10 Half Sleeve Tattoo Ideas

Before heading out to get any new ink, check out this list of ten half sleeve tattoo ideas. A half sleeve tattoo starts from the shoulder and ends just above the elbow. It is a popular choice for people who want a tattoo they can easily show off but can still cover if needed for work. When designing a tattoo it is always important to talk to your artist first.

  1. Asian.  A popular trend in tattoos is to have one inspired by Asian culture. Some ideas with this theme would be Lotus flowers, cherry blossoms, a koi fish, symbols from the Chinese zodiac, wind bars, a geisha, a samurai, a dragon, oni mask or writing from one of the many Asian cultures. A word of caution if you decide you want to incorporate writing from a language you don’t speak in your tattoo, make sure it says what you want. The tiniest change to a symbol can completely change it’s meaning so make sure you have what you want written by a translator and don’t just pull it from your artist’s wall.
  2. Tribal.  Tribal tattoos come from ancient warriors that used to mark their bodies’ before battle. The designs had meanings deeply rooted in the different tribes’ beliefs. Popular culture has taken these designs and mainstreamed them so much that they’ve lost a lot of their significance. Most of the time tribal designs are black but adding color can help add some personality to your tattoo. For men, the edges are usually sharp and for women the same design is more rounded so it’s a softer look.  
  3. Memorial.  A memorial tattoo is usually something designed to remember a loved one. Many people have mixed emotions about putting reminders of the dead upon their bodies. A popular trend is to tattoo your loved one’s picture on you skin. In a half sleeve this is easily done. Other ideas are incorporating a message or reminders of that person. This theme is a very personal one and can make a powerful message.
  4. Spiritual.  This is another tattoo theme that some people find controversial since many feel it against certain religious beliefs to tattoo your body. Despite this, spiritual tattoos have always been popular and the trend has grown stronger recently. Popular ideas are: scriptures, praying hands, crosses, the star of David, Buddha, Jesus, a dove, pentagrams, the virgin Mary and pictures of other saints. What you pick for your spiritual half sleeve will depend a lot on your beliefs.
  5. Political.  Many people choose to use their tattoos to make a political statement. Variations of this theme would be patriotic and military tattoos.
  6. Gothic/Medieval. This would include high fantasy all the way to the dark and creepy. Some ideas are: dragons, unicorns, Celtic knots, fairies, goblins, monsters, skulls, demons, swords, knights, blood, vampires and images of death. Another popular variation on this theme would be zombies where the half sleeve is done so it looks like your flesh is rotting.
  7. Sports. Tattoos in this theme take the term “sports nut” to the next level. While some people choose to just commemorate their favorite sport in their half sleeve, others will use a specific theme. The most popular is using your favorite team’s logo over a background of your choice. Just remember that you can’t take the tattoo off if your team starts to lose.
  8. Earthy.  This theme is more popular among female designs but recently more edgy earthy themes have become popular. Ideas for creating a earthy half sleeve are: animals, plants, peace signs, nature scenes and earth symbols.
  9. Automotive.  This is a very popular theme among half sleeves. The ideas don’t just stop at things as simple as: car, truck, motorcycles, tools and car parts. Many people incorporate logos like Harley Davidson, Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, Toyota and many others into their automotive theme half sleeve tattoos.
  10. Maritime.  Sailors were some of the first people to do tattoos. Maritime tattoos are still rather popular. This theme would include: anchors, boats, ocean waves, mermaids, lifesavers, ropes and any nautical thing you can thing up.
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