There’s no doubt about it, tattoo sleeves are being more widely accepted among society.
As a professional, covering them up is easy, and chances are you’ll be wearing a dress shirt at work anyways.
But speaking of work, sleeves can cost a pretty penny; so get ready to save on up.
A good tattoo artist will charge $1,500 – $7,000 for one. While an artist with a waitlist, that can often go beyond two-plus years, can cost $14,000 and upwards. Just keep in mind when it comes to tattoos, price shouldn’t be a focus point.
Figuring out what you want done should be your main concern. Do you want a half arm sleeve or full arm sleeve? Tribal, skull, rose, dragon, etc? The designs and ideas you can run with are endless. And truth be told, even angel, flower and religious tattoos on men can look masculine and downright manly.
In this guide of the top 100 best sleeve tattoos for men, I’m going to show you all sorts of cool themes that are sure to impress. The talent and creativity is remarkable, leading to the best tattoo ideas, but so is the time and amount of dedication. Most of these designs have required twenty plus hours minimum to finish.
And if you’re wondering how long the process takes or the best what to plan things out.. Consider doing 3 hour sittings at a time, going back every 2 and a half weeks. It will extend the timeline a bit longer but remember, this is permanent, don’t rush the process.
The pain varies among gentlemen, with typically the inner bicep, wrist and elbow being the worst spots. But in all honesty, if you want a sleeve bad enough, you’ll figure out how to put up with it.
Best Sleeve Tattoo Ideas
This is one of the coolest tattoo sleeve ideas. It covers every part of the arm from the shoulder down to the wrist. It’s a show stopper from the intricate geometrical shapes to the ethereal black and gray illustration.
A water color and illustrative combination style for this sleeve tattoo. Artist transitioned seamlessly.
This is a chicano inspired piece. It’s grand and stylish complete with the extravagant details. The skulls pay tribute to the dead and the transition of journey of life.
This is a stunning tribal inspired half arm tattoo design. The geometrical patterns rendered in black ink intricately clustered together to form this stunning piece. The eyes are drawn to the center where it all began, and symbolically the beginning of us all.
An angel piece is a versatile and awesome theme to choose for your arm. These ethereal creatures represent beauty, purity and protection. It also can be combined with other divine objects to enhance the whole piece.
This is a fitting tribute to America’s glorious past. A combination of realism and illustrative style to produce such a powerful piece.
The mighty king of the jungle in a religious inspired masterpiece in black and gray.
A full sleeved tattoo idea to check on and definitely feast on visually. It might take a while to fully appreciate its aesthetic beauty and the amount of work dedicated on this creation.
A horror-themed arm in black and gray is a very brave concept to take on for both the artist and the wearer.
This is a cool idea for a half sleeve tattoo with the mighty eagle taking on the spotlight with the geometrical patterns outlining the arm muscles. There’s a hint of color to highlight certain portions of this creation.
This is such a breathtaking and emotional piece of a portrait tattoo draped on the lower arm. What a beautiful way to pay tribute to a love one and share to everyone how you see her.
The mighty Poseidon, Greek god of the sea and protector of all aquatic creatures, with his mighty trident in a black and gray masterpiece.
A very detailed illustration on the classic timepieces combined with quotations strategically placed at different points of the arm. It transports the viewer to a different time and era.
A black and gray religious masterpiece illustrating the angels rescuing the fallen and wounded body of Jesus transitioning to the ascension phase. It majestically drapes the whole arm with a full ethereal theme.
A Japanese inspire art work that extends up until the chest area complete with the rendition of bold characters complete with mythical creatures and beasts. This is definitely not for the faint hearted especially at the sensitive area.
A double portrait perched majestically on the high points of the upper and lower arm. This is a perfect tribute to honor a wife and daughter, or sisters. The roses and bird add mystique and dimension to this artwork.
