Celtic Sleeve Tattoos, Knotwork Wraps, Celtic Tribal Body Armor . . . call them what you will, these full coverage Celtic Tattoos are sure to make an impressive statement.
Note that this is one complete and seamless knotwork, entirely covering the forearm! Fitting the pattern precisely to your body is something I take pride in being able to accomplish.
As you can well imagine, tattoos on this scale require a significant commitment, advanced planning, and quite a bit of time. This page will provide you with more information about what goes into the process, and what you can expect if you aspire to this level of epidermal embellishment.
The first thing to know is that this is a multi-session commitment. Beginning with an initial day for consultation and design, followed by a minimum of two to three sessions of tattooing. Preparation and then installation - many hours are required to complete a complete sleeve or wrap of Celtic Knotwork. Depending on the scale and complexity, that could extend to four or five visits, as were required for the 'Celtic Warrior Leg' featured above. Individual sessions must be a month apart to allow for healing, so you cannot come for the weekend and do two back-to-back sessions. Ambitious people often suggest they are tough enough to get a massive amount done all at once, but it is a question of healing the skin without scarring, not how much pain you can bear.
Even for patterns that are already in this style and approximate shape, they must be custom fitted to each individual arm or leg. The first part of this bespoke tailoring is done by ColinFraser using Photoshop to bend the proportions of the pattern. Then a significant portion of the first day of tattoo work will be taken up with drawing directly on the skin, effectively "lacing-up" the seam left where the stencil's edges meet. The photos below show the process.
Once this custom stencil is on the skin, and the hand work of drawing all the lines together in a perfect weave is done, it is necessary to get all of the lines installed in the first session. Because of the time custom fitting takes, basic lines are often all that can be accomplished that first day. Below are some photos of first sessions to give you an idea of what a client leaves the studio with that day. We know it's difficult to live with an unfinished tattoo for a month between sessions - but, as the completed photos show, it's worth it!
Here you can see a complete knotwork leg in progress. The first session was lines, the second was black fill, and this is halfway through the third session. The left side shows how it started the third session (after healing a month from the second), and the right side shows what a difference the shading and line "tune-up" done in this session makes.
Here are a few more forearm knowtwork sleeves; click for larger views.
And, here are a few legs in the same style. Any pattern suitable for this style can be adapted to fit either an arm or a leg. Obviously legs are bigger than arms, so more sessions are usually required for full knotwork coverage. Click Here to read about one special Award Winning Celtic Leg Tattoo.
Because sleeves of celtic knotwork are large, complex, and non-representational, they can be effective as large coverup tattoos. In addition to using black lines and negative spaces, in order to to effectively cover unwanted tattoos the insides of the knots themselves must be colored. I have found that blue and green are the most effective colors to accomplish this.
As you can see in this cover up progression, a pinstripe of lighter green along the edges of the darker blue knots helps to maintain the flow of the weave and lighten the overall impression. A fourth session of "tune-up" was completed after the last photo here was taken, in order to be sure that the coverup was as complete and effective as possible. Often the colors need more than one pass, think of painting a light color on a dark wall. If there are black lines and solid areas underneath, multiple coats of color are needed to prevent the old tattoos from "ghosting up" to the surface.
If you are sentimental about your existing tattoos, it is possible that Celtic Knot Sleeve patterns can be adapted to include them:
The above photos show some examples of such adaptation. The knots can either be redrawn to accommodate the existing tattoo (as in the two side photos), or they can be run right up to and appear to dip under the edge of them, as in the center example. Either way, the goal is to have the finished sleeve look completely integrated and cohesive.
If you decide to come to the studio for a piece like one of these, the process requires that you come in advance for a consultation. Because half of my clients come from out of state, we are aware of the value of your time and are quite capable of meeting to consult on one day and then beginning the tattoo the next. On the first day measurements are taken, archives are perused, and decisions made. Overnight the knots are woven into a custom fitted design on paper, and then the next day the stencil goes on and the real fun begins.
We have files of raw knotwork patterns that can be turned into sleeves, as well as finished designs already drawn up that can be customized, and many photographic examples to educate you to the possibilities of what can be done with different methods of shading and coloring. It may even be possible to incorporate a pattern you have found elsewhere.
Finally, If you can't travel to Santa Barbara, patterns for knotwork wrap sleeves and legs are available for purchase and immediate download in the LuckyFish Art Flash Store. Each download includes written "how-to" instructions, for the purpose of guiding your local professional tattoo artist through the process shown here. It is as thorough as I can make it, but if you choose to go to someone unfamiliar with this specialized kind of tattooing I encourage you to ask your artist to also view this page for visual illustrations.
Of course, I prefer to think that after seeing this explanation of the process you will decide to MAKE AN APPOINTMENT and come to a specialist, one who takes great pride in performing this very challenging type of tattooing. Every one of these I do is different; every client makes choices that make their piece a challenge, and the completed work is something both I as the artist and they as the wearer can be very proud of. Tattoos on this scale are life changing, and should you decide to engage my services I will do my best to be the agent of completion for your desire to BE ART!