Getting a sleeve tattoo is a serious commitment. It requires a lot from both the artist and the customer. You’ll be sitting together for long sessions of inking, not to mention the time that goes into cooking up the full design for your sleeve.

You’ve got to prepare yourself for the undertaking. You’ve got to ask your tattoo artist a lot of questions, and then consult with others to make sure you’re getting the best advice. We prepared this blog post to give you a primer on all that a sleeve tattoo involves, getting you ready before you arrive at the chair.

Madala geometric chrysanthemum

What Do I Need to Know Before Getting a Sleeve Tattoo?

There are obvious things that you’ll want to know before getting a sleeve tattoo, but it’s essential to lay them out so you don’t wander in and point to a page of a binder and say ‘that one,’ which would do you no good in the long run. You’ll want an idea about the costs, how long it will take, how painful it will be, and—of course— exactly what you want.

That last step—getting what you want—is arguably the most important and the most time-consuming. Not only do you need to give it a lot of thought, but you need to commit to the design. Once it’s finished, it’s set on your body, and you will have it forever barring expensive and painful laser removal. Make sure that your tattoo design is right for you and correctly express yourself to the world.

We like to get to know our customers at Chronic Ink Tattoos, so we can give you the best advice and design something unique and perfect for you. Don’t rush the process. Consider it carefully and explore designs that have meaning and personality, so that your body art tells a story that signifies all you want to present to the world.

dragon asian sleeve

How Do You Start a Sleeve Tattoo?

You first need to decide how much of a sleeve you want to do. Chronic Ink Tattoos offer full, half, or quarters sleeves.

We can scale many designs to fit the type of sleeve tattoo you want, but you also need to decide the placement of the sleeve. Most customers get their half sleeve or quarter sleeve on their upper arm, but you may have different ideas, and that’s fine.

Your first session puts your sleeve idea in place as an outline, with a few details sketched in as necessary. Once we’ve outlined your tattoo design it’s set, so make sure you have all the information you need beforehand and that you’re entirely satisfied with the final design.

Your artist will also take measurements of your arm so that they can appropriately scale the design to fit it.

scenery background asian

How Do You Plan a Sleeve Tattoo?

Our expert artists will take care of most of the practical aspects of the tattoo itself. We’ll even walk you through hundreds of designs to help you find the right style and design for you. None the less there are some things to consider when planning your tattoo.

Meaning and symbolism is a great place to start. Take a thorough inventory of yourself and your personality. What is it about your personality and character that you want to express on your body? Do you want to display your tenaciousness, honour cultural traditions, or simply show your love for your children or family?

The greatest thing about tattoos is that they are versatile. You can express several ideas at once with the right design by merely combining motifs, styles, and imagery. Ask our experts for ideas on how to tell a complete story with body art.

tiger flowers floral

How Painful is an Arm Tattoo?

If you haven’t gotten a tattoo yet, you are probably still aware that they can be painful. Sleeve tattoos have the same pain as other tattoos, but it’s spread out over time and a much larger area. It also crosses some of the areas that are widely considered to be more painful than others, so think about that if you have a lower pain tolerance.

Not everyone responds to the pain of tattoos well. If you’re averse to pain but still committed to body art, our artists may try and schedule your appointments further apart to help your body recover before continuing to ink it.

For some people, the pain endured is part of the process. It shows their grit and determination, so that’s one thing you may think about while considering how much it hurts.

samurai asian geisha

What is Considered a Half Sleeve Tattoo?

Half sleeve tattoo designs cover half the arm, wrapping all the way around. A half sleeve completely covers the upper portion of the arm from the elbow to the shoulder, or it covers from the elbow to the wrist. You decide which you prefer, but most customers get their half sleeves on their upper arm so that a shirt can cover it.

We can adapt and alter almost any design or style to suit the upper or lower arm, so it depends on your personal preference. Our artists have years of experience and will design your artwork to suit whatever size canvas you give us.

Fox floral blackwork

How Do You Survive an All-Day Tattoo Session?

Your artist can take you through the best methods to endure an all-day tattoo session, and you should talk to them about it. In the meantime, though, here are some helpful general tips that we’ve found useful:

1. Wear comfortable clothes
2. Get a good night’s sleep before you go.
3. Bring healthy snacks—nuts, fruits, and such will keep you happy and alert. We don’t recommend junk food.
4. Communicate with your artist. They need to know when you need a break or something to drink.
5. Avoid caffeine. You don’t want anything that will make you jittery.
6. Stay hydrated. It helps you heal and keeps you more alert.
7. Stay relaxed.

Ready to Explore Your Own Sleeve Tattoo?

At Chronic Ink Tattoo, our talented artists are ready to help you explore sleeve tattoos make sure you find something you’ll want to show off for decades to come. If you’re in the Toronto, Markham, Mississauga, Kitsilano Vancouver area drop by our shop and check us out for yourself.

Tell us Your Idea

Tattoo Studio Locations

Downtown Toronto

378 Yonge Street,
2nd Floor,
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 1S6

Midtown Toronto

252 Eglinton Ave East,
2nd Floor,
Toronto, Ontario
M4P 1K2


7381 Kennedy Road,
Unit #105,
Markham, Ontario
L3R 5B5


100 City Centre Dr.,
Unit #2-311,
Mississauga, Ontario
L5N 2C9


1804 W 4th Ave,
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6J 1M3

Looking for your next Tattoo Idea?

Browse our selection of one of a kinda tattoo designs created by our Chronic Ink artists. Each piece is individual and will only ever be tattooed once.