Elbows are one of the more painful spots to get tattooed, but if you’re wanting that full sleeve it’s something you’ve got to tough out. 

Horseshoe and Flower by Caige Baker at the Brindle Room in Calgary, Alberta
Spiderweb by Tony Torvis at Mortem Tattoo in Montréal, Quebec

There are lots of designs that fit the shape of the elbow well, such as spiderwebs, flowers, mandalas, geometric shapes, and other “gap filler” type pieces. 

Mandala by Hans Joen Heggum at Blue Arms Tattoo in Oslo, Norway
Heart web done by Tasha Terror at Three of Swords Tattoo in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Elbow tattoos also often take a bit longer to heal than many other locations on the body just because it’s a joint that most of us use all day every day. All that movement irritates the area so you can expect prolonged swelling, and maybe more scabbing than other tattoos you have.

Spiderweb done by Gabriel Buison
Bright flower piece done by Jasmine Worth at Remington Tattoo in San Diego

Because the bone lies directly under the skin with virtually no “padding” on your elbow, it’s going to hurt more than the rest of your sleeve, which is why many people choose to save it for last, or choose a design that doesn’t fully cover the area such as a spiderweb or a horseshoe.

Geometric dot work piece by Tommy Birch
Bright and bold flower piece by Capa Tattoo at Tattoo Circus in Italy

While spiderweb tattoos are arguably one of the most popular elbow designs among old school collectors, you should be aware that originally this design was meant for people in prison, often signifying how much time a person has done. Nowadays most people won’t assume that you’ve been to prison if you have this tattoo, but it’s important to be aware of. 

Black work butterfly by Alin in Seoul, Korea
Colourful spiderweb by Dave at Trophy Tattoo in Hamilton, Ontario

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