The Polynesian culture is one of the most relatable for those who are from the islands, been to the islands, or appreciate the islands in any shape or form, and getting tiki tattoos is a great way to put your appreciation on display. This iconic society is known for its tiki statues, totem poles, bold colors, landscapes, and more. It allows those that have embraced it to take a piece of it with them and share those experiences with others.
60 of the Best Tiki Tattoos that Have a Lot of Details
Polynesian designs that appear in tattoo designs are almost as old as the culture itself. The artists that created these designs were held in the highest of esteem along with the priests as their designs held substantial meaning. These designs could be interpreted for protection, fertility, genealogy, etc., and they could have a societal and religious context to the canvas. Pulling inspiration from the natural elements around them, the artists used shark, turtle, waves, tiki, lizard, and stingray motifs, amongst others, to create these very stylized designs to differentiate the members of their society.
The tattoos that we see today may remember those from the past, when, in fact, the application was much different. This resulted in a very painful process that could end in a bout of infection if not done appropriately. They weren’t using the tattoo machines that we see in shops today. In fact, the tools they used resembled more of a hammer and needle system that would take years to perfect.
1. Tongan Warrior Tattoo on the Leg
Tongan warrior tattoos adorned their bodies from the waist down with solid bands and triangle motifs to show their place in a hierarchical society. The placement on the leg, in this case, would be to express a sense of progressing forward or transforming.
2. Modern Polynesian Tiki Warrior on Calf
According to Polynesian mythology, the tiki is considered to be the first human ancestor. Traditionally appearing as carvings or statues, they are known for the intensity of their eyes. A tiki warrior with weapons represents protection or facing a challenge.
3. Contemporary Maoi Statue in Color
Maoi statues stand facing away from the water of Easter Island and depict the spirits of chiefs, ancestors, and high-ranking men in society. The bright colors, as seen here, are borrowed from the color schemes presented on the islands of flowers, clothing, and artwork.
4. Traditional Tongan Design on Lower Arm
The place of Tongan art on the lower part of the arm creativity and creation. When it is paired with the face of the tiki, it is said to be a gift from the gods. This could be seen on both, women and men, as a sign of fertility.
5. Comical Maoi Chief Statue Caricature
Caricature artwork is known for its flair for the dramatics with exaggerated facial features and gestures. Here, we see the Maoi statue animated with the arrow between its teeth and bright red eyes. The warm background colors play into the intensity of the expression.
6. Tribal Design With Triangle Motifs
The triangle patterns that often appear throughout Polynesian designs are to represent shark teeth and serve as protection. When the triangles are layered and fanned out, they are meant to depict spearheads. These are both elements of true warrior designs.
7. Jovial Joker Tiki in Color
A playful satire of Polynesian culture, this tiki dances and poses like a jester for a deck of playing cards. This gesture creates a light-hearted tone for the viewer as they come across this piece of work, and the intensity of the colors and facial features animates the character.
8. Carved Totem With Wood Texture
The faces created in a totem pole are said to represent beings, or crest animals, to mark a family’s crest and status within society. Those families that are wealthy and influential may have more than one. Displaying a totem down the arm would show honor to that lineage.
9. Tiki Shown With “Brilliant Eye” Features
Tikis are believed to be semi-gods after passing that act as guardians. Here, we see a stylization of the “brilliant eye”. This dramatization of the eyes is to serve as a symbol of defiance and warn off enemies.
10. Tribal Display With Symbolic Insets
A Polynesian design that is placed on both the chest and the upper arm would mean honor and strength to a warrior. We can see the tiki faces on the chest to provide protection and the stylized shark teeth on the arm revealed the ferocity of the warrior.
11. Menacing Tiki in Contemporary Style
Tikis are said to be ancestral guardians that watch over their people. The vibrant colors used in the statue’s eyes and the fact that it is holding ahead in its hand shows the viewer the lengths they will go to protect.
12. Depiction of Carved Tiki Mask
The tiki masks were made to tell a story and protect people from evil spirits. The grain-like texture on the skin is meant to mimic the Palmwood that they were originally carved from. The placement on the upper arm lends to the bravery of the story.
