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How To Design A Tattoo Sleeve

Updated on April 25, 2010

Tattoo Sleeve Designing

A tattoo sleeve is a type of tattoo that covers the whole of a persons arm and so here we can go through some of the ways in which to design a tattoo sleeve, first we need to set an average arm size and stick with it, because sleeves can be customized anyway and so it is the design we need to focus on and we need something visually interesting enough to make a great tattoo sleeve.

Some types of tattoo art that can be used for your sleeve tattoo are:

Celtic knotwork - This form of interlinking knotwork is great for a backdrop on your tattoo.

Tribal Designs - Swirls and other fancy designs that could fit around your centrepiece of art.

Japanese art - Fish and other japanese symbols.

A good way of designing a sleeve tattoo for someones arm is to take a tracing of the outline of someones arms who is going to get the tattoo, this will help with fitting the design right on someones arm, now all you have to do is start to draw a tattoo, start with an idea and run with it.

A good sleeve tattoo has something central to the overall tattoo, like a centre piece and then all of the other elements surround it, this main part of your tattoo doesn't always have to be right in the middle, it can be off centre to the wrist or the shoulder, it doesn't matter, so long as your design looks strong and powerful with the elements that fit in place.

Here I will start off with a popular design sketch of a biomechanical tattoo sleeve design, watch the video below to see the first sketch of our design and how I develop it in the following 3 videos after it.

Designing A Tattoo Sleeve Sketch 1

Developing The Tattoo Design

In the following second video, the drawing of the tattoo design can be seen to be taking shape and so therefore we can darken some of the pencil lines so that the tattoo sleeve is ready for the inking stage which is up next.

Watch the video!

Tattoo Sleeve Drawing Video 2

Tattoo Sleeve Ink Stage

Inking your tattoo sleeve design is our next step and this can be done with any good art marker pen, it's up to you, I use a Sharpie marker as they are best. Try to improve your design at this step as you want strong ink lines for your tattoo design.

Watch the video!

Tattoo Sleeve Design Inking The Tattoo Video 3

Final Ink Work On The Tattoo Sleeve

 Last minute ink work, just finishing off the inking of the tattoo art is the best thing as you can try to think up some colours for the end result.

I'll do a colour version and upload it here soon, in the meantime watch the final video for designing a tattoo sleeve.

Tattoo Sleeve Designing Video 4

Tattoo Books Available To Buy On Amazon

Designing A Tattoo Sleeve

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    • waynet profile imageAUTHOR

      Wayne Tully 

      6 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      This is just for inspiration purposes only! particularly as the finished digital design looks like a professional design that I will upload. Drawing down ideas is about trying it whether they turn out accurate or not. If I would have said that this is a serious tattoo design I guess I would have said so, but seeing as I didn't then I should hazard a guess that my drawing video series was only the start of something idea, a progression of starting out in tattoo design with a view to draw more stuff. Of course I can and have done better art, but the idea is there to be developed from someone who is willing to help artists be inspired through developing ideas on paper than to be an anonymous person online.

      I've sold tattoos to actual tattoo artists and on Ebay and this one in it's current form isn't saleable, but the digital one is to which there are a few more parts to come for this tutorial. Thanks for your expert guidance and advice, but, really....

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      "General example"? That's just fancy talk for "I don't know what the hell I am doing" you "buffoon". Designing sleeves is a lot different than this. First of all, don't use sharpies, black gel ink or black ink designing pens are ideal for tattoo designing. Secondly, use tracing paper and other techniques to get proper dimensions for accurate designing. Lastly, don't watch or take notes from these stupid video tutorials because they will result in you designing and/or getting a really shit tattoo. Wow, see what I did there? I just underminded your whole page and made more valid points in my comment than your entire hub! I'm not trying to be a "troll" or whatever, I am simply looking out for others who may take your tips into consideration.

    • Matt in Jax profile image

      Matt in Jax 

      7 years ago from Jacksonville, FL

      Really great Hub. Good job waynet.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Sorry i got caught off, i meant to say i plan to start with my forearm first. I'm into stars, hearts, fairy tales and comics.. this should be interesting

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks! This helps out a lot ! I plan t

    • waynet profile imageAUTHOR

      Wayne Tully 

      7 years ago from Hull City United Kingdom

      This is a general example you buffoon!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      You're an idiot. You're supposed to measure the arm and draw out the size of the arm on a flat surface and then draw the design out.


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