14 Things About Calf Tattoo You Need To Know When Deciding


More and more often, clients who are interested in having a tattoo on the calf come to me – it is easy to hide it under clothes or display it on the beach in summer. The location seems perfect, but does it have any downsides?

What answers you will find in this article about a calf tattoo?

  • What is the meaning of a calf tattoo?
  • How much does a calf tattoo cost?
  • Calf tattoo – what to wear?
  • Pain during a calf tattoo – does a calf tattoo hurt a lot?
  • How To Reduce Pain When Getting A Calf Tattoo? 17 things you can do.
  • Does the calf tattoo hurt when you walk? Why can a leg with a calf tattoo be swollen?
  • How long does a calf tattoo take to heal?
  • Calf tattoo care – what to do after a tattoo?
  • How does a calf tattoo change with age?
  • Why does ankle swelling appear after a calf tattoo?
  • Calf tattoo and pants
  • Calf tattoo after weight loss – how will it behave?
  • Calf tattoo bruises
  • Calf tattoo bleeding

If you are looking for inspiration before your calf tattoo, check out my portfolio – you can find my works and projects here – on Instagram.

The calf is a great location for both a small and bigger tattoo, for some ideas you can have a look at those three books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic version (links below):

What is the meaning of a calf tattoo?

As with most places on your body, it’s the design that matters, not the location. When deciding on a particular design, think carefully as it will be a lifetime choice.

The design of a calf tattoo does not always have to matter, I often make tattoos that customers like – flower patterns, birds, etc., but there are also people for whom symbolism matters. It can be the name of a loved one, an inscription that means something to you, or, for example, your zodiac sign.

owl design calf tatto
Calf tattoo made by me, owl design

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have on your calf, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

How much does a calf tattoo cost?

Each tattoo artist will answer this question – it depends. Most often on the size, and thus the time needed to complete it. You can assume that the typical calf tattoo cost falls in the range of $300 to $500 for a solid-color design that covers one side of the calf.

When calculating the price of making a tattoo, I have to take into account that even with a small design, certain activities while preparing the body and the design itself are independent of its size.

Calf tattoo – what to wear?

When you go to a tattoo session to get a calf tattoo, what should you wear? For the day of tattooing, you might think of something loose that can be easily tucked up so that the ink doesn’t stain your clothes.

For the first 1-2 weeks, try to wear something looser than tight jeans, after that it won’t matter much, but once the calf tattoo heals, try wearing something that doesn’t directly touch where you have your tattooed design.

tenis design calf tatto
Calf tattoo made by me

Pain during a calf tattoo – does a calf tattoo hurt a lot?

Not at all, the calf tattoo doesn’t hurt too much. There is a large amount of fat and muscle on the calves and few nerve endings, so calf tattoos are usually not too painful. You can expect a low to moderate level of pain when getting a calf tattoo. The more painful areas for tattooing are the knees, ankles, and feet.

pain chart for women calf tattoo
Pain chart for a tattoo for women according to healthline.com
pain chart for men calf tattoo
Pain chart for a tattoo for men according to healthline.com

How To Reduce Pain When Getting A Calf Tattoo? 17 things you can do.

There are a few things you can do to reduce the pain of a calf tattoo, both before and during the session, here is a short list I have prepared for you:

  1. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the day before your tattoo.
  2. Find an experienced tattoo artist. Artists with more experience tend to finish a calf tattoo faster, meaning you’ll endure the pain for less time.
  3. Avoid painkillers, especially aspirin or ibuprofen. They should not be taken 24 hours before the tattoo, they thin the blood and the tattoo may take longer than normal.
  4. Make sure your body is well hydrated. When your skin is dry, the tattoo hurts more, both when tattooing and later when it heals.
  5. Make sure you come to the tattoo session after your meal. Low blood sugar makes you feel more painful, so eating before a tattoo is important. It will also help you avoid dizziness caused by nerves or from hunger.
  6. Avoid drinking alcohol. Make sure you don’t drink for at least 24 hours before getting a tattoo as alcohol increases pain sensitivity and thin the blood.
  7. Wear suitable clothing. This is important because tight and chafing clothes will irritate the tattoo area and make it more painful when finished. This is also important because the garment should be easy to remove or move to avoid ink stains.
  8. Try to relax while tattooing. It will only hurt for a while, try to breathe deeply and relax, if you are sure you want a tattoo and you trust your tattoo artist you should be fine.
  9. Try to distract yourself somehow so you don’t just focus on the pain. Before the session, you can ask if there is a possibility to come with someone you know, you can talk to the tattoo artist, you can listen to music on the phone through headphones – find something that will distract you.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for a skin numbing cream. Your tattoo artist should have different types of creams and you can ask for it.
  11. Do not get a tattoo if you are sick, then your sensitivity to pain will be greater and the tattoo will take longer to heal as your immune system tries to stop the infection at the same time.
  12. Don’t drink coffee or energy drinks before or during a tattoo session. Just like alcohol, caffeine and energy drinks thin your blood. So, skip your morning cup of coffee on the day you get the tattoo.
  13. Try to schedule your morning session if possible. In the morning, the adrenaline level is at its highest. Adrenaline is a pain masking hormone that can help increase your pain tolerance.
  14. You can try taking a pain reliever other than aspirin. Half an hour before getting a tattoo should be enough, you can take painkillers that don’t contain blood thinners like acetaminophen (also called Tylenol or Paracetamol).
  15. Try not to move too much while the tattoo artist is working. Too much movement will distract tattooers from their work, thereby prolonging the session and increasing pain.
  16. Don’t be afraid to ask for breaks. If the pain becomes too unbearable, don’t hesitate to ask for a respite. Any professional tattoo artist will understand and will give you a few minutes of break.
  17. You can also try squeezing or chewing something to ease the pain. Squeezing something in your hand or biting something can actually reduce pain significantly. You can bring, for example, a stress ball, a wrist training device, or chewing gum.

