How to Design Your Own Sleeve Tattoo

Art is no longer limited to material objects, but can be created on the body, thanks to innovative tattoo artists and creative tattoo enthusiasts. Tattoo sleeves are tattoos that cover a large part of the body, usually the arms from shoulder to wrist, although they can also cover the legs. Sleeves come in full and half sizes with half sizes generally covering the top half of the arm from the elbow to the shoulder area. Designing a sleeve is a detailed process and such considerations as theme, integrating existing tattoos and scheduling sessions all factor in.

Decide whether you would like a full or half sleeve tattoo. Look through magazines and tattoo websites, such as "Sleeve Tattoo Designs," for ideas. If you have friends with sleeves, ask them about their experiences and what they recommend in terms of sleeve design. Common sleeve ideas include Celtic knots and tribal , floral, dragon and koi fish designs.

Call reputable area tattoo salons and ask about sleeve prices. In general, sleeves are among the more expensive tattoos available. The more intricate and original the sleeve idea, the higher the cost will be.

Finalise your sleeve's theme. If the sleeve is going to be an entirely new tattoo, you are freer to choose an overall design that flows. If the sleeve is being made out of existing tattoos, finding the right theme can be a little more complicated; for instance, you may have to get them covered if they do not match the theme you have chosen.

Plan out the sessions with the tattoo artist of your choice. Sleeves generally take about 20 hours to complete, perhaps less, depending on the tattoo. To ensure sleeve completion, you and the tattoo artist must make a schedule that works for both of you. Completion can take several weeks because such tattoos are so detailed, and newly-tattooed skin can become inflamed from pigmented ink, according to Derm Net New Zealand.


Tattoo sleeve shirts are available that allow you to see how sleeves will look before you commit to one. They may also provide some design ideas.


Do a background check on the tattoo parlour where you are getting your sleeve. Make sure the parlour is clean and follows safety guidelines, such as the use of disposable needles. The use of unclean needles can transmit disease.

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About the Author

Kent Page McGroarty has worked as a writer since 2006, contributing numerous articles to various websites. She is a frequent contributor to the health and fitness sections of the online magazine EDGE Publications and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Saint Joseph's University.