Plan a Sleeve Tattoo – Full Guide

Do you want one of these?

Then you better plan right.

It might cost you more than you had initially planned, but it will follow you for a lifetime.

A sleeve tattoo is a big decision and should not be taken lightly.

By the way, if you don’t want to do this process alone, we have experts who can help you: 1) plan out the full tattoo process; 2) get the design done; 3) choose the artist.

Our expert will also follow through with you over the sessions to make sure you go in the direction you want. So if after this guide you feel like you still need help, be sure to click here and send us your idea so we can connect with with an expert.

So here’s our step-by-step guide on how to plan a sleeve tattoo.

1. Get inspired

The best way to get inspired is to look at the best sleeve tattoos. You can use Tattoos Wizard to find sleeve in black and gray and in color. These will differ significantly and will affect the budget.

Black and grey: They often have a cohesive theme or story that ties the design together, even though the elements can be distinct. You’ll often see watches, roses, symbols and natural elements mixed together. These sleeves are more about portraying a feeling or state of mind and the elements are pieces to a puzzle. These rely on shading and lighting to create dimension and depth so consider that as well when picturing your image.



Coloured: They’re generally one single image that occupies the full sleeve. They can also have several different elements, but all belonging to the same universe. It’s important to have a coloured sleeve done fully within the same year, otherwise some older parts might start to lose color and create a big contrast with the new ones.


2. Decide on the theme

Sleeve tattoos often have a cohesive theme or story that ties the design together. Some common themes for sleeve tattoos include nature, religious symbols, cultural imagery, and personal mottos or beliefs. Think about what themes or images are meaningful to you and how you want them to be incorporated into your tattoo.

Whether you choose what you want to portrait (strength, kindness, family, etc.) or the symbols you want to incorporate (a lion, a fig tree, a world map, etc.) you should save and keep on a folder a few images that represent those so you can later share with you artist.


3. Determine the placement

Is it a full sleeve or an half sleeve? Is it the forearm or around the bicep?

Consider where and when do you want your tattoo to be visible. If you work in a conservative environment in a hot country, maybe a half sleeve until your elbow might be a better option, as it allows you to wear shirts without showing your art piece. Not everyone wants to show them off or even invite co-workers to comment on their personal art.


Where you place your tattoo can also have a big impact on the design. Consider factors such as the design of your body – we all know we shouldn’t get a tiger face right below the elbow, but did you know that getting a family portrait on the tricep might age very badly?

Clothing will also create friction on some parts of your body so consider that before investing on a detail that will get damaged.

If you have a specific area in mind, make sure to discuss it with your tattoo artist to see if it is a feasible location for a sleeve tattoo.

4. Sketch out a rough design

Once you have a theme in mind, start sketching out a rough design for your tattoo. This doesn’t have to be a detailed, final design – it can just be a rough outline of the elements you want to include in your tattoo. You can even use online tools or print out reference images to help you visualize the design.

You can even make a good old collage with printed images.

If you really want to be in control, you can contact a company online that does the tattoo drawing for you so you can share it with your artist. But keep in mind that many artists like to do their own style and not follow someone else’s drawings, so they’d prefer you give them an outline, then a final result. Most artists don’t even allow you to see their drawing before the session.

5. Determine your budget

Before you talk to an artist it’s important to determine your budget.

This calculator can help you prepare the budget based on location, artist’s fame and other factors.

Sleeve tattoos are generally expensive, especially if it cover the whole arm. Once you have a clear idea of how much you are willing to spend, you can choose artist within your budget.


6. Pick the artist

Once you have the budget set, it’s time to contact your an artist.

Look for an artist who has experience with sleeve tattoos and has a portfolio of work that you like. Tattoos Wizard allows you search using locations and tags. For instance: New York + Sleeve + Black & Grey. It’s also a good idea to check our their Instagram to see if they have availability in the short and medium term.

So before you finalize your tattoo design, it’s important to consult with your tattoo artist. They will be able to help you fine-tune the design, suggest placement options, and give you an estimate of the time and cost involved. Be open to their suggestions and input – they are the experts, after all!


7. Prepare for the tattoo process

We got a full guide on getting prepared. Check it out here.

In short: get a good night’s sleep and eat a solid meal. Do not drink 24 hours before and wear loose and comfortable clothing. Be ready to dirty your clothes with ink and to easily take them off during the process.

You can also reduce the pain by getting a safe numbing cream.


8. Take care of your tattoo

We also have a day by day guide for the aftercare process.

The first weeks are the most important, if it heals right, it will stay sharp for years. If you slack off in the first two weeks, you’ll see your investment going to waste.



Planning a sleeve tattoo takes time and consideration, but the end result will be a beautiful, meaningful addition to your body. And, again, if you need help or just want a cheap quick session without commitment with an expert, we’ve got you covered. Just message us here and we’ll connect with your an experienced artists to start bringing your idea into the real world.






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