How Long Does It Take to Get a Tattoo?

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If you’re planning to get a tattoo, you might be surprised to learn that there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to how long it takes to get inked.

The duration required to complete a tattoo can differ significantly, varying from a few hours to over a year, depending on the design’s complexity, size, placement and the artist’s work pace.

On top of that, tattoos require careful planning, skilful execution, proper preparation, and adequate healing.

If you want to know how long it will take to get your tattoo, it’s best to ask the artist for an estimate, which will also give you an idea of the cost.

small tattoo closeup

As an example, if you’re planning to get a sleeve tattoo, be prepared to invest several months to years for the final outcome. Despite the time and effort involved, getting a tattoo will be worth it in the end.

Want to know how much time to set aside for getting a tattoo? We got you covered!

How Long Does a Tattoo Take Depending on the Size?

Generally speaking, when it comes to getting a tattoo, the size of the design plays a vital role in determining the time required to complete it. A larger tattoo takes more time to finish because it needs more ink and intricate details.

Small Tattoos 

If you’re planning to get a small tattoo, it can take around half an hour to an hour to complete, assuming it is simple in design. If the tattoo is intricate and contains a lot of color, line work, or has a tricky placement, it could take several hours to finish.

Small tattoos (like flash tattoos) are an excellent choice for those who prefer a quick tattooing process without spending too much time. Although a small tattoo that is only a couple of inches may seem like it’ll take only a few minutes, it’s best not to expect a quick in-and-out procedure.

It’s essential to consider preparation time and setup, even if your tattoo is as small 1” x 1”.

small tattoo on arm

Medium Tattoos 

If you’re planning to get a medium-sized tattoo, it could take anywhere from 2-3 hours to over 5 hours, depending on the design’s intricacy, color scheme, and body placement.

Palm or hand-sized tattoos are a little larger than small tattoos, so they take more time to complete.

Medium-sized tattoos usually have more intricate details than smaller ones, so it’s essential to expect a longer time for completion, but typically it can be finished in one session.

medium sized tattoo on arm

Large Tattoos 

Larger tattoos may require 1 full day to a few weeks to complete, as it may not be completed in a single sitting. If you can handle it, some artists may even devote an entire day to work on the tattoo, which could last as long as 8 hours or more.

Large tattoos, such as full sleeves, require multiple sessions, each lasting several hours to complete.

Planning and executing a large tattoo requires a significant amount of time also because the body needs time to heal while the tattoo is being worked on.

large tattoo on back

Please consider these examples as estimates. The best way to determine precisely how long your tattoo will take is to ask your tattoo artist.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Tattoo Sleeve?

The time required to complete a good quality tattoo sleeve could range from 30 to more than 60 hours, spread over several weeks or even over a year.

The duration depends on factors such as the tattoo’s complexity, how well it heals, and your satisfaction with the outcome.

Completing a complex and intricate tattoo sleeve can take more than a year.

These large tattoo sleeves may take up to 80 hours to finish, with plenty of ink used and lots of tiny details and shading involved. They typically comprise multiple large designs covering the entire arm or leg.

tattoo sleeve how long it takes

Factors That Affect How Long A Tattoo Takes

When it comes to getting a tattoo, size is not the only factor that determines how long it will take. Other factors that can affect the tattoo’s duration include:


The style of a tattoo significantly affects the duration it will take to complete.

Tattoos with more intricate details, colors, and styles take longer to finish. For instance, a realistic tattoo takes way more time than a simple outline tattoo, irrespective of their sizes.

mac miller tattoo how long does it take

Body placement  

Body placement is another significant factor that can affect the time it takes to complete a tattoo.

Certain body parts are more challenging to tattoo than others, and as a result, require more time to complete.

This is because the artist needs to be extra careful around nerve endings and bones, making sensitive areas take a lot longer.

chest neo traditional tattoo large


Pain is another crucial factor that can affect the duration of getting a tattoo. Your pain tolerance level and the body part you choose to get inked play a significant role in determining how long it takes to complete the tattoo. See our article on tattoos and pain for more details.

If you have a low pain threshold, you’ll need more breaks during the tattooing process, resulting in more time required to finish the tattoo.

Sessions go faster for those who can tolerate the pain of tattooing more.

tattoo sleeve


Tattoo aftercare is crucial, and how well you take care of your tattoo affects how long it takes to heal, ultimately speeding up the tattooing process.

If the tattoo gets infected or irritated, the tattoo artist cannot continue with your tattoo

So, yes, you play a part in determining the duration of the tattooing process. To take care of your tattoos like professionals do, check our tattoo aftercare instructions.

tattoo aftercare

Color vs black ink  

Colored ink tattoos (generally speaking) take longer to complete.

This is because the artist needs to spend extra time creating the perfect color and switch back and forth between the colors while tattooing. In contrast, black ink tattoos take less time because there’s no need to switch between colors.

Keep in mind that if your black ink tattoo has shading or gradients, it will also take longer to complete.

color sleeve


Getting a tattoo is a meticulous process that requires skill, careful planning, preparation, and healing, which can take some time.

To determine precisely how long your tattoo will take, it’s best to ask your tattoo artist for an estimate.

This will help you figure out the amount of time you need to spend at the shop and the cost of the tattoo. If you plan on getting a tattoo sleeve, keep in mind that it can take several months to a year to get the final product.

But, no matter how long the process takes, the outcome will be worth it in the end.


How big is a 1 hour tattoo?

It’s hard to say how big a tattoo you can get in one hour, as it depends on the design and how much pain you can handle. But usually, a one-hour tattoo is small and simple, like a coin or a few inches in length.

What takes the longest when getting a tattoo?

If you’re getting a colored tattoo, the artist may need to change the ink several times during the session. Depending on the location of the tattoo on your body, you may also need to shift positions frequently, which can also take time. Additionally, some areas of the body are more sensitive than others, and this can make the process slower due to the pain.

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