When it comes to sleeve designs it asks for a lot of commitment and trust between the artist and client. It not only takes multiple sessions but the overall vision must be in line with each other. The relationship between the client and tattoo artist is rather unique compared to other professions. The skin being the canvas, there is a sense of trust and responsibility required in each other to produce a successful result.
If you have been contemplating about a sleeve piece for your arm (or leg) here are some things we would like to share before planning your first sleeve.
Do not contact the studio asking for a full sleeve piece within a few days. You never want to rush into a tattoo in general but with sleeve designs it is just merely impossible. Depending on the design and artist’s schedule a sleeve can take up to a year (or more) to complete. Don’t be disheartened that you will be walking around with an unfinished tattoo for a while. This is completely normal with sleeves so be patient and expect at least a few months for completion.
As they say, good tattoos are not cheap. A sleeve usually takes at least 3+ sessions so will obviously cost a lot more than tattoos that can be complete in a single session. Every artist and studio will have different rates so feel free to contact your artist beforehand to inquire for a rough quote. Depending on the artist or project you may be provided by a fixed price or hourly/session rates. Either way it is always good to be financially prepared.
Research your artist.
The point seems pretty obvious but you would be surprised how many people underestimate the importance of putting the effort into this step. Shop for your artist. Do your research in the style and artist you would like to work with. Have the images saved for future reference. Pinterest and Instagram is widely used amongst our clients. If we had to chose one, we would recommend Instagram over Pinterest simply because there is a larger pool of data on Instagram owned and run by the artist’s themselves.
Have a good idea of what you want.
Do not feel like you must have everything figured out. In fact, overthinking your idea can do more harm when discussing your idea with the artist. If there were some pieces that really stood out, have them saved for reference even if they do not carry the same theme. Your artist will be able to catch what kind of features or aesthetic you like. Try to keep your description limited from abstract and subjective vocabulary. Be able to deliver the main theme or motifs to your artist. Trust your artist and allow them to do what they do best. This is why doing your research and knowing your artist’s strength and tattoo style is crucial.
Be thoughtful with what you get and where.
At our studio we always ask our clients of their future plans as we believe there are better ways to plan your tattoos. If you are looking to complete your sleeve as you go rather than inquire for one cohesive sleeve design, we would recommend to begin with the ‘main canvas areas’ as we like to say. They are large areas of the body with less curvature creating less distortion. These areas are great in working with ideas that require a lot more detail and size. For example, if your first tattoo was a small symbol on one of these areas and you would like to get a piece that requires a lot more detail on the same limb, the initial tattoo may end up interfering the design process.
Having said all this, we definitely don’t want to generalize all tattoo styles nor seem like there is a ‘right’ way to plan a sleeve. Please keep in mind that whatever feels right for you should be the best way to go with your sleeve or any tattoo. We just want to point out that with tattoos the body would work as a canvas for the artist. So if various artists are to be working on the same canvas, trying to distribute the canvas so that it is more doable for the artists would make more sense. However what is doable and what is not doable is very individual and different for every artist. There really is no answer and we are simply sharing some points that we believe is worth giving a thought before planning your first sleeve.