Plan a Sleeve Tattoo – Full Guide - TattoosWizard (2024)

So you’re planning a sleeve tattoo and don’t know where to begin.

One of these can cost around $4000 and take up to 25 hours to be fully done. So you better plan it right.

It might cost you more than you had initially planned, but it will follow you for a lifetime.

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A sleeve tattoo is a big decision and should not be taken lightly.

By the way, if you don’t want to do this process alone, we have experts who can help you:

1) Plan the full process

2) Done the design

3) Choose & contact the artist in your town

Our expert will also follow through with you over the sessions to make sure you go in the direction you want. So if after this guide you feel like you still need help, be sure to click here and send us your idea so we can connect with with an expert.

So here’s our step-by-step guide on how to plan a sleeve tattoo.

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1. Get Inspired On These Sites

The best way to get inspired is to look at the best sleeve tattoos.

You can use Tattoos Wizard to find sleeve in black and gray and in color. These will differ significantly in the amount of hours an artist has to put and will affect the budget.

We’ve also put up a guide of what to tattoo on your arm with >30 visually stunning tattoos.

If you don’t know what you want:

  • Pinterest: Here you can find examples of almost anything. Just click on the search bar and type “tattoo sleeve” + “your wanted theme”. Pinterest is all about visual searches. Meaning that once you find what you’re looking for it will show more examples like the one you’re viewing. It also has a feature (with the symbol of a magnifying glass) that allows you to instantly find “Visually similar results”. You can use it to find more samples of what you’re looking for and, if you’re lucky, the link to the artist’s website or Instagram.
  • Reddit: Here’s it’s harder to search for what you want but it also have vetted results.Go to /r/ Tattoos, TattooDesigns or best_tattoos and add “sleeve” to the search bar. For better results, sort by “Top” and “All Time” or “Last Year” in these subs.
  • Instagram: Under the hashtags #sleevetattoo, #sleeve or #fullsleeve you’ll find some of the most modern and updated sleeve styles. It’s a good way to check what’s trendy and wha the internet gives attention to.

If you already know what you know:

but don’t know where to find it, use Google Images. It has a feature that allows you to upload a picture (or URLs) to find exactly the same, as well as similar, content on the web. If you have a drawing or an image of what you want you might find a website of an artists who does similar work by uploading it on Google Images.

Black and grey: They often have a cohesive theme or story that ties the design together, even though the elements can be distinct. You’ll often see watches, roses, symbols and natural elements mixed together. These sleeves are more about portraying a feeling or state of mind and the elements are pieces to a puzzle. These rely on shading and lighting to create dimension and depth so consider that as well when picturing your image.

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Coloured:They’re generally one single image that occupies the full sleeve. They can also have several different elements, but all belonging to the same universe. It’s important to have a coloured sleeve done fully within the same year, otherwise some older parts might start to lose color and create a big contrast with the new ones.

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2. Commit to a theme or a style, or go rogue

Sleeve tattoos often have a cohesive theme or story that ties the design together. Some common themes for sleeve tattoos include nature, religious symbols, cultural imagery, and personal mottos or beliefs. Think about what themes or images are meaningful to you and how you want them to be incorporated into your tattoo.

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Whether you choose what you want to portrait (strength, kindness, family, etc.) or the symbols you want to incorporate (a lion, a fig tree, a world map, etc.) you should save and keep on a folder a few images that represent those so you can later share with you artist.

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But you don’t need to. You can always get full Ed Sheeran and do whatever you want, whenever you want. That’s also a style:

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I believe Patchwork doesn’t get enough love in the sleeve world, but it’s also a style to consider.

You just add whatever you want, whenever you want, and it will eventually fit. Or not. And won’t matter because that’s exactly the point:

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3. Full or half? Forearm or bicep? Inner or outer?

Consider where and when do you want your tattoo to be visible. If you work in a conservative environment in a hot country, maybe a half sleeve until your elbow might be a better option, as it allows you to wear shirts without showing your art piece. Not everyone wants to show them off or even invite co-workers to comment on their personal art.

