How To Design Your Own Tattoo Sleeve?

How To Design Your Own Tattoo Sleeve
Download Article Download Article Getting a tattoo sleeve is a great way to express your style and outwardly display some of the things that are important to you. To start designing a tattoo sleeve, it’s important that you first decide what styles, themes, symbols, images, and colors you want to include. You can then determine the layout of your sleeve by choosing where you want the larger pieces to be and what patterns or motifs you want to use to connect them.

  1. 1 Determine if you want a full or partial sleeve. To begin the process of designing your sleeve, consider whether you want to tattoo your entire arm, or whether you want a partial sleeve that may be easier to cover up. This will help you determine how to proceed with your design, as well as how many sessions you’ll need to plan with your artist. [1] There are 4 popular types of tattoo sleeves, including the following:
    • A quarter sleeve, which covers from the top of your shoulder midway down your upper arm to your elbow.
    • A half sleeve, which reaches from the top of your shoulder to your elbow.
    • A full sleeve, which covers from the top of your shoulder to your wrist.
    • A Hikae sleeve, which is a Japanese style sleeve that runs continuously from your chest to your elbow or wrist.
  2. 2 Consider what style(s) you want to include. There are several different tattoo styles that you can choose to include in your sleeve design. In many cases, artists specialize in 1 or 2 styles, so determining what styles you want to include will help you pick an artist. [2]
    • A few popular styles include tribal, new school, traditional, watercolor, Japanese, and Celtic.
    • If you want your sleeve to be more uniform and have a clear flow, you may want to stick to just 1 or 2 styles.


