A Comprehensive Guide To Choosing The Best Tattoo Size

Wear your body art but look sharp while doing it. Choose the right tattoo size for you!

Written by Shreya Mukherjee, MA (English)
Edited by Subhrojyoti Mukherjee, MA (English)
Fact-checked by Gazala Firdos Ansari, Integrated MA (English)  • 

It is productive to inquire about different aspects of getting inked before making up your mind. Tattoo sizes are one of them. Those who get inked for the first time often agonize about the size, design, and style of the tattoo. It is also natural to wonder if one will be able to handle the pain that accompanies the tattooing process, especially if they choose a larger tattoo design. The tattoo size one chooses may depend on one’s preference with regards to style, placement, as well as pain threshold. Before zeroing in on a design, you must familiarize yourself with the tattoo size choices available to you as size matters! Keep scrolling to learn more about them.

Tattoo Size Chart

A tattoo size chart is useful to get a sense of the approximate size of the tattoo alongside details of cost, duration, and placement of the design. Take a look at it below.

Tattoo SizeCost (approx)Number Of SessionsPlacement
Less than 1 inch$501Wrist, ear, finger, toe
1-2 inches$1001Clavicle, wrist, ankle
2-3 inches$1501-2Calf, wrist, ankle, upper arm
3-4 inches$2002Neck, chest, lower arm
4-5 inches$2502-3Shoulder, ribs, thigh,  lower back
5-7 inches$3005Half sleeves, upper back, upper arm
7-10 inches$400+7Hip, thigh, sleeves
10-15 inches$500+8-9Full back, leg sleeve, side body
More than 15 inches$700+10+Full body

While you can use these details for reference, the cost of a tattoo may vary depending on the tattoo parlor or the tattoo artist as well.

protip_icon Trivia
The tattoo on Justin Beiber’s torso representing two angels defeating evil took 26 hours over 3 consecutive days to complete. In total, he has over 60 tattoos on his body.

While referring to A guide to tattoo sizes would be incomplete without discussing the size of the needles used for the tattooing process. Different needles are used for different designs, styles, and tattoo sizes. Let us take a look at them below.

Types And Sizes Of Tattoo Needles

Different types of tattoo needles
Image: Shutterstock

Choosing needle sizes based on the desired effect, area size, and intricacy of your tattoo design helps make the process efficient. Larger needles cover more significant areas, while smaller ones are suitable for finer details. Find out more about the types of needles and their purpose in the table below.

Types Of NeedlesSizes (Gauge)Purpose
Round Liner1, 3, 5, 7, 9Outline work, fine lines
Round Shader3, 5, 7, 9, 11Shading and coloring small to medium areas
Flat Shader4, 6, 8, 10, 12Broad shading with lots of filling, larger color fills
Magnum5, 7, 9, 11, 13Shading large areas, smooth gradients
Curved Magnum5, 7, 9, 11, 13Contouring, shading in curved areas
Round Magnum5, 7, 9, 11, 13Versatile shading, coloring work

The gauge of a needle refers to its diameter, and it is typically measured in gauge points. Needle gauges are commonly used to indicate the thickness or diameter of the needles. The larger the needle diameter, the lower the gauge number.

  • Low Gauge (3 points): It represents a thicker needle with a larger diameter. These needles are commonly used for bold lines or filling in larger areas.
  • Medium Gauge (7 points): This indicates a mid-range needle diameter. These needles are versatile and can be used for various purposes, such as outlining and shading.
  • High Gauge (11 points): This represents a finer needle with a smaller diameter. Higher gauge needles are suitable for detailed work, fine lines, and intricate designs.

It is important to note that the gauge of the needle determines the ink flow. The larger the gauge, the more ink it holds. Learning about the needles helps you determine the size of the tattoo you want to get. Some of the most common tattoo sizes are discussed below.

