What You Should Know About Patchwork Sleeve Tattoos

Blackwork Traditional Full Sleeve Patchwork Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Blackwork Traditional Full Sleeve Patchwork Tattoo @laurenjaynegow

As tattoos have become more and more mainstream over the years, many people have felt increasingly comfortable with getting large tattoo designs that express their personalities.

One of the tattoo options that have been in the spotlight is sleeve tattoos, both half sleeve and full sleeve designs. While you can just get one large tattoo to cover up the arm, there is another tattoo trend to consider: Patchwork sleeve tattoos.

This tattoo style can be the perfect option for people who love a puzzle tattoo aesthetic and enjoy many different tattoo elements.

Ocean Themed Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Ocean Themed Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @jaz_adele_ink

What Is A Patchwork Tattoo Sleeve?

Think of a patchwork sleeve tattoo almost like a patchwork quilt – many different elements stitched together to create a design. Various symbols, images, designs, and colors can be used in different small tattoos to create the sleeve. 

“Patchwork tattoos are small to medium sized tattoos (sometimes large) arranged and fitted, close to each other, but not touching, to create a type of ‘tattoo sleeve’. Traditionally a tattoo sleeve has no open space and is more likely to have a cohesive theme. In contrast patchwork tattoos can have a theme or be completely random,”

Mr Inkwells
Blackwork Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Blackwork Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @herzdame

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to patchwork sleeve tattoos. You can have a lot of blank space between tattoos or the designs can be close together. Whether you opt for a densely packed tattoo sleeve or light patchwork tattoos, should you choose a specific theme?

Mixed Element Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Mixed Element Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @unordinary_inked

Do Patchwork Tattoos Need A Theme?

This decision will be based on your own personality. You can have some uniformity between your tattoos with a theme like nature or floral. Another way to create uniformity between your designs is to stick to a certain style of tattooing, like traditional American or minimalistic.

Alternatively, if you like the chaos of multiple styles and designs next to each other, you don’t need a theme. You can just start your patchwork sleeve with a tattoo you like and just keep adding on as time goes by.

Mixed Element Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Mixed Element Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @taurusmoontattoo

What Are The Rules For Patchwork Tattoos?

While there are no rules for patchwork tattoos, there are a few best practices to take heed of:

  • Keep your arm tattoos on the small to medium size. If you go too big then your sleeve will lose the overall appearance of the patchwork style. 
  • Have fun! You don’t need to take a patchwork sleeve tattoo overly seriously if you don’t want to. 
  • Think about the end result. While you don’t need to have a full-on plan for your patchwork sleeve, it’s good to think about whether you want some uniformity when it comes to style and color. This also includes how big you want the end result to be (half sleeve or full sleeve).
Floral Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Floral Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @tattoo.mariah

Are Patchwork Tattoos Cheaper?

A single small tattoo on your arm is going to be way cheaper than getting a full sleeve tattoo. However, when you take into account the amount of tattoos that make up a patchwork tattoo, the price does drastically increase. 

“Because a patchwork sleeve is made up of dozens or hundreds of smaller pieces, they tend to be more time-consuming and expensive than a larger sleeve design with a singular focus. Also, you have to carefully plan and place every single tattoo to ensure that the patchwork, well, works,”

Oracle Tattoo Gallery
Dark Flash Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Dark Flash Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @hellbaby_ink

If you choose to get your patchwork sleeve over a stretch of time, the price may be staggered which can help your budget as you have time to save money in between tattoos. 

A big factor that impacts the price of your tattoo is the detail that goes into the design. So, a minimalist patchwork sleeve tattoo will be cheaper than a patchwork sleeve made up of highly detailed tattoos.

And, of course, the more tattoos in your patchwork sleeve, the more expensive it will end up being. 

Simple Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Simple Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @lucafreudenberg_tattoo

How Long Should You Wait In Between Tattoos?

If you know what you want your patchwork sleeve to look like, then you may be tempted to get all the elements tattooed at once to get it out of the way. 

However, this is not advisable and the majority of tattoo artists won’t do it. Sleeve tattoos need to be done in separate sessions, with each session lasting a few hours (depending on tattoo intricacy). 

Dragon Patchwork Design Element | selftattoo.com
Dragon Patchwork Design Element @natalieallentattoo

“While sometimes it makes sense to get a couple of tattoos at once, typically, we recommend you wait at least two weeks between getting tattoos. Let your first tattoo heal until it’s a closed wound,”

Hush Aesthetic

Remember, getting a tattoo is basically getting wounded – your body goes through an intense trauma. Your body is working hard to heal and fight off infections, so getting too many tattoos at once can put unnecessary strain on yourself physically.

“…the more tattoos the body has to heal, the longer it’ll take to heal each individually.” 

Blackwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Blackwork Sleeve Tattoo @justinthebastard

You’ll definitely want to tackle more painful areas separately. Your elbow, for example, will likely be a lot more challenging to tattoo compared to the forearm. This is because there are more nerves and thinner skin in the elbow area. Give yourself space to recover after particularly painful areas. 

Rose Patchwork Sleeve Element | selftattoo.com
Rose Patchwork Sleeve Element @rottenhannah

How To Plan Patchwork Tattoo Sleeve

To end up with a cohesive patchwork sleeve tattoo, it’s a good idea to think ahead and do some planning. 

