Where Should a Sleeve Tattoo Start and End?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 1, 2021
    Last Updated: March 12, 2022

A sleeve tattoo is a big commitment that needs lots of planning beforehand. You should research the different types of sleeve tattoos to make sure that you know what’s involved. A full sleeve is a highly visible tattoo that will be with you forever so it’s important that you know what you’re getting yourself into. 

You should make sure that you choose your tattoo artist wisely. Check out their reviews and their portfolio to see what they do. Also, ask around to see if you know anyone that has used them. It’s always better to get a personal recommendation for a reputable artist than choosing one blindly.

The style and theme of your sleeve tattoo are key to knowing what you want. You don’t want an arm full of random tattoos that mean nothing.

We’ll let you know how big your sleeve tattoo should be and the things that you need to think about before getting inked.

Where Should a Sleeve Tattoo Start and End?

A full sleeve tattoo will start at your shoulder and will end at your wrist covering the whole of your arm, both inside and out. This is a single piece of themed art, comprising different elements that cover your arm.

As a full sleeve covers the whole of your arm you should make sure that you are ready to have this before starting any work. It could be that your workplace isn’t happy with visible tattoos so you may need to reconsider if you want to keep your job.

You may then need to consider a half sleeve or quarter sleeve tattoo instead. A half sleeve tattoo will go from your shoulder to below your elbow. A quarter sleeve tattoo will go from your shoulder to above your elbow. 

One of these options may be more suitable as they are not so visible.

What Will Your Style and Theme Be?

When you are choosing the design for your sleeve tattoo it’s important to think of the style that you are looking for. It could be that you are wanting a traditional style or tribal, watercolor or new school. The tattoo artist that you choose should be specialized in the tattoo style that you are looking for. 

Once you have decided on your style you should look at the theme of your sleeve tattoo. It could be that you want something with a religious meaning or a fairytale theme. You could even want a theme that shows your passion for music, flowers or marine life and the sea.

How Long Will a Sleeve Tattoo Take?

How long is a piece of string? A full sleeve tattoo can take anything from 15 to 80 hours depending on the style, theme and detail involved. This will be completed over multiple sessions and you will need to let the tattoo heal in between sessions.

A tattoo session will last for around three to six hours and will depend on both your tattoo artist and you.

How Painful Will a Sleeve Tattoo Be?

Most tattoos involve a certain amount of pain and a full sleeve includes some areas that are sensitive, such as your underarm, elbow and wrist. Your tattoo artist will aim to minimize the pain by working on different areas so that the pain isn’t continuous in one area for long periods.

As the tattoo is completed over a number of sessions you may get used to the pain and start to relax more. This is especially true if your tattoo artist is skilled, as they will help you relax.


Getting a sleeve tattoo isn’t the easiest decision and it shouldn’t be either as you are left with the results forever. As the tattoo is visible you want it to be perfect and as you imagined it to be. Your full arm from shoulder to wrist will be permanently inked so you need to be happy with the result.

You should consider the time that you will have to put into getting the tattoo as well as the cost before starting any work. You should also think about aftercare as this is important for your tattoo to heal.

We hope that we have answered your question and you now understand the size of a sleeve tattoo. You do have different options if a full sleeve isn’t for you.

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