Best Guide To Getting A Sleeve Tattoos | Design & Ideas

By planning out their entire body, most people who get tattooed don’t start their journey. The majority of people get a piece here and there and before they realize it they’ve got some serious ink and all that’s left is to fill in the blank. Sleeves are serious real estate and there’s a lot of space for things or a lot of space for mistakes. If you would like a sleeve there’s a couple of things you got to know.

What Do I Need to Know Before Getting a Sleeve Tattoos?

There are obvious things that you’ll want to know before getting a sleeve tattoo, but it’s essential to lay them out so you don’t wander in and point to a page of a binder and say ‘that one,’ which would do you no good in the long run. You’ll want an idea about the costs, how long it will take, how painful it will be, and—of course— exactly what you want.

That last step—getting what you want—is arguably the most important and the most time-consuming. Not only do you need to give it a lot of thought, but you need to commit to the design. Once it’s finished, it’s set on your body, and you will have it forever barring expensive and painful laser removal. Make sure that your tattoo design is right for you and correctly express yourself to the world.

sleeve tattoo for men

We like to get to know our customers at Chronic Ink Tattoos, so we can give you the best advice and design something unique and perfect for you. Don’t rush the process. Consider it carefully and explore designs that have meaning and personality, so that your body art tells a story that signifies all you want to present to the world.

Types of Sleeve Tattoos

  1. Quarter: Covers the area from the top of the shoulder midway to the elbow.
  2. Half: This extends from the top of the shoulder to the elbow.
  3. Full Sleeve Tattoos: This reaches from the top shoulder to the wrist.
  4. Hikae: this is often a Japanese-style Sleeve Tattoos that covers the chest area and extends either to the elbow or the wrist.

how to get a sleeve tattoo


Planning, planning, planning. Plan your artist, ask around, find someone who “sees” your vision or can tattoo the way you wish. It’s no good going to the cheapest artist if they aren’t capable of doing the tattoo you want. If you’re committing time, money and skin you want to make sure it’s done right. Covering up full sleeve work not only means you will have limited choices but you’ll also be paying far more if you don’t get it done right the first time.

Plan your ink as well. This means getting a folder – on your print, phone, Pinterest, etc. and filling it with your ideas. Examples of similar styles, tattoos, photos of the particular animal/flower etc that you simply want. The better your reference and the more information you can give your artist the better they are likely to “see” what you want and be able to put it together exactly as you like.


Sleeves aren’t cheap. You’ll have several sessions involved and will likely be spending $1000 or more for quality work. It’s often said that good work isn’t cheap, and most artists will require a deposit on sessions and drawings, especially for sleeve work where the drawing alone may take hours. If you have a budget be honest about it, but be aware that your artist also has to make a living and if you can’t afford their price you may have to compromise with a half sleeve or taking time to build up cash between sessions if you commit.

getting a half sleeve tattoo


When you’re ready to put down your deposit, have picked out an artist and have your ideas together it’s time to schedule a consult. This is the time where you bring everything to your chosen artist. You sit down, discuss those ideas, and check out and make a vision together. Listen to them, if they say it won’t work trust their experience if something is especially important to them.

You’ll also be setting an appointment for your first session so bring your calendar or have an idea when you plan on getting started. Be aware that a good artist may be booked months in advance so you might not get an appointment to start right away.


When your appointment arrives make sure you’re prepared. Eat beforehand, arrive on time/early, bring anything the artist has asked with you including your ID. Give your artist at least 24 hours notice if you are going to cancel or whatever terms were agreed when you left your deposit to reschedule. Bring a friend, a pillow, music or anything you think will help you get through the experience. Then it’s time to sit back, and take the ride!

How Painful is an Arm Tattoo?

If you haven’t gotten a tattoo yet, you are probably still aware that they can be painful. Sleeve tattoos have the same pain as other tattoos, but it’s spread out over time and a much larger area. It also crosses some of the areas that are widely considered to be more painful than others, so think about that if you have a lower pain tolerance.

Not everyone responds to the pain of tattoos well. If you’re averse to pain but still committed to body art, our artists may try and schedule your appointments further apart to help your body recover before continuing to ink it.

For some people, the pain endured is part of the process. It shows their grit and determination, so that’s one thing you may think about while considering how much it hurts.


  • Don’t be afraid to be vague. You don’t have to come in with a design drawn out and coloured in. 
  • Some people plan for years, and then get the entire thing tatted on in one series of sessions. Others create a vague theme so that they can add different symbols and pieces in over the years as they acquire memories or complete milestones. The decision is up to you.
  • Never compare prices, only compare quality. Your tattoo is going to last forever, so make a worthy investment. Alternatively, you can spend more money to get it removed or live with regret for the rest of your life.
  • Don’t be cheap. Don’t try to save money by asking for a smaller one. The proportions will look crappy!
  • Don’t try to cram a bunch of meanings and symbols into one design. This makes it look cheap.

Healing Process

It is very important that you take care of the tattooed area afterwards to avoid infection. This is especially critical when getting a sleeve because you are required to return for several sessions, and ruining your tattoo before it is complete will make it more difficult to finish drawing the design, which means it will take longer and cost more.

Aftercare Instructions

  • Keep the bandage on for several hours after your session.
  • Wash with antibacterial soap. Gently pat dry.
  • Let it air for 10 minutes. Then, apply a thin layer of lotion.
  • Continue washing and moisturizing the area two to three times a day until the skin finishes peeling (about two to three weeks). It is normal to see some traces of ink fall off when your skin is peeling.

Sleeve Tattoos Ideas For Women

Sleeve Tattoos Idea For Men