How Long Does A Tattoo Take and What Impacts Its Duration?

How long does a tattoo take? Does the tattoo style affect the procedure duration? All things that affect it are described in our article. Spoiler: it is not only the style.

When you are thinking about taking your first tattoo, the question of how much time the tattoo will take is frequently asked. Of course, there is no exact number. However, there are factors that influence the time needed for a tattoo. It is not only the size but also colors, whether you need several sessions and so on. In this article, we want to consider all these factors so you can plan your tattoo.

Stages of Getting a Tattoo

Before we get to the part about time-consuming stages during the tattoo process, you should understand what artists usually do. Below is the approximate plan of all tattoo stages.

  1. The first thing you should do is the tattoo salon and ask for a pre-tattoo consultation. It will take 15-30 minutes. You will meet your artist to discuss:
  2. – Design.
    – Placement.
    – Price.
    – How to be prepared for the tattoo.
    – Any other questions and concerns that you have.
  3. Book the tattoo time.
  4. Then there are stages during the tattoo procedure.
  5. – The body part where the tattoo will be is washed and if necessary shaved off the hair.
    – Applying the tattoo stencil on the body. You can read more about this step in our previous article about tattoo stencils.
    – Beginning of the tattoo process.
  6. When the tattoo procedure is complete, the artist will clean the tattoo with a cool liquid. Usually, it is water-based and used to wash any excess ink and blood.
  7. Then the artist applies aftercare cream.
  8. The artist wraps your fresh tattoo to avoid bacteria or contaminants entering it.

💡 Reminder:
Do not forget to check the studio for the hygiene practice.

Things That Affect the Duration of the Tattoo Session

Now, when you are familiarized with the stages of getting a tattoo, you understand that one tattoo session can take a lot of time. The bigger the tattoo, the more time it needs to be done. But on average tattoos need around 5 hours to be completely done. Of course, this time may vary but there are some things that affect it most of all. Here they are.

  • The artist’s experience — the more tattoos he or she has done, the less time it will take to do the new one. Also, pay attention to which style the artist has the biggest experience of and whether you like it. 
  • Tattoo style — how big the tattoo is, whether it is colorful or not, and so on. More about it we will tell in this part of the article.
  • The tattoo position on your body — how easy it is to access. For example, arm tattoos take less time than ones on the head as arms usually have less hair for the additional shave. Also, you can easily turn and move your arms, which affects, too, because the artist can make a tattoo on any part without problems.
  • Your ability to sit still and how you react to pain — the more assiduous you are, the less time you will need to take a tattoo.

How Does the Tattoo Style Affect the Procedure Duration?

Tattoo Size

Tattoo size is the first factor that comes to mind when you speak about tattoo procedure duration. It is a well-known fact that small tattoos take less time. For example, you will need around an hour for a wrist tattoo but at least five hours for a large back piece.

❗ Remember:
You will pay more for the time-consuming tattoo.

Tattoo Colors

Colorful tattoos take more time than common black or grey tattoos. This is due to the fact that the artist needs to put several layers of color one on top of the other. Also, pay attention that more realistic tattoos with different color gradation need much more time. There are also differences in the artist’s techniques even with the same black and grey tattoos. Some artists stipple them while others can use solid gradients of gray. The last takes more time as this technique is more difficult.


Here also works the principle that the more realistic tattoo you want, the more time it will take. So, if you want a tattoo with a lot of small details, be ready to wait longer. The same is with tattoo portraits because here the artist needs to pay special attention to small elements like lips, eyelashes, eyebrows, and so on.

How Long Does a Tattoo Session Last?

There are different types of tattoo sessions. It depends on your ability to endure pain and your artist’s desire. With all steps described at the beginning of the article, even the smallest tattoos will need around an hour to be completely done. The average tattoo session for big tattoos lasts up to five hours, however, there are exceptions. If you can endure pain, your artist can make a day session. It means that they will work with you for around seven-eight hours or even more. Usually, day sessions have a different rate, ask your tattooer for more information.

If you want a large tattoo with a lot of details, be ready that it can take more than one tattoo session. For example, a full back tattoo with details and multiple colors will take around twenty hours of your time. Sleeve tattoos may take from five to eight all-day sessions.

💡 Recommendation:
For the first tattoo, it is better to look for short sessions (three-four hours), so it will not be a stress for your body.

Planning the Tattoo Session

It is really hard to understand how much time the stencil will take to become a tattoo on your body. The artist can only give approximate time but your pain threshold plays the most important role. There are different tips and tricks on how to minimize pain.

For example, before the tattoo, it is recommended to get enough sleep, avoid drinking alcohol.

Also, have a good meal before getting inked. During the procedure, you can ask your artist to take breaks and use skin-numbing products. More life hacks you can read in our previous article.


How long does a tattoo take? There are many things and aspects that can affect the duration of the tattoo session. However, there are average time durations that you can expect to face. The smallest tattoos will take around an hour, while sleeve tattoos may require up to eight all-day sessions. The average tattoo session lasts around five hours but all-day sessions are usually longer (seven and more hours). They also have a different rate which you should check with the artist. Pay attention that all our stages and time processes are the average situations but in your case, they can be different.

Tattoo size, color, and details on it also play an important role while speaking about tattoo procedure duration. Your pain threshold is also important. There are tips on how to minimize the pain during the tattoo session.


⏱️ How Long Does a Small Tattoo Take?

Even small tattoos require a lot of stages to be done (you can read about them in our article). That is why a small tattoo takes around an hour.

⏳ How Long Does a Word Tattoo Take?

A single word tattoo will take around an hour, however, two-plus word tattoos may require at least two hours.

🌜 Is a 6-Hour Tattoo Session Long?

Yes, a 6-hour session is long. It is almost an all-day session, so your body will be tired and you will feel pain. More than 4-hour sessions are recommended only for those, who have already done tattoos before.

? How Long Is a Day Session Tattoo?

A day session tattoo lasts seven and more hours.

⏳ How Many Hours Should a Half Sleeve Tattoo Take?

A half sleeve tattoo takes at least 2 all-day sessions or around 16 hours. This time depends on the design and the artist’s technique. However, you should understand that a full sleeve tattoo takes at least 5 all-day sessions or around 30 hours.


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