There are many ways to express your individuality, including clothing options, hairstyles, and piercings.
One of the most current trends in self-expression is getting tattoos.
People get tattoos for a number of reasons, including commemoration, personal aesthetic, and personal taste, but a full sleeve tattoo is a giant commitment.
Not only do sleeve tattoos cost a lot of money, but they are also a decision that can last a lifetime.
How Much Does A Sleeve Tattoo Cost?
Sleeve tattoos cost anywhere from $1,500 to $7,000, with an average of around $3,500.
A variety of factors go into the cost, including the tattoo artist’s hourly rate, the overall time to complete, skill level, artwork and design, body placement, and color or shading choices.
The geographical location of the tattoo artist’s studio may also factor into the overall cost.
Before investing in a sleeve tattoo, it’s best to consider the pros and cons of such a time-consuming and expensive decision.
Regardless of what you decide, it’s recommended to consider not only the initial costs but the effects of your choice down the line.
Here are some of the factors that go into estimating the cost of a sleeve tattoo.
Length Of Time To Complete
The biggest factor that will determine the cost of your sleeve tattoo is the amount of time it will take to complete.
Some tattoo artists charge a flat rate, as they can estimate how long the sleeve will take to complete in advance.
The person getting the tattoo can often pay a flat rate in a couple of installments in case they can’t afford the full cost immediately.
If you know your tattoo artist personally or have worked with them before, chances are you can work out a payment plan that works for both of you.
If your tattoo artist doesn’t charge a flat rate, they most likely charge by the hour.
Depending on their skill level and experience, tattoo artists’ hourly rates can fluctuate greatly.
Most decent tattoo artists charge around $100 to $250 an hour.
Sleeves are almost always done in multiple sessions, meaning you will need to go back to the tattoo artist’s studio multiple times.
Typically, a tattoo artist will conduct two- to three-hour-long sessions at a time.
Plus, you must wait for a healing period in between sessions, which usually takes a couple of weeks.
Therefore, depending on the tattoo design you’re getting, a completed sleeve could take months to complete and dozens of man-hours to finish.
When getting a full sleeve, you might be able to negotiate a full-day or a half-day rate with your tattoo artist.
Since a full sleeve tattoo will probably take at least two sit-down sessions, your tattoo artist might be willing to include touch-up sessions for free.
Otherwise, you might have to pay for touch-up sessions separately at rates created by your tattoo artist.
Any way you pay for a sleeve tattoo, it’s important to be patient and respectful of your tattoo artist’s time.
Trying to undercut their pricing will probably not go over well, as they often set their prices based on what they think they are worth.
To undercut them is seen as devaluing their time and skill.
Also, being patient with the process is essential in ensuring you get the best final result.
Most tattoo artists do their best work with rests and breaks.
Time in between sessions also allows the person receiving the tattoo time to relax and recalibrate, lessening the amount of flinching and tensed-up muscles, things to avoid while getting a tattoo.
Color And Shading
To get a full-color sleeve tattoo, you’re looking at upwards of spending $5,000.
A full-color sleeve tattoo is the most expensive tattoo you can get when it comes to sleeve tattoos.
It covers the most surface area, involves the most work, and requires the most amount of time.
Depending on your tattoo artist, you might also have to pay by color.
This means the more colors you want in your tattoo, the more money you’ll need to spend.
For each color involved, your tattoo artist needs to switch out the needle and ink and reset their work tools.
All of this takes time and effort.
Plus, the more ink they go through, the more they will need to spend on replenishing their supply.
For black and white sleeve tattoos, tattoo artists still need to set up a different needle and ink to complete grayscale shading inside of the black outline.
Shading requires a different tool than outlining does.
Though coloring and shading don’t typically take as long as the outline does, they still require time and energy to set up and patience and skill to complete.
Therefore, you’ll want to find an artist who’s talented at both outlines and coloring or shading to get the best sleeve possible for the best value.
If you are paying by the hour, you can rest assured that you’ll most likely be done paying for the bulk of the tattoo after the outline is done since shading usually does not take as long to complete.
However, you should still keep the cost of touch-up sessions in mind for down the road.
Depending on the type of design you’re getting, shading and coloring can get quite intricate and involve more time and planning, as well.
For instance, if you’re getting a “watercolor” style sleeve tattoo, you might end up paying more simply due to the detailed coloring needed to pull it off.
Skill Level And Popularity Of The Tattoo Artist
A more skilled and experienced tattoo artist will likely charge more per hour than someone who is new to the craft.
Though the more experienced tattoo artist may charge more, chances are you’ll end up with a more detailed and expertly designed tattoo.
When it comes to tattoos, there is little room for error.
