By Size, Style, Placement & More

If you’re wondering how long it takes to get a tattoo, you might be surprised by the answer: there is no set time limit for tattoos.  

Getting a tattoo can take – from the start of your first session, to the end of your very last- anywhere from a few hours, to a couple weeks, to even over a year.  

How long a tattoo takes to get depends on a number of things, like the size, design, body placement, artist, and how well you keep up with aftercare.  

Certain styles of tattoos and areas on the body take a lot longer to tattoo properly. Tattooing takes precision, attention to detail, and proper healing, which are all time-consuming.  

Follow this guide to learn more about how long it takes to get a tattoo: 

How Long Does a Tattoo Take Depending on the Size?

The size of a tattoo is usually what determines how long it will take. The bigger the tattoo, the longer it’ll take because it requires more ink and more details.

Small Tattoos 

Expect about half an hour to an hour for a simple, small tattoo. Keep in mind, however, a small tattoo with lots of color, line work, details, or a tricky placement could take several hours.  

Small tattoos are great for people who don’t want to go through a lengthy tattoo process, but still want some cool ink. 

A small tattoo only a couple inches in size realistically only takes only a few minutes, but don’t expect to be in and out that quickly.

Even if your tattoo is only 1” x 1”, you still have to account for prep time and set up. 

Small tattoo bee 

Medium Tattoos 

A medium sized tattoo the size of your palm or hand could take from around 2-3 hours to more than 5 hours to tattoo. This once again depends on the complexity of the design, colors, and body placement. 

Tattoos that are about the size of your palm are a little bigger and take more time.

Medium sized tattoos tend to have more detail than smaller ones, so expect it to take longer, but usually no more than one session.

Medium tattoo roses on back

Large Tattoos 

For larger tattoos you can expect multiple sessions, and you’ll have to return every few weeks to finish the piece. Some artists might even block out their entire day to knock out as much of the tattoo as possible, if you can handle it. That means a session could last as long as 8 hours.  

Large tattoos include full sleeves, and will certainly take multiple sessions, each several hours long.

Getting a large tattoo takes lots of planning and time to complete because your body is trying to heal in the meantime. 

Lion tattoo forearm m

Take these examples as estimations. If you want to know exactly how long will your next tattoo take, ask your tattoo artist.

If you need professional guidance, contact us and one of our artists will get back to you shortly.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Tattoo Sleeve?

A good quality tattoo sleeve could take up from 30 to more than 60 hours in total. These hours will be distributed in several weeks, and sometimes it can take over a year.

This depends on how simple or complex the tattoo sleeve is, how well it’s healing, and whether or not you like how it’s coming out.

A very complicated, intricate tattoo sleeve could take over a year to complete.

It’s not unusual for large tattoo sleeves to take 80 hours total. In these cases, lots of ink is used, there are tons of tiny details and shading, and it consists of multiple, large designs spanning the length of the arm or leg.

Read Also: Tattoo Sleeves: All You Need to Know

Factors That Affect How Long A Tattoo Takes

Size is not the only factor to take into consideration.  

These are some other factors that will affect how long a tattoo takes: 


The more intricate, detailed, and colored the tattoo, the longer it will take.

For example, a tattoo in the style of realism will take way longer than a simple outline, regardless of the size.

Afro Mom tattoo on dark skin

Body placement  

There are certain places on the body that are much more difficult to tattoo than others.

These places take longer to tattoo because the artist has to be extra cautious of all the nerve endings and bones underneath. As a result, sensitive areas will take a lot longer.

Hand tattoo polar bear


Your pain tolerance and the placement you choose for your tattoo also affect how long it will take.

If you have a low pain tolerance, you’ll need more breaks, and it will take the artist longer to finish.

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

Where do tattoos hurt most? Find out here

Old school eagle skull forearm


The better you are about tattoo aftercare, the faster your tattoo will heal, and the quicker the process can move along.

Tattoo artists cannot continue with your piece if it becomes infected or irritated, so you also play a part in determining how long it will take. 

Tattoo balm applied

Color vs black ink  

Tattoos that have colored ink tend to take longer.

This is because the artist has to take extra time to create the right color, then switch back and forth between those colors as they’re tattooing.

Black ink takes less time because there’s no need to switch back and forth between colors.

However, if your black ink tattoo has shading or gradients, this will also take longer. 


Tattoos take skill, careful planning, preparation, and healing, all of which take time.

The best way to tell how long your tattoo will take is to ask your artist for an estimate.

This estimate will tell you how long you’ll spend at the shop, as well as how much your tattoo will cost.  

If you’re planning on getting a tattoo sleeve, though, expect it to take several months to a year for the final product.

No matter how long your tattoo takes to get, it’ll be worth it in the end! 


* Get a commitment-free estimate of your new tattoo from one of our talented artists. Click the contact us button, send us your idea and we will get back to you shortly.