50 Traditional Tattoo Sleeve Fillers (Design Ideas)

However, as you start adding new collections to your tattoo sleeves, filling up the empty spaces left on your arms can get more complicated. This is why it’s essential to be strategic with the placement and combination of your tattoos for your desired sleeve. In addition, you will also have to consider the overall style, color scheme, and sizes of your tattoos.

How to Curate a Custom Tattoo Sleeve

Tattoo artists explain exactly where to start, the types of designs that work well on arms, and how long a full sleeve might take. (Hint: If you think you can do it all at once, you’ll want to manage your expectations.)

January 19, 2021

So many of us with tattoos have found that once we got our first piece, we immediately wanted another — and another, and another. Perhaps, like mine, your first few were spread out on different parts of the body: I started on a calf, then got one on the back of my neck, and jumped to a forearm. I thought that forearm tattoo might end up standing alone, but it wasn’t long before I started envisioning what pieces I might want surrounding it and traveling all the way up my arm. It was bound to happen: I was going to start a tattoo sleeve.

Six years after my first tattoo, my right arm is more inked than not. I’m so happy with the beautiful work of the three artists who’ve contributed to it, and I can’t wait to return to them and collect pieces from a few other tattooers. But part of me has always wished I’d taken a little more time before I’d started to truly map out a sleeve plan, and I’ve wondered if I went about it in the right way.

Well, you may be as relieved as I was to learn there’s no one “right” way to do this. But the experts definitely have some tips that are worth keeping in mind before you book your first (or 15th) appointment. I spoke to top tattoo artists to get their guidance on curating your ideal tattoo sleeve, so you can get the answers you need about choosing designs, where to begin, how long it may take, and more.

Where to Start

When you get your first arm tattoo, you may not know at the time that you’ll want to add on and create a sleeve, so there’s technically no wrong area on which to get your first piece. For those who know they’re planning on a sleeve, however, starting-spot trends have changed.

“I was always of the thought that you should start at the top and work your way down. That’s how it was when I started getting tattooed,” says Erin Odea, tattoo artist and owner of Crossed Keys Society in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But she’s noticed that a lot of her clients have been starting with their forearms in more recent years, chalking it up to visible tattoos being more widely accepted by employers. “I suppose that works just as well, but it’s a little more ballsy.”

So, upper arm or forearm? In some cases, the answer is neither. “I like to ask someone what their plans for their elbow are early on,” says Becca Genné-Bacon, a tattoo artist at Kings Avenue in New York City. “If they want something circular or symmetrical, like a ship’s wheel, I recommend that we start with that.”

READ  The Comprehensive Users Guide to Belly Piercing: Part Three

That said, if you’re planning on a patchwork sleeve — meaning a sleeve made up of separate tattoos rather than one big image with a background — those designs may very well determine the locations on your arm that get inked first. “I like to ask what three or four images are the largest, most important ones. I like to start with those, rather than filling up one particular spot on the arm first,” Genné-Bacon explains. “The spaces in-between the larger pieces can then dictate what the smaller images are that bring everything together.”

Filling in Smaller Spaces

If inking nearly every inch of skin is part of your sleeve goal, you face the challenge of figuring out how to fill the smaller and often oddly shaped spaces between the more prominent pieces. But it’s not impossible, and your options are a lot less limited than they may seem as long as you’re not expecting to get elaborately detailed art in a tiny area.

“Depending on the size of the areas you’re looking to tattoo, a little fun symbol or just little trinkets can go in between big designs,” Odea says, noting that flowers are a popular filler choice. “But they need to stay simple to fit in small spots.”

Genné-Bacon likes to get accurate tracings and draw for exactly the spot being filled. “Things with more organic edges can be manipulated more easily to fill the spot perfectly,” she says.

If you don’t have something specific in mind, you may want to consider a classic filler like stars and dots. “Doesn’t get better than those. They fit in any space, can be small or big, packed in tight, or spread out,” Odea says. “Works like a charm.”

Photos of Josephine Baker, Lucille Ball, Frida Kahlo

In other words, if you want a tattoo on your forearm that references your favorite obscure horror movie and another on your bicep that pays tribute to your grandmother, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get both.

50 Traditional Tattoo Sleeve Fillers (Design Ideas)

traditional tattoo sleeve fillers 1

Tattoo sleeve fillers are one of the best ways to fill out the empty spaces you did on your first tattoo sleeve.

If show-stopping bold tattoos are to your liking, then getting tattoo sleeves for your arms is a beautiful idea to make a statement.

When you get your first few tattoos, you might barely have any idea which tattoos you want to add to your tattoo sleeve. And that’s okay because we’re pretty sure you’ll eventually figure out your desired tattoo collection with your preferences.

However, as you start adding new collections to your tattoo sleeves, filling up the empty spaces left on your arms can get more complicated. This is why it’s essential to be strategic with the placement and combination of your tattoos for your desired sleeve. In addition, you will also have to consider the overall style, color scheme, and sizes of your tattoos.

For those starting on their tattoo sleeve collection, you’ll most definitely be going for the biggest and most prominent tattoos first when you first get inked. However, smaller blank areas on your skin will be harder to fill with just any tattoo design.