  3. 3 Conceptualize the major theme(s) of your tattoo sleeve. Getting a tattoo sleeve is a big decision, so it’s important that you conceptualize 1 or 2 themes that you’re passionate about. Your theme could be a genre you’ve always loved, or a message concept that is particularly meaningful to you. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that you know you’ll love for the rest of your life. [3]
    • For example, if you’re passionate about fantasy novels or movies, you could conceptualize a fantasy theme with tattoos including dragons, romance, and other thematic elements. [4]
    • Your theme could also be a message or feeling, such as harmony, heartbreak and redemption, or peace. You can then choose symbols and motifs that express that theme for you.
  4. 4 Select a few of your must-have symbols and designs. Once you’ve decided on the major theme(s) of your sleeve, choose a few symbols that represent the themes that you want to include. While your tattoo artist will certainly have some ideas as well, it’s helpful for you to pick out a few symbols to present to your artist to help them understand what you’re going for. [5]
    • For example, if you want your sleeve to represent harmony, you may choose symbols and motifs relating to nature, such as waves and clouds, if you feel harmony with nature.
    • If your major theme is heartbreak, for example, you may want to include heartbreak symbols like hearts, roses, a shipwrecked boat, or waves crashing into a heart.
  5. 5 Decide what colors you want to include. The colors you include in your sleeve will impact the overall look and meaning of your tattoos, so it’s important that you decide ahead of time exactly what colors you want to include. In addition, your sleeve will be on your arm forever, so make sure you pick colors you love and that you won’t get sick of. [6]
    • For example, if you want your sleeve to have a more muted vibe, you may want to stick to black and white or greyscale color scheme.
    • If you want your sleeve to really stand out, you’ll likely want to choose a few colors that will pop. Keep in mind, however, that colors tend to cost more and do tend to fade faster than black and greyscale options. [7]
    • In general, tattoo colors that are significantly lighter or darker than your skin tone tend to show up best. For example, if your skin has a pinkish shade and warm undertones, pinks, faded reds, and yellows won’t show up as much as darker shades of cooler colors, such as blue and green. [8]
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  1. 1 Sketch out the larger, more meaningful pieces first. Once you’ve decided on the major elements of your sleeve, start putting your ideas down on paper by sketching out the largest pieces first. The largest pieces of your sleeve are generally those that hold the most meaning, so you’ll likely spend a bit more time on these pieces than the connective elements. [9]
    • The number of large tattoo pieces depends on the look and meaning you’re going for, as well as how large your sleeve tattoo will be. If you’re only doing a quarter sleeve, for example, you’ll likely want to stick to 1 or 2 larger pieces in addition to the connective elements.
    • If you want your sleeve to have a singular focus, try choosing a few larger pieces that speak to that main message or theme. For example, if you want your sleeve to signify how you’ve overcome obstacles, you could choose a 1 to 4 larger pieces that fit this theme, such as a shipwreck and a mountain.
  2. 2 Decide on the placement of all the major sleeve elements. After determining what major symbols and images you want to include in your design, you can start deciding where you want these major pieces to be located. The placement of the largest pieces will determine how the stories, themes, and messages unfold across the sleeve, so deciding on the layout will help ensure that your sleeve flows in a meaningful way. [10]
    • When deciding on the placement, keep in mind that your artist will likely complete these elements first. Since tattoo sleeves generally take several sessions over the course of months and even years to complete, you may want to consider whether the placement of your larger pieces will look good on their own for a time.
    • In addition, consider any injuries or sensitive areas that might impact the placement of any elements of the design. For example, if you have chronic wrist pain, you might want to avoid having any full color elements on your wrist so the artist won’t have to spend as long drawing the design. [11]
  3. 3 Use patterns or continuous motifs to connect the larger tattoos. Once you’ve sketched out and decided on the placement of the larger pieces, you can start sketching out the patterns and motifs you want to use to connect these pieces. The background elements of your sleeve should both support the meaning and add continuity to the design. [12]
    • Tribal patterns and naturally-occurring continuous elements such as smoke, flames, swirls, water, or vines, for example, are great options for background and connective designs that help you create a continuous, flowing sleeve. [13]
    • For example, if your sleeve signifies how you’ve overcome obstacles, and your larger pieces include a shipwreck and mountain, you could then sketch out relevant motifs or patterns to connect these, such as gusts of wind or waves.
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  1. 1 Look at several artists’ work to decide who you want to collaborate with. While you’ll determine a lot of the design elements and layout yourself, ultimately, your tattoo sleeve will be a collaboration between the artist you choose and yourself. Therefore, it can be very helpful to spend some time researching the artists in your area to see whose work aligns most with what you want. [14]
    • To find tattoo artists in your area, trying doing an internet search for studios nearby. Then, you can go to each studio or artist’s website to look at their work.
    • Looking at an artist’s Instagram profile is also a great way to look into their past work and get a sense for their aesthetic.
  2. 2 Meet with any potential artists first. Before choosing an artist to do your tattoo sleeve, it’s helpful to meet with 1 or 2 of the artists whose work you like. That way, you’ll be able to talk with the artist one-on-one, show them your designs, and make sure they understand and are able to execute your vision. [15]
    • Many tattoo artists will provide a free 1-hour consultation, during which you can discuss the sleeve design you’ve created and make sure you’re on the same page.
    • During the first meeting with an artist, make sure that you speak up about any concerns you may have. Remember that tattoos are meant to last forever, so it’s important that you are 100% confident with an artist before moving forward.
    • Bring pictures of tattoos you like to give your tattoo artist an idea of what you’re going for. [16]
  3. 3 Work with your tattoo artist on finalizing the sleeve design. Once you pick an artist, start working with the artist to collaborate on the final sleeve design. [17] Let them know why you’ve chosen each element of your design, and how you imagine the final product to look. Your artist will be able to work with the design you’ve given them and finalize the design for your sleeve based on what you tell them you want. [18]
    • If you have any existing tattoos on your arms, make sure the artist is aware of them so they know they’ll need to incorporate them into the final sleeve design. [19]
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Add New Question

