Patchwork tattoos have a long history, often obscured by their current diversity. Patchwork is a style that is most commonly seen in tattoo sleeves. A single sleeve can often be the work of multiple artists who use a variety of styles and tools. Quite like quilting – which is where patchwork gets its name from – the smaller tattoos combine to make a larger one.

Photo: Unsplash

Patchwork tattoo sleeve
Patchwork tattoo sleeve (Source: Unsplash)

Collages are all the rage now, in every art form. So it’s no surprise they’re just as popular within the tattoo communities, and patchwork is up there as one of the most sought-after styles. So without further ado, here are a few patchwork tattoo ideas to help you figure out your next ink.

Patchwork Tattoo Ideas and Designs

Outside of quilting, patchwork has another important source of influence – serving as the tattoo catalogs and sheets of famous artists in the industry.

Tattoo Flash

‘Tattoo flash’ designs have long been in use as tattoo parlor decor. These designs would adorn their shop walls and would also be compiled into catalogs for customers to browse. That way, you could walk into a tattoo parlor, pick a design out of the book, and be inked and out in as long as it takes you to eat a sandwich. Of course, it isn’t recommended you do both simultaneously, but that’s a tale for another time.

Tattoo flash designs in a catalog
Classic tattoo flash designs (Source: Unsplash)

Over time, tattoo lovers began getting these tattoo compilations done on their skin, and not long after, this version of the patchwork style became vogue. Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, for instance, has been both praised and criticized for his tattoos that seemingly feature an entire catalog. More specifically, many of Levine’s tattoos stand alone and aren’t part of a larger piece as is the case with most patchwork tattoos.

Needless to say, patchwork can be quite controversial. Not everyone is a fan, and even those that are tend to find that some patchwork tattoos are not to their liking. Alas, that’s simply the nature of art. Sometimes you love it, sometimes you don’t. But no matter what the piece, there will always be someone out there that vibes with it!

Patchwork Tattoos Size, Shape & Spacing

Patchwork tattoos, as noted, are usually smaller tattoos that, over time, combine to form a larger one. Often, first-time inkers will get a small, simple tattoo so they can get used to the pain before opting for larger ones. Once they’re ready, these small ones will develop into something more intricate.

Tattoo artist holding a tattoo machine and displaying their classic old school tattoos
Small patchwork tattoos (Source: Unsplash)

Some people, though, will dive straight in and get larger tattoos right off the bat. This is more so the case when they already know exactly what they want to have inked.

Patchwork Tattoo Sleeve

The natural progression with patchwork tattoos is to build a sleeve out of the smaller designs you get inked. In some cases, such as Levine’s, people treat it like a collage and build it up to a kaleidoscopic piece of art. In others, tattoo lovers find a way to link the smaller designs into one larger masterpiece. Whichever way you choose to go, have fun with it! After all, your body is your canvas and you get to decide how it gets painted.

Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo Ideas for Women

Patchwork tattoo sleeve ideas for women
Patchwork tattoo sleeve ideas for women (Source: Unsplash)

Not all women are comfortable getting a detailed intricate sleeve. Some might even prefer tattoo flash designs.

Patchwork flash tattoo sleeve for women
Patchwork tattoo sleeve for women (Source: Unsplash)

When selecting your tattoos, it helps to work out what aesthetic you prefer. In this tattoo, brightly colored floral patchwork tattoos in American traditional style come together to form a gorgeous sleeve.

If you’re looking for something heavier, however, there is the option of a blackout.

Woman displaying blackout sleeve tattoos
Blackout tattoo sleeve (Source: Unsplash)

Blackout tattoos are a great way to blend previously unconnected patchwork tattoos into a more uniform larger piece. They’re intense, striking, and certainly make a statement!

Patchwork Sleeve Tattoo Ideas for Men

Patchwork tattoos for men are as diverse as the options for women. Whether you’re looking for something detailed or something relatively simple, there’s a style out there to suit your needs.

Traditional Patchwork Tattoo Sleeve

Traditional patchwork tattoo sleeve for men
Traditional patchwork tattoo sleeve (Source: Unsplash)

Modern versus Traditional Patchwork Tattoos

While most might assume that to tattoo patchwork art you must use a traditional style, the reality is you can pick whatever style you want.

Looking for something traditional? Try Polynesian or classic American tattoos. Want something intricate or colorful? Irezumi designs can be either or both. Prefer something bright and bold? Try a New School cartoon tattoo. With so many options to choose from, the sky is the limit!

Irezumi Patchwork Tattoo

Irezumi tattoos are rooted in storytelling. Nothing comes closer to the art of quilting than this style.

Irezumi tattoo sleeve
Irezumi patchwork tattoo sleeve for men (Source: Unsplash)

Since larger tattoos cost more and take longer, people will break their final piece down into smaller patchwork tattoos and get the whole sleeve done in installments.

Tribal Patchwork Tattoo

Like Irezumi, the tribal tattoo style also draws on storytelling. But unlike Irezumi, which uses vibrant and detailed images, tribal styles are based on Polynesian tattooing and use several blackout pieces to make a sleeve.

Traditional tribal tattoos were earned by members of the community for their bravery and dedication. With each conquest, a new one would be added using traditional symbols to document their journey.

Classic patchwork sleeve and tribal sleeve tattoo
Classic and tribal patchwork sleeve tattoos for men (Source: Unsplash)

The modern tribal style draws inspiration from several traditional tattooing communities, including Polynesia, Southeast Asia, Hawaii, and more. To that end, modern tribal tattoos often feature elements from all these cultures, patched together into a gorgeous final tattoo sleeve.

New School Patchwork Tattoo Sleeve

New school tattoos draw inspiration from the ’80s and ’90s. They feature a myriad of pop-culture references, varied art styles, and vibrant colors.

New school patchwork tattoo sleeve for men
New school patchwork tattoo sleeve (Source: Unsplash)

New school tattoos developed as a response to traditional styles. Where classic tattoos use bold lines, red colors, and nautical or tribal imagery, new styles use a mix of quotes, pop art, brushstrokes, surrealism, and more.

To Patchwork Or Not – That is the Question!

Patchwork tattoos aren’t for everybody. Some people like more “order” in their ink, and patchwork can seem a little haphazard. But, as we’ve shown you above, not all patchwork has to look choppy. On the other hand, if that’s what you’re going for – fantastic! If it isn’t up your alley yet but you still find yourself drawn to the style, there are ways to make it work for you.

Tattoos are simply a way for you to express yourself. And there are no rules where that is concerned! For more tattoo ideas, check out Laugh Now, Cry Later Tattoo Meaning and Designs.

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