This sort of tattoo is quite a commitment. They involve hours of work in the chair, concentrated effort by the artist and lots of money on the part of the canvas. Sleeves have come and gone in popularity but have gained more popularity in recent years as tattoos have gained traction over the years. Once someone chooses to get a sleeve, they often opt to get another sleeve and often continue by getting chest pieces and their backs done.
Sleeves are not easily covered unless you have a long sleeved shirt on. Some people choose to stop their sleeve before their watch so that people in the workforce can’t see it, even when they shake someone’s hand. Other people choose to extend the work past their wrists and onto their hands. It’s a personal preference and different for every individual.
Half Sleeve Tattoos
Half sleeves are usually just a pit stop on the road to getting a full sleeve. You miss the smell of the ink and vaseline and crave the feel of the needle creating a masterpiece on your skin. People often start with a half sleeve before they decide to complete it and finish the entire thing. They are sometimes viewed as incomplete until the rest of the arm is done. They are easier to cover and you don’t necessarily need a long sleeved shirt to cover them.
1. You’ll often see sleeve tattoos that extend all over the body. They can start on the arm and extend across the chest or start on the chest/back and extend down the arm. As you can see below, her piece extends from her arm, all the way across and down her back. The black color dramatizes the art and creates an eery look that is intensified by the pops of red.
2. This is absolutely gorgeous and we’re just going to gush for a few minute. Wow. The line work here is unbelievable. This took a lot of time, effort and patience and it has immensely paid off in an absolutely astounding piece of work.
3. The beauty of this piece could possibly be lost on some, but take a moment really soak it up. It appears to be a piece from the Roman era with the torch and the colosseum and Savior above it all. The color changes creates this look that is timeless and beautiful.
4. The depth of contrast here is unreal. The extent of time and detail spent on this tattoo is amazing. It beautiful, vivid and descriptive.
5. The arm sleeve here paints a picture. From the skull at the bottom to the roses to the face, this girl is portraying symbolism through her art.
6. This is seriously amazing. Where do we even start? The portrait is on point and the entire piece is just rad. The feather, the bird, those eyes on the guy…Geeze, this artist is incredible. Then you scroll down and see that gnarly piece that’s so descriptive and awesome. It’s so hard to nail a portrait yet this guy makes it look easy.
7. As you’ll see, sleeves are known for portraits. Sometimes they hit the mark and other times, they’re a total bomb. This piece is excellent. The detail is incomparable. The laughter on the woman’s face feels like you can literally hear it. The entire piece is so ornately designed and intricately woven together to create a true masterpiece.
8. This guy has a lot of different images going on that creates the overall look of the sleeve. A lot of people add on to their body art to create a story or they add different pieces that have nothing in common except that they share the same canvas.
9. Ouch. Getting your arm tattooed in all one color like that is pretty painful. The needle penetrates pretty deep to keep the color the same and it takes a while in the chair. This dramatic look is intense and a bit frightening. Would you choose all one color like this? We do like how he shakes it up a bit with the geometric like imagery.
10. Aside from being a bit creepy, this is a pretty interesting piece. The face allude to excellent detail work by the artist and the shading is quite outstanding.
11. This half sleeve is rather simple in that there aren’t a lot of colors but complicated in that there is a lot going on. There may be a story that weaves the art together or they may each be separate pieces.
12. Not all sleeves have to entirely cover teh arm as you can see here. She mixed imagery with words for an effective, hipster look.
13. The wings appear to be coming off his arm. This is a beautiful piece.
14. This complicated piece is intense and scary. Arm sleeves often allude to intimidating or foreboding images.
15. These colors really tie together the overall look and it would be quite easy to complete the rest of the sleeve at a later date if she so chose.
16. He left quite a bit of skin in between his images which is another popular look for sleeves. They don’t have to cover your entire arm although many people choose to do that. This allows for more art down the road or he may choose to leave the spots open forever. People feel mixed about this because some think it creates an unfinished look. At the end of the day, it’s up to your personal preference.
17. We love when an artist works in the natural skin to create the image. This particular piece is awesome. The gruesome face of the skeleton clashes with the red blood in an epic look.
18. Woah. That blue eye is beyond real looking. Even the red lips appear life like. The coloring here is so vibrant and engaging. There’s so much going on and yet we can’t stop staring at the pink haired girl. Her face is so downcast and what’s up with that pig?
19. This is a great representation of a banner weaved throughout a piece. It’s almost like a biker dude looking piece.
20. So, this is kinda disturbing because the girl is obviously pretty distressed but from an artistic standpoint, it’s pretty amazing. The shading and detail is timeless.
21. The amount of time this took to create is unknown but it probably took a while. The shading and detail is second to none. The artist did a tremendous job capturing the very essence of this look.
22. The gold weaves through the arm and makes it appear as natural as if it had always been there.
23. Great example of a sleeve that extends over onto the chest. It sets him up to be able to continue the piece at a later date.