A Guide To Different Tattoo Sizes

If you are looking for inspiration before you get a new tattoo, it is best to take note of the size first. The tattoo size determines the kind of design that may complement it best. Let us discuss some of the common tattoo sizes below.

  • Palm-Sized Tattoos
A woman with a palm sized moon tattoo on her back
Image: IStock

Palm-sized tattoos refer to tattoos roughly the size of one’s palm. A lot of variety is to be found in this size of tattoos, and it allows for decent visibility without complicating the tattooing process much. You can also modify and style different tattoo shapes in this size.

  • Medium-Sized Tattoos
A medium size tattoo of the words “Carpe Diem” at the back of a woman
Image: IStock

The best thing about getting medium-size tattoos is that they can be placed anywhere on your body. A medium-size tattoo can range between 2-6 inches and can accommodate geometric shapes, writings, portraits, or most other tattoo ideas you may have in mind. If you are having trouble finding inspiration, you can always go for designs inspired by the moon, the sun, and nature to complement this size. Ideal areas include forearm, upper arm, shoulder, back, calf, and thigh.

  • Quarter-Sized Tattoos
A quarter sized heart tattoo in black ink at the side of the wrist
Image: Shutterstock

Quarter-sized tattoos are basically 1-inch tattoos, which is the ideal size for minimalist and chic designs. They are subtle and can be placed anywhere on the body – a common trend in this size is finger tattoos – be it your arms, legs, back, chest, or neck. These tattoos are great for those who have a very small design in mind and want to get it done in an hour or so. You can play around with tattoo inks if you are considering a color tattoo. Common colors include red, white, blue, green, or even black for such small tattoos.

Kasia, a blogger, got a quarter-sized tattoo of the ampersand which holds a lot of meaning for her. While she chose a size she wanted, she trusted the tattoo artist’s recommendation to increase the size by a smidge. She wrote, “I had to get mine a smidge bigger than I had expected because the artist said he didn’t want the loops to close in on themselves as it healed–advice I genuinely appreciated and something I hadn’t even considered (i).”

  • 2×2 Tattoos
A 2X2 heart tattoo on the wrist
Image: Shutterstock

It may not be a big enough size for intricate designs, yet it is the ideal size to provide a bit of flair on your skin. You can place it over your ankles or wrists or you can get it near your rib cage if you can handle the pain. This tattoo size allows you to play with some color and simple tattoo designs, including motifs of hearts, butterflies, moon, star signs, and other minimalistic and geometric motifs.

  • 3×3 Tattoos
A woman sports a 3x3 tattoo with three roses on the back of her upper arm
Image: Shutterstock

This tattoo size offers more space than 2×2 for you to be creative with your design. You may opt for designs that balance detail and impact. You can fit a body art piece in this size on your lower arms, biceps, shoulders, or behind your neck if you want it to be more visible. You may opt for motifs of flowers, vines, feathers, animals, swords, etc., in this size.

  • 4×4 Tattoos
A woman with a 4x4 owl tattoo on the side of her body
Image: Shutterstock

This size is perfect for a detailed tattoo. You may place it over your shoulders, back, sides, or thighs. This tattoo is great for portraits, fictional characters, dragons, snakes, or any other edgy design that you may have in mind.

  • 5×5 Tattoos
A woman flaunting a 5x5 tattoo
Image: Shutterstock

Offering a little bit more area than the 4×4 tattoo size, the 5×5 tattoo size is considerably bigger and might need more than 2-3 sessions if you opt for an intricate tattoo. This size can easily accommodate detailed portraits, cartoons, fictional beasts, and other abstract designs. It is recommended to opt for this on large parts of the body.

  • 6×6 Tattoos
A woman flaunting a 6x6 upper arm tattoo
Image: Shutterstock

If you want to get a half sleeve, then a 6-inch tattoo would be your best choice. It covers your upper arms and leaves some space to make it look beautiful without your having to get a full-sleeve tattoo. You may get an advanced tattoo of this size on your back or your rib area but it may take more than 4-5 sessions. Designs featuring skulls, roses, snakes, symbols, and other designs may complement this size well.

