If you know you eventually want a sleeve, or if you’re going full-sleeve right out the gate, then Gualteros recommends starting at the shoulder. From there, you’ll work your way down the arm. “If someone came to me and let me do whatever I wanted, I’d start from the top with something that fits the body,” he says. “Something that doesn’t look like a sticker on the arm, then bring it down and fill it in.” Alternatively, he notes that some of his customers and fellow artists prefer to start at the wrist and work their way up, but on the same principle: By starting on one end, you aren’t guessing where to place everything else. Instead, you’re moving up or down the sleeve and filling it in with some kind of order.
The answers to those questions will determine whether you’re looking for a design or a specific image. A lot of guys are going for floral, geometric, or tribal designs just for the artistry. They add some flair to your skin. Other men choose images of religious figures, verses of Scriptures, or popular quotes to remind themselves and others what they believe in. Others feature tattoos of tigers, warriors, and dragons to show their strength. Still others get tattoos of skulls, an hourglass, or death faces to say, “I know it’s coming and I’m not afraid.” Finally, many men get tattoos of their favorite superheroes, movie characters, video games, or sports team logos as a sign of where their interests lie.