrations can look on the leg.
3. Hand Tiki Tattooing
Attitudes about tattoos have come a long way in the last twenty years, however, hand tattoos should still be given more serious deliberation than tattoos in other locations. That being said, these pieces make a pretty compelling case for getting a tiki tattoo placed smack dab on the back of your hand.
Whether full color neo-traditional or black work tribal these excellent tiki tattoo designs show off just how exciting these mythical figures look when placed in plain view on the wearer’s hand.
4. Tiki Arm Sleeve Art
Full sleeve tattoos have been turning heads for decades and these tiki inspired designs show that they are just as exciting today as they were a century ago. While not restricted to tribal work, these traditional Polynesian tiki tattoo designs demonstrate just how compelling this approach can be with such a large canvas as the entire arm at the disposal of a talented tattoo artist.
Other tiki tattoo sleeves on display in this gallery use precise line work and smooth shading to perfectly capture the contorted grimaces of these unique characters.
5. Bracelet Body Art
Not everyone wants to dedicate their entire arm to a tiki tattoo and thankfully for these folks, bracelets, arm band and forearm tattoo designs can also be used to produce exciting tiki inspired pieces. These tiki tattoos vary in their style and approach but they all keep these interesting figures at their center, creating unique tiki tattoo designs that will turn heads for years to come.
6. Tiki Calf Tat Design
Another popular canvas for tiki tattoo designs is the calf. One of the least painful places to get inked, many people also choose this location for a tiki tattoo thanks to the ability to show it off in shorts and at the beach while also having the option to cover it in more professional settings. The calf is also a common location for traditional Polynesian tattoos making it especially appropriate for these essential characters in Polynesian mythology.
7. Back Body Art
The largest canvas on the human body, the back is the perfect choice for large, complex tattoo designs and these tiki tattoos don’t disappoint. From full back body jewelry tiki depicted in vibrant colors to a blackwork manta ray applied using a traditional Polynesian approach that perfectly follows the lines of the wearer’s body, the back is a great choice for these bold designs.
8. Chest Polynesian Tattoo
Another large canvas, the chest provides a tattoo artist with plenty of room to stretch their creative muscles and produce exciting tiki tattoo designs. Within Polynesian culture, the chest is also a common location for traditional tattoo work, making these tiki tattoos even more appropriate and meaningful.
9. Color Illustrations
Tattoos are tools for creative expression and these full color tiki designs demonstrate how well this subject translates when applied with vibrant color ink. Most of the tiki tattoos in this collection take a new school approach that is typified by brilliant colors and stylized figures, although neo-traditional designs also stand out for their bold lines and use of color ink.
The term “tiki” generally refers to the carved totems popularized by the topical themed tiki bar of the 1930’s and ’40’s, so it isn’t surprising that many people choose this depiction for their tiki tattoo designs. These Tiki bar statue pieces use a variety of approaches to produce a face or full tiki statue, although the black and gray piece completed with a realistic chimpanzee is a standout from this collection.
11. Half-Sleeve Tattooing
Another popular location for traditional Polynesian tattooing, half-sleeves provide a tattoo artist with plenty of opportunities to incorporate tiki designs. The layered patterns of this traditional tattoo approach draw inspiration from the natural world and the scales, feathers and palm frond designs on display here demonstrate just how compelling these tribal tattoos can be.
While this approach is undeniably appealing, a fusion with other styles can be even more exciting. By incorporating a photo-realistic, black and gray depiction of a tiki head framed by these traditional patterns, an interesting contrast is created that takes this tiki tattoo to the next level.
12. Vintage American Traditional Art
American traditional tattooing found a home in Hawaii thanks to the sailors and soldier that were stationed there during to WWII. With the help of tattoo legend Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, the tropical motifs of the South Pacific became popular tattoo elements, including the tiki head.
These vintage American traditional pieces are great examples of the style that use bold lines and bright colors to complete tiki inspired tattoo designs.
13. Tiki Arm Tattoos
A classic location for tattoos, the upper arm is a great choice for a tiki tattoo design. It is a large canvas that can be easily displayed or covered making it one of the most popular tattoo locations. These tiki tattoos use black and color ink to produce the iconic visage of this character from Polynesian culture and mythology.
Tiki Tattoo FAQs
What do tiki tattoos represent?
Like all tattoos, the significance behind a tiki tattoo is up to the wearer. This is especially true for these iconic designs that have had such a shifting significance, however, the style of the piece can provide insights into the potential symbolism they hold to the wearer.
Many people choose to incorporate tiki images into traditional Polynesian tribal tattoos and for these people a more culturally specific meaning may be attached to the design. For these folks, their tiki tattoo may actually represent the Polynesian interpretation of Tiki as progenitor of mankind.
Someone with a neo-traditional tiki tattoo adorned with hibiscus flowers and burning torches is probably using the tiki to represent their love of Hawaiian Island life, tropical cocktail and bar motifs, not a depiction of the figure from Polynesian mythology.
Whether a tiki tattoo is used as a cultural celebration or simply as a design element within a tropical themed tattoo, these iconic faces make excellent additions to tattoos in a variety of styles.
Are tiki statues good luck?
In Polynesian traditions Tiki was the first man, created out of red dirt and spit, animated by the gods and placed on earth. Tiki then found his wife and they carried on populating the earth.
Because of the role Tiki plays as paterfamilias of humanity, his depictions are said to be fertility charms. Along with being a sign of fertility, statues of Tiki are also considered good luck in many cultures and this charmed association has become widely accepted for these fascinating idols.
It is also worth noting however, that not all tiki figures and masks represent Tiki or other gods in Polynesian culture. In fact, traditionally it was far more common for tiki masks to be depictions of deified ancestors that were used as protection against evil spirits and bad luck. They were often placed at the perimeters of sacred sites as a way to ward off evil spirits and maintain the sanctity of these significant locations.
This more common use also contributes to the significance of the tiki statue as a good luck charm.
Did you enjoy these Tiki tattoo ideas? Are you all set for a dash to the tattoo shop for new ink? If you’re looking for more inspirational ideas click on the links below for more awesome tattoo galleries: