The Truth About Sleeve Tattoos

Tattoos are more popular, and more widely seen, than ever before. But there's a big difference between getting something small on your lower back and covering your whole arm with a "sleeve tattoo." The phrase itself is somewhat misleading, as sleeves can encompass one interconnected design or several different pieces tied together. Or not. Sleeves might not even connect everything, merely there's enough stuff tattooed on the arm to cover it entirely regardless.


There are several reasons you might want to avoid getting a tattoo, but if you're convinced a sleeve is for you, consider the following before starting what's guaranteed to be a long journey.

Sleeve tattoos give you the space to be creative

NYC-based tattoo artists Amanda Wachob and Bryan Gutierrez told Byrdie that, first and foremost, you need to find the right artist for your work, as different artists have different specialties. As Wachob said, "It wouldn't make sense to approach an artist who does traditional Americana and ask them to do something delicate." If you don't know where to start, hit social media, as most artists share their work on Instagram nowadays. 


Be careful about the design, whether you're going for one theme or several, because it's kind of hard to hide your arm(s) and, as with all tattoos, you'll have to live with whatever you get forever. "Think about you 10 years from now. If you feel like that design will still resonate with the future you, go for it," explained Wachob. A good artist will work with you to figure out what will look best and where, so trust their opinion, too. Plan as much as you like, but consider how best to incorporate future, smaller tattoos if you're only going with a quarter or half sleeve to start.

You'll pay good money to make your sleeve tattoo sing

Another thing to consider is whether you're going colorful or sticking black and gray. Artists will work to make either look bold, so it's down to personal preference. You will have to touch up color tattoos more often, though. "Color tattoos especially need a little extra care when it comes to sun exposure and do tend to fade faster than black and gray tattoos," according to Gutierrez. Healing, as a piece by Authority Tattoo notes, should take about two to three weeks overall, but certain spots on the arm will heal faster. 


The other major thing to consider with sleeve tattoos is they're expensive. Although pricing varies by artist and studio, you should be prepared to spend big because, as the old adage goes, cheap tattoos aren't good and good tattoos aren't cheap. As Wachob explains, "A tattoo isn't something to bargain hunt for. It's an investment in yourself and your future happiness. Especially for something like a sleeve, which will be so visible. If an artist whose work you love is expensive, save, save, save."