Tattoo Ideas – Sleeve Designs

Tattooing Sleeves and Choosing Designs

Tattooing sleeves on one’s arms is one of the boldest and most artistically complex body modification tasks one can undertake. The process can take years to complete if one does it a few pieces at a time or only months if one has a concrete design in mind. Many full-sleeves are the result of an individual getting one tattoo, deciding they love it and then deciding to get several more which they eventually turn into a one-piece, themed type of art that encompasses the entire arm. Among those who love tattoos, this is one of the highest forms of art. Of all tattoo ideas, sleeves encompass some of the most intricate and complex works.

 If one dreams of having sleeves but has yet to get their first tattoo, most artists will recommend starting out in one of the less physically intense areas of the body such as the upper arm. Tattoos do involve a bit of pain but, after one has become accustomed to it, it’s generally not considered that intense. Still, it’s best to start in a fleshy area for the first few pieces and gradually work one’s way up to the more sensitive areas, particularly those areas of the arm which are directly over the top of a bone such as the elbows and wrists.

 The design may flow from one’s first few tattoos and, if one cannot think of a design for their sleeves off the top of their head, it’s sometimes helpful to pick a few smaller pieces that have some personal meaning and see what one’s imagination dictates. Oftentimes, one will find that the first few pieces naturally lend themselves to others and, if one is working with a good artist they can generally get good suggestions. It’s not a bad idea to tell the tattoo artists that one is considering sleeves right away as this will sometimes influence how they place the tattoo and how they terminate the design at its edges. If you are creating your own “canvas” by combining variations from flash art, be aware, as the tattoo ideas of your sleeve form into a unit that should appear coherent.

One should make certain that their sleeves offset their body. For instance, black and other dark colors tend to make the arms look smaller, particularly if the designs are very dense and blocky. If one wishes their arms to look larger, choose a theme where there is space between the individual pieces which will make one’s arms look longer and larger. Also keep in mind that one’s body will change over time and consult with the artist to see how one compensates for this. Again, if you are the designer and using flash patterns which you will combine, talk to the experts at your source for their counsel to properly plan for how the tattoo designs on the arm will likely look over time.

The length of the sleeve is totally up to the individual. While many individuals assume that a sleeve only describes a series of designs that encompass the arm from shoulder to wrist, there are half-sleeve and quarter sleeve designs which are very attractive and which are more concealable for certain occasions. Of course, one can always extend the sleeve over the shoulders and down the chest if they really desire a great deal of coverage. Remember that, sometimes, the best sleeves just happen, and don’t fret if it’s always been a dream that seemed too complex to tackle all at once.

Les is a writer/photographer who has been riding his Harley over the roads of America for over 30 years, collecting stories and pictures on the way. A long time lover of body art and friends to hundreds of devotees, he has recently begun putting his articles on line and they can be found on his tattoomundo website, new ones being added all the time. For more great tips on tattoo ideas for the sleeve, visit

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