13. Polynesian Images and Motifs Sleeve
Polynesian society drew inspiration from gods and natural elements to create the imagery that appears in their tribal designs. Sharks, turtles, lizards, and tiki are just a few motifs that appear in various stylizations that are placed in the bands along the arm.
14. Stylized Tiki with Spearhead Motif
The tiki might have served as guardians, but they also brought gifts to their loved ones. The spearhead, down the arm, shows a progression of the makings of a warrior as it is placed on the lower half of the arm.
15. Armband With Various Triangle Motifs
Triangles appear in various ways throughout Polynesian artwork. Originally they were to symbolize the teeth of sharks, but over time they evolved into a symbol of guidance and strength. In this band design, we see the triangle patterns represented with different applications and styles.
More tikki tattoos for men on the next page…
16. Polynesian Tribal Warrior Sleeve
For the Polynesian people, the tattoos that adorned their bodies carried a significance that was both social and cultural. Often times the artwork displayed played an important role for warfare and religious rituals, and the integration of various images such as the tiki, waves, and shark teeth would provide protection for them.
17. Tiki Medallion with Triangle Motif
We know that the symbol of the tiki is arguably one of the most noticeable elements of Polynesian artwork. However, the artwork was designed by building various elements along with the tiki for additional support. The triangle patterns are added in this design providing protection and stability.
18. Brilliant Eyes of the Tiki Mask
Tiki is often depicted in artwork with an intensity in the eyes and exaggerated features. Here, we see that the artist chose to add to that intensity by placing the color only in the eyes. The rest of the images are left in a monochromatic outline.
19. Happiness of a Tiki Mask in Color
Traditionally, tiki masks have a ferocity about them to ward off evil spirits. However, a parody of the tiki mask can add a comedic effect. The embellishments of the colorful flowers add femininity and remove some seriousness.
20. Skelton Tiki Mask with Necklace
The Polynesian society used natural elements to create and embellish jewelry much like what we think of when seeing a royal crown. This tiki mask tells a story of higher society with the crown and jewelry details that are, no doubt, intentionally placed.
21. Resting Child-like Tiki Statue
Tiki statues are typically depicted in a warrior-like stance and ready for battle. This is a different take on a tiki statue as we see it sitting in a W-position with the legs that is commonly seen with small children. Thus, making the design playful and juvenile.
22. Tribal Design on the Torso
Most of the Polynesian tattoo designs lean into those warfare or religious motifs that appear on the arms and legs. However, when the elements are placed onto the trunk they take on a whole new meaning of the importance of family. More specifically, placement on the lower trunk represents fertility.
23. Banded Chest and Upper Arm Design
The tattoo artists of Polynesian culture held a very high position in society that coincided with the rituals performed by priests. Ceremonies would be performed with men being tattooed 6-8 at a time and attended by friends and family. These men were coming of age and ready for battle with their warrior designs.
24. Tiki Parody with Spiral Background
The color in a tiki design is inspired by the colors that are common on the islands, but the ways that they are applied lead to dramatic effect. The spiral design in the background adds to the mystery of the personalities of the tiki.
25. Tribal Design Below the Knee
It was not uncommon for Polynesian warriors the have artwork cover their bodies as they became of age. However, the amount of pain they underwent to get those tattoos was rarely discussed as they did not have access to the tools that are used today. Some of the traditional designs serve as an homage to those rituals.
26. Black and White Ooga Booga Tiki Tattoo
Bold line work and a captivating design give this awesome tiki tattoo its strong appeal. Many cultural elements like feathers, wood, and the words “ooga booga” are included in this black and white tiki tattoo for added authenticity. This dynamic tiki tattoo is an excellent representation of strength and protection.
27. Colorful Tiki with Tongue Sticking Out
The tiki’s dramatic facial expressions can serve as comedic relief as well. Here you see the personality of the tiki is highlighted by having it stick its tongue out. the playful color scheme adds the playfulness of the design.
28. Polynesian Warrior Design on Shin
The lower leg placement of a tattoo was very common for the Polynesian warriors along with their arms and chests. A man’s quest was to reconnect Heaven and Earth and unify them once again, and this design symbolizes that message.
