Tattoo Sizes: Expert Guide With Examples (2021 Updated)

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Too many people spend hours agonizing over the design and style of their tattoo. And sure, these are essential aspects you need to decide on before you get inked… but never underestimate the power of size and placement! Deciding on tattoo sizes is such an important thing to do. It can make or break your tattoo design.

Oh, and this is seriously important. Laser tattoo removal can cost thousands of dollars (we know, we’ve written extensively on the topic) so making sure your dream tattoo is perfect the first time, is so vital!

In this guide to tattoo sizes, we’ve covered some brilliant tattoo size examples plus included charts for tattoo size prices, session times, and good placements.

Why Tattoo Size Matters

The size of your tattoo impacts numerous things, just like the placement.

  • The cost of the tattoo – the more ink, the more the cost.
  • Session times – you’ll need multiple sessions if the tattoo is large.
  • Placement – some large tattoos just won’t fit in the area you want.
  • Shading and detail – some designs aren’t suited for very small sizes, and vice versa.

Imagine planning and drawing your dream tattoo for months, only to discover that your tattoo artist thinks it’s impossible in the size you want!

That’s why our guide is so important. Make sure you read all the info we’ve collated on tattoo size and chat with your chosen tattoo artist about what’s possible and what isn’t.

Tattoo Size Chart

Tattoo Size Number of Sessions Approx. Cost Good Placements
<1 inch <1 $50 Ear, wrist, toe, finger
1-2 inches 1 $100 Wrist, ankle, clavicle
2-3 inches 1-2 $150 Wrist, ankle, upper arm, calf
3-4 inches 2 $200 Chest, neck, lower arm
4-5 inches 2-3 $250 Shoulder, ribs, lower back, thigh
5-7 inches 5 $300 Half sleeves, upper arm, upper back
7-10 inches 7 $400+ Sleeves, hip, thigh
10-15 inches 8-9 $500+ Back, side body, full leg sleeve
>15 inches 10+ $700+ Full body

We’ve created these figures as a rough guide, based on our own experiences and a sample of tattoo artists we queried.

Each session is defined as roughly 2 hours, although a session can range anywhere from 1 hour to 5 hours depending on the tattoo artist. The cost per session is highly variable too, so don’t be surprised or disappointed if your tattoo quote is higher than expected – read our section below about what can impact the tattoo price besides size.

We’ve also got some tips on how to tell if a quote is too high and over-priced.

Please keep in mind that these figures are only estimates and averages. For example, a 1-inch tattoo of a fine line heart, with no detail at all, is going to take a lot less time and potentially be a lot cheaper than a 1-inch tattoo of a realistic, highly detailed and shaded dice tattoo.

It’s all relative!

2×2 Tattoo Size

2x2 Tattoo Size
Credit: Instagram

2 inches doesn’t sound like a lot, but the 2×2 tattoo size is actually more than enough space to add some detail. Check out this ankle tattoo, for example. 2 inches provides just enough space for some bright color, a little detail, and clean sharp lines.

If you have naturally small lower arms and wrists, you may find that a 2-inch tattoo completely covers your wrist area from one side to the other.

Some great tattoo ideas for this size include:

3×3 Tattoo Size

3x3 Tattoo Size
Credit: Instagram

Don’t forget that increasing from a 2×2 tattoo size to a 3×3 tattoo size increases the whole area, so it’s actually quite a bit larger than you may think. A 3-inch tattoo size still fits comfortably on the lower arm, wrist and ankle areas just like the 2-inch tattoo sizes. But 3-inch tattoo sizes also look great elsewhere. The upper arm area, shoulder and the back of your neck are all good placements to consider.

We’ve also found numerous 3-inch tattoos on the ribs and chest area. It’s just the right size to decorate your mid torso without dipping down to your stomach.

Some great tattoo ideas for this size include:

  • Small floral motifs,
  • Feathers, swords, and other long shapes,
  • Small animals and animal portraits.

