Do you have your legs tattooed already and you’re wondering which part of your leg is going to hurt the most? Or are your legs bare and you want to know what to expect from your first leg tattoo?
We chatted to tattoo artist Pixie Robson (@pixierobsontattoo). Known for her bright, cute tattoos, she’s covered a lot of legs due to her bold and often large designs. So, whatever stage in your tattoo journey you’re at, we have everything you need to know about leg tattoos.
From upper thighs to ankles, legs are a large piece of tattoo real estate that are calling out to be tattooed. When it comes to filling your legs you might want to opt for full leg tattoos or ‘leg sleeves’ in floral, ornamental or Japanese style.
You can also tattoo your legs in a ‘sticker’ or ‘patchwork’ style using small standalone designs. They’re a great spot for a matching best friend tattoo. A lot of people, myself included, use their legs to collect from different artists. When it comes to your own leg tattoos, the choice is completely up to you. Read on for some serious leg tattoo inspiration.
Leg tattoos for women
Whether you’re planning to get totally covered or want only a few meaningful tattoos, many women want more feminine tattoos on their legs. Perhaps you want a design that compliments the shape of your legs. Maybe you’re wanting to make your stretch marks even more beautiful with a tattoo. Popular leg tattoos for women tend to be on the thigh, upper leg and hip or ankle.
Leg tattoo design ideas
Of course, you can get whatever you want tattooed, in whatever style. But when it comes to legs, certain designs, themes or styles are more popular. We take you through the top five most-loved tattoo design ideas for leg tattoos:
Mandala leg tattoo
A pattern that’s as popular as ever, mandala leg tattoos can be done in dotwork or thicker lines to create stunning tattoos. Most of the time these tattoos don’t mean anything, but they look really impressive. Ornamental tattoos can cover shins, be turned into full leg pieces and the mirrored patterns of mandalas work well on knees.
Flower leg tattoos
Turn your leg into a flower garden. Whether you opt for colour or not flowers always make for a good tattoo. Choose classic roses, fluffy peonies or a whole bouquet to adorn your legs.
Animal leg tattoo
If you’re animal lovers like us, the space on your legs is perfect for animal tattoos. Thighs make a great spot for lion tattoos, or wind a dragon up your shin, place butterflies below each knee or coil a snake round your ankle. Using the shape of an animal or insect to compliment the shape of your leg creates a cool leg tattoo.
Japanese leg tattoo
Not just for sleeves, Japanese tattoos have adorned legs for centuries. Use your whole leg as a canvas to tell incredible stories, explore traditional motifs and ancient symbols. From koi carp to dragons, Japanese tattoos long to be inked on large areas of the body.
Tribal leg tattoo
Inspired by ancient tribal art, modern tribal tattoos draw on patterns and geometrical shapes to create a unique tattoo. Typically done in black ink, tribal leg tattoos can cover the whole leg and even stretch onto the feet. They’re as impressive from a distance as they are close up, and can be created to be individual to the wearer.
Tattoo by Swasthik Iyengar
Do leg tattoos hurt?
One of the most Googled questions about leg tattoos is how much do they hurt? To get an idea I asked my tattooed pals on Instagram which parts of the leg hurt the most to get tattooed and this is what they said:
- Back of thigh
- Front of knee
- Knee ditch
- Inner thigh
I also asked Pixie about her experience of leg tattoos from a tattoo artist's perspective. "In my experience, it’s hard to say whether leg tattoos hurt more than other places, my clients all handle their pain so differently. I do however find that the calf and back of the thigh are the two places that people struggle with the most."
Find out what other areas hurt in our most painful places to get tattooed blog.
How to cope with leg tattoo pain
You might be worried that your leg is going to be a painful tattoo to sit through. But don’t worry, Pixie has advice to help you cope with the pain.
"Coping with the pain is all very personal. Some people prefer to talk, some prefer headphones and some like silence. You’ve got to find your zone and get in it and everyone's zone is different. As a tattoo artist I am happy for you to do whatever it is that gets you through the session. If you want to talk, great, if not also great."
