To Sleeve Or Not To Sleeve?

It’s 2017 and the tattoo sleeve is both a common sight and an attractive prospect. When done well, the sleeve is an art form. It transforms otherwise ordinary bodies into pictures worthy of admiration from others. The tattoo sleeve is an opportunity to convey your individuality; it is a modality of expression. Even if you’re not a fan of tattoos, can you honestly say that your eyes have never been drawn to a well-rendered sleeve?

If you’re toying with the idea of getting a sleeve, it’s probably a given that you’re into tattoos and have at least one or two already. We all know that permanent body art is addictive, so it figures that a sleeve is the next level. There are likely to be questions you’re mulling over, and that’s probably smart; getting any kind of tattoo needs careful consideration so that regrets are prevented.

A sleeve equals a whole new level of investment, so here’s a pre-sleeve checklist worth your contemplation:

What is your reason for wanting a sleeve tattoo?

Why are you doing this? Maybe you want to demonstrate your carefree persona. Maybe you just love art, color, or individuality. Perhaps you have an affinity with a particular art form or design trend, like sacred geometry. Maybe someone you admire has an amazing sleeve design and you want to emulate that…

Whatever the reason, consider whether that reason has longevity. Will you still love sacred geometry in twenty years? Will you still admire that celebrity? Are you going through a rebellious phase? Are you still relatively young and going through phases, defining or refining your personality? If you think there is any possibility that your preferences or attitude will change, carefully consider what is going into this sleeve.

Are you committed to the process?

 You already know that you aren’t going to have this completed overnight – sleeves can take a long time to complete. Have you considered whether you’ll be available for the duration? Most sleeves take at least weeks to complete; often months, and even years. Most people would leave three or four weeks between sessions, and a full sleeve might require ten or more sessions. Not everyone has the bank balance to get the whole thing done in a matter of weeks, so what are your ongoing plans?

 Shop around for a highly recommended artist (recommended by people other than him or herself) that specializes in your type of designs. If you love their work, the chances are you won’t want to hand the baton to anyone else later. Thinking about such details ahead of your first ink may save you from disappointment later.

 Never prioritize price over quality. Are you local enough to your tattoo artist that you can easily get there, or will you need to fly to another state? If it’s the latter, are you factoring in the cost of getting there and back for each sitting? If you don’t have the cash required to fulfill this dream through a talented, reliable artist… wait.

 Tattoos hurt – that’s no secret. Sleeves are a different story though. Are you ready for hours and hours of pain? Some people will say they enjoy the buzz of endorphins released. Hopefully you’re one of them! If you’re not, be realistic about whether you’re prepared to grit your teeth for the amount of time it takes to get your sleeve.

Do you have a strategy?

 Spontaneity keeps life fresh but when it comes to tattoos, it’s best to reign that in. When you are eager and excited to get inked, it’s easy to make less than sensible decisions in haste. A smart move would be to sit down with your chosen artist to plan out the designs carefully.

 Designing the whole sleeve, even roughly, is a good idea. If you were creating a painting, you would have an idea about what it was to become, rather than randomly throwing paint onto the canvas. Similarly, sporadic tattoos are likely to end up looking disconnected.

 Get the artist’s honest opinions and don’t instantly dismiss suggestions or modifications that contradict your vision. Likewise, determine ahead of first inking whether or not the artist you chose truly understands your vision. If he or she isn’t getting what you’re saying, are they the one? In a way, you’re committing to a short-term relationship with this person. It would be prudent to ensure they’re on your wavelength so as to avoid clearing up a regrettable mess later.

Start inking from a logical starting point, like the shoulder or the wrist. Most people prefer to start at the shoulder, but not all. Starting in the middle isn’t wise, as it limits the scope for what you can add later, and may also stunt the flow of the design –especially if you don’t have the full design mapped out. 

Have you taken it for a test drive?

The beauty of it is that there is no rush. Take time to make your decision – it’s a big one, and with sleeves you can’t afford to make too many mistakes. Even if you know for sure you want to go for it, jagua tattoos are a smart pre-sleeve step. You can get honest feedback from your friends, whereas once you’re inked, they’ll probably pull their punches! 

 If you want to iron out any uncertainties whatsoever, jagua gel is your friend. Who knows, you might like it so much that you decide against permanent ink in favor of ever changing designs! There’s only one way to find out…