29. Polynesian Inspired Design of the Future
It’s not uncommon for an artist to pull inspiration from a culture or decade and make it into something new. The futuristic elements seen around the eyes and the horns on the top of the head have a sci-fi aesthetic while the rest of the face resembles traditional tiki characteristics.
30. A Window Into Island Views
Polynesian people saw the ocean as a second home and a vehicle for transportation. With the ocean being the main source of food, it played a large part in their cultural stories and myths. Waves are intrinsic to the Polynesian lifestyle.
More tikki tattoos for women on the next page…
31. Stylized Palm Tree Over the Water
The Polynesian people are known for living off of the land and letting Mother nature prove the basic essentials for everyday life. The saturated hues pulled from the natural landscape found on the islands make for a beautiful sunset image.
32. Modern Child-like Wooden Tiki Cartoon
You can pull inspiration from a culture without it staying in a traditional vein of design. The proportions of the face and body here lend to those of a child with large eyes and short limbs. The body language of the figure is also very juvenile.
33. Colorful Waves Over the Sunset
The islands are full of these rich tones that add beauty almost everywhere you turn, and this sunset photo is not the exception. The motion created in the lines and the shading detail provide a depth that is breathtaking.
34. Stitch with Polynesian Shirt On
Disney’s Lilo & Stitch movie quickly became a fan favorite as fans fell in love with this funny blue creature. His goofy attitude and cheerful demeanor made him hard not to love as he tackled adventures with Lilo on the island.
35. Pineapple with Palm Tree Sunglasses
Sometimes a bold statement can be made just by adding a little accessory element. Here, the sunglasses add a bit of comedic relief to an otherwise beautifully shaded pineapple with a brilliantly colored palette. The flowers along the edge give that extra pop.
36. Framed Mountain Sunset with Flowers
The luscious landscape on the islands provides pops of color and beauty all over the islands. This framed image of the sunset behind the mountains is a peek into nature with Polynesian elements of flowers and weaponry to round it out.
37. Dancing Hula Girl in the Sand
Hands down, one of the most noticeable elements of island life are the Hula dancers in their grass skirts. They are usually found dancing to island music with very strong drum beats that accentuate the movements of their hips as they dance.
38. Tribal Stingray Along with the Shoulder Blades
Stingrays are known for having the ability to hide in their surroundings, such as sand, to hide from their predators. The Polynesian people, this was a symbol for adaptation within the society. This symmetrical placement on the back also leans into balance and harmony.
39. Modern Polynesian Sunset on Foot
The foot is one of the most painful places to have a tattoo when it comes to the actual application process. The design itself might be modern, but having a Polynesian design on the top of the foot is nothing new.
40. Colorful Big-Mouthed Tiki Statues
Sometimes artwork has a way of making you feel something, and these three darling little statues can’t help but make the viewer want to smile. Their body languages might differ, but the large grin on their faces is a focal point for the eyes.
41. Beachy Tranquility and a Cocktail
Island flair doesn’t only come in artwork and music. The culinary arts and mixologists pull from the islands as well with their concoctions. An island cocktail reminds us of sunshine, vacations, and relaxation.
42. Polynesian Band Design for Women
Men might be who you think of when you first think of a Polynesian warrior with their chiseled physiques and tattooed bodies, but it wasn’t uncommon for women to adorn their bodies with artwork as well. Many of the feminine designs pointed more toward genealogy than protection.
43. Sunset Over the Ocean With Dolphin
Polynesian culture pulls a lot from the water with the turtle, stingray, and wave motifs that often appear stylized in their designs. In this image, we get to take a snapshot of a moment in time as the waves create movement as they crash upon the shore.
44. Stylized Stitch in Watercolor Palette
Watercolor designs are growing more and more in popularity as artists have perfected the application. In this design of Stitch, the contrast of thick and thin lines along with the use of splashes of color creates an Avant-guard effect on a modern character.
45. Mountain Landscape in Muted Palette
Images that have deep and saturated tones create a large vibration as your eyes move over the images. When muted colors that aren’t as saturated are present, the vibration is less intense and provides a sense of tranquility for the viewer.
More tikki tattoos for girls on the next page…
46. Wooden Tiki Statue With Cascading Flowers
Women have embraced many elements of the Polynesian heritage as they pull inspiration from the islands. The tiki design would provide protection as the placement leans into the hopeful fertility of the woman.