As already stated, on average, tattoo artists charge between $100 and $250 an hour if they choose to charge on an hourly scale.
If your tattoo artist is popular, has a lot of social media followers, or is known in the celebrity community, chances are they will charge on the higher end of the scale.
Many times, as with hair stylists and makeup artists, tattoo customers are paying for the name and reputation of the artist as much as the work they do.
If a tattoo artist is just starting their career or looking to build their resume and experience, they will probably charge at the lower end of the scale.
Sometimes, name and prestige have nothing to do with the quality of the final product, so it’s best to browse your artist’s portfolio to ensure you prefer their style before investing in their work.
Depending on how picky you are with your tattoos, a higher-priced and more experienced tattoo artist will be well worth the extra money.
You’ll also want to ensure your tattoo artist is following the proper rules and regulations of operations, including maintaining proper hygiene methods.
If your tattoo becomes infected, you’ll end up with additional costs in doctor’s bills.
The Intricacy Of The Tattoo Design
The level of detail in your sleeve tattoo will greatly affect the cost of the whole tattoo.
If you’re only getting a black outline, your tattoo will probably cost between $2,500 and $4,500 for a full-sleeve outline.
Artists must first draw out the design, something that can take hours in itself.
Because sleeves are on the curved surface of the arm, they can be a bit tricky to execute well.
The tattoo artist must be meticulous in placing their outlines, taking the curve of the surface area into consideration.
Therefore, it may take a while just to get the placement correct.
This is not something that you want your tattoo artist to rush through, as it will dictate the rest of the steps of creating your sleeve tattoo.
Outlines falling on the lower end will most likely be vaguer and more broadly designed, whereas more expensive outlines will be more detailed and intricate.
They will also have more fine lines and require more attention to detail.
The more detailed your outline, the more time it’ll take to complete, and the more it will drive up your cost.
There are different lengths of sleeve tattoos and each length runs at different costs.
Full-length sleeves typically go from the top of the shoulder or base of the neck down to the wrist.
These involve more ink and more time and therefore cost the most money.
As far as tattoo body placement goes, the arm is one of the easiest for a tattoo artist to work with and one of the least painful and sensitive places for the person receiving the tattoo.
Because of this, sleeve tattoos are generally cheaper than tattoos located in hard-to-reach places, more sensitive areas, and bonier areas.
Half-sleeve tattoos usually start at the base of the neck or top of the shoulder and go down to the elbow, wrapping around the bicep.
Half-sleeve tattoos usually cost between $500 and $1,500.
Some people also opt for a forearm sleeve tattoo, which leaves the arm bare from the elbow up and only covers the forearm from the wrist to the elbow.
A forearm tattoo will cost you anywhere from $250 to $1,300, depending on size, details, and coloring.
Full-color forearm tattoos will run at the higher end of the spectrum, whereas black outline or lettering will run at the lower end.
Regardless of the length of the sleeve, sleeve tattoos almost always wrap around the arm completely.
Because it covers so much surface area, it costs much more money than a tattoo that covers only the outside of the arm or only one spot.
Tattoo Studio Location
Sleeve tattoos cost different prices in different locations.
Rates are usually determined by an artist’s deemed worth and popularity in relation to current industry trends and the cost of living in their area.
For instance, a tattoo artist in Los Angeles is probably going to charge more than an artist based out of Alabama.
Because the cost of living is much higher in Los Angeles and because they have access to more exposure and clients, they will probably charge more for the same tattoo you could get in Mobile, Alabama.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find poorer results from an artist in Alabama.
However, because the cost of living is so much higher in California, a Los Angeles-based artist will have to set their rates higher to make up the difference, whereas an artist in Alabama can afford to charge less, thanks to the lower cost of living.
Tattoo artists in different countries will also charge different rates based on their local economy and the regulations of their country.
Legally operating licensed tattoo artists will most likely charge a bit more to cover their costs of operation, whereas an unlicensed tattoo artist can get away with charging less.
However, because of the high risks involving needles in general and getting tattoos, it’s always better to use a legally operating tattoo artist to avoid the risk of contamination or disease.
How Much Does It Cost To Remove A Sleeve Tattoo?
When it comes to paying for sleeve tattoos, cheaper is usually not better.
It’s important to think long and hard before making this big decision because the cost of tattoo removal is not cheap either.
The cost of laser tattoo removal depends on the size of the tattoo being removed, but usually costs around $200 to $500 per treatment.
Because a sleeve tattoo is so large, you’ll likely need to get laser removal treatments over the course of an entire year or more to completely rid your arm of ink.
Because a sleeve requires multiple treatments to remove, the cost of removal will quickly add up.
Plus the pain of tattoo removal is said to be greater than that of getting the actual tattoo.