Tattoo Ideas for Men in 2022
Tattooing is an art form with a long history, and it only grows more popular with each passing year. While tattoos are only relati ...
When it comes to tattoo placement, it doesn’t get more popular than the arm tattoo. A perfect body part to show off your tattoo to the world, the arm is an incredibly versatile option for tattooing. From itsy bitsy wrist tattoos to full sleeves that cover shoulder to fingers, the sky is the limit when it comes to arm tattoos.
If you’re interested in getting small arm tattoos or large arm tattoos (or medium sized ones, too), we’ve put together this guide to tell you everything you need to know about arm tattoo placement, styles, and design ideas. Plus we’ve included some of our favorite arm tattoos to help inspire you and kick of the brainstorming process for your design. Check it all out below.
Wrist tattoos are a great placement option for a few scenarios. One is if you want to get a very small tattoo. These work well on the wrist because it is such a small part of your body, meaning that a small tattoo will look well-placed there instead of just appearing to be floating in space. It’s also good because it won’t take up skin real estate that you might want later on for other, larger tattoos.
Wrist tattoos are also a good option for people who are newer to tattoos but know that they want to easily show off their tattoo to the world. While this is a visible spot, it’s also not too painful, meaning that it’s accessible even to tattoo beginners.
Because wrist tattoos are generally suited for smaller designs, there are a few styles that are particularly good fits for this placement.
A popular choice for wrist tattoos is text tattoos, often written in a more delicate font like a script that matches the delicate look of the wrist. Text tattoos are also great options for the wrist placement because it is so highly visible to the tattoo wearer, meaning that it’s a good place to get a tattoo with a sentimental meaning or something that you want to remind yourself of often.
Another good option for wrist tattoos is line work, a style in which the tattoo is primarily made up of lines, and any shading is also done with lines of various sizes. This style works great for simple, small to medium tattoos, which many wrist tattoos are.
As a location that is a really good fit for smaller-scale tattoos, the wrist lends itself well to micro realism tattoos, or tattoos that strive to look as close as possible to the real object they represent but at a much smaller size. These tattoos have been particularly trendy in recent years, although some artists do warn that they don’t last as long as other tattoos.
The wrist lends itself particularly well to the following, relatively popular wrist tattoo designs.
A very cool and unique option for a wrist tattoo is a continuous tattoo that wraps around the entire wrist, creating the same effect as a bracelet. This can be done in many different styles from line work to geometric to text.
Flowers are one of the most popular tattoo designs in the world, so you may see them pop up often on this list of popular arm tattoo designs. But they also work quite well for the wrist placement in particular because they can be done in such a way that looks quite delicate and soft, something that matches the vibe of the wrist.
One more tattoo design that works great on the wrist is an icon of some sort like a heart, a punctuation mark, a number, Roman numerals, a paper airplane, and so on. This is because these are simple designs that are easily recognizable even on a small scale.
Below, check out some of the best wrist tattoos.
Moving up the arm, the next spot where you can get tattooed is on the forearm, or the space between the elbow and the wrist. This is a medium-sized piece of tattoo real estate, meaning that it can be a good fit for anywhere from small to large tattoos. Small tattoos are common on forearms, often placed up near the elbow crease.
Like with wrist tattoos, smaller forearm tattoos lend themselves to the same styles that are a good fit for tattoos of a reduced scall. This includes text tattoos, line work, and micro realism. Additionally, the following styles are great for small to medium forearm tattoos.
Geometric tattoos look great on the forearm at a medium size, as they can work with the rounded forearm anatomy to create a very clear design that is pleasing to the eye, even at a small to medium scale.
Dot work tattoos, which use dots of various sizes for shading, look great at a medium scale, and the forearms are a perfect place to show off these tattoos that require a lot of artistry, skill, and design ability.
Going up a little bit in scale opens you up to many more design options, including the following that are a great fit for the forearms.
As far as medium-sized forearm tattoos go, you can’t go wrong with the snake, which looks great in many different styles and whose curved anatomy goes perfectly with the curved nature of the forearm.
A really beautiful medium-sized tattoo to get on the forearm is a mandala, which looks like a natural-meets-geometric design including lots of lines, dots, circles, leaves, and petals. These are incredibly striking tattoos.
Check out some of our favorite small to medium forearm tattoos here.
Another option for the forearm is to get a large tattoo that covers all or most of the entire forearm, almost like a half-sleeve but on the forearm instead of the upper arm. These are great options for those who want to show off their tattoos no matter the season, as your forearm is much more likely to be visible in the colder months than your upper arm is.
One important consideration to keep in mind for large forearm tattoos is that forearms have a relatively small circumference, meaning that the tattoos will wrap around significantly, and you will only be able to see small parts of it at a time, a phenomenon also called warping. This is something that should be thought about when designing the forearm tattoo, as you don’t want to pick a design that doesn’t look good when you can only see half of it (or less) at a glance.
Large forearm tattoos open you up to a variety of tattoo styles, including these which are very popular for large forearm tattoos.
One very popular style for medium to larger forearm tattoos is American traditional, also called old school. This tattoo style is characterized by its iconic color palette of reds, yellows, and greens, its bold black lines, and its typical designs such as birds, flowers, pin-up girls, and anchors.
Another common large forearm tattoo style is American traditional’s younger brother, neotraditional, also called new school. These tattoos usually feature bold lines, an illustrative style, highly saturated colors, and a lot of dimension without crossing the line into looking outright 3D.
If you’re considering getting a large forearm tattoo, here are some design ideas to think about which look great in this size and placement.
