How Long Do Tattoos Take?

Written by: Pete

You’ve picked a design, had a consultation with your tattoo artist, and are ready to make that lifetime commitment to new ink. You may be wondering how long your tattoo appointment will run. There are many different factors that influence how long it takes to get a tattoo. We break down all the components of your session to help you get an idea of how long it takes to get tattooed. 

Related: What Does Getting A Tattoo Feel Like?

How Long Will It Take to Get My Tattoo?

If you forgot to ask your artist at your consultation for a general idea of how much time it will take to get your tattoo, don’t worry. There are a few things to consider in order to make an estimation on how long your tattoo appointment will be.

Tattoo Size

The size of your tattoo always has a significant impact on how long your tattoo will take. Small tattoos that are around 3-inches in size or simply and dainty script may only take about 30 minutes to be finished. Meanwhile, large pieces like building an entire sleeve or a back piece could take multiple sessions and multiple hours of work. 

Most often, you are paying for your tattoo by size and session length. If you and your artist have a plan for a piece that will be built up over time, you can expect maybe even 50 to 60 hours of work to be needed to complete your tattoo.

Tattoo Complexity

Along with size comes the complexity of the design. The more challenging or detailed the imagery, the more careful time your artist needs to work on it. If you are getting a large tattoo that is all line work, that will take less time than a large tattoo that has dot work detailing. 

Tattoo Placement

Where you are being tattooed on your body will also impact how long it takes for you to get a tattoo. Some places are more complicated to tattoo, such as your elbow, while others may be more painful, such as your feet. 

In addition to the artist’s challenge with certain regions of the body, your comfort comes into play. If you have to remain in a weird position for an extended amount of time, you are more likely to need breaks to stretch and get more comfortable. This will extend your appointment. 

Tattoo Coloring

If you are getting a black and gray tattoo, your design is likely focused on simplicity and shading. If you are getting a color tattoo, your artist will need to fill in parts of your skin that are not only painful but also time-consuming. The color scheme of your tattoo will impact how long it takes to get tattooed. The fewer colors you are using, the quicker it will be to finish your tattoo. 

 Your Artist’s Experience

Apart from the tattoo itself, the skill of your artist will make a big difference in how long or short your appointment is. If your artist is an apprentice, you should anticipate that the tattoo will take a lot of time. If your artist has a lot of experience with the design and placement, you may have a quicker tattoo. 

Your Pain Threshold

How much pain do you think you can handle? Pain tolerance to tattooing is very individual and comes down to:

  • Your genetics
  • Your immune system
  • Your learned behavior toward pain
  • Your mindset

Since your pain threshold is so unique, it’s hard to anticipate how long a tattoo will take, especially if this is your first tattoo! You will only know how much you can handle in the particular region you are getting tattooed once the artist has started. 

Check out our entire section on tattoo pain to learn coping skills and which regions are the most and least painful. 

Tattoo Sessions FAQs

How long does it take to get a small tattoo?

Generally, a small design or script could take thirty minutes to an hour to tattoo. You also need to consider setup time and the skill level of the artist.

How long does it take to get a full sleeve tattoo?

The length of time that a full sleeve takes depends on:

  • The size of your arm
  • Your planned design
  • The detail and coloring
  • The skill of the artist
  • Your pain tolerance

Generally, full sleeves can take multiple sessions and could be anywhere from 10 to 30 hours long.

How long does a portrait tattoo take?

It may take around eight hours for a medium-sized portrait piece to be tattooed.

How long do tattoos take at exhibitions and events?

Depending on the size of the piece you agreed to with the artist, they may book you for every day of the exhibition, just to be sure that they are able to get your tattoo completed before the event is finished. 

Our Final Thoughts

There are many different factors that may cause the length of your tattoo session to vary. You also need to be aware of how much pain and discomfort you can handle as this will impact how long it takes to get your tattoo. Along with your session, you then need to factor in the healing time for a tattoo which can take anywhere from three weeks to two months.

Copyright © 2023 Tattify. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy & Cookie Disclaimer.

The information contained on Tattify is intended for informational and educational purposes only. None of the statements made on this website are intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease, infection or illness. Please consult a healthcare practitioner before using tattoo/skincare products that may interfere with medications or known conditions. This article is provided with the understanding that it does not constitute medical or professional advice or services. If you are looking for help with your condition, please seek out a qualified medical practitioner.

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.