How to Design a Quarter-Sleeve Tattoo

Like full- and half-sleeve tattoos, quarter-sleeve tattoos consist of a tattoo that wraps completely around a person's arm and covers a portion equal to a quarter of the entire arm. Typically, quarter-sleeve tattoos are done on the very upper part of the arm, from the shoulder to the bicep, which makes it easy to cover with a short-sleeved shirt. Some tattoo enthusiasts, however, will place a quarter-sleeve in a different area of the arm.

Decide on placement for your quarter-sleeve tattoo. If you go with the typical upper arm placement, you will have what's considered a true quarter-sleeve. If you have existing work in the area that will form your quarter-sleeve, add smaller pieces to fill space or add a background.

Think about the theme you'd like to use for your quarter-sleeve tattoo. If you're starting from scratch, then you may simply start with a large animal that you like or that has meaning to you, such as a dragon, tiger, bear or panther. If you like oriental tattoos, then you might enjoy a large koi fish or lotus flower. A background can then be added to the piece to complete the picture. Good backgrounds can include flames or smoke, water, wind bars or swirls.

Piece together smaller individual tattoos if you'd prefer to do the piece a little at a time or if there are several different designs you'd like used in the overall piece. When piecing tattoos together, you should still stick with a central theme, so the sleeve doesn't have a completely random look to it.

Talk to a tattoo artist and have the entire tattoo drawn out on paper. If you have some artistic flair of your own, you may want to draw the piece yourself and take it to a tattoo artist to clean up and get her opinion on how the design will look. If you have preexisting tattoos that may need to be covered, keep these in mind when designing the quarter-sleeve.

Be prepared for the time commitment involved. A quarter-sleeve tattoo, especially one you want to do from start to finish in one sitting, may take several hours depending on the design. People find their threshold for pain tolerance sometimes lessens the longer they sit in the tattooist's chair. If you need more than one session to complete your quarter-sleeve, be patient and make sure the previous work is completely healed before beginning again.


If the area where the quarter-sleeve is being placed is already heavily tattooed, completing your piece may be as simple as finding a background that will tie all the individual pieces together. Tribal tattoos are a common choice, mostly for men, and can be easily designed to fill a quarter-sleeve. When considering a tribal quarter-sleeve, keep in mind that not all tribal pieces work well for being added onto, if you decide to go bigger. Design ideas for quarter-sleeves can be found in magazines, on the Internet and in tattoo shops by browsing for pieces that catch your eye. You can also have a tattoo artist draw a custom piece, which will generally cost more but provides an opportunity to have something more original.


Any tattoo should be done in a clean, sterile environment by an experienced, professional tattoo artist who practices safe and sterile procedures throughout the tattooing process. If you live in a state that requires the artist and shop to be licensed, always be sure they have current licenses displayed or can produce before beginning any work. Never base your choice of tattoo artists solely on price. Think about your health and safety, the quality of the work you will be receiving and the artist's enthusiasm for the project. Tattoos can be very addictive. What starts out as a quarter-sleeve may soon turn into a full-sleeve and beyond. When designing your quarter-sleeve, try to keep this in mind and determine if your design can be easily added to in the future.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author