69 Small Tribal Tattoo Ideas
When most people think of tribal tattoos they think of the large scale, intricate Polynesian pieces or fearsome face tattoos of the NZ Maori.
Others think of massive black ink designs popular for all sorts of different people in the early 2000s.
The truth is that some of the most symbolic, interesting tribal designs are etched very small but pack in the same arresting qualities of their larger counterparts.
As with tribal designs from many tattoo cultures, small pieces are etched with precise linework, and almost uniformly in black ink to create symbols of animal motifs and totems, family scenes, or designs of personal protection guidance, protection and strength.
The following collection of beautiful small tribal designs will captivate and give you inspiration for a significant cultural tattoo of your own.
1. Animal Themed Small Tribal Tattoo Ideas
2. Small Tribal Tattoos for the Ankle and Lower Leg
3. Upper Arm Small Tribal Designs
4. Innovative Technical Small Tribal Tattoo Ideas
5. Small Tribal Tattoo Designs for the Back
6. Small Tribal Leg Tattoos
7. Small Tribal Tattoo Bands
8. Small Tribal Tattoos for the Shoulder
9. Simple Small Tribal Tattoo Ideas
10. Small Tribal Sun Tattoo Designs
Small Tribal Tattoo FAQs
Many different tribal patterns are associated with strength, good luck, feats of physical strength and spiritual guardians.
Traditionally tribal tattoos would tell the wearer’s story as well as working to bring them good luck and keep them safe in battle, although in modern times this deeper significance is not always as clear as it was in the past.
Many patterns across tribal style are drawn from nature, with the layered designs referencing the fishing, hunting and warrior lifestyle that sustained many different tribal peoples.
Large tribal designs can be time consuming, expensive pieces of body art despite ostly being etched in black ink.
For many people looking to get tattoos of a tribal nature they prefer to start small, with something symbolic or hugely personal that is important to their tribal culture.
From there they have the option to build on the original design with more tribal work, augment with a different style of tattoo, or stay put with a simple expression.
As far as sizes go, a small tattoo is usually one that is 4 inches or smaller from point to point. If you’re looking to go smaller than that, a tiny tattoo is 2 inches or less.
Medium sized tattoos fall in the 4-6 inch range, while anything bigger than that is either a large tattoo or sleeve.
A tribal band is often larger than most classically sized small tattoos, however in comparison to the extremely large and precise, technical tribal designs they still take up a lot less room than most tribal designs even at a width of 4 inches and stretching around a limb.
Small tribal tattoos allow for a range of positions. They’re often displayed beautifully when etched cleverly along bone and flow of muscle or arranged into a distinctive tribal band.
Traditional positions for tribal ink include:
- The lower forearm and upper arm (especially for bands)
- The lower leg, ankle and foot
- The center of the back or along the shoulder blade
- The shoulder and upper chest
- The upper thigh