Sleeve tattoos are a big deal when it comes to designing one and getting it inked. Our sleeves are generally the largest and most visible parts of our bodies for tattoo artists to work their magic on. Although sleeve tattoos are quite common, they are in fact one of the more difficult projects a tattoo artist can undertake. Since both the design and implementation of a Tattoo sleeve can be quite challenging.
Tattoo sleeves require transitions
Whether your sleeve consists of one subject or multiple subjects, a sleeve will always require transitions, either from one subject to another or one section to another. Transitions help make the tattoo sleeve look seamless and connected. This is especially important if you are doing a portrait/realism piece because they generally have more subjects within one sleeve. So when you are picking your tattoo artist, make sure you take a look at how they do their transitions. Tattooing individual images and tattooing a sleeve are two radically different skills and require training and experience.
Tattooing your sleeve is a big commitment
Sleeves are always done in multiple sessions, ranging anywhere from 15 hours to 30+ hours in extreme cases, so make sure you are committed to the idea and the budget. The amount of time will depend on a number of factors including the complexity of design, whether the tattoo is in color or black and grey, and to a certain extent, the condition of your skin.
Designing for a sleeve is different than designing for a piece of paper.
Here are a few key principles we think are integral to every sleeve tattoo:
Your sleeve should look good 5 feet away and 5 inches away – This is what we call the 5 feet/5 inch eye test. You should be able to make out your sleeve tattoo and all it represents from a distance, and then it should unveil more new and interesting things to look at upon closer inspection.
Our limbs are not perfect cylinders – When you draw something on paper, it can look perfect and symmetrical. However, once you wrap it on a limb, it can change completely. This change is often caused by our muscles, which can distort images; good artists can use these to their advantages and make them work for the design by using the muscle bulges to help emphasize part of the design.
Your sleeve should look good from every angle – We never stand perfectly still and in the same position all the time, more importantly, other people won’t always be viewing your tattoos from a single angle. Thus, we must design the sleeve to look good and interesting from every angle. Your sleeve should accentuate your lines and hug your body as opposed to one that just looks like a sticker and disconnected from your body.