47. Purple Cocktail With Bendy Straw
When a piece of tropical fruit is on the side of a cocktail glass, one might start feeling some tropical music or thinking of sunshine kissing their face. No matter what the initial response is, they are all positive responses. That is symbolized here.
48. Anglerfish With Large Teeth
The anglerfish is known as the fish that fishes as it is one hateful predator. The light on the end of the antenna lures its prey right to their mouths and makes it very each to catch dinner. The Polynesian people respect this fish highly.
49. Large Waves Crashing on the Beach
The banner that waves across this image showcases the lyrics to arguably one of the most familiar songs of the musical “Grease.” The iconic beat immediately comes to mind as the banner is read along with the inherent sounds of the ocean as the waves fall upon the sand.
50. Pink Plumeria Blooms With Detail
Plumeria blooms are found all over the islands of the South Pacific and are known for their sweet fragrance that fills the island air. Some people appreciate this flower for its delicate pink, yellow, and white gradations, and others appreciate its medicinal properties.
51. Crashing Waves and Lotus Flowers
Intentional line works in a design and drag the eyes from one element to the next if done correctly. The movement of the wave starts at the top and flows down to the bottom where the flowers are found floating.
52. Tropical Fruits and Flowered Cocktail
Fruits and flowers are constant themes when people think of the islands as they are both apart of island living. When people visit the islands, they get to experience this lifestyle along with the fruit-infused drinks that are often served.
53. Plumeria Flowers on the Upper Thigh
The Plumeria flower is one of about 7 different blooms that come to mind when thinking about the landscape of the islands. They are known for their rich pink color and strong floral scent, and they are thought to have a feminine quality about them.
54. The Tiki and the Sea Turtle
The turtle plays a large importance in Polynesian culture as it represents health and fertility. Here, we see the subtle placement of a tiki face on the back of the turtle to embellish that meaning with protection.
55. Stitch Sitting on a Hibiscus Flower
The Polynesian society thrives on a sense of family with it being engrained into the culture. The bottom corner text reads “Ohana” meaning family. This image embraces the essence of Polynesian culture with Stitch sitting on a popular flower from the islands.
56. Island Snapshots of Day and Night
The ocean plays into the Polynesian culture as it provides the largest form of transportation for those living on the island. It is also seen as a symbol of both life and death as this is where its warriors often met their fates. The lighthouse imagery seen on the right would show additional means of keeping those warriors safe.
57. Heart in a Simple Serene Sunset
The ocean isn’t always violent and full of motion. There are moments where the calm falls over the water and provides tranquility as the light from the sun twinkles across the top of the gentle waves. Lovers of the calm ocean find peace here.
58. Tiki Statue with Hibiscus Flowers
This representation of the tiki with the flowers creates an interesting contrast for the viewer. The muted tones of the wood grain of the tiki statue are far less pronounced than the highly saturated colors that appear in the flowers.
59. Polynesian Inspired Modern Sunset
The islands of the South Pacific are like no other places on earth when it comes to their culture. This design pulls popular elements that appear naturally on the island and places them around the memorable sunsets that are seen on the islands.
60. Bouquet of Hibiscus and Plumeria Flowers
Flowers have always had a feminine quality to them, but a vibrant bouquet of flowers provides additional allure with their colors and fragrance. Adorning the skin with saturated colors in a place that isn’t normally covered with clothing can act as a permanent accessory.
60 of the Best Tiki Tattoos for Men and Women
As you can see, there are various approaches to pulling inspiration for your own Polynesian design. Many have chosen to use the traditional tribal approach on the arms and legs to pay homage to the Polynesian warrior designs. Others have chosen to take creative liberties by borrowing natural elements from the island or iconic characteristics from the Polynesian culture to create their designs. Whatever the approach, there is a deep-rooted culture of imagery and symbolism to consider when creating your perfect Polynesian-inspired design.
The designs go beyond clip-art on the skin. Placement, color, texture, and stylization should be analyzed to get the full meaning out of your intended design. The Polynesian culture is so complex that it provides quite a palette to pull from and will ensure a beautiful design for your next piece.