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Where you place your tattoo can also have a big impact on the design. Consider factors such as the design of your body – we all know we shouldn’t get a tiger face right below the elbow, but did you know that getting a family portrait on the tricep might age very badly?

Clothing will also create friction on some parts of your body so consider that before investing on a detail that will get damaged.

If you have a specific area in mind, make sure to discuss it with your tattoo artist to see if it is a feasible location for a sleeve tattoo.

4. Sketch out a rough design, it really helps

Once you have a theme in mind, start sketching out a rough design for your tattoo. This doesn’t have to be a detailed, final design – it can just be a rough outline of the elements you want to include in your tattoo. You can even use online tools or print out reference images to help you visualize the design.

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You can even make a good old collage with printed images.

If you really want to be in control, you can contact a company online that does the tattoo drawing for you so you can share it with your artist.

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But keep in mind that many artists like to do their own style and not follow someone else’s drawings, so they’d prefer you give them an outline, then a final result. Most artists don’t even allow you to see their drawing before the session.

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5. Find here how much you’ll have to spend

Before you talk to an artist it’s important to determine your budget.

This calculator can help you prepare the budget based on location, artist’s fame and other factors.

Sleeve tattoos are generally expensive, especially if it cover the whole arm. Once you have a clear idea of how much you are willing to spend, you can choose artist within your budget.

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6. Not any artist, pick the right artist

Once you have the budget set, it’s time to contact your an artist.

Look for an artist who has experience with sleeve tattoos and has a portfolio of work that you like. Tattoos Wizard allows you search using locations and tags. For instance: New York + Sleeve + Black & Grey. It’s also a good idea to check our their Instagram to see if they have availability in the short and medium term.

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So before you finalize your tattoo design, it’s important to consult with your tattoo artist. They will be able to help you fine-tune the design, suggest placement options, and give you an estimate of the time and cost involved. Be open to their suggestions and input – they are the experts, after all!

7. Prepare for the tattoo process

We got a full guide on getting prepared. Check it out here.

In short: get a good night’s sleep and eat a solid meal. Do not drink 24 hours before and wear loose and comfortable clothing. Be ready to dirty your clothes with ink and to easily take them off during the process.

You can also reduce the pain by getting a safe numbing cream.

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8. It isn’t over when the needle stops. Healing takes months

Don’t go around thinking it’s set in ink once the you go out of the tattoo shop. Your tattoo can turn to sh*t if you neglect it’s healing process. Yes, it can scab, lose color, infect and become damaged.

And so we’ve prepared a day-by-day guide for the aftercare process.

The first weeks are the most important, if it heals right, it will stay sharp for years. If you slack off in the first two weeks, you’ll see your investment going to waste.

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It’s your arm, don’t slack off

Planning a sleeve tattoo takes time and consideration, but the end result will be a beautiful, meaningful addition to your body.

And, again, if you need help or just want a cheap quick session without commitment with an expert, we’ve got you covered. Just message us here and we’ll connect with your an experienced artists to start bringing your idea into the real world.

Plan a Sleeve Tattoo – Full Guide - TattoosWizard (2024)


Is there an app to design a tattoo sleeve? ›

INKHUNTER - AI Tattoo Designs 4+

How do you conceptualize a sleeve tattoo? ›

To start designing a tattoo sleeve, it's important that you first decide what styles, themes, symbols, images, and colors you want to include. You can then determine the layout of your sleeve by choosing where you want the larger pieces to be and what patterns or motifs you want to use to connect them.

How many sessions does it take to get a full sleeve tattoo? ›

It's kind of the equivalent of asking: “how long is a rope?” Different styles of tattooing can take dramatically different amounts of time, and every artist tattoos at different speeds, so sleeves can take anywhere from 3 to as many as 10–or even 15–sessions!

