I am starting a leg sleeve (s) with Stuart Cripwell. I am getting tattoo about once about every other week and you can see what we have done so far below. For the first few pieces, I just picked stuff I liked and had it tattooed in spots I thought would fit my body well. Now, I still pick out the piece but Stuart outlines the negative space [ex: the empty slot of skin between two tattoos] on tracing paper. He then draws the piece, adding and taking away, so that it fits in the outline.
P.S. I am in the market for good set of kneecap tattoos ideas. I know there is a thread on this but was hoping for some more suggestions taking into consideration negative space, traditional style tattoos. I have been looking at Spider Webb's books of traditional American body suits and the knees are always hard to make out. From what I can see, though, it seems like suns, nautical stars/hexes, spider webs, and elephant heads were pretty common.
I love this picture above, its a perfect example for this conversation. Not only does the arm with no filer look stronger now but you can tell that the negative space is going to give those tattoos room to grow over time and not blur right into each other. I will be using this photo as an example to future clients who want smaller traditional pieces on why background isn't necessarily needed to make a sleeve look complete and finished. And that stomach piece is insane, so simple and so strong, love it!