While it is generally understood that the bigger the tattoo the more time it takes to complete, it is not always so simple. Let us find out more about it in the next section.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Tattoo Based On Its Size?

Generally, the time required for a tattoo depends on its size. Smaller tattoos, such as a palm-sized design, may take about 1 to 2 hours to complete. Medium-size tattoos may take around 2 to 4 hours. Larger tattoos, spanning an entire back or thigh, can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours or more. Intricate details and color complexity may extend the duration. Keep in mind that individual pain tolerance, breaks, and the artist’s efficiency also influence the duration. It is essential to openly communicate with your tattoo artist about your preferences and concerns to ensure a comfortable and satisfying experience.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Gregory Paul McLaren, aka Lucky Diamond Rich, holds the Guinness World Record for having covered his whole body in tattoos. It took over 1000 hours (41 days) to tattoo his entire body.

While we have covered various common tattoo sizes and provided a rough idea of the time it may take to get a tattoo of a certain size, you should also be able to measure a tattoo if you want. Wondering how it is done? Follow the tips in the next section to measure your tattoo size.

How To Measure Tattoo Size

Accurately measuring a tattoo size is crucial to cross-check the quotation given to by a tattoo artist and gain more insights into tattoo placement. You may also just want to measure it for the sake of it. The tips below will also help you avoid incorrect tattoo sizing.

  • Break It Down: For intricate designs, measure individual sections and calculate their sizes separately.
  • Consider Negative Space: Account for any gaps or empty areas within the design that contribute to its overall size.
  • Calculate Square Inches: Multiply the length by the width to determine the total size in square inches.
  • Include Additional Elements: Factor in borders, text, or other components that contribute to the overall dimensions.

Choosing the right tattoo size helps ensure a satisfying and visually appealing outcome. It involves taking account of design intricacies, personal preferences, and body placement. By using measuring tools diligently, breaking down complex designs, and factoring in additional elements, one can provide accurate specifications to the tattoo artist. Clear communication with the artist is paramount for optimal results. Remember, the best tattoo size is not solely determined by trends but rather by harmonizing your vision with the canvas of your body.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a medium-size tattoo cost?

Medium-size tattoos typically cost between $150 and $500. The cost of tattoos may vary due to tattoo difficulty based on tattoo detail and the artist’s expertise.

How long does a palm-sized tattoo take?

A palm-sized tattoo generally takes about 1 to 2 hours to complete in the hands of an experienced artist. However, it also depends on design complexity, shading, and other body art specifics.

How long does a medium-size tattoo take?

Typically, a medium-size tattoo that ranges between 2 and 6 inches may take around 2 to 4 hours to complete. It also depends on the design, color, shading, and expertise of the tattoo artist.

How much does a quarter-sized tattoo cost?

The cost of a quarter-sized tattoo, typically a 1-inch design, varies but is generally in the range of $50 to $200. Size impacts price, but it may change according to the area, design, color usage, and the artist’s experience.

What is a good size for a first tattoo?

A palm-sized or 2-inch tattoo is a good size for a first tattoo. This size ensures visibility, allows for a straightforward tattooing process, and offers versatility in design choices.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose a size that suits your preferences, such as level of comfort and intricacy of design. Remember size impacts design.
  • Inquire about the cost and time it would take for a tattoo before deciding on a tattoo size.
  • When starting out, palm-sized or quarter-sized tattoos are ideal as they can be finished relatively quickly than larger sizes.
  • While 4×4 or 5×5 tattoos provide ample space for intricate details and complex designs, they may take several sessions and be more painful.

When you decide to get a tattoo, it is important to take into consideration the size as it helps determine the design and placement. The YouTube video below provides a guide to help you choose the right size for your new tattoo. Check it out!

Personal Experience: Source

(i) I Got A Tattoo (& Things To Consider If You Want One, Too)

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