Pain of Getting a Tattoo in Different Places

Person being tattooed

While the pain of getting a tattoo in different places does vary by person, it can help to know what you're in for before you get inked.

Why Tattoos are Painful

Tattoos are a permanent means of leaving behind a design on the body. A needle pierces the upper layer of skin, or epidermis, to the dermis layer below . This is important, since leaving the ink in any other area could result in it being carried from the skin into the blood stream, dissolving the ink and image over time.

The pain of getting a tattoo in different places does vary, since not all areas of the skin are equally sensitive.

Different Areas of Pain

There are several reasons why getting a tattoo in one place may be more painful than getting it in another.

  • Having more sensitivity in one area
  • Amount of nerve endings in an area
  • Getting an area tattooed directly over bone, where the vibration can amplify pain
  • The pace and pressure of the tattoo artist on a particular area
  • Your personal tolerance for pain

Pain of Getting a Tattoo in Different Places

While all tattoos will be painful to some degree, a few areas are consistently rated as being more painful to tattoo than others. If you're worried about pain, you may want to avoid the following placements:

  • Behind the knee
  • Feet
  • Toes
  • Fingers
  • Hands
  • Along the pubic bone
  • Directly on the cornea of the eye
  • Behind the ear
  • On the ribcage

Lessening the Pain of a Tattoo

If you're contemplating a tattoo on an area you know to be highly sensitive there are things you can do to help ease the pain a little.

Topical Anesthetic

Many tattoo parlors offer a topical anesthetic applied to the area an hour before you're inked. Results vary by person, and if this is a long tattoo job, the anesthetic may begin to wear off before you're finished.

Do not take aspirin or other pain killers before hand; these can thin your blood and make the tattoo bleed more heavily. Likewise, trying to dull the pain by getting intoxicated before hand is also an unwise idea.

Going Slow

Ask the tattoo artist to take his time. Some artists attempt to get you in and out as quickly as possible to move on to the next client. In their haste, they can push with a heavier hand into your skin causing more pain.

Light Touch

Along with speed, the touch of the artist is important in relation to the level of pain you'll feel during the tattoo process. The lighter the hand of the artist on the needle, the less pain you'll have during the procedure. Interview a few artists ahead of time to determine if one might have a lighter touch than another. Or talk to friends with tattoos to see if they've worked with an artist who is more gentle.


The single most important thing you can do to lessen the pain of a tattoo is to relax. If you tense up, contracting nearby muscles and tendons, you'll be sending a message to your nerve endings to prepare for battle. This heightens pain of the tattoo no matter where it is on the body, or how light the touch of the artist. Take some deep breaths, think calm thoughts and let the artist work, you'll be surprised in the end just how little you felt.

The pain of getting a tattoo in different places will absolutely vary from person to person. Only you can tell how sensitive to pain an area on your body is, and what your pain tolerance levels are. What was painful to a friend might not be to you, so while input and opinion is helpful, it shouldn't be the last word.

Pain of Getting a Tattoo in Different Places