Sleeve tattoos are definitely not for the amateur tattoo enthusiast. Whether getting a full sleeve, or only a half, these designs are not only bold, but very visible. However, if hiding your body art is not an issue, sleeve tattoos can be visually amazing, and leave you quite a bit of room for symbolism.
Some of the most popular styles for sleeve tattoos come straight from Celtic designs. Celtic knots are by far the most popular style in this genre, and rather than being several small pieces placed together, they are usually one long, unending thread that wraps around the arm. For a simple knot design you could either create a flowing version of the Dara knot (a symbol of strength and wisdom), or a plain spiral. For something a bit more intricate you could create a patchwork design of several different Celtic knots. For instance, you could use a row of triquetra knots (the emblem of a perfect threefold unity), and beneath it a row of quaternary (which has a similar meaning to the triquetra, only fourfold instead of three). Animals are also a frequently used symbol for arm sleeves: butterflies, horses, and even mythological beasts such as griffins are very common.
Floral artwork is also regularly used for sleeve tattoos. These designs often feature vines creeping up and around the arm – usually from wrist to shoulder – with small buds blossoming from the skin. It is not uncommon to see other things mingled with these vines. For instance, you may see insects such as ladybugs, spiders, or bees buzzing around the flowers; you may also see fantasy figures like fairies or elves clutching at the vines. For a different twist, the vine could make up the body of a snake or dragon with its head resting at the wrist, or even slithering beyond the sleeve onto your chest or back.
Most sleeve tattoos are a combination of many symbols that have significance to the wearer. For example, you might see a design that shows a cross the length of the upper arm surrounded by clouds with a bright sun rising up from behind it. You might also see a star sign mingling with the planets and stars that make up that particular character. Many people also like to use the symbol of a koi fish swimming upstream; however, you may like to create a fuller scene by using other Japanese symbols such as frogs (symbols of good fortune) idling in the more placid pool of water below the stream; butterflies (emblems for joy) flying in the sky above the stream, or even dragonflies (symbols for victory) swooping over the surface of the water.
There are an endless amount of images and symbols you can use, but whatever you decide upon, sleeve tattoos will always be one of the boldest styles around.