4×4 Tattoo Size

4x4 Tattoo Size
Credit: Instagram

From wing to wing, this cool bat tattoo is likely just over 4 inches, but don’t forget that it’s quite narrow from head to tail. That’s something you need to consider when thinking about tattoo sizes greater than 3-inches. Most 4-inch tattoo sizes tend to be oblong or rectangle, so they can fit along the lines of your body.

This one flatters the shoulder area, but the upper arm or lower leg works as well – but of course, you can’t really fit a 4×4 square there.

So, when considering these great tattoo ideas, think about the shape as well as the size. Many tattoo artists will charge by square inch!

  • Cartoon characters,
  • Small artistic scenes and abstract designs,
  • Tigers and dragons,
  • Portraits of loved ones or heroes.

6×6 Tattoo Size

6x6 Tattoo Size
Credit: Instagram

This tattoo over the rib area is slightly wider than 6 inches but makes up for it by being quite narrow.

6 inches is also a very good tattoo size for arms, as it mostly covers up either the lower arm or upper arm without becoming a full-blown sleeve. A 6-inch tattoo also looks great on the hip and thigh area, or on your upper back and shoulder area.

Furthermore, 6 inches allows you to get in quite a bit of detail. Your tattoo artist has more space to move and show off their artistic talent. Just bear in mind that this will increase the costs and length of each tattoo session.

Great tattoo ideas that fit this size include:

  • Large font,
  • Skulls and roses,
  • Mandalas and intricate butterflies.

Tattoo Size Prices: Why They’re Hard to Guess

Tattoo Size Prices Why They’re Hard to Guess

Tattoo sizes all have different prices, but sometimes it can be hard to understand why. You may have a quote from one tattoo artist who can ink your 5-inch tattoo for $250 while another will happily do it for $180.

So, besides the size of the tattoo, here are some interesting factors that impact your tattoo session costs.

  • Initial start-up equipment. Things like needles, ink colors, sterilizing equipment, and even rent for the tattoo studio is included in the price. Some tattoo studios will use different equipment, which could change their prices.
  • Tattoo detail. If your tattoo requires numerous colors and numerous intricate details, then it’s going to take more concentration and longer sessions for the tattoo artist to complete. So, naturally, they may want to charge you more.
  • Busy books. When you want to get a tattoo, a tattoo artist will book you in. When a tattoo artist has no more time slots available or is taking a break, they may say their books are closed or that they’re not taking on any more bookings. If an artist is in high demand, they may want to increase their prices to prevent being over-booked.
  • Talent and reputation. This links to the reason above. A talented and famous tattoo artist may charge more, because they are in high demand and you’re paying for their art on your body. For example, a Van Gogh painting sells for a lot more than a painting your niece can make… even if both are paintings of sunflowers.
  • Specialist tattoos. Not every tattoo artist is an expert in every single tattoo style. Most artists will specialize in a specific style, like traditional American, surrealism, or fine line art, for example. They may charge more for tattoos in these styles because they can provide a premium service for them.

What If the Price Seems Too High?

What If the Price Seems Too High
Credit: Instagram

The best thing to do is to ask other tattoo artists for a quote. Show them or explain the design you want and ask them what they think a reasonable price is. To do this, you can usually find numerous artists active on Instagram and Facebook. All you need to do is send them a polite message. They may come back with lower, higher or similar prices to your initial quote.

That’s a good way to tell if you’re being ripped off or not.

You might also want to reach out to previous customers. Check the reviews on social media for your chosen tattoo artist or tattoo studio. It might be that they’ve given you an expensive quote because they’re actually the best in the state!

Tattoo Size by Time

Tattoo Size by Time
Credit: Instagram

The time it takes to ink a tattoo depends on the artist, your pain tolerance, and the style of tattoo. As you can image, a very simple minimalist tattoo made entirely of line work will be quicker than a detailed, realistic tattoo with a lot of shading.

