Forearm tattoos are a great way to show off your ink, still be able to cover it up when you want. It's a place where you can actual easily see your tattoo easily.

All You Need to Know About Forearm Tattoos

While not the number one (or two) most popular tattoo location, forearm tattoos are still relatively common, and there are a few reasons why. Besides being relatively low on the pain scale, forearm tattoos are also a great way to show off your passions while being able to cover them up for the workday. If you’re interested in a tattoo that can both make a bold statement and be concealable when you need it to be, the forearm might be the way for you to go. In this article, we’ll give you a full-on guide to everything you need to know about forearm tattoos. So roll up your sleeves and let’s dive in.

Forearm Tattoos and Visibility

One important aspect to discuss about forearm tattoos is their visibility. While they’re not as immediately obvious as hand and neck tattoos, forearm tattoos are still relatively on-display for the world to see compared to something like an upper arm or back tattoo. Depending on who you are and what you like in a tattoo, this may be an advantage or a disadvantage. If you like to look like a tattooed person and show off your tattoos for the world to see, you’ll probably love how easy it is to put your forearm tattoos on display.

In contrast, if you want or need to hide your tattoos for whatever reason, it’ll be harder to do so when they’re on your forearms, especially in the summer. That being said, if you do get into a situation in which you have to hide your forearm tattoos, it’s very simple and easy to do with a long-sleeved shirt. For example, if you work an office job where tattoos would be frowned upon, the business casual uniform of a button-up shirt will totally do the trick of making your tattoos disappear.

Forearm Tattoo Pain

If you’re considering getting a forearm tattoo, you’re probably interested in knowing how much you can expect it to hurt. First and foremost, it is absolutely the case that this will depend on your own individual pain tolerance. Some people will report a forearm tattoo being incredibly painful while others will say it was nearly painless.

That being said, you can follow the general guideline that the more padding you have on a body part, the less it will hurt. So a body part with a lot of fat and thick skin, like the bum, for example, probably won’t hurt too bad. In contrast, one without a lot of fat or muscle over the bone and with relatively thinner skin (like the ribs) will probably hurt a bit more.

When it comes to the forearm, it ends up being kind of in the middle. On the outside of your forearm your skin will be thicker and the higher up you go on your forearm (closer to the elbow), there will be more padding, so it will hurt less. On the other hand, the closer you get to your wrist and to the inside of your forearm, the bonier and the thinner your skinner will be, so it will hurt more.

Forearm Tattoo Locations

While the forearm has a decent amount of real estate, there aren’t all that many options for different sub-locations within the forearm placement. Here’s a basic breakdown of the choices you do have.

Inner Forearm

The inner forearm is a great tattoo location for multiple reasons. The fact that it’s turned in toward your body makes it a good place to tattoo something more personal. As a highly visible tattoo location that you’ll see every day, it’s perfect for getting a tattoo that is meant to serve as a reminder to yourself. For example, if you want to get an encouraging phrase or quote, the inner forearm is a great place to do it.

In terms of healing and aging, the inner forearm will be exposed to a bit less sun than the outer forearm, which will help it last longer, but it also does rub against your body fairly often, which is worth considering. It’s also a happy truth that the inner forearm is basically the only body part that barely ages, so you can expect an inner forearm tattoo to look great even as you wrinkle and sag.

Outer Forearm

The other option you’ll find for a forearm tattoo is the outer forearm, which is the part that tans more and has thicker skin. Here, you’ll experience less pain getting tattooed, but you’ll also find that it’ll be more susceptible to aging and fading. If you’re the type who likes to remove your forearm hair by shaving or waxing, you’ll also find that this can wear your tattoo down a bit faster over time – and you won’t be able to do it while your tattoo heals. It’s also important to note that there is a part of your forearm that you can think of as the underside that you almost never see in your day to day life, so if you want to get a tattoo there, it’s probably best not to do one of those super personal ones that you want to see all the time.

Forearm Tattoo Size

One reason that people tend to gravitate toward forearm tattoos is that it’s a part of the body where both small tattoos and larger ones look good. A small tattoo on a larger body part like the back or thigh might look a bit strange and disconnected, but on the forearm, it tends to look much better. You can also get tattoos on the larger side on your forearms, though it is worth noting that this is a body part where a larger tattoo will have to wrap around the rounded surface of the forearm, so it may look a little warped or, at the very least, be difficult to see or photograph the entire tattoo from one angle. If you want to get a larger forearm tattoo, you’ll just have to get used to turning your arm when you show it to people.