24. The eye here has a reflection in it that is impossibly hard to do. The statue looks real and the contrast the artist was able to convey is just unreal. This piece is one of our favorites because it evokes such emotion to the observer. The eye makes your heart ache as the candles represent some sort of vigil or homage to someone or something in the past.
25. Purple is such an interesting choice to make an image pop and it’s popular yet not overused. It causes the onlooker to really see the details that would otherwise be lost if you were casually observing.
26. These fish are swimming upstream and it causes us to wonder if they were the second addition to this piece. He probably laid the groundwork with the water and then added the fish at a later date. That is often what happens with sleeves because otherwise the amount of chair time and concentration would be exponentially long and tiresome.
27. These talons appear to come off the page. It’s a vivid and excellent piece that paid an extreme amount of attention to detail. The coloring is perfectly done to create a disturbance but not an intrusion to the overall look.
28. It’s seriously hard not to love this piece, especially if you’re an animal lover. It’s so crisp and clear and captures the beauty of these beasts in such a way that they seem like they’re going to walk right off this person’s arm and out on the street.
29. Just like his arm says, this piece is timeless. It’s classic art yet it’s very well done.
30. This is a great piece because all the separate images come together to tell one story. The varying color schemes and the way the images go in all different directions alludes to many trips to the artist before this piece was completed.
31. It feels like we’re in the ocean experiencing the pain this shark is in. Can you imagine being part of this scene? Anytime skin has one solid color on it like this blue, it means it too a long time and it was really painful. Props to this dude for a rad piece.
32. The glossy look of these swimming fish means this is a new tattoo. You can tell the upper arm is the freshest by the way it shines. He’s probably pretty stoked to have the whole thing complete.
33. This piece took hours upon hours to complete. The detail of each feather is amazing.
34. Check out the insane detail in her face. Woah. This is seriously one of the most attention to detail pieces we’ve seen in a while. Excellent line work, shading and contrast. There’s not a thing here to critique.
35. Great piece to show a variety of contrast plus it extends onto the shoulder in a great way to extend it further at a later time.
36. These pieces all tie together to represent strength and freedom.
37. Gorgeous piece that has such clear definition in the face. The depth is astounding.
38. This vivid look is quite awesome. The whole piece ties together and looks incredible.
39. This dragon starts on the arm and extends onto her chest and does a great job of showing how an image can seamlessly flow from the arm across the chest.
40. Excellent piece with a variety of color and detail.
41. This is another classic look where the artist has taken license to use the canvas as part of the piece.
42. These sleeves bring the chest pieces together in a unique conglomeration. It’d be so cool to see the entire piece one day unite in the middle.
43. These colors really make the entire piece pop.
44. The tribal look is a popular choice for sleeves and chest pieces.
45. The red is the central focus to this piece. The artist did a tremendous job of weaving variety of images onto the black backdrop of this piece.
46. This tribal piece is gorgeous. It’s complicated and beautiful and detailed. It’s not a full sleeve because it stops just below the elbow but it’s positioned in such a way so that it would be easy to complete if he so chose.
47. The shoulder with the fish shows the extent of the detail with the scales. The water wraps around and it’s so interesting how the artist chose to use the canvas as the backdrop the further down the arm he went.
48. This vibrant half sleeve is meshed among quite a few different images and the artist used certain colors to make it really stand out.
49. It looks as though these images were chiseled into the man’s arm. It’s an excellent design and overall piece. It’s tragic and life like and utterly beautiful.
50. The detail of this solider is incredible. The backdrop with the orange really offsets the bold look of the guy.
51. The line detail is awesome. Would you fill it in with color?
52. This dragon is dramatic and intense. What is your favorite part about this look?
53. This drizzled look has a creepy air about it. It’s all tied together with the blue and it creates a vivid depiction of the city.
54. Another portrait that is spot on with originality and personality.
55. There is so much going on in this sleeve. It’s classic yet original in small details that makes it unique and appealing to the eye.
56. The geometric shapes and varying degrees of colors and sizes makes this piece complicated and confusing yet we can’t stop looking at it!
57. Has anyone seen Aslan from CS Lewis’s book? It’s spot on for him and it’s so life like. Those little cubs look too cute for words.
58. This descriptive piece has beautiful usage of coloring detail and imagery.
59. The artist did an incredible job of weaving together a story through vibrant imagery and beautiful coloring.
60. She chose to not fill in the space between her forearm and upper arm which is interesting and causes it to not look fluid. There are more images on her other arm which suggests that she’s starting another sleeve.
61. This artist used incredible skill to create an ominous and incredulous look. The shading and attention to detail is extremely well done.
62. The depth and varying contrasts of this image is insanely good. The written words across her face and neck creates an interesting overall feel.
63. The coloring here is inviting and tells quite a story. It just barely extends across her back which suggests she’s contemplating extending more images onto her back.
64. This half sleeve, tree is really well done. The detail in every branch looks realistic.
65. Robotic likeness here is unmatched. The artist took painstaking time to ensure that it was as life like as possible. It’s an incredible piece.
