Full sleeve tattoos are pretty incredible: Think of all the detail, time, thought, and patience that go into creating an arm's length of customized art. And given how in-depth the process, is, many might be wondering: How much would a full sleeve cost?
Like any ink, full tattoo sleeves are a rad representation of one's personality. You can choose to get a well-organized, almost geometric sleeve; a sleeve full of random illustrations you adore; one that has a subtle meaning; or a sleeve that has an obvious theme. Your skin is a beautiful blank canvas you can decorate exactly how you desire, which makes collecting tattoos an exciting hobby for anyone who enjoys them.
If you've been thinking about getting a full sleeve for a while, the cost (or what you assume the cost is) might be the one thing that's stopping you. If you've got multiple inked friends who sport sleeves, you may have already asked questions, but felt more than a little bewildered at their differing answers.
As it turns out, tattoo parlors have a ton of variance in their answers, too. When it comes to getting a a full sleeve, it's all about knowing your options — and it doesn't hurt to have a little bit of expert knowledge to back you up.
“A sleeve can vary. Our artists charge $200 an hour. That's pretty average for quality tattoo shops in NYC,” Josh Egnew, a tattoo artist at Electric Anvil Tattoo in New York City tells Bustle in an email. “In smaller towns they may only be $150 per hour.” That considered, it might be worth going further afield to find a place that suits your budget.
Adal Ray, a tattoo artist at Majestic Tattoo NYC, further elaborates on the variable prices. “Artists can charge whatever they want," he writes in an email. "And it's not really appropriate to talk about how much tattoo artists earn."
Due to the fact that good tattoo artists are allowed to price as they see fit, one way to plan ahead of time is to figure out exactly what you want — and how elaborate it will be.
“Anybody expecting to achieve a full sleeve should prepare for an expensive, lengthy and painful commitment," says Jon Jon, a tattoo artist at Triple Diamond Tattoo in Brooklyn. “When you think about the simplest layout of a full sleeve, you can — at the very least — identify 4 main areas of the arm: upper outer shoulder, inner upper arm, inner forearm, and outer forearm. Tens of hours can be spent on any one of these panels alone — this of course depends on the amount of detail, color work, or black and gray work etc.”
So how should you plan to spend on a gorgeous, elaborate, full sleeve tattoo? The hard numbers are definitely unique to your design, but in general, prepare to drop some serious coin.
“The best tattoos cost the most and that can go into the thousands,” says Ray. “If your cousin is tattooing you in the bathroom, that could be free. There are so many variables that determine how many sessions your sleeve will take, it's impossible to project. Everyone works within a budget, and once you accept that, then you can find your artist according to that.” Ray adds, “In general, spend as much as you possibly can on tattoos.”
Jon Jon echoes this, saying, “At the end of the day, tattoos are the only things we take with us when we die and it is very much a case of you get what you pay for.”
So shop around, start saving, find an artist you love, and get some sessions booked on your new sleeve. All your planning is sure to pay off in the end.