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One of the most popular places to get a tattoo is the upper arm. Talk to any tattoo artist and they'll probably tell you that they do a good number of their business giving people armbands. Let's take a look at what goes into getting an armband tattoo.
Placement-wise, it's popular for a number of reasons. Upper arms are easy for the artist to work on. They can single-handedly stretch the skin, tattooing with their other hand. The area is a good size which allows for some relatively large tattoo designs. And there's a really good layer of muscle and body fat over most of the upper arm, which provides more cushioning during the tattoo process.
Along with general upper arm tattoos, the armband style of tattoo is very popular and has been been growing in popularity over the last several years along with tribal-style designs. Armbands are sometimes an entire design that wraps all the way around the upper arm or it can be a smaller design element that is repeated to form a band. They can be very subtle and thin, or thick and bold as you wish.
Placing an armband tattoo takes a bit of care. Too close to the crease of the upper arm and the inside portion of the design will be hitting the very sensitive areas near the armpit. Too low and the design gets near the elbow joint, another very painful area to tattoo. Most people place them around the midpoint of the bicep where the arm has the most muscle and padding. Many people opt for what is a 3/4 armband, leaving a bit of the inner arm bare of the design. For some, this is to skip the more sensitive inner arm and for others it's to avoid the pseudo-contortion required so that the tattoo artist can reach that part of the art to work.
If you are designing your own armband, remember that a human arm is not a perfect cylinder and that your artist may have to tweak the design a bit to make it fit your arm so that the two ends meet cleanly. This design challenge is another reason people leave a space inside the upper arm. If you lift weights, be conscious of not bulking up your arms too fast, as this can lead to stretch marks on the arms, and can damage the design of your tattoo.
To learn more about armband tattoos, you might like 500 Tattoo Designs by Henry Ferguson or
Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo by Terisa Green.
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