66. This is a sultry look that fits well with her overall style.
67. Tribal is popular and classic. It looks great and would be easy to continue building all over his body is he decided that’s the route he would like to do.
68. This is an excellent example of starting with a sleeve and then extending it all over the body. It’s on both arms and extends to the hands and onto his chest and back. This took a ton of time, effort and money.
69. The gorgeous shading and pop of pink looks beautiful.
70. Compelling image with contrast and varying degrees of shading really creates a gorgeous piece. That red apple really ties the entire look together.
71. This half sleeve has a sweet look as the mother carries her cub. It’s interesting how the artist looks to have peeled back the arm as though the lion is walking through the arm on her way to her destination.
72. Her face is beautifully designed and though it’s a lone image, you can see another image just below. She may add to it later so that it’s more fluid or she may continue to add individual pieces that don’t coincide together.
73. Quite an intense half sleeve piece. He’s set it up well to finish it down his arm if he decides that’s the route he wants to go although it looks pretty finished just as it is.
74. This half sleeve is quite substantial in that it extends down his side and covers the entire right side of his body. It’s very detailed with an array of imagery combined all together. Think he will end up finishing the sleeve all the way down to his hand?
75. Beautiful flowers that have autumn colors mixed into them to create a gentle appearance. This is a pretty rad example of space in between the images but it’s done so elegantly and it looks so fluid. Notice that the art extends past just her arm and onto her hand.
76. It’s quite popular to have the solar system as a sleeve. It’s complicated and painful because there are so many layers that have to be put down in order to create the exact coloring you’re looking for. The elbow is a gnarly spot to get inked and this guy did it all.
77. Delightful outlining of the dove set amongst the flowers. Great shading and detail work here.
78. This skull has some pretty realistic qualities to it. It’s pretty intense and the artist did a pretty great job capturing the depth and contrast here.
79. Hippy and whimsy look that casts an overall happy feeling as these tattoos are spaced out and randomly placed all over her arm. Deciding how you want your sleeve to flow is important. Does this look appeal to you or would you rather have zero space in between the images?
80. Great shading and extreme time commitment for this piece. The art looks so cartoon-like and believable. It’s an amazing use of coloring as well as incorporating the canvas’s own skin. It depicts an eery look that is both ominous and appealing to the eye.
81. There’s a lot of variation in this piece which makes it appealing to the casual observer. There’s a keen sense of continuity in the art. The bird has such a vivid appearance that makes it real looking. The attention to it’s detail in every feather is done really well. The way that the branches swerve all around makes it appear less life like but very interesting. The artist brings an added zing with the red flower at the wrist and it’s interesting how the artist implemented the canvas’s skin as part of the backdrop.
82. A sleeve like this is timeless. It’s incredible. There are so many levels and different variations. It was probably done in installments and it’s a fascinating piece. You can see on the top of the shoulder how that was probably one piece and then he continued to add on throughout his arm. The artist did a rather stellar job in making the entire piece flow so well. That’s not an easy accomplishment and this artist makes it look simple!
83. Elegant doe with beautiful colors linked with other animals creates a fun and outdoorsy look. The contrast on the animal’s faces is done so well and the detail in every image is breathtaking. She opted to keep everything on her arm and not extend over to her shoulder, but you’ll notice she went all the way to the very beginning of her hand.
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.
Who gets them?
Sleeves and half sleeves are popular among both men and women. They were once more popular for men but nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see women with not just one sleeve but two. People enjoy conveying their feelings through art on their bodies and now that the tattoo world has gained notoriety, tattoos are popping up everywhere.
What colors do get on their sleeves?
As you’ll see in the pictures below, black is the most common color. You’ll also notice that some people like using their own skin as the backdrop for their images. It’s also popular to use bold and vibrant colors to create pronounced and intense looks. It’s not as popular to use white although it’s not totally ruled out.
Count the Cost
Tattoos are beautiful representations and expressions of how we feel and it’s a great way to tell others through the imagery of art. That being said, like all art, tattoos are expensive. They take time and skill and if you want it to look good, it’ll definitely cost you. A single image is going to be a lot cheaper than a whole sleeve of art so as you contemplate whether or not you’d like to invest in a whole sleeve, make sure you allot space in your budget to make it happen. Typically you go into your shop several times in order to complete the sleeve so you may be able to work something out with your artist and do a payment plan if you plan in advance. Who knows, maybe they’ll give you a discount since you’re committing to a whole sleeve. It never hurts to ask. Once you’ve researched how much you’ll have to invest, enjoy the process and get ready to be amazed by the finished results.
Sleeves aren’t very easily hidden so make sure to check the policies at work to ensure you can’t get in trouble for new body art. You may be able to hide the pieces pretty well at first but as time goes by and more of your skin is covered, you’ll definitely not be able to cover up the sleeve forever. More than anything, have fun and enjoy the process of creating this masterpiece that will be part of your body forever.