Tattoo sleeves are badass and totally eye-catching -- no one can deny that. Turning an entire arm or leg into a work of art requires some serious commitment and love for ink. In fact, we'd go so far as to argue that our arms or legs are the perfect canvas to be transformed into a piece of art. Our limbs are incredibly easy to hide, but also super easy to show off, arguably making tattoo sleeves the best spot to get inked. 

A tattoo is an ink design added into the skin, generally with the help of a needle. This procedure has prehistoric roots, it has been used by people for thousands of years, in various forms. Examples can be seen in the majority of human cultures, and despite some societal stigma, tattoos are getting to be ubiquitous in the West, with an estimated 25 percent of American people are wearing at least one by the end of the twentieth century.

Tattoos used to be the preserve of criminals and toffs. And sailors. In the 1850s, the corpses of seamen washed up on the coast of north Cornwall were “strangely decorated” with blue, according to Robert Hawker, the vicar of Morwenstow – initials, or drawings of anchors, flowers or religious symbols (“Our blessed Saviour on His Cross, with on the one hand His mother, and on the other St John the Evangelist”). “It is their object and intent, when they assume these signs,” says Hawker, “to secure identity for their bodies if their lives are lost at sea.”


The FDA regularly issues warnings to consumers about avoiding any temporary tattoos labeled as black henna or pre-mixed henna as these may contain potentially harmful ingredients including silver nitrate, carmine, pyrogallol, disperse orange dye and chromium. Black henna gets its color from paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a textile dye approved by the FDA for human use only in hair coloring.[94] In Canada, the use of PPD on the skin, including hair dye, is banned. Research has linked these and other ingredients to a range of health problems including allergic reactions, chronic inflammatory reactions, and late-onset allergic reactions to related clothing and hairdressing dyes. They can cause these reactions long after application. Neither black henna nor pre-mixed henna are approved for cosmetic use by the FDA.
Dowdell says that Celtic and tribal tattoos are on the way out (and those similar in design). You might associate them with muscled celebrities and athletes, and recognize them for their ornate patterns or scenery. A Celtic tattoo uses black ink to background crosses, trees, or folkloric animals. A tribal tattoo uses black ink to fill in spiraling, zigzagging arrows and lines, often migrating from the pec onto the shoulder and arm. The tricky thing about tattoos is that you still see the ones that are “out of style”, because they’re permanently on the wearer. So, Dowdell’s point is that he’s doing far fewer of these types anymore, in favor of the aforementioned ones. As seen on: The Rock’s shoulder and arm. (His is technically a Polynesian tattoo, but stylistically in the same vein.)
Tattoo Ideas is a community website with designs by artists from around the world as well as unique pieces people have sent via email. Anyone can send in their tattoo, or a design to help others choose the art that is right for them. There are many things to consider when you decided to get some body art, including what sort of style and design would be good for you and where on your body would you want to have it.
These instruments are also remarkably similar to much later tattooing implements used in 19th-century Egypt. The English writer William Lane (1801-1876) observed, "the operation is performed with several needles (generally seven) tied together: with these the skin is pricked in a desired pattern: some smoke black (of wood or oil), mixed with milk from the breast of a woman, is then rubbed in.... It is generally performed at the age of about 5 or 6 years, and by gipsy-women.”
Tattooing involves the placement of pigment into the skin's dermis, the layer of dermal tissue underlying the epidermis. After initial injection, pigment is dispersed throughout a homogenized damaged layer down through the epidermis and upper dermis, in both of which the presence of foreign material activates the immune system's phagocytes to engulf the pigment particles. As healing proceeds, the damaged epidermis flakes away (eliminating surface pigment) while deeper in the skin granulation tissue forms, which is later converted to connective tissue by collagen growth. This mends the upper dermis, where pigment remains trapped within successive generations of macrophages, ultimately concentrating in a layer just below the dermis/epidermis boundary. Its presence there is stable, but in the long term (decades) the pigment tends to migrate deeper into the dermis, accounting for the degraded detail of old tattoos.[66]
Warrior sleeve tattoo design symbolizes power and strength. The popular warrior full sleeve tattoos include pictures of warriors and deadly weapons, basically engaged in wars. Some other symbols are also a part of these tattoo designs such as- feathers, heart, skulls, compass, musical symbols, angels, clock, arrows and dream catchers. But, to match the right symbol according to your personality it’s important to discuss it with your tattoo artist before getting inked.
In amateur tattooing, such as that practiced in prisons, however, there is an elevated risk of infection. Infections that can theoretically be transmitted by the use of unsterilized tattoo equipment or contaminated ink include surface infections of the skin, fungal infections, some forms of hepatitis, herpes simplex virus, HIV, staph, tetanus, and tuberculosis.[86]
Tattoos, especially sleeves, are quite a commitment. When creating your sleeve look, decide if you want them to all tell one story or if you want them to each be separate. Take into consideration if you want there to be space in between the images or words or if you’d prefer there to be no empty space. Creating your look is fun but it can be time consuming so don’t be discouraged if it takes more than a couple days to decide on your pieces. Take some time to evaluate how much this sleeve will cost and take into consideration that it will take time to heal your pieces before you can draw over something. This could be a months long or even years long process. Patience will breed a beautiful result.

