A lot of us have imagined ourselves with those same kinds of full-arm sleeves. For some, it could work well with our no-fucks-to-give persona. For others, it's an aesthetic decision, or an emotional one. If you’re serious about it though, then it’s worth knowing what planning is involved—from inception, to execution, to maintenance. So we spoke with Nicolas Gualteros, tattoo artist at Senaspace in NYC, to plot it all out.

Some people know the subject matter that they’d like to have done, but haven’t figured out what they want it to look like. Use the internet to search for ideas, taking full advantage of great inspiration sites like Google Image or Pinterest to see art others have had done. If you find something you like, but want your own take on it, print it out and save it for your appointment with one of our tattoo artists; they can take a look at your pulled images and design a tattoo that is absolutely unique to you!

The amount of time to get a full sleeve tattoo on your arm is completely subjective. The entire process, similar to the outcome itself, is highly subjective to plenty of variables. Factors that you must think about include the speed of the artist, the design, as well as your personal healing time. The main factor involved in how long will you be sitting on that tattoo chair is the complexity of the concept. Full sleeves that feature your traditional sailor-style tattoo artwork might take as little as 10 to 15 hours. Meanwhile, a photorealistic tattoo can take at least eighty hours to complete – Possibly even more.


Jump up ^ The Times (London), 18 April 1889, p. 12: "A Japanese Professional Tattooer". Article describes the activities of an unnamed Japanese tattooist based in Hong Kong. He charged £4 for a dragon, which would take 5 hours to do. The article ends "The Hong-Kong operator tattooed the arm of an English Prince, and, in Kioto, was engaged for a whole month reproducing on the trunk and limbs of an English peer a series of scenes from Japanese history. For this he was paid about £100. He has also tattooed ladies.... His income from tattooing in Hong Kong is about £1,200 per annum."

Perhaps even then this was a fashion statement, a badge of belonging. Or just what you did after too much rum. Later, the aristocracy flirted with body art. According to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (they know a lot about tattoos), Edward VII had a Jerusalem cross on his arm while both his sons, the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of York (later George V), had dragon tattoos. Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston’s mum, had a snake on her wrist.

Sleeves aren’t very easily hidden so make sure to check the policies at work to ensure you can’t get in trouble for new body art. You may be able to hide the pieces pretty well at first but as time goes by and more of your skin is covered, you’ll definitely not be able to cover up the sleeve forever. More than anything, have fun and enjoy the process of creating this masterpiece that will be part of your body forever.
Some people know the subject matter that they’d like to have done, but haven’t figured out what they want it to look like. Use the internet to search for ideas, taking full advantage of great inspiration sites like Google Image or Pinterest to see art others have had done. If you find something you like, but want your own take on it, print it out and save it for your appointment with one of our tattoo artists; they can take a look at your pulled images and design a tattoo that is absolutely unique to you!

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Tattooing is regulated in many countries because of the associated health risks to client and practitioner, specifically local infections and virus transmission. Disposable plastic aprons and eye protection can be worn depending on the risk of blood or other secretions splashing into the eyes or clothing of the tattooist. Hand hygiene, assessment of risks and appropriate disposal of all sharp objects and materials contaminated with blood are crucial areas. The tattoo artist must wash his or her hands and must also wash the area that will be tattooed. Gloves must be worn at all times and the wound must be wiped frequently with a wet disposable towel of some kind. All equipment must be sterilized in a certified autoclave before and after every use. It is good practice to provide clients with a printed consent form that outlines risks and complications as well as instructions for after care.[67]
Tattoos are strongly empirically associated with deviance, personality disorders and criminality.[73][74] Although the general acceptance of tattoos is on the rise in Western society, they still carry a heavy stigma among certain social groups.[citation needed] Tattoos are generally considered an important part of the culture of the Russian mafia.[75]

"Aftercare plays a crucial part in a tattoo aging well," Tyson Weed, custom tattoo artist at Divinity Tattoo in Phoenix, AZ, tells Bustle. "First, you have to allow the tattoo to heal properly. If a tattoo is allowed to heal properly there’s no need for a touch up." So if you follow your tattoo artist's instructions word-for-word, you're more likely to have a tattoo that looks amazing through the years.

Yeah, yeah, we know that tattoos are permanent, expensive, and straight-up painful—but with style-savvy celebs like Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, Miley Cyrus and Kylie Jenner regularly seen showing off their cute tats, we’re still totally feigning for some fresh ink. These stars don’t have full sleeves, but instead rock smaller, simpler designs on their skin.
The term "sleeve" is a reference to the tattoo's size similarity in coverage to a long shirt sleeve on an article of clothing. In this manner, the term is also used as a verb; for example, "getting sleeved" means to have one's entire arm tattooed. The term is also sometimes used in reference to a large leg tattoo that covers a person's leg in a similar manner[citation needed].
Anatomy Anchor Angel Animal Aquarius Aries Art Astrology Astronomy Baby Barcode Beach Bird Books Buddha Butterfly Cancer Awareness Cars Cat Celebrity Celestial Cherry Christian Clock Comic Cross Crystals/Gems Dagger Death Demon Devil Dinosaur Dog Dove Dragon Dragonfly Dream Catcher Eagle Eyes Fairy Family Feather Fire Fish Flame Flower Food Football Geisha Girl Gun Heart Indian Infinity Insects Jellyfish Jesus Koi Leo Lion Lotus Mandala Mermaids Military Moon Moth Mother/Child Motorcycles Music Name Nature Ocean Octopus Other Owl Patriotic Peace Peacock Peony People Phoenix Pinup Praying Hands Reptile Rose Sacred geometry Samurai Science Scorpio Scorpion Semicolon Shells Ships Skateboard Skull Snake Space Sparrow Spider Sports Star Sun Surfboard Surfing Swallow Symbols Tattoo Artist Tattoo Shop Tiger Travel Tree Tribal Turtle Wave Wings Wolf

The length of an arm provides an incredible canvas for a tattooist. They have a lot of space to work with, and it gives them the opportunity to explore complex imagery that reads like a story on the skin. Or if they prefer abstraction, sleeves are the chance to create a collision of patterns. The conceptual possibilities are endless. Some artists completely cover the skin, like Little Andy who transformed the lower half of his client’s arm into a swirling galaxy. But for those that favor the minimalist approach, La Malafede showcases the impact of a single line as it traces the inside of the whole arm.


The word tattoo, or tattow in the 18th century, is a loanword from the Samoan word tatau, meaning "to strike".[1][2] The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology of tattoo as "In 18th c. tattaow, tattow. From Polynesian (Samoan, Tahitian, Tongan, etc.) tatau. In Marquesan, tatu." Before the importation of the Polynesian word, the practice of tattooing had been described in the West as painting, scarring or staining.[3]
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