Highly visible and attractive, forearm tattoos are a great way to express yourself.
In this article, we’re going to look at forearm tattoos in detail. Whether you’re looking for practical information or design inspiration, we’ve got you covered!
Don’t forget to scroll down to the end to see a massive gallery of the best forearm tattoos!
Placement of forearm tattoos
By ‘forearm tattoo’, we mean a design placed anywhere between the wrist and the elbow.
This can mean everything from a small design in the center of the forearm (on the inner or outer side) to a half-sleeve: a tattoo covering the entire lower arm.
Full sleeves, as you may already be aware, stretch from the wrist to the top of the shoulder. Half sleeves start at the elbow and end either at the wrist or the shoulder.
A half-sleeve on your lower arm will wrap all the way around. With half sleeves, there is little to no skin showing between your wrist and your elbow.
A lot of the time, people who get half sleeve tattoos on their forearms later expand the design into a full sleeve.
It’s helpful to remember this when you’re picking out your forearm tattoo design. If you want to add to it later on, you’ll need another design that’s similar in style, so that the two halves of your sleeve can form a cohesive whole.
Side forearm tattoo
Smaller designs that don’t wrap around your forearm can be placed either in the center of your forearm, or on the side.
Whether this is a good idea for your tattoo will depend on the design you’ve chosen. The inner side of the lower arm is the most popular placement for forearm tattoos, because it’s the flatest surface. The side, meanwhile, is more curved.
Visualize the design on your arm, taking into consideration whether wrapping it around the side will distort the perspective. If you’re not sure, a tattoo artist will be able to help you decide where exactly to place the tattoo.
This type of design wraps around the arm, but only along a very narrow area. Many look like bracelets – armband tattoos are usually thin and delicate.
Armband tattoos on the forearm are often quite simple, using only black ink. This gives them an elegant, modern look.
Check out this article to see more examples of armband tattoos.
Other forearm tattoo considerations
You’ll be glad to hear that the lower arm is one of the least painful places on the body for tattooing. Most people will only experience mild pain.
Even if you choose an elaborate design that takes a long time to complete, the experience should still be relatively manageable.
You might feel increased pain in the areas where the skin is more delicate or where there is not a lot of tissue between skin and bone. For example, the crook of the elbow might be more sensitive to pain.
The forearm is one of the most visible places for a tattoo. On the one hand, that’s great – you’ll be able to show off your tattoo anytime you like.
On the other hand, it may become cumbersome when you need to hide your tattoo.
For example, if you’d rather not show it off at work, you’ll need to wear long sleeves every day. Obviously, this might be problematic, particularly in warmer climates.
As we all know, though, tattoos are increasingly accepted in most cultures and areas of the world. Most of the world’s military organizations now accept tattoos too, as long as they are not on the face, neck, or hands.
Forearm tattoo ideas
The forearm is a space that lends itself to tons of creativity when picking a design.
Because forearms are long and relatively thin, elongated designs are a popular choice.
These follow the natural line of the forearm – they fit the space and don’t look out of place. Choosing a long, thin design means you can take advantage of as much space on the forearm as possible.
Lately, designs encased in geometric figures have become the latest trend in forearm tattoo designs.
These are not geometric tattoos as such (we’ll talk about those in a moment). Rather, they involve the image of an object or a scene framed by a regular geometric figure.
For example, this sunflower fits into a triangular design:
In essence, this style takes something that’s shaped irregularly – like a landscape or a flower – and puts it into a regular ‘frame’.
The resulting effect is interesting to look at, modern, and forms a complete, ‘closed’ tattoo that fits well on the forearm despite not being an elongated image.
3D designs are hyper-realistic. Tattoo artists use careful shading and perspective to create an illusion of depth and reality.
Typically, the artist will use a photograph of the real thing as a reference. The aim is to reproduce the photograph as closely as possible.
Flowers, in particular red roses, are a popular choice for 3D tattoos on forearm.
Anything could make a good subject, but you’ll need to keep scale in mind. The forearm is not a large space, so it will be difficult to accurately render large objects without losing detail.
3D tattoos are notoriously difficult to get right. For this reason, it’s good to choose an artist with an existing portfolio of 3D designs.
Check out this post to see a gallery of incredible 3D tattoo art.
The watercolor style, as you might expect, mimics the look of a watercolor painting.
These designs often have a solid black element – an outline or silhouette – with a watercolor background or fill.
This is usually a blend of various colors or different shades of the same color.
The result is a modern, lively forearm design that’s light and elegant despite the vivid coloring.
Watercolor forearm tattoos will work best as contained designs, rather than half sleeves. A half sleeve that consists of only watercolor might be too overwhelming.
We have a dedicated page on watercolor tattoo art, where you’ll see tons of gorgeous designs.
