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7 Things To Think About Before Starting a Tattoo Sleeve

7 Things To Think About Before Starting a Tattoo Sleeve (girl holding surfboard with tattoo sleeve)

Beyond ooo-ing and ah-ing over Pinterest boards and Instagram hashtags of other peoples tattoos that you love, what should you think about before starting a tattoo sleeve?

7 Things to Think about before Starting a Tattoo Sleeve

1. Everyone sees it.

It seems obvious, but it’s important to really understand and reflect on what it means for you that everyone sees your sleeve. It’s not like a tattoo on your foot or back that you can cover up.

You might need to consider professional implications as well, if you are in a less-tattoo-friendly environment at work. Is it important for you to be able to easily cover it up, if necessary?

2. What impact does this have or doesn’t have on your family.

Are the people in your life whose opinions you value, ones who you will go to before you make this decision?

My husband was supportive, as he always is about decisions regarding my body. For me, he was the only person that I really felt the need to discuss this with. Consider who those people are in your life.

3. It takes a long time…

The actual process takes a long time. Even the speediest artist still will need time to measure your arm.

The artist that did my arm was easy to work with virtually. She is about 7 hours away from me so we communicated design ideas via email and she sent me some sketches. When I got there, she measured my arm to make sure the design was the right size. I sat for 4 or 5 hours (I can’t remember how long) and she made it a pleasant experience.

4. …and costs a lot of money.

It depends on your artist but definitely ask questions so that you can budget ahead of time.

Costs can vary depending on the artist and you don’t want to be surprised when you get the total. 

5. It might require long term planning.

In one session, I got about half of my sleeve complete. It was time for me to go and make the drive back home and I was also done sitting for so long. Being tattooed is exhausting! I hope to finish the rest of my sleeve late this summer or fall.

6. Finding the right artist is key.

I found my artist, Kris, on Instagram. She was referred to me by multiple people and I knew I wanted someone who was good at nature work. (Her trees and mountains are amazing!)

We DM’ed and she tagged me in some work that she’d done before. We continued our conversation through email and I sent her a zillion Pinterest links and google images that she based her sketch off of.

When I saw the first draft of Kris’s sketch my heart and brain exploded. It. Was. Amazing.

7. It’s truly a gift to yourself.

I don’t even remember being able to clearly articulate my vision but Kris nailed it. Her talent is beyond anything I’ve ever seen and not only is she worth the drive, but she is worth the year-long gap I’ve waited between part 1 and part 2. My sleeve is 100% a gift from me to me.

Words of advice from a tattoo artist – Kris @krisnotch_tattoo:

I reached out to Kris to see what advice she would have for someone who is thinking about starting a sleeve. Her thoughts are below:

  1. Artists: research them the most. It’s easier with instagram now-a-days. Check their style of tattooing, portfolio and reviews if possible. Usually a consultation will happen for such a large project, so “vibeing” with artist during that meeting is definitely a plus.
  2. Budget money and time: if you can afford an “average” 4+ hour session once a month your’e good to go. Hourly rates range form artist to artist; I’d say average now a days is around $200 an hour.
  3. Style: Research the range of tattooing styles ; realism, color, black and gray, traditional, painterly, neo-traditional, etc. [Get a feel of what you’re looking for.]

Here are some photos of my quarter sleeve:

If you have a tattoo sleeve, what is one piece of advice you have for someone who is considering one?

About the Author


Amanda Stewart currently serves as the Coordinator of Communications and Media for the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Fresno State. Amanda has a bachelors degree from Iowa State University and a master's degree in College Student Personnel from Western Illinois University. She has worked in multiple different areas of student affairs at multiple different campuses: residence life, student activities, admissions and recruitment, and orientation. She is passionate about digital engagement strategy and building community in digital spaces. She loves running, snail mail, Crossfit, her planner, coffee & Bruce Springsteen. Her weekends are spent adventuring with her husband and their husky, Denver. Connect on Instagram @sweatytearsofjoy or on Twitter @mandijstewart.