24 Cool Tattoo Ideas for Every Part of Your Arm

Garrett Munce
·6 min read
Photo credit: Halfpoint Images/ Getty
Photo credit: Halfpoint Images/ Getty

Name a more iconic place for a tattoo than your arm, I’ll wait. There’s a reason arms have been the preferred canvas for both tattoo artists and enthusiasts for decades (dare we say, centuries?). Arms offer a large canvas and a variety of options. There are wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulder caps—all perfect places for a tattoo. They also offer the opportunity to play with scale—both big, eye-catching and small and subtle tattoos look great on arms.

Tattoo trends come and go, but no matter what you choose to ink on your arm, make sure you’re in it for the haul. The permanence of a tattoo can be daunting, especially if it’s your first, which makes choosing the design seem like a near impossible task. That’s okay, a tattoo is not something you necessarily want to take lightly or get on a whim. I’m not saying it has to have some sort of deep meaning, but it has to at least be something you’ll want to look at for the rest of your life. If you’re having a tough time figuring out what you want, this list is here to help. Inspiration can run the gamut, from traditional to modern to abstract to realistic and everything in between.

Start with the ideas on this list of the best arm tattoos for men, and then look for an artist who has done pieces in the same vein that you like (Instagram is your best resource these days). And before the process starts, always get a tattoo consultation where you and your artist can fine tune your design so it’s completely unique to you. So roll up those sleeves, get your arm ready, and happy inking.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

The iconic heart and banner tattoo is the ultimate arm tattoo for guys, especially when placed prominently on your bicep. Large or small, it’s a tattoo design that’s instantly recognizable and has stood the test of time.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Nautical motifs are deeply associated with tattoo culture because, well, sailors were largely responsible for bringing tattooing to the West back in the day. Images of ships, anchors, mermaids, and other maritime symbols still look cool today and pay homage to the traditional side of tattooing.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

If the classic heart and banner isn’t for you, but you still want to wear your heart on our sleeve, a literal anatomic heart is a cool modern update to the idea.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Animals are always a big theme in tattooing because who doesn’t love animals? You can go realistic, but geometric styles look cool and modern when mixed with natural imagery.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

There are a few motifs that pop up in tattooing over and over, but few are more iconic than the pin-up arm tattoo. Classic traditional style pin-ups have stood the test of time and still look great today.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Like the pinup, a traditional sparrow arm tattoo design never goes out of style. They look great placed anywhere on your arm, but due to the curve of the design are ideal around elbows, wrists, and shoulder caps.

Photo credit: MARCO BERTORELLO/ Getty
Photo credit: MARCO BERTORELLO/ Getty

Inspiration quotes, sayings, or song lyrics are popular tattoos and your arm is the perfect place to ink these personal mantras. A placement on your arm, especially your forearm, ensures you see them often.

Photo credit: MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images
Photo credit: MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images

There are few relationships in a man’s life that are as long-lasting and intense as a favorite sports team. Sports and team-themed designs are a no brainer when you want everyone to know who you support.

Photo credit: South_agency/ Getty
Photo credit: South_agency/ Getty

Nature provides a never ending source of inspiration for tattoos, and images of trees and plants are perfectly suited for arms because they can be easily wrapped around your arms natural curvature.

Photo credit: franckreporter/ Getty
Photo credit: franckreporter/ Getty

Bold graphic designs that use blackwork (large shapes of black ink) can look either modern or traditional, depending on the design. They lines and shapes in abstract designs can also help enhance the natural shapes of your arm.

Photo credit: Jetta Productions Inc/ Getty
Photo credit: Jetta Productions Inc/ Getty

No matter what country you're from, a tattoo can pay homage to your heritage in a way that few other things can.

Photo credit: Portra/ Getty
Photo credit: Portra/ Getty

Riffing on the idea of a pin-up, a portrait can add an even more personal element if it’s someone you actually know, like a family member, a favorite celebrity, or historical figure.

Photo credit: Fernando Trabanco Fotografía/ Getty
Photo credit: Fernando Trabanco Fotografía/ Getty

Compass roses, cardinal directions, and even coordinates can help you stay on track when they’re tattooed on your arm.

Photo credit: Malte Jaeger
Photo credit: Malte Jaeger

Some of the best arm tattoo ideas come from just looking around your everyday life. Tools you use every day or favorite household objects make ideal, and sometimes surprising, tattoos designs.

Photo credit: supersizer/ getty
Photo credit: supersizer/ getty

Stars are simple, classic tattoo designs that look good in a variety of styles and sizes, plus they can be placed almost anywhere on your arm, even oddly-shaped areas like elbows. Other sky motifs like clouds look rad as space fillers when you’re going for a full sleeve.

Photo credit: Glowimages/ Getty
Photo credit: Glowimages/ Getty

Not all tattoos have to be real-life things. Simple, graphic shapes always look cool and can be combined in infinite ways to create something completely unique.

Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt Pink Sherbet Photography/ Getty
Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt Pink Sherbet Photography/ Getty

Why are dragons pop up in tattoo designs over and over? Because they are badass. No matter what style you choose or where you put it (might we suggest your arm), it’s eye catching.

Photo credit: Halfpoint Images/ Getty
Photo credit: Halfpoint Images/ Getty

Interlocking geometric designs are ideal if you’re trying to cover a large area like a forearm or bicep, but they can also be small and subtle depending on the shapes used and where they go. It’s one of the most versatile designs out there.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

We’ve established that words and sayings make perfect tattoos for arms, but who ever said they had to be big? A simple, single word is modern and subtle and can be a great conversation starter (and, depending on the placement, easy to hide if you want).

Photo credit: Marijana Lacalandra / EyeEm
Photo credit: Marijana Lacalandra / EyeEm

Japanese tattooing is one of the most recognizable and desirable tattoo styles out there. This flowing style is detailed and graphic and ideally suited for arms, especially if you want to someday extend it into a sleeve.

Photo credit: Hill Street Studios/ Getty
Photo credit: Hill Street Studios/ Getty

Rose motifs pop up in tattoo designs over and over because they are simple, graphic and hold a variety of meanings. Plus, they can be done in a variety of styles and look great with color or in black and white.

Photo credit: Ray Kachatorian/ Getty
Photo credit: Ray Kachatorian/ Getty

Skulls are a no brainer when it comes to an arm tattoo. Whatever style they’re done in—realistic, graphic, simple, or colorful—they’re always in style.

Photo credit: PeopleImages/ Getty
Photo credit: PeopleImages/ Getty

Tattoos don’t always have to be big and bold; these days, tattoos are trending smaller. Simple shapes and drawings look rad no matter where they’re placed on your arm and collecting a bunch of them looks even cooler.

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