Geometric forearm tattoos
Geometric tattoos use geometric shapes and straight lines to create abstract or semi-abstract designs.
They are sometimes arranged in a symmetrical pattern, often representing a real thing – like a flower or an animal.
However, there are plenty of examples of asymmetrical, fully abstract geometric forearm tattoos.
You can find out more about geometric tattoos here, including a large gallery and an explanation of the idea of sacred geometry.
Biomechanical forearm tattoos
Drawing on the work of the Swiss artist H.R. Giger, biomechanical tattoo art combines human flesh with machine imagery.
In some reference to the Alien films, the tattoos reflect the idea of a cyborg – part human, part machine.
Often, biomechanical designs will be 3D tattoos with the illusion of the skin being ripped. Underneath, there will be machine elements such as pistons and gears.
Popular among lower arm tattoos for men in particular, most biomechanical tattoos don’t have a deeper or symbolic meaning. Typically, they are purely aesthetic, artistic pieces.
We have a large gallery of biomechanical tattoo art here.
The curve of the forearm lends itself to creating optical illusions with the right designs.
Using carefully plotted lines and geometric figures, these designs aim to trick the eye and create a false sense of perspective.
Tattoo artists can create optical illusions both in the form of half sleeves and smaller designs.
This takes a lot of creativity and expertise, and it’s a specialist niche in which only selected artists specialize.
Matching forearm tattoos
Just as many people get similar tattoos on both wrists or both calves, you can get matching tattoos on your forearms.
This idea is often overlooked – which is a shame, because here’s where you can get really creative.
The most common way to do this is to come up with two relatively small designs that can be mirrored on both forearms. The designs will usually differ somewhat, but stick to the same shape, size, and theme.
This is a great way to tell a story with your tattoos, without having to choose overly large designs.
If you’re looking to get even more creative, consider a design that spans both forearms and is completed when you put your arms together.
While we’re on the subject of matching tattoos, the forearm is a great place for tattoos for couples and friends.
Popular forearm tattoos
Animals have always been important elements in tattoo art, across all styles and placements. The forearm, despite the limited space it offers, is no exception.
One of the most interesting aspects of using animals as tattoo subjects is the fact that they all have symbolic meanings.
For example, lions symbolize pride, strength, courage, and royalty. Deer represent authority, while wolves stand for loyalty, family, and independence.
Alongside these, bears often appear in tattoos, as do owls and other birds.
Often, these meanings are fairly common sense. Still, you might be surprised by some associations (hint: snakes represent way more than just treachery!).
Just like animals, flowers also have a range of meanings that vary from species to species.
For example, red roses are symbols of love and passion, lilies – renewal, lotuses – purity and spirituality, and cherry blossoms – beauty and mortality.
Wildflowers are particularly popular for tattoos lately. They are usually featured in modern designs, somewhat lighter than the traditional style.
In general, wildflower tattoos indicate a free spirit and an independent attitude. However, it’s interesting to do some research if you’re planning a wildflower tattoo – you might be surprised to find that every wildflower has a highly specific meaning of its own!
One of tattoo art’s all-time favorites, the anchor symbolizes stability, safety, and strength. It can also be a reference to a specific place or person that makes you feel grounded and protected.
The elongated shape of the anchor makes it a great design for the forearm. Anchor forearm tattoos can be complimented with additional elements, such as flowers, rope, ribbons, or a heart.
If anchors are not your thing but you’re still interested in the theme in general, consider a ship tattoo or some creative variation on the idea of a sea voyage.
The anchor is a popular men’s forearm tattoo, however, it’s not unusual for women to opt for nautical themes, too.
We’re probably all familiar with the concept of a dreamcatcher by now. Originating in the Native American culture, it takes the shape of a hoop (or hoops) with an intricate woven pattern inside.
Feathers, beads, and other decorations adorn the bottom part of the dreamcatcher. The best placement on the forearm for a dreamcatcher tattoo is with the central hoop placed over the broadest part of the inner side. The feathers can then extend down towards the wrist.
Dreamcatchers represent spirituality and are something of a protective charm. Native Americans would hang them in an area where they slept, and the dreamcatchers were supposed to filter the sleeping person’s dreams and prevent nightmares.
Arrows make for really good forearm tattoos as they fit the shape of the space so well. As we’ve already discussed, elongated designs look particularly well on the forearm.
As symbols, arrows can mean a whole range of things. Most notably, they symbolize protection, moving forward, and achievement. In some contexts, they also stand for love – specifically, because of the association with the Cupid’s arrow.
Hopefully, you now have at least a couple of good ideas for your forearm tattoo. This placement is really versatile, and one of the best things about it is that you can get very creative with your design.
And now, let’s browse some more great looking forearm tattoos. Let us know your favorites in the comments!