The long expanse of the arm leaves endless possibilities for tattoos and is often used for large sleeve pieces that cover the entire area, but can also serve as the surface for multiple, smaller images that do not necessarily work as a cohesive piece. However, smaller pieces are often viewed by the observer in one glance and work better as images that fit into a singular concept. There are countless options for themes and ideas when it comes to sleeve tattoos as the larger pieces can wrap around the curve of the bicep or forearm. Smaller pieces are just as open to options and depend solely on the preference of the individual. Arm tattoos can be easily covered up, more easily if only the upper arm is done, but long sleeved shirts can hide an entirely tattooed arm as well.
In traditional Western tattoos, sleeves are made up of images that appear more singular than modern sleeves. Sailor Jerry tattoos, for example, use nautical symbols or traditional tattoo images like sparrows that work together with a lot of open space in between. Smaller pieces on their own are usually done in great detail in order to appear more captivating, despite the size. Images placed on the inner arm are generally immensely significant to the individual because of the closeness to the core of the body and the increased level of pain that is felt when the tattoo is being applied.
Large sleeve pieces leave a lot of room for a complex and well-detailed theme, often focusing on significant aspects of the individual’s life experience. Nature themes include a lot of flora and fauna and can work from the wrist up to the bicep, with the bottom of the arm serving as the base of the piece. This works well with ocean-themed pieces as well as cityscapes or city skylines. Abstract concepts that do not follow as concrete of a plan are not limited to a “bottom to top” of the arm design.