While map tattoos aren’t the most popular ones to see, they work quite well as large forearm tattoos because they are immediately recognizable and identifiable even when they are wrapped around a smaller circumference.
If you want to get a tattoo of an animal with the focus on its eyes, this is a great choice as a large forearm tattoo as you can design the tattoo so that the part of the animal that is most easily seen when viewing your arm is the eyes.
Check out some of the best large forearm tattoos below.
Now let’s continue moving upward to the final part of the arm: the upper arm, which is the part above the elbow and up to the shoulder. This is one of the most popular spots for tattoos, especially ones on a larger scale. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a common choice for small tattoos. In fact, people who like the “sticker book” style of getting lots of small tattoos all over their body are big fans of small upper arm tattoos.
Small upper arm tattoos lend themselves well to the same styles as other small tattoos, such as the wrist tattoos we discussed above. These include styles like line work and micro realism. Additionally, we also love:
A lot of old school tattoos actually look great in a smaller size, especially the designs that you would find on a flash sheet. Because these small tattoos don’t have the same delicate nature as something like line work, they look great on a more substantial, meatier part of the body like the upper arm (as opposed to the wrist.)
Brainstorming a possible design for your small upper arm tattoo? Here are some options that we love.
The space near the shoulder is simply perfect for tattoos that are circular in nature, whether that is a simple circle arrow tattoo or a circle outline with a design inside of it. The upper arm/shoulder anatomy just lends itself perfectly for this.
As one of the most popular tattoo designs in general, flowers work great as small upper arm tattoos. This is because flowers are strong enough imagery that they don’t need to be large to have an impact. These look especially good placed on the inner bicep.
Because it is long and relatively narrow, the upper arm lends itself very well to smaller tattoos that are thin and tall, with one really perfect option being a tree, which looks good on both the inside and the outside of the upper arm.
Here is a collection of some of our favorite smaller upper arm tattoos.
Now let’s get to the fun stuff: sleeves. Or rather, half sleeve tattoos to start out with. A half sleeve arm tattoo is a tattoo that covers the entirety of the upper arm, from the shoulder down to the elbow. It’s called a half sleeve because the coverage of ink on the arm creates the effect that the wearer is wearing half of a shirt sleeve. Half sleeves are incredibly impactful tattoos that really mark the wearer as a tattoo lover and collector, something that isn’t quite the commitment of a full sleeve tattoo but still is very large, in charge, and hard to hide.
Half sleeve tattoos are very commonly found in the following tattoo styles.
One of the most popular types of half sleeve tattoos that you will see is the tribal tattoo, which is characterized by large blocks of black color in organic shapes and lines. Tribal tattoos are very powerful in both look and meaning, as they hearken back to the early days of tattooing practiced by ancient cultures and can have a very tough, warrior type of look to them.
For half sleeve tattoos and sleeve tattoos in general, there is perhaps no style as popular as the realism tattoo, which is basically a tattoo rendered to look as close as possible to the subject it represents, whether that be an animal, a portrait of a human being, or some kind of nature scene. Realism tattoos tend to have to be pretty large in order to accurately portray their subject matter, which means that they often have to cover all or most of the upper arm in order to look good.
While they really are very versatile, here are a few common half sleeve tattoo designs that are chosen because they make great half sleeve tattoos.
Usually done in a realism style to honor somebody that the tattoo wearer loves and admires, whether that is a celebrity or somebody they really know, half sleeve portraits are one of the most sentimental and meaningful types of tattoos that a person can get.
Often, but not necessarily, done in a tribal style, half sleeve dragon tattoos are impactful, powerful, and memorable, with the wearer proudly donning them often to represent themes like strength, ancient power, protection, and wisdom. These tattoos often also continue on to the chest.
A tattoo that gives off a distinctively tough, even threatening energy, skulls and skeletons are popularly tattooed as half sleeves to represent meanings associated with death, living life to the fullest, and conquering the fear of death.
Brainstorming a half sleeve idea can be so fun and exciting, and to help you out, we’ve gathered some images here of really fantastic half sleeve tattoos.
Last, but not least, we’ve reached the full sleeve tattoo, which is basically like a half sleeve that, instead of stopping at the elbow, continues all the way down to the wrist. Full sleeves are one of the most hardcore types of tattoos out there, not recommended for beginners or people who aren’t fully committed to the tattooed lifestyle. Full sleeve tattoos immediately mark you as a tattooed person, often even leading to judgment. But people who get full sleeves don’t tend to care about this, because they love tattooing as an art form and are proud to wear their art on their, well, sleeves.
Like with half sleeves, it’s very common for full sleeve tattoos to be done in a tribal or realism style. It is actually pretty rare to see sleeve tattoos in other styles, although you may sometimes find a sleeve linework tattoo or neotraditional tattoo.
Creating a full sleeve can be one of the most fun types of tattoos to design because the vast amount of skin space really allows you and your tattoo artist to get creative. Because the sleeve is so large, more often than not, it includes multiple design elements rather than focusing on just one design.
One common sleeve tattoo is to have the sleeve represent an entire nature scene with multiple various elements such as a body of water, grass, trees, animals, and a sun or moon. This type of tattoo is most often done in a realism style.
Another sleeve tattoo design that you see sometimes is a mechanical sleeve tattoo, which uses design elements such as gears and cogs to create an effect of “revealing” the mechanisms underneath the arm.
This isn’t necessarily an incredibly popular sleeve tattoo design, but it is a very beautiful one, fitting well for both men and women. Greek statues are narrow and tall, making them a great fit for the long arm.
One last type of sleeve tattoo design that many people choose is one that references a piece of pop culture that they love and are deeply influenced by, such as their favorite book, movie, TV show, or myth.
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