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Written by Kieran Proctor

Should Tattoo Sleeves Match?



When deciding on a second tattoo sleeve there are some facets that should be matched. When getting a pair of tattoo sleeves you don’t need to have two identical sleeves. But you should match some aspects of the designs for symmetry.

I have two tattoo sleeves. They are completely different designs and styles that are set in stark contrast to each other. Yet certain aspects of my tattoo sleeves are matched. And they’re matched for symmetry.

Let’s look at what you should and should not match when going for the double tattoo sleeved look. 

Should you match the colors of tattoo sleeves?

You don’t need to match the colors or color palate if deciding on two tattoo sleeves. The colors used in two tattoo sleeves can be set in stark contrast.

I personally have a colored tattoo sleeve and a blackout sleeve. The colors couldn’t be any more different. And it works. You can have both a black sleeve and a colored tattoo sleeve.

Color is not a factor that you need to match between tattoo sleeves. And going for contrasting colors can actually work a lot better than if you matched the color combinations of your sleeves. 

two contrasting tattoo sleeves
My own tattoo sleeves

Should you match the style of tattoo sleeves? 

You don’t necessarily need to match the style of tattoo sleeves, if you opt for the double sleeved look. Tattoo sleeves don’t need to be the same style.

You should however be mindful of mixing certain styles. If you had, say, one Polynesian tattoo sleeve and one Japanese tattoo sleeve you’d look a bit silly. The same would go for mixing one Japanese tattoo sleeve with one Chinese tattoo sleeve.

When getting two different styles of tattoo sleeves you should be mindful of the cultural differences from where each style originated. Don’t get two similarly styled but culturally different tattoo sleeves.

Instead, if you’re going to have contrasting sleeves, you should go for a high contrast with two completely different tattoo styles.

Should you match the length of tattoo sleeves?

Length is the one factor of tattoo sleeves that should always be matched. You need to consider symmetry when deciding on a second tattoo sleeve.

If one tattoo sleeve is longer or shorter than the other it can produce an unbalanced look. And from a distance two unbalanced tattoo sleeves can make you look odd.

Unbalanced tattoo sleeves produce an optical illusion that makes one arm look bigger or smaller than the other. If you need an example of this just head over to the various body builder forums.

On the Bodybuilder forums you’ll see posts from people with only one sleeve as they reflect on the differences between their tattooed arm and their bare skin.  What they find is that the tattooed arm looks smaller than the arm without tattoos.

Now imagine that you have one full sleeve and one half sleeve. The un-tattooed area on the lower portion of the arm with a half sleeve will look bigger than the rest. Having unmatched tattoo sleeves will look unbalanced.

Always aim for symmetry between your tattoo sleeves.

Notice the difference on the model in the image below? His unfinished tattoo sleeves create an optical illusion that makes the less tattooed arm look bigger than other.

Should you use the same artists for tattoo sleeves?

There really is no hard and fast rule about using the same artist for both tattoo sleeves. And most people don’t end up using the same artist for both their tattoo sleeves. But using the same artist for both sleeves can create symmetry.

With that said I used the same artist for both of my tattoo sleeves. And I used the same artist for a number of reasons, but particularly for the design aspects and placement.

Using the same artists for two contrasting styles, I found that he subconsciously matched the placement of items included in each tattoo.

For example my negative space tattoo sleeve has a flower that is placed in exactly that same spot as a colored flower on my other arm. The tattooist has matched my sleeves without trying to match my sleeves. He’s created a symmetry in contrast.

The other reason I chose to use the same artist for both of my tattoo sleeves is so the lining, shading and coloring would be consistent on my two tattoo sleeves.

And this further adds symmetry to otherwise competing styles with contrasting colors. Creating symmetry where there would normally be none.

rear view of man with two contrasting tattoo sleeves
My own tattoo sleeves pictured from behind

Symmetry is the most important factor when getting two tattoo sleeves

Symmetry is the most important factor. You can have two completely dissimilar styles of tattoo sleeves but symmetry in placement, design and length will make them a cohesive pair.

If throughout your tattoo journey you’ve found a tattoo artist, whose work you love and with whom you get on well, you should stick with that artist. You’ll find that using the same artist for both, will bring a level of symmetry to your tattoo sleeves, that would otherwise be absent when using two different tattoo artists.

Symmetry between your tattoo sleeves, is always the most important factor to consider. 

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