If you’re thinking of getting your first tattoo, you may have a few questions about how much it’s going to hurt and what it might feel like. Because tattoos are done with needles, many people wonder if it feels like getting a shot at a clinic. But it’s not really like getting a shot at all.
A shot is one needle going into the skin, one time. A tattoo machine holds a set number of needles of varying sizes that go in and out of the skin. The needles prick the skin anywhere from 50 to 3,000 times per minute. Therefore, it gives a much different sensation than getting a shot or getting your blood drawn.
However, the tattoo needles do not pierce as deep as a regular needle. A needle at the doctor’s office must penetrate the muscle to be effective. This means it must go an inch or more into the skin. On the other hand, a tattoo needle remains much shallower, at only around 2 millimeters deep. The difference in depth affects how the needle feels to you when it pierces the skin.
People who have tattoos describe the sensation in different ways. Some people say it feels like getting stung by a bee repeatedly, while others report that it feels like constant cat scratches. Still others say it’s more like a burning, vibrating sensation. Also, a few people have shared that it feels like a hot, sharp razor.
Each person perceives pain in different ways; therefore, you will get a variety of answers when asked what getting a tattoo feels like.
Do color tattoos hurt more?
While some individuals may feel that color tattoos hurt more, there is no evidence that this is true. The color of ink really has nothing to do with the level of pain you experience.
The technique of your artist can impact the level of pain you have, though. Artists that are inexperienced sometimes penetrate the needles too deep (into the hypodermis layer) causing more pain. Choosing a knowledgeable artist can help ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
Also, if you choose a more painful location on your body to get tattooed, you may feel like you’re experiencing more pain than normal. Having a low pain tolerance can affect how you perceive your pain, too.
These are generally the reasons why some people feel like certain colors “hurt more” than others, even though they probably don’t.
What hurts more: Line work or shading?
This question doesn’t really have a definitive answer. However, many people report that line work is more painful to them than shading.
Because line work is done first, your skin is fresh. Your body isn’t used to the pain yet and is still trying to deal with the shock of what’s happening. Throughout your tattoo session, your pain tolerance will usually increase, and your body will start to adjust to the discomfort. This is what sometimes gives the illusion that perhaps the line work hurt worse than shading.
On the other hand, some people will say that shading hurts worse. Your artist does go over the same area multiple times when shading. Because they’re really packing the ink into the skin, it may feel more painful to you.
So, really, because everyone experiences pain differently, the answer to this question varies from person to person. Once you get your first tattoo, you will be able to judge which causes you more pain personally.
There are quite a few areas of the body where tattoos seem to hurt worse. Places where the skin is thin and where there are a lot of nerve endings are generally more painful. Also, areas that appear bony usually hurt more than “fatty” areas.
Most people report that the armpit is one of the most painful places to get tattooed. It is very sensitive and contains a lot of nerves, which leads to more pain. In fact, it is considered so painful that many artists discourage people from even getting a tattoo in their armpit.
The ribcage is another location that can hurt quite a bit. The skin is thin around the ribs, and your ribcage moves slightly when you breathe. It is believed that the tiny movements of your breathing during the tattoo session impacts the pain level.
Your ankles and elbows can also hurt more when you get tattooed because there is bone located directly below a thin layer of skin.
A few other places that are considered quite painful are the knee, head, hand, hip, groin, inner bicep, and breast. All these places are highly sensitive areas that are either bony, have thin skin, or have an abundance of nerve endings running through them.
It is usually not advised to choose one of these areas for your first tattoo. You may want to pick a less painful option. A few areas that tend to hurt less are your forearm, outer bicep, calf, thigh, and upper or lower back.
Should someone who hates needles and shots get a tattoo?
Perhaps you’re terrified of needles and shots, and you’re wondering if you should even consider getting a tattoo. Well, because tattoo needles are different from traditional needles, sometimes people who hate getting shots or getting their blood drawn do just fine when getting tattooed.
There are even instances where people who have a real phobia of needles successfully receive a tattoo. But if you are truly concerned about being able to handle it, you might consider going with a friend first to watch them during their session.
If you feel like you want to proceed with getting a tattoo, be sure to be open and honest with your artist about your fears. They deal with these kinds of things all the time, and they’ll be able to help you successfully navigate the process.
Also, it would probably be best if you choose a small design for your first tattoo. Picking something that can be done in a short amount of time, as opposed to a large piece that will take hours, is almost certainly the route to go in this situation.
Bringing a friend to your session might help with your anxiety, too. The distraction of talking with someone while getting tattooed can really help calm your fears. It’ll be over before you know it!
Ultimately, it is important to do your research, find a reputable artist, and make an informed decision. Whether you decide to get a tattoo or not, you can be confident that you made the right choice for you.