pencil sketch of a tribal koifish tattoo drawing

How to draw a tribal koifish tattoo

Drawing flowing tribals? Yes, I can do that…, drawing a traditional Japanese Koifish, well that shouldn’t be a problem either…But mixing them together and make it great tattoo is a totally different story.


Let’s start with a rough sketch

how to draw a tribal koifish tattoo

Before you start on a full high quality drawing, its best to make multiple quick sketches to get a feel for composition and dimensions.
Using a basic pencil, on a piece of A4 size paper, simply draw a few flowing koru curves.
Keeping in mind that the koifish body has an S-curve motion, waving its tail from one side to another.


Simplify the shapes

To make one consistent design from 2 different subjects, you need to stylize the koifish. Matching the lines and shapes of the fins and tail to the koru curves.
flowing lines of a tribal koifish drawing mixing maori tattoos with koifish design pencil sketch of a tribal koifish tattoo drawing
The Maori koru curves move in a similar direction as the koifish and match the arc of the back of the fish.
In this partical drawing I really kept it down to the basic shapes, and only drew the body, pectoral fins and tail.

Adding Polynesian spearhead patterns

The Polynesian spearhead pattern is designed to express courage and fight. It’s also used to represent warriors and comes in many variations.
To create the pattern, first you draw a center line and put small, evenly spaced lines, at a sharp angle on each side. Once you completed that, you can add small angled lines to close each spearhead:



Tracing and shading the design with Copic markers

Once I finished the pencil drawing of the japanese koifish, the design was traced with black markers. I recorded the full proces of tracing, shading and coloring and made a Youtube video, so you can see how it was done:


Digital mockups of the koifish on multiple bodyparts

A great design is nice, but its important to visualize it on your body. Thats why I scanned the image in high resolution (300dpi) and made a series of digital mockups in Photoshop, with the tattoo applied on different parts of your body:


Get your high quality tattoo design

You can order the high resolution drawing for your personal tattoo. Its available on my website, order this tribal koifish tattoo design  and receive two digital files.
The first one is the full-size drawing, the other is a linedrawing, so your tattoo artist can apply the design on your body.
If you have any questions on how to draw a Polynesian koifish, feel free to comment!
Kind regards, Mark Storm

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Hi, I'm Mark Storm

Hi, I'm Mark Storm

I'm a graphic tattoo designer, creating and selling Polynesian tribal tattoo patterns. All drawings are available in high resolution and come with a linedrawing for your tattoo artist.