Tribal Face Paint

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Whenever a native tribe, group or clan of some kind is shown, in a lot of cases they tend to have exotic face paint patterns on. This is a special type of Facial Markings / Body Paint, in that they're exclusive to that tribe, and don't have to be exclusive to a certain type of being. This can also cover warpaint and other marks exclusive to a single group.

Another, less flattering version of this can also commonly be seen in some older, stereotypical depictions of Native Americans too, but due to it being considered by some to be pretty offensive nowadays, this version isn't very popular in the media today.

May also have Savage Piercings.

Examples of Tribal Face Paint include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • Minor Batman opponent Matatoa has Maori facial tattoos.

Film -- Animated

  • The Atlanteans in Atlantis: The Lost Empire have varied designs on their faces. This is especially most noticable with Kida and her father King Kashekhim Nedakh, who both wear this as royalty. Also, at the end of the film, Kida ends up gaining more tattoos on her face (one on her right cheek and another on her forehead), as with her new husband Milo Thatch, who gains one on his shoulder.
    • However, Kida for some reason actually lost all but her first tattoo in the sequel.
  • Pocahontas: The Native Americans do this. Also, a doll based on John Smith apparantly has an eagle tattoo under his shirt.
  • In Disney's Peter Pan, the Indian chief and a couple of his warriors wear it, as does the boy Michael while he's their guest.
  • Lord Macintosh from Brave.

Film -- Live-Action

  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, when the group finds Jack he has a pattern on that makes his eyes look like they're open when they aren't. Perhaps he used it to sleep in meetings?
  • In Avatar, when Jake is inducted into the Na'vi they paint his entire body with a white paint of some sort. Also, some of the Na'vi (e.g. Neytiri) wear a different kind when going into battle.
  • At the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark the Hovitos Indians have Tribal Face Paint.
  • In Major League, when the Indians are close to winning the division we see a sportscaster dressed in full (sterotypical) Indian gear including a Chief-sized feather headdress and warpaint.
  • The characters in Kruppendorf's Tribe use it.
  • In King Arthur, the Celts wear blue face and body paint in battle.


  • Lord of the Flies features this with Jack and the hunters. One of the chapters is, after all, named "Painted Faces and Long Hair".
  • The Cetagandans in The Vorkosigan Saga wear elaborate facepaint, with different variations for caste and rank.
  • The Nac Mac Feegle in Discworld have elaborate clan tattoos. To the extent that the books sometimes seem contradictory as to whether they actually have blue skin or not.
  • Sten: As part of her pre-mission preparation ritual, ace tacship pilot La Ciotat "painted her face in the ancestral battle pattern of her house."
  • Martin Crevald in The Culture of War claims that camouflage cream serves as the equiv for technologically complex societies as well as it's utilitarian reasons.
  • In Taggerung, all the Juska clans have tattoos to signify which clan they are from. Tagg has an extra one on his cheek to signify that he is an unusual creature. Can be seen on most versions of the covers, probably best on the British one.

Live Action TV

  • The tribe that Cole is an adoptive member of at the beginning of Power Rangers Wild Force has this.
  • In Survivor, at least once a season the tribes are given paint to wear to the challenge.
  • The kids in The Tribe sure do love their face paint.


  • Hed PE
  • To an extent, one could say Kiss has this, in that they all have the same visual motif and the band could be considered a "tribe". Maybe.
    • In general metallers who paint their faces desire to invoke some variety of this trope, provided they don't want to invoke another one.
  • Tech N9ne

Pro Wrestling

  • Wrestlers with tribal gimmicks will usually incorporate face paint into their ring attire. Kamala, Tatanka, the Wild Samoans and Umaga are examples.

Tabletop RPG

  • Dungeons and Dragons:
    • WG6 Isle of the Ape: The Kawibusas.
    • Gazetteer 14 The Atruaghin Clans: The title tribesmen, who are based on Native Americans.


  • Mortimer in The Fantasticks is a white guy (usually lower-class British) dressed up as some stereotypical presentation of a Native American, often including tribal warpaint.

Video Games

  • This is used in Mass Effect, where the Turians all have facial markings defining the wearer as a member from one of the colonies where they were born. Which all stems from some sort of civil war.
    • BioWare also used it in Dragon Age, where the Dalish elves, the Chasind, and the Avvar all traditionally have facial tattoos.
  • The Zaulia tribe in Brutal Legend have facial paints based on Kiss's masks.
  • Unique facial markings are worn by the Tribesmen in Tribes: Vengeance and, ironically, by the anti-Tribal extremist Julia, who is unknowingly a half-Tribal by blood herself.
  • Trolls in World of Warcraft have an option for different face paints, ranging from a few lines on their cheeks and note to covering the entire face.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: In the Honest Hearts DLC, one of the two tribes of Zion Canyon, known as the Dead Horses has a custom where members earn a facial or body tattoo for every major achievement they accomplish.

Web Comics

  • The tribesfolk in Vattu wear symbols on their foreheads. Every single tribe member has a unique symbol; if the priest removes that symbol, that signifies exile from the tribe.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender - the Southern Water Tribe has face paint for when they go to battle. And for after the ceremony after ice dodging.
  • An episode of The Simpsons has this at one point in a parody of Lord of the Flies. When the Model UN (basically Springfield Elementary's entire student body) gets stranded on a desert island and Milhouse is accused of stealing food, when he makes a break for it, Nelson takes ashes from the fire and stripes his face with them as he says "The hunt is on".
  • The Stalker from Batman Beyond paints his entire body with tribal markings before going on the prowl.
  • On Disney's Recess, the pre-schoolers were depicted as a native tribe, complete with fingerpaint facepaint; in the episode "The Legend of Big Kid" when T.J. is captured by the preschoolers, he atavistically adopts the facepaint fashion as well.
  • The title opponents in the Jonny Quest episode "Pursuit of the Po-Ho".
  • In the Dexters Laboratory "Dial M for Monkey" episode, "Huntor", Monkey is forced to fight without his powers, and "goes native", which includes putting on face paint.
  • In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode Over a Barrel, the buffalo (who are depicted as a native tribe) put on face paint before going into battle.
  • Queen La from The Legend of Tarzan, despite being an evil Atlantean Queen living in Africa and ruling over an entire race of Leopard Men, actually wears dark red tattoos on her face. Normally, tattoos worn by Atlanteans (especially if they're royal members), as mentioned above, are supposed to be blue.

Real Life

  • The native people of New Zealand, the Maori, traditionally decorate their face and body with ta moko, in order to indicate status and rank and attract partners.
  • Martin Van Crevald in The Culture of War said effectively that he almost thought camouflage cream was more for this purpose then for practical reasons. But then one of the themes of his book was that Humans Are Warriors and we are Not So Different.