Sleeves: The Basics

Tatts are hard enough to plan out, but a sleeve? Yeesh. I’ve seen too many sleeves succumb to being random, and most of the time, not having any intelligent planning. I get it, tattoos get pricey, and sleeves are built piece by piece, but for some stupid reason, people just change up the scheme with every new addition.

Today, were going to prevent, or even maybe help fix, the steps that lead to a bad sleeve and how to have one that is consistent, filled, and appeals to the overall design you’ve wanted.

Laying Out a Plan

tattoo sleeves

The first step to getting a sleeve, or even half sleeve, is finding out the right pattern and scheme you’re wanting. No, this doesn’t involve saying to yourself you want a badass heaven and hell full sleeve and just getting the tattoos as you go. That’s exactly how you end up with a crappy sleeve with no real pattern(s).


What you should actually do is come up with each individual spot you’re planning to have covered. Talking about it with the artist of your choice is probably your best bet too, as that’ll give them time to plan out and come up with other possible ideas for a sleeve. If it takes about a month or even longer to plan it out what you want, then that’s perfectly fine. The worst tattoos happen when they’re rushed so take your time.


Deciding a Theme

Alright, the next logical part is making sure that your idea makes sense. Yes, tats are personal, but if you want it to actually look decent, having consistency in your theme is huge. So, for example, if a them you have is like heaven/hell, here’s some tips for how to keep is consistent.


  • Having the color stay relatively the same throughout the entire piece.
  • Have size stay consistent of different pieces as well, as you don’t want certain pieces looking much larger or smaller than it should actually be.
  • Either color or no color, don’t mix the two.

So, once you’ve considered these things, deciding what you actually want shouldn’t be too hard. There’s an endless amount of possibilities you can get done, so don’t’ just think of a generic design and go with it out of a book…Unless that’s your thing.



Know one thing going into getting a sleeve, its going to be pricey, especially if you want it detailed and to actually look good. Don’t cut any corners at all, or you’ll end up with some sort of mess up somewhere along the line.


So, plan out how much you think the artwork will cost and save up enough to cover the costs, don’t make the mistake of paying for it a piece at a time.



I touched on this a bit before, but I just want to clarify some things. For the majority, yeah, don’t mix black & grey jobs with color. However, that isn’t to say some tats actually look sick with the combination, but mind you, its difficult to pull off.


Also, when it comes to coloring, try not to bunch up one color in bulk, it’ll lead to often times, disorienting what you’re trying to present. Again, in some areas it looks nice, but for the majority, try to avoid it when coming up with a design with your artist.


All in all, make sure the coloring “makes sense”, or just flows with the art piece. That’s the easiest way to draw attention to it and make it look amazing.


Where to Start?tattoo sleeves

So, once you’re all set up and ready to go, its time to start getting ink. If you’re having the sleeve connected to either a partial or full chest piece, then start from the top corner leading to your shoulder. If you’re getting it connected from a back piece, then have it come over the top of the shoulder to start. From there, the artist should be able to map out everything else and let it flow down.


Depending on how much detail and size of the pieces making up the sleeve, it can take quite some time to get the final product. However, while you wait for it to come together piece by piece, don’t drift from the original concept and stay on the path you’ve built up with your artist. With that, you’ll be sure to have a unique, badass sleeve to call your own.

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