Perhaps the main difference between ancient and modern tattoos is that in the contemporary West, a given design’s message is often harder to decipher than those of tattoos rooted in specific cultural traditions. It was easy for fellow Maoris to read meaning in the markings on each other’s faces. But why, oh why, would you plaster your scalp with an picture of a continental breakfast, or ink a puking yellow mouse on your back, as certain bold souls showcased here did? (That’s not to suggest that tattoos have lost their tribal significance. Just look to the tattoos of prison gangs, skinheads, biker clubs, punk rockers, and other subcultures.)


Remember how we said society is more accepting of sleeve tattoos now? While it is true, that doesn’t mean everyone is fine with them. For example, the United States Marines Corp. changed their policy in April 2007 to ban tattoo sleeves unless you got them before enlisting. There are also still plenty of employers who have a “no visible tattoo” policy but require a short-sleeve shirt uniform, which means you’re out of luck.
I look at him, sitting there, my 21-year-old son. I feel I’m being interviewed for a job I don’t even want. I say, “But you’re not. You’re different. I will never look at you in the same way again. It’s a visceral feeling. Maybe because I’m your mother. All those years of looking after your body – taking you to the dentist and making you drink milk and worrying about green leafy vegetables and sunscreen and cancer from mobile phones. And then you let some stranger inject ink under your skin. To me, it seems like self-mutilation. If you’d lost your arm in a car accident, I would have understood. I would have done everything to make you feel better. But this – this is desecration. And I hate it.”
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The half sleeve is generally the preferred style of arm tattoo at the moment. Unlike having a full sleeve it allows you to cover up your tattoos with a t-shirt should you need to for work or any other occasion. It also means that you don’t have to tattoo your elbow which can be a difficult area to work with and often you are restricted to the types of styles that you can get inked there.
The FDA regularly issues warnings to consumers about avoiding any temporary tattoos labeled as black henna or pre-mixed henna as these may contain potentially harmful ingredients including silver nitrate, carmine, pyrogallol, disperse orange dye and chromium. Black henna gets its color from paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a textile dye approved by the FDA for human use only in hair coloring.[94] In Canada, the use of PPD on the skin, including hair dye, is banned. Research has linked these and other ingredients to a range of health problems including allergic reactions, chronic inflammatory reactions, and late-onset allergic reactions to related clothing and hairdressing dyes. They can cause these reactions long after application. Neither black henna nor pre-mixed henna are approved for cosmetic use by the FDA.

Of course, you can always go for tattoo designs based on badass comic book characters. But make sure the design isn’t too cartoony, which defeats the purpose of a badass tattoo. This means the design includes more realism and has darker shades of colors instead of vibrant ones. There are far too many badass comic book characters to choose from. If you want a safe bet, there’s always Wolverine, arguably the most badass character ever.
For more than 5,000 years, people have been subjecting themselves to ink-stained needles in an attempt to turn their bodies into art. The 25th-anniversary edition of Taschen’s 1000 Tattoos explores the history of body art around the world, from Maori facial engravings to skinhead markings to ’20s circus ladies to awful drunken mistakes (hello, ankle dolphin tattoo). Edited by art historian Burkhard Riemschneider and inker of the stars Henk Schiffmacher (who’s also head of the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum), the book offers 1,000 images of people who have permanently altered their bodies with ink in ways shocking (a butt turned into a giant face), beautiful (the work of contemporary tattoo art stars), and unfortunate (so many exes’ names).
Hamlet suggests bringing no more than three ideas to the meeting. Don't show up with a patchwork vision of "I want black and white, but maybe some color, and I love flowers, but really hope to have more of an industrial theme, and I don't want any sharp lines but do hope to feature some right angles." This also doesn't mean bringing three photos of other people's tattoos that you love (see #1 above).
The length of an arm provides an incredible canvas for a tattooist. They have a lot of space to work with, and it gives them the opportunity to explore complex imagery that reads like a story on the skin. Or if they prefer abstraction, sleeves are the chance to create a collision of patterns. The conceptual possibilities are endless. Some artists completely cover the skin, like Little Andy who transformed the lower half of his client’s arm into a swirling galaxy. But for those that favor the minimalist approach, La Malafede showcases the impact of a single line as it traces the inside of the whole arm.
Card symbols have long been popular symbols to get inked. The ace of spades is usually the most popular one to get but not far behind are the Queens. The queen of clubs symbolises a strong willed and positive person. Tattoos in between the fingers usually need to get redone every few years as they do fade due to the amount of rubbing that occurs there.
A well-known example is the Nazi practice of forcibly tattooing Nazi concentration camp inmates with identification numbers during The Holocaust as part of the Nazis' identification system, beginning in fall 1941.[16] The Nazis' SS introduced the practice at Auschwitz concentration camp in order to identify the bodies of registered prisoners in the concentration camps. During registration, the Nazis would pierce the outlines of the serial-number digits onto the prisoners' arms. Of the Nazi concentration camps, only Auschwitz put tattoos on inmates.[17] The tattoo was the prisoner's camp number, sometimes with a special symbol added: some Jews had a triangle, and Romani had the letter "Z" (from German Zigeuner for "Gypsy"). In May 1944, the Jewish men received the letters "A" or "B" to indicate particular series of numbers.
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