Does the calf tattoo hurt when you walk? Why can a leg with a calf tattoo be swollen?

There is no rule for this, a calf tattoo does not always hurt when you walk, but a lot depends on your body’s individual healing response.

What can you do if your calf tattoo hurts while walking?

You can always warm up your legs before walking or standing for long periods. Your calf tattooed legs may feel sluggish due to the extra blood flow and swelling. It doesn’t have to be some kind of prolonged or heavy exercise, usually even tapping your foot on the ground for a while is enough.

If possible, wear loose-fitting pants or even shorts. Inspect the tattooed area carefully every day to make sure there is no infection.

If the calf tattoo is painful when walking, you can apply an anti-inflammatory agent. Something like ibuprofen should help, and pain while walking will also be fought. You should also drink plenty of water to support your circulation.

infinity knot design calf tatto
Calf tattoo made by me

How long does a calf tattoo take to heal?

The calf is a part of the body that has a lot of contact with clothing, so you should take care of tattoos there. Usually calf tattoos take about 2-3 weeks to heal, but it takes up to three months for complete healing beneath the skin’s surface. If you plan on tattooing both legs, consider having only one calf at a time.

Calf tattoo care – what to do after a tattoo?

First of all, follow the care instructions given to you by your tattoo artist. Avoid water and sun, and keep your new tattoo clean and give it fresh air frequently. Hear when the tattoo artist gives care tips, they are really important and help reduce pain after getting a tattoo.

How does a calf tattoo change with age?

Since the skin on the calves is not as severely affected by aging, tattoos in this area usually remain unchanged. Well aged tattoos are mostly found on areas of the body that don’t rub against clothes and other parts of the body.

Why does ankle swelling appear after a calf tattoo?

Swelling after a calf tattoo is completely normal, it is the body’s natural reaction to an injury it has just gone through. If possible, try to lift the tattooed leg as often as possible, for example lying on a pillow.

Calf tattoo and pants

Sometimes after tattooing your calf, you can’t wear shorts and have to wear pants at work. If your pants are loose there, it shouldn’t be a problem. There is a chance that the pants will stick to your calf tattoo, especially if you cremate it, but sticking is not a problem if you handle them carefully when peeling them off, avoid sharp movements and abrupt tearing.

Calf tattoo after weight loss – how will it behave?

Only in case of extreme weight loss or weight gain will you notice a noticeable difference in the design of your calf tattoo. As with weight loss, weight gain can also affect the size of the tattoo design.

The calf is one of the best places to get a tattoo as it doesn’t change shape much after losing weight or gaining weight that is not drastic.

Calf tattoo bruises

Calf tattoo bruises aren’t something to always expect, but they’re not that rare. In most cases, this is also something that you don’t need to worry about.

After getting a calf tattoo, the area around the new pattern undergoes many changes and processes as it begins to heal after the tattoo needle trauma. A calf tattoo bruising is one of the many processes that can occur during these changes.

Calf tattoo bleeding

Sometimes you can’t avoid seeing your own blood even if you don’t like it, and surely the tattooing process is one of those moments. It’s also true that some tattoos can bleed much more than others.

It is normal that a mixture of blood, ink, and plasma may still leak from a calf tattoo for 12-36 hours after the calf tattoo is done. Later, your skin will begin to heal enough to stop the bleeding.

Your calf tattoo may bleed more if you consume alcohol or take pain relievers / ibuprofen shortly before your tattoo session as all of these products have blood-thinning effects. The same is true if you are taking prescription blood thinners.

Calf tattoo care

Here are some ideas I have tested for the aftercare of your first calf tattoo:

  • Fresh calf tattoos are covered with a thin foil for the first 3-4 hours, then it is good for them to have air access to speed up healing.
  • A new calf tattoo should be washed every day – but gently, do not scrub, just spray lightly with water, preferably dry with a cotton pad.
  • During healing, which usually takes 2 to 4 weeks, you should avoid swimming, visiting a sauna, or bathing where the calf tattoo is completely submerged in water.
  • Choose your clothes so that they rub and irritate your fresh calf tattoo as little as possible, be careful not to scratch it as scraping off the scabs may accidentally remove some ink.
  • The skin at the calf tattoo site often dries out more, so ointments such as Bepanthen or Alantan can be used on it.
  • A new calf tattoo should not be exposed to the sun. Even after it has healed, make sure you protect it with adequate sunscreen at all times.

To my clients, I usually recommend one of those two tattoo aftercare balms – INKorporated Tattoo Lotion or Mad Rabbit Tattoo Balm & Aftercare Cream (through those links you can find both of them on Amazon).

Some of my favourite designs, tattoo books and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Deasign and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my Clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my Clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):

Looking for more info about tattoos? I might have them covered!

I have written almost 100 articles about tattooing – with details about each body part, problems that you might have with your tattoo, designs, styles, aftercare, and much more.

Have a look at the search option and see if you can find what you need here.

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Some of my other articles, check them and see if you could find what you are looking for!

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