Is a tattoo sleeve for you?

Written by Sinéad Kennard

All the ins and outs for considering a tattoo sleeve…

There are so many factors that you need to consider before getting a sleeve. As full arm sleeves are more often than not on proud display, you want to feel confident about every decision that goes into it. This blog will underpin each aspect you need to consider before undertaking such a large time based and financial investment.

How much coverage?

Firstly you need to confirm what type of arm sleeve you are after. This could be a full sleeve that wraps around your entire arm from your shoulder to your wrist. Alternatively it could be a half or quarter sleeve, which usually refers to just your forearm or your upper arm for example. It is always best to confirm with your artist what you mean by ‘sleeve’ as each artist will have different interpretations.

Pain expectations

A full tattoo sleeve is unlikely to be the right choice for you if you are extremely apprehensive or sensitive to tattoo needle pain. A sleeve will take several sessions to complete and this will often mean you sitting for long periods of time which will take a lot of endurance. The most painful spots on the arm to get tattooed are the elbow, inner elbow, wrist, and armpit. We recommend checking out our ‘Tattoo Pain Guide’ blog post.

It’s all in the design…

There are so many different tattoo styles out there and a sleeve is a perfect opportunity to showcase your favourite style or incorporate a variety from different artists. Both of these approaches to getting a sleeve are popular, it ultimately depends on whether you want one cohesive piece from a singular artist, or you’d prefer a patchwork sleeve.

Whether you have decided upon the artist for you, or are still struggling to choose, we recommend booking in for a consultation. This is the best way for us to ensure that you leave as satisfied as possible. It is also necessary to pull together photos (be it from Instagram, Google, or Pinterest for example) of similar pieces/designs so that your artist can gain a more accurate understanding of what exactly you want. Our artists can suggest their own ideas too, from the composition to ensuring everything looks cohesive.

Money matters

The cost of your sleeve really does depend on all of the previously mentioned factors. A rough estimate could be anywhere from £3,000-£5,000 for a full sleeve. The price will also be affected by how many sessions it takes to complete your sleeve. If done in full day sessions (these will need at least 2 weeks to heal in between) you could reduce the overall cost by completing your sleeve in big chunks. However this is definitely a large commitment that requires patience and energy to ensure that after each sitting you are looking after your tattoo so it heals well.

Some sleeve designs will require you to have sections completely healed before your artist can progress, whilst others will enable your artist to start tattooing in different locations on your arm to avoid this healing time. There is also no pressure for you to complete your tattoo sleeve within a set time frame, it might work best for you and your artist to space out your sessions over several months to a year. This approach may suit you better if you want to stagger payments and/or are getting a patchwork sleeve that different artists are adding to bit by bit. Once you and your artist have spoken about your desired design and agreed dates in the calendar, they will be able to give you a more accurate idea of the overall cost of a full sleeve.

So what’s next?

Arm sleeves require a lot of skill, patience, and ingenuity from your tattoo artist alongside the time, financial, and aftercare commitments from yourself. This is why we are so passionate about supporting you in making the best decisions for you. Ultimately a tattoo sleeve should be fun, it is one of the most creative ways for you to express yourself as an individual and for your artists to push the boundaries of their designs and compositions. If you’re feeling ready and excited to take the plunge with a tattoo sleeve (or maybe you have a few questions/concerns that we help with), you can book in for a consultation by messaging our artists directly, emailing us at or giving us a call on 01923 825198.

Here are some examples of our favourite sleeves from The Old Stables Tattoo Studio artist collective.

Get inspired

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01923 825198

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