Define Your Style

If you want some conformity in your patchwork sleeve, you’ve got to define the overall style of the sleeve. From traditional, realistic, and geometric to abstract or a combination of different styles, there’s a lot to consider. Go through Pinterest and Instagram to research your options.

Sacred Heart Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Sacred Heart Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @laurenjaynegow

Choose A Theme

As discussed above, you don’t really need a theme for a patchwork sleeve if you don’t want one. However, a themed patchwork sleeve can look beautiful, so think about it! Some possible themes include your favorite book or movie, nature, and mythology.

Break Down Your Sleeve Into Elements 

Define the individual elements of your patchwork sleeve and where each tattoo will fit onto your arm. You’ve got to consider the flow of the tattoo and how each element will fit in with each other. Some tattoos will look better together than others. 

Cute Simple Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Cute Simple Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @mclametattoos

Decide On Color

Consider whether you want to include color into your patchwork sleeve or want to stick with black ink. 

Half Sleeve Vs Full Sleeve Tattoo

When it comes to the full size of your patchwork tattoo, you could choose a full sleeve or a half sleeve. A half sleeve will only be tatted on either the upper arm or the forearm. 

Fig And Flower Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Fig And Flower Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @moducommun

Choose A Tattoo Artist

Do your research, look through portfolios, and choose an artist who is experienced in the style of tattoo that you want. For example, if you want an old school patchwork tattoo sleeve that takes inspiration from sailor tattoos, find an artist who specializes in traditional American tattoos. 

Be open to the advice and suggestions your tattoo artist gives you. They’re the professional, so they’ll know what’s going to look good. 

If you are sticking with one type of style for your patchwork sleeve, it’s a good idea to stay with one artist. However, if you’re opting for a mixed style sleeve, it may make sense to go to different tattoo artists for your tattoos depending on which style they’re experienced in. 

Filler Options

You can just choose to leave the space between the different tattoos blank, or you can have “filler” tattoos. Filler tattoos can simply be dots or mini symbols like stars that can easily fit in the odd gaps. 

“Depending on the size of the areas you’re looking to tattoo, a little fun symbol or just little trinkets can go in between big designs. But they need to stay simple to fit in small spots,”

Ocean And Nature Themed Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Ocean And Nature Themed Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @_paigeparker_

Patchwork Sleeve Ideas

There are so many different options when it comes to patchwork sleeve tattoos. From floral vine tattoos to minimalist designs, here are some ideas for your sleeve:

Nature Themed Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Nature Themed Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @tattoo.mariah

Nature Patchwork Tattoo Sleeve

A floral patchwork sleeve tattoo can be a beautiful, feminine route to go. You can choose a range of different flowers, or pick a specific floral that has meaning for you, such as your zodiac sign’s flower. 

A nature themed patchwork tattoo also gives you the opportunity to add other elements, such as vines, butterflies, bees, or ladybugs to add more meaning. 

Traditional Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Traditional Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @alexduquettetattoos

American Traditional Patchwork Tattoo Sleeve

A popular theme for patchwork sleeves is traditional American tattoos. This style of tattooing is defined by thick lines, minimal shading, and saturated colors. 

There are many different elements that encompass the old-school American style that was popularised among sailors and army members in the early 1900s. 

Motifs include swallows, anchors, ships, pin-up girls, roses, nautical stars, hearts, and daggers.

Dainty Patchwork Tattoo Sleeve

A dainty patchwork sleeve has an airy and light overall appearance. So, the tattoo designs are on the smaller side and are usually feminine with intricate details. This can include tiny flowers and symbols with pastel colors.

Flash Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Flash Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo @becca_tattoo

Patchwork Mixed Style Tattoo Sleeve

A mixed style patchwork sleeve tattoo includes many different varieties of tattoos. As you can see in the above example, the sleeve includes a detailed heart tattoo along with a simplistic dog character, flowers, as well as words.

Minimalist Symbols Patchwork Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Minimalist Symbols Patchwork Tattoo @wellwornink

Minimalist Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo 

This patchwork option has a lot of blank space between simplistic tattoo designs. In the above example, there are small symbols spaced far apart along the arm. 

One thing to be aware of when it comes to a minimalistic patchwork sleeve is that if you get any more designs on your arm, the smaller tattoos may get lost. 

No matter which way you go with your patchwork sleeve, it’s important to look after your tattoos. As your arms are exposed to the elements often, there is a good chance that they’ll fade due to the damaging rays of the sun.

To counteract this and keep your sleeve looking as fresh as possible for as long as possible, always hydrate your skin and protect it with sunscreen once it’s healed.

“It’s only after your tattoo is healed (about four weeks later, after the peeling stage is over) is it time to put on the sunscreen,”

Refinery 29

You can’t put sunscreen on a healing tattoo as it can cause an allergic reaction or irritation; you’ve got to cover it up if you go outside. So, you may want to consider getting tatted in the winter instead of during summer.  

Nature Patchwork Half Sleeve Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Nature Patchwork Half Sleeve Tattoo @darkside_tattoo_collective

A patchwork sleeve tattoo can be an amazing opportunity to unleash your creativity!

Through the thoughtful curation of elements and styles, careful consideration of placement, and collaboration with a skilled tattoo artist (or a few!), a patchwork sleeve becomes a living canvas that evolves with you.

It can be an amazing artistic way to document your experiences, struggles, and personality.

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