"Depending on the size I usually try to get a tattoo finished in one sitting unless it’s quite a large detailed piece or the client requests smaller sessions."
Tattoo by Pixie Robson
"This Ariel tattoo (pictured above), for example, was split into three smaller sessions as my client couldn’t sit for long on the back of her calf. This doesn’t bother me at all and a lot of the time your tattoo will heal faster and nicer when your leg hasn’t been through too much. The only thing it really affects would be the artist getting photos as you can see the lines look a little fuzzy as they are healed and the colour is fresh. But that all settles down together once fully healed."
How long does a leg tattoo take?
How long your leg tattoo will take depends on how detailed your design is and how big it is. Also colour tattoos can take longer which is worth bearing in mind. For a small linework tattoo you could be looking at as little as 30 minutes, for a full leg sleeve you’re talking a lot of day sittings. Your tattoo artist can give you a rough estimate when you book your appointment.
The more of your leg you get tattooed in one go the more time it’ll take, so you’ll want to be comfy. Find out what to wear when getting your leg tattooed in our guide. Remember to ask for breaks when you need them and take snacks to help keep your energy levels up.
This thigh tattoo by Pixie Robson took two sessions to complete.
How to prepare for your tattoo appointment
"Preparing for any tattoo is key to your session.” Pixie explains that “so many people don’t realise how important the run up to your tattoo is. Drinking plenty of water and keeping your skin moisturised well for at least a week before can massively help the session. The dryer and rougher your skin is, the harder it can be for your artist."
"I personally know this as I used to be someone who didn’t look after their skin and friends used to moan jokingly about how my legs were like lizard skin to tattoo. Flash forward to the Pixie who now looks after her skin and moisturises daily. My legs are not like they used to be and my skin is fairly easy to tattoo."
"So when I say this it’s from the bottom of my heart! Drink water and moisturise because it makes our day and your day much easier!"
Can I run after getting a tattoo on my leg?
"I would definitely wait to do any kind of work out with any tattoos, especially leg tattoos and running.” Pixie explains how people “don’t realise how much your skin can move while doing these exercises and your tattoo doesn’t need to be any more irritated when it’s healing."
"I would wait until you're at least at the ‘dry and itchy’ stage of healing, this way you have got any open skin that can be irritated or potentially get sweat and dirt in."
Can I shave or wax my legs after a tattoo?
It’s not recommended that you shave your leg while your tattoo is healing. If you prefer your legs to be hair free you might want to plan your leg tattoo for the winter months. Or get used to having hairy legs for a while afterwards.
How long do leg tattoos take to heal?
"Leg tattoos take the same amount of time to heal as most places on the body.” Pixie finds that healing is “more to do with the person than the area.”
“Obviously there is a time guide we all use and it’s usually around 2 to 3 weeks. But in all honesty I have clients that are fully healed in five days (no joke) and others that can take like a month."
How to help your leg tattoo heal
Pixie recommends that you should "always follow the aftercare advice given to you by the artist who’s done the tattoo. We’ve all tried and tested different ways and have found what works best for OUR OWN work. So what I tell you to do may not necessarily work well with a tattoo done by someone else."
What about aftercare creams?
Pixie shares that “no cream you use on your tattoo is going to heal it, that’s your body's job. All the creams do is stop your tattoo from drying out and cracking which in turn can end up with you losing colour etc.”
"It’s all about keeping the right amount of moisture and dryness to your tattoo while it heals. You don’t want it too dry or too wet. It all sounds a lot harder than it is. A general rule of thumb I use is if you can see your aftercare on your tattoo you’ve used too much."
New tattoo? Try Stories & Ink tattoo Aftercare Cream. 100% natural, non-greasy and fragrance free, it reduces inflammation while soothing and hydrating your damaged skin.
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For more skin stories, aftercare advice and artist highlights, check out the Stories & Ink Journal.