by Tori Jones
How Long does it take to get a tattoo

You’re stepping into a tattoo parlor for the very first time. The intoxicating scent of sterilized equipment mixed with a hint of creativity fills the air. You’re about to etch your story on your skin, and naturally, the first question you ask is, “How long will it take?” I’m here to tell you that when it comes to tattoos, the old adage is true – Rome wasn’t built in a day.

How Long does it take to get a tattoo
@José Pinto Via Unsplash- Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

It’s the quintessential question that tattoo novices and aficionados alike never tire of asking. Yet, the answer is as diverse as the designs that decorate our bodies. From the dawning of your first session to the sunset of your very last, the span of time can stretch anywhere from a brisk few hours to several weeks, or even the better part of a year. The canvas of time in tattoo artistry isn’t linear; it’s as varied as the waves of the ocean or the lines that will soon adorn your skin.

Let’s journey into this mosaic of elements that fuse to form the unique timeline of each tattoo. We start by looking at the basics: size, design, body placement, and the artist’s style. Imagine, for instance, Jenny, a young violinist who wanted a delicate treble clef behind her ear. A small, simplistic design, it took mere hours to craft. But then there’s the burly biker, Max, who walked in with a vision of a roaring engine across his chest. That level of intricate detail and scale required several painstaking sessions spanning weeks.

How Long does it take to get a tattoo
@Julia Giacomini Via Unsplash- Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

And let’s not forget the unsung hero of the tattooing timeline: aftercare. Call it the epilogue if you will. How you nurse your new tattoo significantly affects its healing journey. Case in point: Sarah, a fitness enthusiast, went the extra mile with her aftercare routine and her vibrant sleeve healed remarkably fast. On the other hand, Chris, a rather forgetful chap, slacked on his aftercare and ended up with an extended timeline of healing and touch-ups.

So the next time you step into the enchanting world of a tattoo parlor, remember, there’s no stopwatch on creativity. It takes the time it takes, and that’s part of its beauty. After all, the journey towards a masterpiece is often as remarkable as the piece itself. And isn’t that what getting a tattoo is all about? This table outlines different styles of tattoos and how their timelines can be affected by the body locations:

Tattoo StyleBody LocationTimeline Considerations
TraditionalArms, LegsRelatively straightforward and quick to execute, moderate healing time
Neo-TraditionalArms, LegsSimilar to traditional style, may have more intricate designs and color work, moderate healing time
RealismBack, ChestHighly detailed and intricate designs, time-consuming to execute, longer healing time due to larger size and more details
WatercolorAnywhereRequires delicate shading and blending techniques, time-consuming depending on the complexity, moderate healing time
MinimalistAnywhereSimple and clean designs, quick to execute, minimal healing time
GeometricArms, LegsPrecise lines and shapes, can be time-consuming depending on the complexity, moderate healing time
JapaneseFull bodyIntricate designs covering large areas, time-consuming due to the size and complexity, longer healing time
BlackworkAnywhereSolid black ink with minimal shading, quick to execute, minimal healing time
TribalArms, ShouldersBold and abstract designs, relatively quick to execute, minimal healing time
DotworkAnywhereComplex patterns created with dots, time-consuming depending on the size and density of dots, moderate healing time

Please note that the timelines mentioned are general considerations and can vary depending on factors such as the tattoo artist’s skill, the size of the tattoo, the individual’s skin type, and the aftercare routine followed. It’s important to consult with a professional tattoo artist for specific timelines and care instructions for your tattoo.

How Long Does a Tattoo Take Depending on the Size?

Let’s begin by addressing the elephant in the room: size. Indeed, much like that IKEA flatpack, the bigger it is, the more time it consumes. But tattoos aren’t bookshelves, and their timelines aren’t purely dictated by dimensions.

Small Tattoos 

How Long does it take to get a tattoo
@José Pinto Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

When it comes to smaller tattoos, think tea breaks, not marathons. Take, for example, Leo, a young poet who got a small, minimalist quill on his wrist, a mark of his love for words. From initial sketch to the final dot, it was a brief affair, lasting just under an hour.

However, do remember that small doesn’t always mean swift. Just ask Laura, who opted for a vibrant, intricate mandala design that, despite its modest size, required a few sessions. More color, more details, and trickier placements can all dial up the clock on your ink time.

Medium Tattoos 

How Long does it take to get a tattoo
@Yannic Läderach Via Unsplash – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

As we inch up the size scale, medium tattoos enter the frame. Think of them as your average Netflix binge session in length, ranging from around 2 to 5 hours. Our dear friend Steve, a nature enthusiast, had a beautiful palm-sized forest scene etched onto his forearm. The varied hues of green and the detailed texture of the bark and leaves demanded more hours than a simpler piece of the same size.

Large Tattoos 

Now, onto the realm of large tattoos, the marathons of the ink world. These are the full sleeves, the back pieces – the ink equivalents of a seven-course gourmet meal. For instance, Maya, a rock music aficionado, decided to honor her favorite band with a full sleeve depicting various album covers. Her journey was divided into multiple sessions over several weeks, each lasting several hours. And just like that, her dedication transformed into a living testament to her passion.

How Long does it take to get a tattoo
@ALEX Trajilovic Via Unsplash – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

How Long Does It Take To Get A Tattoo Sleeve?