The simplest tattoos can be completed within an hour. Detailed full back pieces can take upwards of 20 hours. For your sake and the tattoo artists, this time is broken down into sessions. If you’re a pro, you may be able to withstand a 5-hour session!

Below we’ve compared a 2-hour tattoo with a 6-hour tattoo so you can see the difference that those extra sessions make on the size and detail of the tatt.

Don’t forget that regardless of the tattoo size, your artist may want to do one final touch-up session once the tattoo has healed.

2 Hour Tattoo Size

2 Hour Tattoo Size
Credit: Instagram

Impressed by how much detail? Us to! This very talented tattoo artist can tattoo a full thigh tattoo in a 2-hour session. At first glance, this roughly 6-7 inch tattoo (by our estimates) is quite detailed and looks like it would take hours to complete.

But there are some tricks here. First of all, the tattoo would have come from a stencil. Before the tattoo session, a stencil was printed on transfer paper. This is then transferred to your skin. No matter the tattoo sizes you’re interested in, this will speed up the process.

Finally, it’s all line work. The shading, which adds color or depth, requires a needle change and numerous inks. It’s time consuming. So, you can see that by avoiding shading in your design, you can get a large tattoo in quite a short session!

6 Hour Tattoo Size

6 Hour Tattoo Size
Credit: Instagram

This tattoo took 3x as long as the 2 hour tattoo session above. You can really see the difference, even though it’s roughly the same size. Adding 4 hours gave this artist plenty of time to add color, detail and shading to the design.

This design is Alphonse Mucha-inspired, which is from the art nouveau movement. This is a good example of how the size of the tattoo might not matter as much as the design when it comes to cost. Not every tattoo artist will be able to mimic this style so expertly, and use this range of colors.

Tattoo Font Size Guide

Tattoo Font Size Guide
Credit: Instagram

When it comes to font style and sizes, there are some slightly different rules. Usually, font tattoos are slightly cheaper, especially if you’ve already found your font instead of relying on the artist to create one.

This is because text and quote tattoos tend to be one long line and only require line work, with minimal shading (if any).

When it comes to picking a font size, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Is it legible? Print out the font and text on paper, then pin it to one wall. Go stand across the room and try to read it. Your text should be legible – it definitely shouldn’t be mistaken for another word or even just a bunch of symbols.
  • Does it suit the placement? For example, text along the side of one finger is a popular tattoo placement. But you’d struggle to fit an ostentatious or bulky font in this area. Likewise, very fine lines and a minimalist font might not look great over the wide expanse of your back.

Thankfully, playing around with font sizes is really easy. Either pick a font from online or scan your own font into a computer. You can scale it up and down to different sizes, print it off, and hold it against your skin to see what it will look like.

Our 3 Favorite Tattoo Font Sizes

Our 3 Favorite Tattoo Font Sizes
Credit: Instagram

There are so many fonts available out there, so don’t panic if you can’t make your own easily. Go ahead and try a pre-designed font. You can ask your tattoo artist if there’s any fonts that they specialize in, or hunt for your own to customize.

Some great places to find fonts online include:

  • Google Fonts – an amazing variety of simple, subtle font styles.
  • 1001 Free Fonts – there are some really creative and artistic fonts here.
  • Font Space – use their font generator to come up with ideas.

Small Tattoo Font – Soft Handwriting

Small Tattoo Font – Soft Handwriting
Credit: Instagram

With very small fonts, joined-up handwriting really looks sweet. This simple name lettering tattoo on the forearm is in a gentle, flowing script. This is a lovely font for wrists, fingers and hands, or it can be placed on your neck, behind the ear, breast, or along your collarbones.

Similar fonts online:

Medium Tattoo Font – Clear but Cursive

Medium Tattoo Font – Clear but Cursive
Credit: Instagram

Medium-sized tattoos, like this 2-3 inch tattoo along the wrist, looks best with a slightly bolder font. Joined up handwriting tends to look a bit messy and difficult to read at this size, because the letters are generally spaced out more.