But you don’t have to worry about those awkward spaces with the aid of a traditional tattoo filler. After all, a great traditional tattoo sleeve filler will do wonders to your sleeve and make it look more put together.

Of course, you will have to get a traditional tattoo filler that matches the overall theme of your tattoo sleeve. But you don’t have to worry about not finding suitable fillers to fit your tattoo sleeves because there are plenty of sleeve fillers out there for you to mix and match accordingly.

For instance, if you have a traditional tattoo sleeve or two, you have plenty of choices for an American traditional tattoo sleeve filler designs to fill in the empty spaces on your skin. And if you have no idea what to do with the awkward gaps on your tattoo sleeves, then you may check out these ten traditional tattoo sleeve filler ideas that you can mix and match with your current tattoos down below.

READ  Tattoo Policies and Rules for Job | Trending Tattoo

Traditional Tattoo Sleeve Fillers:

1. Traditional Star-Speckled Tattoo Fillers

d23719a69c7c0ea58804deb36dc22819 500e4c4ecd4ecd72547fa3e11a4b2d08 37a8a2833a01f86dfadae71eaea89f3a da05bb7609d352070099092e7423ddc2 2bdfe659540c5368f7ffd10113d71d1a

One of the problems you may face when trying to blend your collection of old-school tattoos is the bold linework present among them. Because of that, your challenge lies in trying to fill up the empty spaces with something that can offset the stark outlines of your traditional tattoos.

This is where star-speckled sleeve fillers come in handy. After all, their simple star and dotted designs look neat on your skin’s empty spaces without disrupting your tattoo collection’s mood at all. Overall, star-speckled designs are a great choice if you want simplistic pieces that allow your more significant elements to stand out and make your collection look flawless altogether.

2. Traditional Flower Tattoo Sleeve Fillers

fdd621e49f379d5037e1a623e859eb7b 7ea73eab275bdb85b8b6a0631c4e2483 d87eff88677b536771127f4b763a14f5 0c6e10ccd183a02841279ce83f24c9fc 890feee1a71928ed4da2a44e9fa052e1

Traditional floral patterns also serve as great sleeve fillers when incorporated well into your collection. After all, a lot of traditional tattoo sleeves aren’t complete without some floral touches.

In addition, flower tattoos are also one of the most commonly recognized tattoos among traditional American designs. This is because of their simplistic but elegant designs, intense line work, and distinctly saturated color schemes.

Moreover, floral patterns can provide your tattoo collection with a delicate balance. They also hold a lovely meaning to them. For instance, rose patterns often signify allegiance, love, and even beauty. With a variety of traditional flower tattoos to choose from, you have a lot of choices to choose from to match the aesthetics and even stories behind your tattoo sleeve collection.

3. Traditional Arrow Sleeve Fillers

4bc25fefea58d75639b9842cb1a24c5b 96f9f97158639762587a060ceb909137 2a6d29e2a1ae39cf52b1a0a9b22a4ca5 52ef6e867c1dd6e9aa006f98f43484c6 ee4a7abaf865af65304a2e593aa62fc5

Another well-known traditional tattoo is the arrow design. Outside of the traditional American tattoo genre, some arrow tattoos’ simple line art makes it a wonderful choice for those who want a minimalistic tattoo inked on them. This is what also makes them an ideal option as a traditional tattoo filler.

The direction an arrow faces, its respective placement, and its corresponding angle holds significant meanings. In addition, an arrow accompanied by a bow and other illustrations also adds more meaning to it. For instance, an arrow that faces the left or right side serves as a means of protection against evil, and an arrow pointing downwards symbolizes peace.

4. Traditional Bestial Tattoo Fillers

7fa643ac103ee1a62a5fbfe6f6be7830 fb24c53ed128b31d8313744375756799 5105689e241458238de0788f9f80bf5f f560c7f4557036e550f7d550ec50fbaf 825bb2a77a80bedec7813a37cb4d2397

Including traditional animal tattoo fillers in your collection can give off that solid finishing touches for your comprehensive collection of tattoos. After all, you can choose from various traditional animal tattoos such as lions, bears, spiders, and wolves.

Just like most traditional tattoo designs, bestial tattoos also hold several meanings. Because of the rich stories and mythologies associated with these traditional animal designs, people prefer having an animal inked on their skin. And with an entirely black color scheme, you can get a darker overall feel for your collection of tattoos.

For instance, traditional bear tattoos are a popular choice among people to symbolize strength or fierceness.

5. Traditional Skull Tattoo Fillers

dce1ece5498c0228cda3db0e2fa928c9 0c0a8e3298650dc3430ca51d06a557c1 192e14f8214349ec7a384e876d803d40 75070820935c30dd7674da5aed0c32d2 c7f8372ab355c75b5c8549bbf6a2e663

A classic skull tattoo design is a superb traditional tattoo sleeve filler if you wish to add a darker feel to your collection. After all, American traditional skull designs are both amazing as a prominent piece in your sleeve or as a gothic tattoo sleeve filler to fill in your skin’s blank areas.

