How Long Does a Full Back Tattoo Take?

Are you thinking of getting a full back tattoo, or have you already started working on one? If so, you might find yourself with a lot of questions about the process. Getting a full back tattoo is no small feat, and it’s important to understand what to expect before you go in for your first session.

Although it’s always best to talk to your tattoo artist for accurate information, we’ve got some general info here to help you, too. Read through the article below to help you get a better idea of just how long your back tattoo might take to complete.

How many sessions does a full back tattoo take?

If you’re planning to get a tattoo that takes up your whole back, you should expect to spend about 30 hours in your tattoo artist’s chair. Of course, this won’t be all at one time! Many people choose to get small parts of their back tattoo completed over several sessions.

You can plan to spend anywhere from four to six sessions getting your full back tattoo completed. The number of sessions will depend on many factors including the tattoo itself, your artist’s speed, your ability to sit for a tattoo session, and much more.

How long is each session for a back tattoo?

Most tattoo sessions, regardless of the location of the tattoo, typically last about five hours. This number can vary, but five hours is a good general estimate. This gives your artist enough time to get through a large section of the tattoo at a time.

Some artists will let you book sessions back-to-back. This means that you might be able to book a full 8 or 10 hours with your tattoo artist and tackle a major portion of your back tattoo in a single day. This will depend on your artist, your pain tolerance, and the complexity of the tattoo. I would highly recommend not booking back to back sessions if you are new to tattoos. Two sessions in one day is extremely exhausting.

How long should you wait between each session of a full back tattoo?

Although it’s possible to schedule sessions back-to-back, once you leave the tattoo shop, you should wait about three weeks before going back again. This will give your skin and body time to heal before you work on the next part of the tattoo.

Keep in mind that your body doesn’t recognize your tattoo is art; it sees your tattoo as a wound. Therefore, it’s important to give your body a chance to recover from being “injured” after each tattoo session. This will also make it easier on you the next time you go in!

Is it possible to get a full back tattoo in one sitting?

Probably not. Although it is theoretically possible, in practice, you probably don’t want to try to get a full back tattoo finished in one sitting. It might be very hard for you to sit still for that long, and you also don’t want an exhausted artist tattooing you after that many hours, either!

You might be able to get all the outlining done in one session, however, depending on the complexity of the tattoo and the speed of your artist. Then you can go in for a few more sessions to finish up the color and any additional features afterward.

How painful is a full back tattoo?

Pain is relative, and no one can really tell you exactly how much your back tattoo is going to hurt. Your pain tolerance may be wildly different from someone else’s, and your tattoo artist’s ability can also make a difference when it comes to pain levels during a session.

With that said, however, any part of your body that is closer to a bone tends to hurt more when tattooed than parts that have a lot of muscle or fat. Since back tattoos involve your shoulder blades and spine, there is more pain involved in them than in some other locations.

Can you sleep on your back after a back tattoo session?

You can sleep on your back the night after you have your back tattoo, as long as it’s been at least four hours or so since the session ended. However, depending on how sensitive your skin is, sleeping on a back tattoo might be very uncomfortable or itchy.

If you do sleep on your back after your session, make sure to wear a loose shirt that you don’t mind potentially staining with ink or blood. Wash the tattoo before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning, and follow your artist’s aftercare guidelines no matter what.

How long does it take a full back tattoo to heal?

Since you’ll need to get your tattoo over several sessions, it will take a long time for the full process to be complete. Assuming you get your tattoo over five sessions and need three weeks to recover after each one, you can expect your tattoo to be finished and fairly well healed in about four months.

Once again, this time frame will vary depending on your body and skin condition overall as well as the tattoo and artist involved. There’s no way to say for sure how long your tattoo will take to heal, but you can follow this rough estimate as a general guideline.

How can you pass the time during a long tattoo?

  • Read: One great option for passing time during your long tattoo session is to read. Bring a book that’s especially engrossing and you won’t even have time to think about the pain of the tattoo.
  • Listen: Bring some headphones and listen to your favorite music during your session. You might also want to get through several episodes of your favorite podcast instead!
  • Talk: Talk to your tattoo artist as long as they don’t mind it. Some tattoo artists need to stay quiet and focus, and if this is the case, try to avoid making small talk. Otherwise, though, reach out and get to know them a little. They’ll probably appreciate it.
  • Game: Play games on your phone or bring a portable game console to your tattoo session. Just make sure whatever you’re playing doesn’t involve you moving around too much. Moving your hands and arms to play a game might interfere with your back tattoo, especially in the shoulder blade area.
  • Sleep: It might sound impossible, but many people do fall asleep during a tattoo session. After a while, the pain becomes less noticeable, and it’s possible for many to doze right off. Some people choose to meditate instead, too.


Now that you’ve had a chance to learn a little more about back tattoos and how long they take, you can understand why it’s not a good idea to finish one in a single sitting. Your tattoo artist will be able to give you more information about just how long your specific tattoo is likely to take, so be sure to ask them before you begin.

Don’t forget, too, that full back tattoos may cost a lot and that you should always plan to tip your artist! Make sure you have enough funds on hand before you begin your back tattoo sessions so you can get them finished in a timely fashion.