Today's the day, you're ready to commit, and you just know in your heart — it's tattoo time! Now you need help figuring out how to pick a full tattoo sleeve theme. I've been on a mission for Bustle, interviewing tattoo artists all over the Bay Area. My goal has been to learn more about tattoo sleeves so I can help ladies who are ready to go under the gun, but still need more information. I've covered what part of a tattoo sleeve hurts the most and facts to know before getting started. I wrote a piece answering how long does a full sleeve tattoo take and how to deal with aftercare. But I honestly think picking the theme is the most exciting part.

A blacked out sleeve tattoo is done by an artist to either cover up an unwanted previous design, or throw in a bold statement to this prominent area of a person’s body. The entire arm is tattooed in black, or white can be added to make a delicate design as a part of the tattoo’s look. If it’s not covered up, a negative space can be left to create a rather unique design. Blackout sleeves won’t happen overnight. Plenty of sittings are involved in this painstakingly slow process, as well as the obvious pain that comes before and during healing. Getting a blacked out sleeve tattoo isn’t a quick fix, but rather, a tattoo decision that requires 100% of the artist and the client’s commitment.


This tattoo design normally has smaller details that need to be given with serious attention by the tattoo artists. Perfecting these tiny details requires wide knowledge about sleeve style tattooing. This is the reason why it is very important for you to opt for a well-experienced and most reliable tattoo artist in town. Depending on the difficulty of the design, this may require days, weeks, and even months of engraving into the person’s arms. It even requires great creativity on the tattoo artist’s part. On the client’s part, on the other hand, a considerable amount of patience is needed. You need to patiently wait until the tattoo is completely done.
Not dates the fruit and certainly not your last Tinder date, but a date that has special meaning to you. A day out of the year that makes you reflect on things past, current, and future, like the birthdate of a friend who's passed away or sister tattoos of the date you both got inked together. Regardless, this idea can be done large or small and will remain relevant for your whole life.
Shop around for artists. The biggest mistake people make is designing their own tattoo before picking out an artist. That design is going to change because no two artists will draw the same object in the same way. Every artist has their own style and flair. Pick one you love based on their style, and work with them to visualize your ideas. If you want a shark tattoo, and the artist doesn't have a shark in his/her portfolio, it doesn't matter. Every artist can draw a shark. It's how they draw it that matters. Once you pick out an artist you like, do some research on what makes a good tattoo artist and see if they check off everything on the list. Aside from style, professionalism and personality are equally important factors.
If you know you eventually want a sleeve, or if you’re going full-sleeve right out the gate, then Gualteros recommends starting at the shoulder. From there, you’ll work your way down the arm. “If someone came to me and let me do whatever I wanted, I’d start from the top with something that fits the body,” he says. “Something that doesn’t look like a sticker on the arm, then bring it down and fill it in.” Alternatively, he notes that some of his customers and fellow artists prefer to start at the wrist and work their way up, but on the same principle: By starting on one end, you aren’t guessing where to place everything else. Instead, you’re moving up or down the sleeve and filling it in with some kind of order.
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.
A growing trend in the US and UK is to place artistic titoos over the surgical scars of a mastectomy. "More women are choosing not to reconstruct after a mastectomy and tattoo over the scar tissue instead.... The mastectomy tattoo will become just another option for post cancer patients and a truly personal way of regaining control over post cancer bodies and proving once and for all that breast cancer is not just a pink ribbon."[27] The tattooing of nipples on reconstructed breasts remains in high demand, however.[28]
Many tattoos serve as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, amulets and talismans, protection, and as punishment, like the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts. The symbolism and impact of tattoos varies in different places and cultures. Tattoos may show how a person feels about a relative (commonly mother/father or daughter/son) or about an unrelated person.[13] Today, people choose to be tattooed for artistic, cosmetic, sentimental/memorial, religious, and magical reasons, and to symbolize their belonging to or identification with particular groups, including criminal gangs (see criminal tattoos) or a particular ethnic group or law-abiding subculture. Popular verses include John 3:16, Philippians 4:13, and Psalms 23.[14]
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