  • Question What tattoo colors fade the fastest? Burak Moreno is a Professional Tattoo Artist with over 10 years of experience. Burak is based in New York City and is a tattoo artist for Fleur Noire Tattoo Parlour in Brooklyn. Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, he has worked as a tattoo artist throughout Europe. He works on many different styles but mostly does bold lines and strong color. Tattoo Artist Expert Answer
  • Question How do I prepare for getting a sleeve? Burak Moreno is a Professional Tattoo Artist with over 10 years of experience. Burak is based in New York City and is a tattoo artist for Fleur Noire Tattoo Parlour in Brooklyn. Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, he has worked as a tattoo artist throughout Europe. He works on many different styles but mostly does bold lines and strong color. Tattoo Artist Expert Answer

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  • On average, it takes 8 to 10 sessions to complete a tattoo sleeve. [20]
  • Because tattoo sleeves are done over the course of several sessions, make sure that you plan out your sessions with your artist ahead of time so you know what to expect each time. [21]
  • Before each session, make sure that you properly prepare to get tattooed so you’ll be more comfortable and able to endure this sometimes painful process.


How do you design sleeve tattoos?

Is there an app for tattoo design?

Adobe Illustrator Draw – Price: Free / Up to $52. 99 per month How To Design Your Own Tattoo Sleeve Adobe Illustrator Draw is one of the best drawing apps for Android. You can use it to draw up all kinds of tattoo designs and ideas. The app features layers, up to 64x zoom for finer details, and a variety of other drawing tools. Of course, many people may seek out existing ideas. However, the artistically inclined may want to use their phone to draw out their own and this is a good start. How To Design Your Own Tattoo Sleeve Google Maps is a bit of an obvious pick, but it still fits the criteria. Google Maps is probably the best way to find tattoo artists in your area along with their phone numbers and hours of operation. You can also find tattoo artists in cities you’re unfamiliar with if you decide to travel to see one far away. That’s about all Maps is good for, but it’s still a powerful and useful app. Simply open it and search for tattoo artists! How To Design Your Own Tattoo Sleeve Google Search is another fairly obvious pick, but it’s one that millions of people turn to for tattoo ideas. You can search for ideas across all of Google’s image search. You can also search for nearby tattoo artists, find outlets of communication with other tattoo aficionados, and find other information. For the most part, though, people seem to use the app frequently for tattoo ideas.

  • It has roots in Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite that ranges up to $52;
  • 99 per month;
  • However, you can use most of the app without it;
  • It’s easy to use and you know how all this works already;
  • Why fix what isn’t broken? Inkhunter is one of the better tattoo apps for ideas;

It’s also one of the most unique. You can search the app for a variety of tattoo ideas. However, the app also lets you use augmented reality to try out the tattoo on your body. Simply point the camera at your body parts and the tattoo will appear over it. You can also add your own images from drawing apps or from Google Search to see how those tats would look as well. How To Design Your Own Tattoo Sleeve LayerPaint HD is another powerful drawing app. You can use it to draw basically anything, but for this list, we recommend it for tattoo ideas. The app comes with quite a few features, including support for pen pressure, Wacom tablets, and other professional tools. You can also export to Photoshop if you need to.

How do I start planning a sleeve?

Can you make a sleeve out of random tattoos?

Download Article Download Article Whether you’re starting out with a brand-new sleeve or trying to turn those 2 bigger pieces on your forearm into a cohesive half-sleeve, connecting tattoos in a sleeve requires consistency and the right balance between main pieces and filler. To design a sleeve, stick to a single style and focus on 1-3 themes for your pieces. To connect preexisting tattoos into a sleeve, use background textures, colors, and clever filler tattoos to create a cohesive set of pieces that work together. When getting tattoos, choose a tattoo artist with a strong portfolio and always take their advice into consideration.