Forearm Tattoo Orientation

Another topic worth discussing is the orientation of forearm tattoos. Though most people won’t consider getting their tattoos “upside down”, i.e. facing them on other parts of their body, it’s a lot more common on the forearms. The idea is that people are getting their tattoos for themselves and want to be able to see them properly when they look down at their arms. And this is a pretty controversial topic.

A lot of tattoo artists and hardcore tattoo hobbyists will highly discourage you from getting a forearm tattoo “upside down.” They argue that this will look very bizarre to other people who see your tattoos and while you’ll get used to the tattoo and even stop noticing it over time, it’ll be the other people who look at you who pay attention to the tattoo and think the orientation of it is strange. They’ll also say that these tattoos might look strange next to other tattoos you get in the “correct” orientation and that people are more likely to regret an “upside-down” tattoo than a tattoo facing the other way around.

While all of these things may be true, at the end of the day, the only person who needs to be happy with your tattoos is you. If you want to have your forearm tattoo orientated toward you, there is absolutely no reason not to do so. As long as you’ll be happy, it doesn’t matter what other people will think, even if they look at you and think your tattoo is oriented “wrong.”

Forearm Tattoo Healing

Something nice about forearm tattoos is that they are relatively easy to heal. First of all, they don’t get rubbed by clothing as much as tattoos in other locations like on your torso or feet. And secondly, it’s very easy to access your forearm to apply tattoo healing cream, which you’ll have to do several times a day for at least two weeks after getting your tattoo. This is important because, with tattoos in a location like your back, you have to get somebody else’s help with applying your tattoo cream which, when it’s two or three applications a day, can become a real pain.

Integrating Forearm Tattoos into Sleeves

Something you’ll definitely want to think about when it comes to forearm tattoos is how they may be able to integrate into a full sleeve. For example, if you’re thinking about and flirting with the idea of getting a sleeve but aren’t ready to commit to it just yet, you can start by getting a forearm tattoo and seeing how that feels. If this is something you do, however, it’s important that you’re very mindful and think ahead in terms of the design, carefully considering how your forearm tattoo will be able to be incorporated into your sleeve later on.

For example, you might want to decide before you get your forearm tattoo if you would rather have a sleeve that is one large piece or if you’re okay with having a sleeve that is comprised of multiple smaller tattoos. If you prefer the former, then you’ll have to find a forearm tattoo design that can be expanded upon and turned into part of a larger image or scene. Let’s say that you think that you’ll someday want to get a nautical sleeve of an underwater scene. You can start by getting one part of it as a forearm tattoo, like an octopus that’ll look good both alone or as a part of the sleeve that you might get later on.

Forearm Tattoo Inspiration

Now for the most exciting part: here are some images of forearm tattoos that you can use as inspiration when you’re brainstorming what you want to do for your own potential forearm tattoo.

Snake Tattoo Design on a Forearm

This snake tattoo on the outer forearm is a great example of how to place a tattoo on the forearm without it wrapping around. Despite being a rather large size, this forearm tattoo is still visible all at once from a single angle, which is definitely impressive. It’s also a perfect size for the forearm, taking up essentially its entire length.

Lion and Rose Tattoo Design on a Forearm

This realistic forearm sleeve is a good example of just how much size and detail you can fit into a forearm. If the wearer wanted to, she could also easily continue it up onto her upper arm to create a full sleeve. This isn’t the kind of tattoo you’d want to get if you like to hide your tattoos from your family or employers, but it’s perfect if you like the look of being covered in tattoos.

Fire Pattern

Here’s an example of a relatively small and simple forearm tattoo that wraps around the arm from the inside out. This forearm tattoo is small enough to leave room for other tattoos but large enough to still make a statement. Being placed up higher on the forearm, it’s a good choice for people who want to leave their options open in terms of hiding their tattoos easily with clothing.

Upside Down Rose in Full Color Tattoo

As we discussed above, this is an example of a tattoo that would be considered to be upside down or in the incorrect orientation. While some tattoo lovers and artists may take issue with a tattoo in this orientation, it’s ultimately up to the wearer of the tattoo what they do with their own body.

Dot Work Landscape Tattoo Design

This dot work forearm tattoo perfectly uses the forearm real estate to create a full scene that does wrap around the arm but can still be understood and appreciated from one angle.

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