So, go for slightly thicker calligraphy type fonts. This looks great along your forearm, ankle, rib cage or upper back/neck.

Similar fonts online:

Large Tattoo Font – Go Bold!

Large Tattoo Font – Go Bold!
Credit: Instagram

Wow! Who said lettering tattoos needed to be just letters? This full leg piece shows how simple letters can become so much more when you have a talented tattoo artist. The key to very large font tattoos is to keep them simple. The swirling fonts tend to look to complicated when they’re this size. You don’t want to be struggling to read them!

Similar fonts online:

Tattoo Needle Tip Size Chart

Tattoo Needle Tip Size Chart
Credit: Instagram

The last thing that’s relevant in our tattoo guide to tattoo sizes, is needle sizes. Did you know that there are many needle types and sizes? Whether you’re a professional tattooist or are just interested in the tattoo process, this chart will explain what needle is used and when.

There are three types of needles – round, magnum, and flat. Then there are subtypes.

  • Round liner (RL) – great for lines and outlines.
  • Round shader (RS) – good for general shading.
  • Magnum shader (MS) – awesome for shading large areas quickly.
  • Curved magnum shader (CMS) – ideal for delicate shading.
  • Flat (F) – perfect for geometric and mandala lines and shading.

Next, needles are sorted by a number. For example, 5RS means that it is a round shader with 5 points at the end of the needle – that will allow you to shade a small area quickly. 2RL, on the other hand, is a round liner with just 2 points, so it will create a thin line instead.

Needle Diameter Sizes

Gauge Number Size Ink Flow Best For
#8 0.25mm Very slow Very intricate detail – it’s slow but allows amazing precision.
#10 0.3mm Steady but slow Popular for most tattoos when you need a slow but steady stream for accuracy.
#12 0.35mm Medium-fast flow The most used needle gauge size. Allows a fast flow of ink for rapid tattooing. Great for line work.

As you can see, there are many numerous ways you can mix and match your tattoo needle. A small gauge number with a single flat needle (1F) would produce a very small flow of ink and a very fine line. At the other end of the spectrum, the standard #12 gauge size with a large magnum needle set-up (7MS), would allow you to quickly shade and fill in blog colors quickly.

Quick Recap: How Do I Select Tattoo Sizes?

Quick Recap How Do I Select Tattoo Sizes
Credit: Instagram

If there’s only one thing you take away from our guide, let it be this:

  • Browse our tattoo sizes chart to understand timings and costs,
  • Choose a size that fits the placement you want,
  • Choose a design and style that looks great at that size,
  • Talk to your tattoo artist about what is possible (and what isn’t),
  • Use Saved Tattoo to find lots of inspiration!

Most importantly, have fun and fall in love with tattoos. It’s permanent body art, so make sure the size, design, and placement are absolutely perfect!

Quick-Fire FAQs

Quick-Fire FAQs
Credit: Instagram

Let us answer your burning questions.

How do you know what size a tattoo is?

Measure it. To find the square inches, multiply the length by the width.

What tattoo can I get for $100?

On average, $100 pays for a small tattoo of 1-2 inches, but it varies depending on the tattoo style.

How much should you tip for a tattoo?

The general rule is 20% to 30% of the overall cost. That’s a lot, so budget for the tip from the start. The larger the tattoo, the larger the tip.

Read More: How Much Should You Tip Your Tattoo Artist?

What tattoo size can I get in an hour?

It depends on the tattoo style, but typically a moderately detailed 2-inch tattoo or a large but very minimalistic 5-6 inch tattoo. It also depends on the tattoo artist.

How big are forearm tattoos?

Tattoos on your lower arm (but not a full sleeve) are typically 3 to 4.5 inches wide and 7 to 9 inches long. It depends on the size of your arm.

Is a 6-hour tattoo session too long?

6 hours is pushing it – only the pros with high pain tolerance will sit for this long. Most tattoo sessions are 1 to 5 hours long.

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