If you know that eventually you want a full sleeve, then Gualteros advises coming up with the full-arm design ahead of time, instead of starting off with just a few sporadic tattoo ideas. This is true for both tribal-style tattoos as well as a series of more random, disconnected ones. “When you’re working with a blank canvas, you can really think through the entire composition to make it cohesive,” he says. “If you’re working with existing tattoos, you just have to try to make it as seamless as possible.”

The sleeve tattoos for men are very expressive. Any man spotting a sleeve tattoo is viewed as open-minded and less likely to be alarmed by any controversial topics that might be discussed. With that impression, the people around them will be more open because they view the man as expressive and bold since they were bold enough to get a sleeve tattoo and show it off to the world in the first place. The sleeve tattoo can be a unique expression of what one stands for or their personal story depending of course on the design.


But that’s how it is! Sure, from a distance the sleeves make them look tough, but these guys know better than anyone how to ink up their arm in a strategic, meaningful way. Think of all the factors they've got to juggle: Choosing an artist can realize their vision, putting together the cash, sitting for all those hours, and then caring for the new tats so they don't need any touch ups—all over the course of weeks, months or years!

Don’t expect to get a huge tattoo, or series of them, in just one sitting. They just take too long. Gualteros has some clients who fly in from overseas, and who then spend a few solid days getting big-scale tattoos completed. But that’s a special case. “Usually it’ll happen over more time,” he says. “It could take months, it could take years. Usually, you leave 3-4 weeks between appointments and a sleeve can require anywhere from 8-10 sessions.”


Many people start their tattoo sleeves without intent and that's just fine. If you take the organic approach and let one small tattoo turn into another and somehow tie it all together with a background of some sort later, you'll likely have an armful of meaningful body art. Others go full on with a sleeve from the get-go and that works too. Of course, with this approach, you'll be investing a larger sum of money upfront, and you'll need to dedicate the time in the chair to complete the work. Most likely you'll be going back to the same artist which means their schedule will need to be considered as well. If you have the time and the money to complete the job, get it done. Otherwise start a slower and more balanced approach. Never compromise quality for quantity.
More important than ever is finding an artist who specializes in the kind of tattoo you want. Gualteros, for example, specializes in realism tattoos, as well deep black designs, and that’s what most of his customers want from him. He says to shop around with this as your biggest requirement, instead of shopping for prices. After all, you’ll be wearing this thing prominently for all your days, so it’s not worth bargaining. “Set up a design consultation to talk through your ideas with the artist,” Gualteros says. “Play around with a sketch, and if everything goes well—if artist and client are on the same page—set up the appointment and get it going.”
When talking about badass tattoos, men often think of intimidating, sometimes morbid tattoo designs in order to project as much masculinity as possible. This includes dragon tattoos, demon tattoos, Japanese samurai tattoos, and other images usually associated with metal bands. If you need inspiration, just look up death metal or black metal album covers on Google. Don’t go for a full copy-paste, though. You might get slapped with legal issues in the future.
Many tattoos serve as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, amulets and talismans, protection, and as punishment, like the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts. The symbolism and impact of tattoos varies in different places and cultures. Tattoos may show how a person feels about a relative (commonly mother/father or daughter/son) or about an unrelated person.[13] Today, people choose to be tattooed for artistic, cosmetic, sentimental/memorial, religious, and magical reasons, and to symbolize their belonging to or identification with particular groups, including criminal gangs (see criminal tattoos) or a particular ethnic group or law-abiding subculture. Popular verses include John 3:16, Philippians 4:13, and Psalms 23.[14]
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