Tattoo Sizing Guide

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 11, 2020
    Last Updated: January 6, 2021

If you’re considering getting a tattoo, size matters. Have you heard different sizing terms but have no idea what they mean or how that will look? When you get a tattoo, it is critical to precisely understand how it will look on your body; it is going to be on there forever!

Understanding and differentiating between various tattoos sizes will help you better comprehend what you are getting. Being able to interpret the terminology that your tattoo artist is throwing around will help you to communicate with them more effectively. Make sure your tattoo is measured exactly right before proceeding with the procedure.

Why Size Matters

Measuring your tattoo correctly matters for many different reasons. Incorrect tattoo sizing can leave you unsatisfied with your permanent ink, unhappy with the design result, or spending more (or less) money than you should have.


Tattoo size matters for the design of your body art. If you’re looking for an intricate and detailed piece, you most likely will not want to get it super small. Details will get lost, and the intricacy of the design will be muddled. If you are considering something like a portrait, getting at least a medium-size tattoo will usually be recommended. 

 If you want a simple tattoo, small sizes are perfectly suitable. If you are looking for something on your ankle, knuckles, or wrists, for example, consider a small object or lettering.


Smaller tattoos will be less painful and take a lot less time than big tattoos. Intricate tattoos may take many hours and multiple sessions. If you are worried about time or pain, a smaller tattoo is best for you. Many people dread having to sit in a tattoo chair for hours, while some do not mind it and will do whatever it takes for their dream design

Additionally, small tattoos heal a lot quicker than large tattoos. If you want to get a tattoo in a single session and have it healed by your beach trip in a few weeks, then something small and simple is best. If you are looking to get a sleeve and want to sit through multiple sessions to have your arm covered in ink, you should allow much more time for the healing process.


The size of your tattoo determines where on your body you can get it. Tiny tattoos can go anywhere, including the inside of your lips or even on your eyelid. Large, detailed designs require a vast area, like your back, stomach, or thigh. 

Deciding what size you want your tattoo will help you choose where on your body you want it, and vice versa. If you know that you want a tattoo across your entire chest, it’s pointless to look at small tattoo designs. Look for something large and detailed that can cover your surface area and look fantastic.

How to Measure Your Tattoo

Tattoos are measured in square inches. To determine your tattoo size, simply multiply the height of your tattoo with the width at the longest points. A small wrist or ankle tattoo might end up being 2 inches tall and 1 inch wide, making it a 2 square inch tattoo. 

A large tattoo might be 5 inches by 8 inches on your back, making it a 40 square inch tattoo. Full sleeves are often measured between 100 and 160 sq inches, while half sleeves are around 50 to 60 square inches. 

If you already have an area in mind, measure your body’s location that you want the tattoo. Map out a rectangle on your skin and measure how tall and wide it is. Now you know how large the design needs to be, and you can begin searching for designs that would look good at that size. 

If you already have a design in mind, yet do not know what size to get it, print your design on paper in a few different sizes and see where on your body they would look best. Chat with your tattoo artist and listen to their opinion on the size. You want to be sure that you are not making it too small or too large, as it can end up looking very bad.

Price of Different Sizes

Another reason why it is crucial to pick the right size is the price. Tattoos are not cheap (and if they are, you probably should reconsider it). 

Many factors determine how much your tattoo will cost, and size is one of them! Other factors include the artist’s experience, the hourly rate, the tattoo’s detail, whether it is custom, and the area where you live. 

On average, this is what you can expect to pay for different tattoo sizes:

  • A tiny tattoo, which could be considered anything under two square inches, usually costs between $30 and $100. However, many tattoo parlors have a $100 minimum, no matter how small the design.
  • A small tattoo, which is anything between 2 square inches and 4 square inches, can cost you between $50 and $250. 
  • Medium tattoos, which are between 4 and 6 square inches, usually cost between $150 and $450
  • A large tattoo, usually anything above 6 square inches, can cost between $500 and thousands of dollars. Huge intricate designs can run up to $4000 or more if the artist is reputable and experienced.

Additionally, remember when pondering your tattoo’s cost, it is common courtesy to tip your artist 20%. 

There are many things to consider when getting a new tattoo. If you want a medium tattoo and the cost is making you think about shrinking it to save money, it might be best to put off the tattoo for a while until you can afford the size you truly want. 

Saving any amount of money on a tattoo is not worth the possibility that you do not like the finished product. Loving every aspect of your tattoo is critical when adding permanent ink onto your body.

Common Sizing Mistakes

Take into account that you will have your tattoo for many years to come. Are you going to be happy with the size you choose in the long-term? People often make sizing mistakes when they start out on their tattoo journey.

It is very common for people to choose a small design for their first tattoo. Many people fear that they will need to cover the tattoo, and they want something that they can easily hide. Getting your first tattoo is scary, and people often go for one that isn’t too noticeable. 

However, people with tiny tattoos usually wish they had gotten it bigger and often come to regret the size. If you are getting a tattoo that you love, you will want to show it off. Even if it is in a place that you can easily cover it, consider how apparent you will want it to be after you fall in love with it on your body!

The next common mistake is getting a tattoo too big. Many people choose a design and ask the tattoo artist to enlarge it onto their body. This is often a bad idea. Tattoo enthusiasts know that enlarging a tattoo bigger than the original design can often result in it looking bad. 

Talk with your tattoo artist and your tattoo designer beforehand and make sure that they agree with the size you have chosen. Tattoo artists are often not afraid to speak up if they think something will turn out unsatisfactory. They want you to be pleased with your tattoo just as much as you do!


So, as you can see, choosing the correct size for your tattoo is just as important as the design itself. There are many factors to consider when deciding on the size, including placement, design, pain, healing process, time, and cost. 

The best thing you can do before getting a tattoo is to measure it out on your body and then review with your tattoo artist to see what they think would be best. Although the decision is ultimately up to you, it is nice to have input from a professional. 

Do what feels right and relax! Be bold with your tattoo and get something that you will admire for the rest of your life. As long as you love your new art piece, nothing else matters.

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