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Everything You Need to Know About Sleeve Tattoos

Sleeve tattoos are a staple in the world of body ink. Find out everything you need to know about tattoo sleeves, including how to choose an artist, in this post.

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When you think about the most popular trends in the world of body ink, it’s hard not to picture sleeve tattoos. Sleeves are now a common type of tattoo that you can get in any part of the world. They can vary in length and theme, but they usually provide more than enough space to create a meaningful piece that’s chock full of detail.

There are countless designs and a few different types of sleeves you can choose from, but getting one of these pieces requires more thought than your average tattoo. For this reason, we’ve put together a guide that contains everything you need to know about sleeve tattoos.

Types of Sleeve Tattoos

While most people picture a piece that stretches from the upper arm to the wrist, there are actually many different types of sleeve tattoos. These include:

Quarter Sleeves

Regarded as the most conservative type, quarter sleeves stretch from the upper arm midway down to the elbow. These pieces may incorporate part of the shoulder as well as the bicep and armpit.

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Half Sleeves

As the name suggests, half sleeves stretch from the top of the arm to the elbow. A half sleeve tattoo can also incorporate the inside of the arm and it gives the artist a lot more space to work with.

Three-Quarter Sleeves

Although not as popular as others on this list, the three-quarter sleeve stops midway through the forearm. Three-quarter sleeves are a great choice for Polynesian-style tribal tattoos, plus you have the option to turn it into a full sleeve later on.

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Full Sleeves

Full sleeve tattoos start at the top of the arm or shoulder and run all the way down to the wrist. Depending on the design, some full sleeves also incorporate the hand and even the fingers.

Aside from allowing more elements, full sleeves give you the ability to create a piece that flows nicely. Plus, if you’re creative enough and choose the right artist, you’ll be able to find a unique effect that works perfectly with the length of your arm.


Hikae is a type of Japanese sleeve tattoo that covers one side of the chest area and the arm of the same side. This type of ink can stretch to the elbow or to the wrist and it usually features symbols and creatures found in Japanese mythology.

What You Need to Know Before Getting a Sleeve Tattoo

Like we mentioned before, getting a tattoo sleeve is not as simple as your average piece.

First off, even small sleeves cover a decent chunk of your arm, so you want to choose a design you love. Plus, hiding a sleeve is not that simple especially during casual events, so you need to be comfortable enough to let everyone see your new piece.

Sleeves also take up some of the best placements in your body depending on how big they are, so it’s worth finding a reliable artist that helps you through the entire process. If not, you may end up with a huge piece you’re not satisfied with, so do your homework and set yourself up for a positive experience.

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How to Pick the Best Artist and Get an Awesome Sleeve

The best thing you can do is take a gradual approach to your sleeve tattoo design and find an artist that walks you through all the stages.

In order to find the best artist and get a great sleeve, remember to:

Find a Specialist

Tattoo artists usually have a specialty they prefer, so find a tattooer that focuses on the style of sleeve you’re looking for. Whether you want to go tribal, feature portraits, or play around with lines, working with a specialist will ensure the quality of the tattoo.

Compare Different Shops

There’s a good chance you’ll find more than one specialist in your area, so get in touch with your top candidates and compare them side-by-side. The price is important, but don’t let it be the decisive factor in your selection. Instead, collaborate with an artist that has a solid portfolio of similar work and understands what you want to achieve.

Create a Sound Theme

Creating a theme doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your tattoos will feature the same elements, but make sure that the styles you choose are compatible.

If your sleeve contains dots, portraits, and geometric patterns without some sort of logic, your piece may not look as good as you’d hoped. Having a theme spreading across is a great way to incorporate different styles into one single piece.

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Figure Out the Size and Exact Placement

The exact placement and size are personal choices, but your artist can make valuable suggestions based on the elements you want to incorporate.

Decide on the Symbols You Want to Include

Sleeves can include a variety of symbols that represent different things. When selecting these symbolic elements, you’ll want to place them in the most visible areas. The outside part of the arm, forearm, and inner forearm are great placements, especially if you want to have individual pieces that naturally form a sleeve.

Collaborate with Your Artist During the Whole Process

For small tattoos, it’s common to show up to a parlor with a design and get it inked right away. Sleeves require extensive planning and they need to be customized to the size and shape of your arm. Working with an artist from the concept stage will give you more insight in all areas, so make sure you recruit a reputable tattooer early on.

Harmoniously Incorporate New Pieces

Depending on the size and style you choose, you may still have space to get more ink in the future. Just make sure these are harmoniously incorporated into your sleeve following the same style, regardless of what it may be.

If you liked our post Everything You Need to Know About Sleeve Tattoos, be sure to check out our dynamic sleeve tattoo gallery.

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