  1. 1 Choose a style and stay consistent. Whether you’re getting several realistic portraits or a few simple tribal tattoos, sticking to a single style is essential for designing a sleeve that makes sense as a single piece. Research different styles online and ask to view a tattoo artist’s portfolio to see what kind of styles they specialize in. [1]
    • The most popular styles are traditional, realism, watercolor, tribal, new school, neo-traditional, and illustrative.
    • Certain styles work with certain topics or compositions better than others. For example, tribal styles and watercolor are probably not the best for portraits, while abstract or minimalistic styles can work well for these images.
  2. 2 Avoid getting small tattoos as main pieces if they will be hard to connect. If you get a 1–2 in (2. 5–5. 1 cm) minimalist tattoo in the middle of your forearm, it will disappear in the context of your full sleeve. Avoid running into problems connecting key tattoos by ensuring that each main piece takes up a discernable amount of space on your body. [2]
    • If you’re connecting preexisting pieces, you’re probably going to get smaller tattoos in between the main pieces. These are called filler tattoos. Save your small-tattoo ideas for the filler!
    • Ask a tattoo artist if they think a piece is going to be too small (or too big).
    • Portraits, cartoons, iconic figures, and complex machines are all excellent choices for your larger pieces.
    • If someone were standing 6–8 feet (1. 8–2. 4 m) away from you, would they be able to tell what your tattoo is? If not, your tattoo may be too small for a main piece on a full sleeve.


  3. 3 Stick to 1-2 themes to make your sleeve cohesive. If you already have a few nautical tattoos, adding a portrait of a family member will seem odd and out of place. Get tattoos that function together if you’re working on a sleeve by working with a limited number of themes. This will make it easier to connect tattoos in a way that makes sense to others without making your sleeve feel too chaotic or busy. [3]
    • If you’re trying to pay homage to a family member, reference your favorite television program, let people know where you grew up, and show your love for boating all in one sleeve, your tattoos are going to seem disconnected and random.
    • Possible themes include places from your past, loved ones, tribal tattoos, insects, and iconic places from your hometown. Any topic or idea can function as a theme for a sleeve.
  4. 4 Consult a tattoo artist to start your full sleeve. After you’ve selected an artist and come up with your first design , meet with your tattoo artist before sitting down for your first session. They will be able to advise you how to work out from your first piece and how to add to it. They will also be able to offer some guidance regarding the size, placement, and color choices. [4]
    • Ask to see preliminary sketches before a tattoo artist invests too much time in them. They’ll appreciate saving the energy and you won’t waste any time waiting for a completed sketch to get finished.
  5. 5 Work with the same tattoo artist to ensure that the work is uniform. Every tattoo artist has a different style and process. Working with the same tattoo artist is a good way to ensure that your sleeve has a consistent style and cohesive feel. This will also make it easier to get your tattoo completed slowly over time, since you won’t need to meet with multiple individual artists to explain your vision and ideas. [5]
    • If possible, avoid tattooing sessions that are longer than 2-3 hours. Not only are they painful, but they make it hard to assess the direction of your sleeve.
    • Ask questions! Solicit advice and feedback from your tattoo artist at every stage of the process in order to make sure that the both of you are on the same page.
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  1. 1 Use the negative space on your skin as contrast if you have a lot of ink. If you already have a lot of colorful or black ink on a sleeve and want to fill in negative space, consider using the empty space on your skin as the interior texture for a tattoo’s outline. Use simple designs, like flowers, clouds, or minimalistic shapes and leave them unfilled and unshaded to give the impression that the blank skin is working as a part of your design. [6]
    • This is an excellent option if you already have a lot of black ink or shading in your tattoo fills. The contrast between black ink and clear skin can create a strong visual impression.
    • Consider using the empty skin as the background for a silhouette landscape or portrait. The empty skin will make the black figures pop and it will make the empty space feel like a part of the composition.
    • Consult your tattoo artist to see what they would do to fill in the remaining sections of your skin. They’ll have a lot of experience turning smaller pieces into a full sleeve.