This is such a captivating arm tattoo with two striking illustrations of a beastly looking owls and the- all-knowing third eye staying true to its concept of quest for knowledge. The shading of black and gray is absolutely breathtaking.
This is another inspiration for a sleeve arm based on Japanese mythical beast creature with the dragon at the lower portion. This is dark and would probably take a long time to complete. This kind of concepts requires time, dedication and patience.
A period themed full sleeve tattoo is a great inspiration for the ones looking a fresh concept. There are several details in this creation that will bring you back to in time.
A combined black and red tattoo with a watercolor accent, like a splash of color.
Best Sleeve Tattoo FAQs
How do I choose a tattoo sleeve?
A full sleeve tattoo is a major commitment and investment. It is imperative to get into a well mapped out plan on how to execute the desire to be inked on the entire length of the arm. This will prevent hitches along the way. Choose a concept and style. Brainstorm with your artist. Collaborate on how you want to go about getting a large piece of art work into your arm. Will the design be entirely up to the artist, or will the majority of the input be coming from you?
There is a huge selection of designs to browse through online. Instagram is a good place to start and check on the portfolios of several tattoo artists. Talk to friends who have done it. Get their insights. Experience is a good teacher, it does not have to be your own though. Weed out the ones that do not fit in your vision, your personality, and style. Focus on your central theme, keep it simple, then slowly piece it together. Whether you want a cohesive collection of tattoos or one organic piece ensure that it’s ink work that you and your artist can be proud of.
Then choose the length of the tattoo.
Do you want a full sleeve tattoo or half? Do you want to start from the upper side of the arm going down, or the other way around? There are other who choose quarter-sized segments then piece it together as a large scale piece.
Time and budget are also important factors to consider. How much time are you willing to give for this endeavor? And, since rates of the tattoo artists are based on an hourly fee, sharpen your negotiation skills and keep it realistic and within your budget range.
Plotting a tedious timeline for tattooing requires patience, especially for large scale pieces. This process can take months or years. Executing the outline can take a single session. Once it’s done, the next sessions will solely be about shading, color and background. Subsequent sessions are spaced out 4 weeks apart depending on the healing process and availability of the artist. Whatever you decide on, just make sure you and your artist are calibrated on the execution of your plan.
Where do I start to get a sleeve tattoo?
If your arm is still a blank canvass, the shoulder is a good place to start. Then work your way downwards then fill it in. There are other artists and customers, who prefer to start the other way around, from the wrist going up. Essentially it is the same principle. By starting on end, the rest of the graphics can be mapped out properly. Discuss a flow plan with your artist.
What arm is best for a sleeve tattoo?
This decision ultimately depends on you, the wearer’s preference. Do you want to showcase your left or right arm? Do you want your artwork on dominant arm or on the arm you use to shake your hands with? If you drive, sun exposure of the left arm might be an issue not unless you intend to cover it or intend not to open the window anyway.
How much do tattoo sleeves cost?
There is no fixed price for a full sleeve tattoo. The hourly rate of tattoo artists for large scale pieces’ average at about $100, depending on the skill and tenure of the artist, size of the tattoo, the complexity of the design and the length of time to execute the art work. A full sleeve tattoo may take about 10-15 hours depending on the design, so a full sleeve tattoo may cost from $1,000 to $1,500. But if there are more colors involve and the level of intricacy is high, cost can run up to $7,000.
There are celebrity tattoo artists whose waitlist is too long that it’s almost impossible to get an appointment. Scott Campbell is one of the most sought after at $2,000 per. Kat Von D at $220 per hour. Bangbang, the tattoo artist from New York whose client list include Justin Bieber and NBA superstar, James Lebron, his rate starts at $500. Such that high end artists can cost you from $3,300 to $30,000 for sleeve ink work.
Don’t be cheap with your sleeve tattoos. It is an investment. It will be on you permanently, this must be the mindset. Besides, the cost of an ugly tattoo is way too high compared to getting it done right the first time.