Now, let’s not forget the tattoo sleeve, a canvas of creativity that can take anywhere between 30 to 60 hours or even more. Consider the journey of Mike, a comic book fanatic who opted for a detailed sleeve showcasing his favorite superheroes. The intricate detailing, color gradation, and shading demanded well over 80 hours, spanning the better part of a year.

Factors That Affect How Long A Tattoo Takes


Yet, this beautiful ballet of ink and skin isn’t entirely governed by size. Other dancers also twirl on the stage. The style, the intricate details and vibrant colors can all add layers of complexity. Body placement also factors in – some areas require the gentle finesse of a surgeon due to nerve endings and bone proximity.


How Long does it take to get a tattoo
@GRAHAM MANSFIELD Via Unsplash – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

Pain tolerance is another player in this inky drama. The endurance of the canvas – that’s you, by the way – can determine the duration of a session. So whether you’re the ‘iron-willed’ type or the ‘need-a-break-every-ten-minutes’ kind, your journey in the chair will be uniquely your own.

The realm of tattoos is a world where time is painted in strokes of ink and etched on skin. It dances to the rhythm of the buzzing needle, flowing with the artistry and craftsmanship of the artist, and the resilience and passion of the canvas. So as you step into this fascinating world, remember to savor the journey as much as the destination. For, as they say, art takes time.

Advice You Need To Know

Here are some tips and advice on how to prepare for getting a tattoo and ensure proper aftercare for minimizing healing time and the need for touch-ups:

  1. Research and choose a reputable tattoo artist: Take the time to research and find a skilled and experienced tattoo artist who specializes in the style you desire. Look at their portfolio, read reviews, and ask for recommendations from friends or trusted sources.
  2. Consultation and design: Schedule a consultation with your chosen tattoo artist to discuss your design ideas, placement, and size. Collaborate with the artist to ensure that you’re both on the same page and that the design meets your expectations.
  3. Hygiene and health: Prioritize your health before getting a tattoo. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and eat a nutritious meal before your appointment. Avoid consuming alcohol or drugs, as they can thin your blood and increase bleeding during the tattooing process.
  4. Skin preparation: Keep the area to be tattooed clean and moisturized leading up to your appointment. Avoid excessive sun exposure, tanning beds, or getting a sunburn in the area. Moisturize the skin regularly to ensure it’s well-hydrated.
  5. Dress appropriately: Wear comfortable clothing that allows easy access to the area you’re getting tattooed. Loose-fitting clothes will be helpful, especially if the tattoo is on a part of your body that may be sensitive or require a cover-up afterward.
  6. Communicate with your artist: During the tattooing process, communicate openly with your artist. If you experience discomfort or need a break, don’t hesitate to let them know. Remember that everyone’s pain tolerance is different, so don’t be shy about asking for adjustments.
  7. Follow aftercare instructions: Proper aftercare is crucial for minimizing healing time and avoiding complications. Follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions carefully, which may include keeping the tattoo clean, applying a recommended ointment or lotion, avoiding excessive sun exposure, and refraining from picking or scratching the tattooed area.
  8. Protect from sun exposure: Once your tattoo has healed, protect it from direct sunlight to prevent fading or discoloration. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF whenever you expose your tattoo to the sun.
  9. Avoid submerging in water: During the initial healing period, avoid submerging your tattoo in pools, hot tubs, or baths. Limit showers to quick and lukewarm ones, as excessive moisture can prolong the healing process.
  10. Attend touch-up sessions if necessary: Sometimes, certain areas of a tattoo may require touch-ups to ensure the best result. Follow up with your tattoo artist if you notice any areas that need adjustments or additional color.

Remember, each person’s body and healing process are unique, so it’s essential to consult with your tattoo artist for specific aftercare instructions and any concerns you may have. By following these tips and caring for your tattoo properly, you can help minimize healing time and maintain the quality of your tattoo for years to come.


As we bring this journey of time and ink to a close, it’s important to remember a few pearls of wisdom from this tattoo-infused odyssey. Firstly, location is key. Every crevice and curve of your body is a potential canvas, but the sensitivity, healing time, and visibility may vary. The choice lies with you – to wear your story on your sleeve, literally, or to tuck it away on a less-trodden path.

The cost of a tattoo is as varied as the designs themselves. A humble shop in the back alley might charge you a mere 50 bucks for a small, simple piece, while an upscale parlor in the city’s heart might demand hundreds for the same. Complexity, artist’s reputation, shop location, and size all factor into the final tally.

Yet, it’s not all sunshine and roses in this world of ink. Tattoos carry risks, from minor skin irritations to serious infections. Remember, the needle dance is a break in your skin’s natural fortress against pathogens. Hygiene, both during and after the process, is paramount. Allergic reactions, while rare, can also occur, particularly with colored ink.

And let’s not forget the ‘P’ word – Pain. It’s an inevitable guest in this inking ceremony, though its intensity can vary. Brace yourself for a sensation ranging from a cat’s scratch to a sting of a bee. It’s discomfort, but often, it’s a price worth paying for a piece of art you’ll wear forever.

In the end, getting a tattoo is like embarking on a personal adventure, one that’s etched onto your skin. It’s a testament to your individuality, an outward expression of your inner narrative. So, take your time, choose wisely, and savor the journey. After all, time, like a tattoo, is a testament to moments that make us who we are.

You may also like