Tattoo Sleeves

Full arm tats

Tattoo sleeves are incredible works of body art. They're basically a tattoo or series of tattoos that wrap completely around the arm. Some sleeves only cover a portion of the arm, such as the wrist or bicep, but a full tattoo sleeve covers an arm from shoulder to wrist once the artwork is complete. A full length sleeve isn't completed in a single session, but rather as part of an ongoing process that can be continued over several days, weeks, or much longer depending on how the work is carried out.

Style and Inspiration

Girl with arm tats

Some sleeves are a series of individual tattoos that eventually fill the arm. These tats can each have individual meanings commemorating significant events and relationships in the person's life. Other sleeves are done deliberately, either at once or over a long period of time. When getting your tattoo sleeve, be sure to consider the following:

  • Will all the ink follow one specific style, such as old school, or will it reflect a journey of taste?
  • Will all the tattoos have a common denominator, such as floral tattoos, animal tattoos or general theme such as family, nature or music?
  • Will you leave space between each tattoo or will the tats be joined together somehow? If no space is the goal, how will you fill in any gaps?

With those in mind, there are several tattoo designs that work particularly well in a full sleeve. These include:

  • Celtic knots
  • Flowers
  • Gardens
  • Biomechanical tats
  • Birds
  • Tribal designs
  • Animal skins such as leopard spots or zebra stripes
  • Musical notes and scores
  • Large sections of text
  • Fish swimming upstream
  • Ocean or water themes

Combing various images also works well. Birds and flowers flow well together, while tribal designs can frequently incorporate animal images. Plan out each step of your sleeve ahead of time, so the overall flow of the art remains unbroken.

Different Paths, Same Destination

Many people who wind up with full tattoo sleeves don't actually start out planning to cover their entire arm, but once they experience their first tattoo, the desire to build on the design can be irresistible. Gradually, they have their favorite artist, or artists as the case may be, either enhance the original body art, or add more tattoos on other areas of the arm. At some point, they make the decision to have the entire area filled in, and the sleeve is finally complete. This work can be fascinating, reading like a tapestry of the wearer's life experiences.

However, a complete sleeve is the end goal for many tattoo lovers, and great care and planning goes into creating an overall design that holds personal meaning while still following an overall theme. No matter which path one takes on the road to creating a full sleeve, the end result is rather spectacular.

Faux Sleeves

Real tattoos

So what can you do if you're just dying to go for a full sleeve, but you're concerned that it won't go over well in your place of employment, or that maybe you won't be able to stand spending the amount of time it will take under the needle to complete the work? Well, there are some alternatives.You can choose to go with a temporary tattoo instead of the real thing. Henna works quite well, but it's only temporary. Even then, the sleeve will last for several weeks, and that may not be temporary enough for some, while it may be too permanent for others.

Fantastic sleeves can also be created with body paint and can be washed off as quickly as needed.

For some people, faux or fake tattoo sleeves are another alternative to being permanently tattooed. Each sleeve is made of flesh toned nylon fabric, just like a pair of panty hose, and comes with a pre-printed design. Just slip them on whenever the mood or occasion is right. These sleeves are generally purchased in sets of two for as little as $15.00, and can be worn on one or both arms as you choose.

In addition to individual sleeves, you can also purchase a tattoo T-shirt. These shirts appear to look like a regular short sleeve T, but the tattoo sleeves are attached, so it's really long sleeved.

Although some of these artificial tat sleeves look fairly good, there are some drawbacks. The flesh tone simply isn't a perfect match for everyone, and just like women's nylons, the sleeves can easily be snagged, so they can have a fairly short life. However, at a price of $15.00, replacing them isn't much of a problem.

What may actually be a bigger drawback for some is the fact that the designs on faux sleeves are not customized to the purchaser. If you're hoping to express your personal spirituality or philosophy through your tattoos as so many people do, you might not be satisfied with one of these fake sleeves, no matter how convenient they might be.

Next Time You See a Tattoo Sleeve...

Have you ever been captivated by someone's sleeve but felt embarrassed to find yourself staring? Instead, why not try approaching the person to let them know you admire the art? You might be surprised to find out just how proud most people are of their tats, and how willing they are to talk about them with someone else who appreciates them.

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Tattoo Sleeves