Going back to the old times, skull tattoos are worn by sailors to symbolize one’s acknowledgment of certain death, which is part of the natural cycle of life. Overall, you should definitely consider traditional skull tattoo fillers to give your sleeve the finishing touches for a gothic look.

6. Traditional Dagger Tattoo Fillers

c08047f95b22e8df18f7655a40940391 ffcf6cba02bdeeaf0b1e03b1091e49c5 eff354599e31abc60e029c44b6005915 ca4bccaf9127c2b5d78050689eaaeab2 b3affe8e1c507ad5e2190571b5750b97

A dagger tattoo is a fantastic addition that depicts power and fighting. Often, they can also mean one’s strong ability to fight for what is right continuously. Moreover, you can even combine a dagger design with other imagery to give a whole new meaning to your tattoo.

READ  Reviving 90s Fashion for Women: Your Ultimate Guide to the Hottest Trends of the Decade

One example is pairing a dagger tattoo with a heart design. This imagery symbolizes heartbreak, particularly when the dagger is piercing right through the heart design. On the other hand, a dagger impaled on an animal’s head means

A traditional dagger tattoo’s ability to be combined with other images for a varied meaning makes them a popular choice as a traditional tattoo sleeve filler.

7. Traditional Anchor Sleeve Fillers

082e9bf1057ee9297fc49e0ce7d138e4 b00a07b8c87e651aea82267149457ff9 0ba016f0e0584388e02e0937c5d0da28 3 f429564f672bb8ee038b11d2ef8ffc85 3bfe956bba4482bd153bbf3d42341fb2

Out of all traditional tattoo designs, the anchor tattoo is probably the tattoo with the most straightforward meaning. After all, anchors function to keep a ship steady in its area. And in real life, anchor tattoos represent one’s ability to remain grounded even among various challenges and uncertainty.

In addition, the traditional anchor design can also be paired with other designs to represent contrasting meanings or if you want to come up with a tattoo of your interpretation. Moreover, an anchor tattoo can also include a person’s name as a form of tribute.

8. Traditional Heart Tattoo Fillers

1c554416fdc327e260c8aa785d3f5ee7 2 1b93665087d72e5d31723422003543a8 0d03426921a02328e75ddd75ffbe641f f9e279ddd4023827338457e2557d2bd8 1f909cdce2284e8d511fbe21f1c37e67

Considered as another timeless piece of design among traditional American tattoos, the traditional heart tattoo is another design that goes back to the sailors who wore these designs. Such a tattoo design allowed sailors to keep their loved ones with them when they journeyed through faraway places. This is also where the phrase “wearing your heart out on your sleeve” most likely came from.

In addition, traditional heart tattoos can also be combined with other designs to produce new meanings. For instance, crying hearts and hearts paired with daggers both depict broken-heartedness. Other than that, such imagery could also pertain to one’s ability to rise back stronger in the face of adversity.

9. Traditional Hourglass Sleeve Fillers

629be14d7a4a5bc4b7012688df2e2995 011963f1645136db2a62ff31ee784bc5 7ae1af2971c7e2bb3afd84787e0a0754 4de5048d38f8ba56c12558b33146b44e 4a1d56f0b0ba54ac8d32d44822ef9106

If you’re looking for a tattoo sleeve filler where you can incorporate your own story and meaning, then you should go for traditional hourglass tattoo fillers. The hourglass design might seem plain to you, but as a tattoo, they hold a deep meaning that can include your meaning as well.

The most common meaning an hourglass tattoo holds is about the progression of time, but they are also open to another array of meanings, according to the tattoo owner. And just like other traditional tattoos, hourglass tattoo designs are significant as the focus of your collection or as a tattoo sleeve filler.

10. Neo-Traditional Filler Tattoos

2d1e8cd7e3091620d2a7640dd45ecd68 37e0f5e3ec7d631fa3824c1f5e03407d 984f134350b98cc3d75483fe128d84ed c4500ace0bc8adab71d65aaf00d213f2 5c31b995b951bfb1d045d9e30a4e0a7b

Suppose you’re looking for filler tattoos that are a bit more modern but can easily complement your traditional or American-style tattoos. In that case, neo-traditional sleeve fillers might be the perfect choice for you. This is because a neo-traditional tattoo sleeve filler combines traditional elements and designs with much newer concepts of tattoos nowadays.

After all, your traditional American tattoos are primarily created with bold lines and a restricted color scheme. On the other hand, neo-traditional tattoos offer more choices in terms of color and design. And with the modern and traditional design combinations found in neo-traditional fillers, you can create a balanced look that perfectly makes your tattoo sleeve put together.

Final Takeaways

American traditional sleeve fillers usually comprise simplistic designs such as stars, flowers, arrows, and the like that perfectly align with your old-school classic tattoo collection. And depending on the spaces left for you to fill in, you can choose from a multitude of tattoo sleeve filler designs, styles, and sizes that will complete your tattoo sleeve.

It might seem difficult to fill out the awkward and varying spaces left on your skin, but there are always options for you. After all, your choices aren’t that limited as you think it is. Whether it’s small intricately designed tattoos or minimalistic designs, you can always get helpful advice from your professional tattoo artist to help you fill the gaps.