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Written by Kieran Proctor

One Tattoo Sleeve Or Two?



One Tattoo Sleeve Or Two

One question I frequently get asked by tattoo first timers is whether they should get one tattoo sleeve or two. And my answer is always that two tattoo sleeves will look better than one.

Maintaining symmetry and balance is what looks best. And symmetry is what drives most people with one tattoo sleeve to get a second.

A Single Tattoo Sleeve Will Look Unbalanced

Head on over to any bodybuilding forum or Reddit thread and you will find countless examples of people with only one tattoo sleeve complaining that their tattooed arm looks smaller than their arm without tattoos.

While tattoos needn’t necessarily be matched in color and style, tattoo sleeves should be matched in length. If one arm has a full sleeve and the other nothing, the arm without tattoos will look bigger than the tattooed arm.

The lack of symmetry will make you look unbalanced.

If you have one full sleeve tattoo and one half sleeve, then again you will look unbalanced. Notice on the model in the picture below that his right arm looks bigger than his left. It’s an optical illusion caused by a lack of symmetry.

Notice how the arm with less ink looks bigger?

Always Plan On Getting A Second Tattoo Sleeve

When deciding on your first tattoo sleeve you should leave the option open for a second. As you will more than likely end up getting a second sleeve done.

Some people will claim that once you get your first tattoo you will be compelled to get more. And this is most often the case.

You will subconsciously notice a lack of symmetry and balance. And from my own experience, I can tell you that the lack of symmetry will drive you crazy.

When you look in the mirror you will feel like your tattoo journey is incomplete. And you will be compelled to get more. It’s in this way that tattoos tend to creep up on you.

Like the Pringles commercial says; ‘once you pop, you just can’t stop.’ You’ll want more tattoos. I know I did.

One Tattoo Sleeve Or Two
Notice how the models tattooed arm looks smaller? Even though it’s closer to the camera lens.

Plan Out Your Tattoo Styles

While you’re getting your first tattoo sleeve started, it’s very important to consider whether or not you will be getting a second sleeve down the road.

If you are, it’s always a smart idea to plan out the style of tattoo designs you want to use in order to make the two sleeves play off each other.

The last thing you want is two very different sleeves that clash. If you think you might want to go with a neo-traditional tattoo style for your first tattoo sleeve, just remember that anything differing too much from that style on your second sleeve might look peculiar.

Some styles do mix, such as fine line and black and gray tattoos, but in most cases, this must be planned out and well executed to look good.

Once You’ve Got Your First Sleeve You Will Need A Second!

I immediately began noticing that my blank arm looked bland. And a little odd compared to my tattooed arm. I didn’t notice the perceived size difference caused by optical illusion myself. But my friends did.

One friend pointed out that my tattoo free arm, looked bigger than my tattooed arm. And from that moment on, I couldn’t unsee it. It bugged the heck out of me.

Every time I’d walk past a mirror or see my own reflection in a window, I’d notice one arm looked bigger than the other. The lack of symmetry drove me to get my second sleeve.

When I eventually had my second tattoo sleeve designed by my artist, we didn’t match colors. Matching colors and styles isn’t always necessary. And I’ve previously covered whether or not tattoo sleeves should match.

Instead of matching colors, I went for a blackout tattoo sleeve to go with my color sleeve. We matched the length and tone. Both are the same length and have heavy ink. And it works. It works because there’s symmetry.

Negative space blackout sleeve tattoos in Germnay
My own tattoo sleeves
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