  2. 2 Extend images and add on to tattoos to make them bigger. If you already have a few tattoos and have some negative space in between them, add on to them to make them blend into one another more cleanly. Facial portraits can be given necks and shoulders, and flowers can have stems and leaves added on to them. Landscapes can have additional elements added to extend them horizontally or vertically, and minimalistic designs can have geometric lines added to make them larger. [7]
    • Unless your piece is based on a specific individual, you can always add a second version of a piece to fill in nearby spaces. For example, if you have a pair of scissors on your forearm, you can add a switchblade or sewing needle next to it. This will keep the themes intact while adding to the piece.
    • Extended images can be shaded into one another. This is a neat way to connect separate images without detracting from their main elements.
  3. 3 Add some color to black and white tattoos to add some vibrant elements. If you have a lot of tattoos with only black ink, you can connect them by adding some colorful elements to each piece. Red or yellow outlines can easily be added to preexisting tattoos to connect them uniformly. Drips, bubbles, and geometric shapes can all be added to the exterior edges of your main pieces to connect them to one another. [8]
    • If you like the look of all-black tattoos, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your sleeve monochromatic.
    • Color fades over time. Getting color added after you’ve had the black outlines done will ensure that it fades at the same rate and remains uniform.
  4. 4 Make filler tattoos lighter and less bold than main pieces. As a general rule, you want filler tattoos to enhance the overall impression of your main pieces, not detract or distract from them. To avoid making a sleeve too busy or overwhelming, always design filler tattoos to be simpler than your main pieces. [9]
    • If you have a lot of black ink, make filler tattoos lighter shades with thinner lines.
    • If you have a lot of color, use more muted shades in your filler pieces.
    • A main piece refers to any tattoo that functions as a cohesive piece of art and covers a larger portion of your skin.
  5. 5 Use simple line work and patterns to fill in un-inked skin. Simple lines and patterns are a good, subtle method to fill in the space between tattoos. Straightforward patterns like parallel lines of varying sizes and stippled textures are excellent choices that can fill in empty space without detracting from your main pieces. [10]
    • Minimalistic line work and patterns work well alongside highly-stylized images and abstract pieces.
    • There are plenty of trippy patterns and illusions that can be added with some simple linework. Wavy checkerboard patterns and geometric shapes can create a crazy effect.
  6. 6 Add some simple images like stars, birds, clouds, or flowers if you want more pieces. If you want to add more visual elements to your sleeve, opt for some simpler compositions that can easily be modified to fit different parts of your skin. For example, you can easily use a few different birds or flowers to fill in different parts of your limb. [11]
    • This is a good option if you have a lot of traditional, neo-traditional, or new school tattoos.
    • Banners and flags are excellent choices if you want to add some written text but want to give it form or weight in the context of your sleeve.
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  • Always follow aftercare instructions. If you itch a tattoo before the ink has settled or fail to apply the proper topical cream, your tattoo can become disfigured or infected.
  • Trust your tattoo artist. They do this professionally, and will be able to provide you with good feedback if you’re willing to listen.
  • Tattoos are permanent. Don’t act on impulse when walking into a tattoo shop and never get tatted when you’ve consumed alcohol.

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What app does tattoo artist use?

Procreate – So, let’s get it out of the way… When it comes to tattoo drawing apps, there really is no other like Procreate. Described on the Apple app store as ‘Powerful enough for creative professionals. Simple enough for everyone’, we can’t say we disagree.

It’s packed full of awesome features, allowing you to create beautiful sketches, illustrations or paintings on an ultra-portable canvas. The interface is elegant yet simple, with left and right-handed options, and there are hundreds of varied pressure-sensitive brushes, along with an advanced layering system and stunning filters.

Offering full PSD support, the exceptional performance of Procreate means zero lag, whilst it will autosave continuously as you go so that you’ll never lose anything again. One cheeky little highlight for us, is that you can also watch your creations come to life as it records you as you go.

Your efforts can then be exported to a 30-second 4k time-lapse video and uploaded to social. How cool is that?! Procreate reviews online are consistently positive so it’s no surprise it’s been named an Apple Design Award Winner and an App Store Essential.

Its only down side is that it’s only compatible with iPads, however there is a ‘Procreate Pocket’ version for iPhones at £4. 99. Apple app store rating : 4. 4 out of 1. 2k reviews Price: £9. 99.