How much does a full sleeve tattoo cost? ›

Half-SleeveLarge$800 - $3,500+
Full-SleeveLarge$1,500 - $5,000+
CalfSmall-Large$300 - $700
ThighSmall-Large$250 - $3,250+
26 more rows
Jan 29, 2022

How to blend tattoos into a sleeve? ›

Red or yellow outlines can easily be added to pre-existing tattoos to connect them uniformly. Or, add drips, bubbles, or geometric shapes to the exterior edges of your main pieces to connect them. If you like the look of all-black tattoos, there's nothing wrong with keeping your sleeve monochromatic.

Can I design my own tattoo sleeve? ›

Sure, you can reach out to a tattoo artist and request them to design a sleeve for you. They will typically ask you for your ideas, preferences, and any specific elements you want to include in the design.

Is there an AI tattoo generator? ›

AI Tattoo Generator. Turn your flash tattoo ideas into reality with Fotor's AI tattoo generator. Instead of mimicking the popular tattoo designs, free to make endless custom tattoo designs with AI!

Is there a program to design a tattoo? ›

Adobe Illustrator Draw is a vector-based graphics software and one of the most intuitive tattoo drawing apps. It is easy to use and allows you to draw lines, shapes, and text to create intricate designs. With Illustrator, you can add color, gradients, and textures to make your design stand out.

What makes a good sleeve tattoo? ›

Your entire sleeve should be in the same theme (e.g. Greek Gods), or at least contain subjects that create good contrast together, such as skulls and roses. Don't cram 100 ideas on your arm. You don't want people to look at your arm and just see mess - a pile of grey mush.

How to fill gaps in a tattoo sleeve? ›

  1. Shading. If you don't want to overcrowd your sleeve, but you want a fuller look, shading with black and grey is an excellent option.
  2. Dot Work. Dot work can add texture to your sleeve, while filling in blank space.
  3. Geometric Lines. ...
  4. Flowers and Vines. ...
  5. Tribal patterns. ...
  6. Flowing colour. ...
  7. Stars. ...
  8. Waves.

Does a tattoo sleeve have to be one theme? ›

Of course while most of the time a tattoo sleeve will have a common theme, it's also not compulsory to do so. It's your design and your own choice, and sometimes it's just a cool collection of designs you love. However for most people it's an opportunity to express themselves in a really meaningful way.

How do you start a full sleeve tattoo? ›

If you know you eventually want a sleeve, or if you're going full-sleeve right out the gate, then Gualteros recommends starting at the shoulder. From there, you'll work your way down the arm. “If someone came to me and let me do whatever I wanted, I'd start from the top with something that fits the body,” he says.

How much should I save for a full sleeve tattoo? ›

Full-sleeve tattoos typically cost between $1,500 and $6,000.

How to decide what to get on a tattoo sleeve? ›

Envision the entire canvas coming together, not just small components of it. On that note…. Don't choose subject matter that doesn't go together. Your entire sleeve should be in the same theme (e.g. Greek Gods), or at least contain subjects that create good contrast together, such as skulls and roses.

How do you ask a tattoo artist to design a sleeve? ›

Sure, you can reach out to a tattoo artist and request them to design a sleeve for you. They will typically ask you for your ideas, preferences, and any specific elements you want to include in the design. It's important to provide them with clear instructions and references to help them understand your vision.

How much does it cost to start a sleeve? ›

A full sleeve tattoo can cost anywhere from $1000 to $6000, depending on the hourly rate of the artist and how much time the art takes to complete. For a design in full color, expect to spend at least two full days sitting for the piece, or be prepared to sit for multiple sessions. How much does tattoo removal cost?

How do I plan my first tattoo? ›

It's best to have a rough idea of what you want your tattoo to look like before you step foot in a tattoo shop. Research tattoo designs ahead of time and come with plenty of reference materials for your artist to use as inspiration. This can include real-life photos if you want a portrait tattoo.

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