It’s self-inflicted and pushes the body, but how do you describe the experience of being tattooed?
Ever had a cleanskin point, poke or caress your skin and ask, “Does it hurt?” If you were trying to man up over it you may have said “it’s just like a scratching sensation” or “it’s like an elastic band snapping continuously”, or you might have said “worse than giving birth”. Whether you lied, exaggerated or told the truth, pain is a subjective sensation and our body does a very good job of making us forget just how much we’ve actually been through.
Everyone has a different pain threshold and with tattoos there is more than just the pain to consider – blood, design, noise and the fact that it self-inflicted (and you can call time out). The International Association for the Study of Pain defines it as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”. Sounds like a tattoo now, doesn’t it? We went to professionals, collectors and you to find out about pain!
“Tattoos hurt… ok… jabbing anything into your skin fucking hurts to some degree, this whole ‘I don’t want my tattoo to hurt’ culture that has developed is a joke…suck it the fuck up…or go get a haircut instead, maybe a fake tan or stick some diamantes on your face like a gangsta…
Me, I’m nearly 40. So I’m kinda over getting tattooed, used to be easy as pie, now I absolutely hate it. Some highlights as of late have both occurred while I have been doing conventions in New Zealand. The first was getting my throat tattooed by the talented Matt Jordon – this guy is a second gen tattooist and I do believe he thought I had gold under the skin as he was digging for it… maybe it was that we had both been tattooing flat out for two weeks, late nights and tired as hell. The other was in the hills of Raglan. I asked a bud, a big New Zealand Maori who had just been tattooed by the Borneo guys “Bro does it hurt?” He was like “Nah bro, its choice aye, easy as”. He was fucking with me, as mates do. Two hours of having a needle driven into your skull, that is not a holiday, but in both cases I made it through, I didn’t tap out… and besides a sting and a headache it was fine…
So, tattoos do hurt, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Make sure you’re well rested, hydrated, had a feed, not stressed and just suck it up. It doesn’t last forever. The pain, that is…”
Ran McLurkin – Ruin Art Collective,
I had my forehead tattooed with skulls ‘n’ flames that hurt the most out of all my tatts! And I probably wouldn’t get it done again!
– Dave Mus Burgess
I have extensive tattooing. I’ve found so far that the beginning of the session is the most painful – as in the outline – especially on sensitive or boney areas of the body. After a while it tends to, let’s say, numb up, and then I’m perfectly fine for hours. Some sessions have ‘bitten’ more than others, but I’m told that may have something to do with female hormones at different times of the month, when the skin becomes more sensitive. Overall I find the experience rather relaxing after the initial shock and am in love with my body art.
– Lauren Kelly
I’ve been told a theory: where it feels good to kiss, is where it will hurt the most.
– Luke Henderson
My most painful tattoo was on the back on my neck; it’s a snake wrapped around a cross. It hurt because the tattooist kept stopping for smoke and beer breaks, but I got used to it and in a weird way highly enjoyed it.
– Tasham Gawn
“Obviously from client to client the pain threshold will differ, and sometimes the places you least expect to hurt are the places that hurt the most. However, like most, will probably say: ribs, stomach, feet are among the major culprits. Really, I find anywhere on the body that is ‘unexposed’ to the elements; or close to the bone. Places like the ribs usually combine the two, so as you can imagine, the ribs suck. The stomach just feels un-natural and the feet, well there may as well be no skin there at all. But it is only temporary, so suck it up and get it done!”
Ryan Ussher – Private studio, Queensland AUS
I got my cock tattooed and most of my bones and body. My cock was the worst, but no pain no gain.
– Chris Thir
The most painful tattoo I had done was on my shoulder blade. I nearly passed out twice from the pain. It is only a small piece as well. But, the humidity and the heat that day also contributed to my pain threshold levels dropping. I now want to get that piece covered up.
– Kylie Rose
Sternum, heavy black shading with a shovel. I could feel it in my jaw! I would do it again in a heartbeat!
– Dan Forrest
Part of my ribs near my boob felt like my nipple was being pulled by a hook through my back. Compared to that one spot, the rest of that tatt was pain free!
– Kate Johnston
Out of everywhere, including my privates and underarms, people are always very shocked when I tell them it was my stomach that almost made me pass out in pain. I think once was enough but I’m yet to finish the edges so I guess I’ll be revisiting the experience shortly!
– Madeline Lugosi Glasseater
“I personally found the inside of my knee the most painful spot I have had tattooed, though I’m not sure it was the pain or just the weird sensation. Most of my clients handle the pain pretty well, but if I had to say a spot that gets the most complaints its probably the feet. Pretty tender and lots of nerve endings there, actually I didn’t like my feet that much either. I saw a study recently on pain and how our sense of smell is a dominant sense and so if you have a pleasant smell to sniff while you are being tattooed it can mask the pain. Tinkture do a product called Rapture that we use, which works on this principle, and appears to work really well.”
Nadine Bryant – Skinks Tattoo Studio, Hamilton NZ
My ankle…. Insane, the more bone the more groan.
– Karen Isbister
I would have to say my foot hurt the most out of 10 I have all over my body. My peacock feather on the top of my foot hurt 🙁 but it was worth the pain because it looks gorgeous :))
– Linda Rossler
The nipple stings, the collarbone stings and vibrates the sternum and is a bastard. Ribs are fine, as is stomach, but a top three of shin in third, sternum second and the winner by a long shot is the kneecap. That was extremely unpleasant.
– Andre Rooney
The last one I got in on the side of my calf, around to the front on the bone and around to the back had a slight burning, pinching feeling but other than that it was a breeze! I would recommend that spot for anyone looking to get a tattoo but is worried about the pain.
– Brooke Elliott
My smallest tattoo hurt the most. I have “Judge not lest ye be judged” on my foot and I almost cried! I have an A4 size tat on my back that didn’t hurt anywhere near the one on my foot. I think it hurts more there because my foot is the only bony part of me. I really want to add some colour or pictures to my foot tat but don’t want to actually cry.
– Kailie Hetherington
I’ve got tons of work, full sleeve, neck but my most painful was done recently, was a toe tag on top of my foot, took three hours so was done slowly so hurt a lot more and was by far the worst tattoo experience I’ve had, and I’ve been through a lot of tattoo pain. Would I go back or do again? NEVER!
– Morgan Morgue
Both my feet tattoos were insanely painful for me, every time it hit a bone I died…
– Charlie Sedanayasa
“Do they hurt? Sure! Does that stop people from going out every day and getting tattooed – no! For me, by far my ribs were the spot that had me down for the count. I continue to put the rest off. I will go back to finish it though. But that’s not to say that hands and palms aren’t totally screamworthy. I have seen people who usually sit well for tattoos beg for it to end when it comes to their palm. I’ve had my fingers done three times and if it fades again I’m not 100% sure I’ll go back for a fourth.
Whatever you decide to get – love it and the pain makes it worth it!”
Vanessa Morgan – Editor. Inked Australia
My most painful tattoo was under the upper arm near the armpits … I chose a Celtic cross as part of an upper sleeve; it took my artist around two hours to do it as I needed a couple of rests as it felt my flesh was tearing! I love it though and was worth the pain!
– Derby Rodriguez
No pain, no gain 😉 Outer calf and inner right forearm hurt but it was enjoyable, did a straight 7.5 hour session on my left upper arm half sleeve, last 30 minutes killed.
– Dave Gregan
I have ink the entire length of my spine, on my foot, my ribs.. But the one that brought me to tears was my wrist, it felt like razor blades.
– Jessica Portia Stewart
The colouring on my Route 66 tattoo on the inside of my elbow. Yes, it hurt a little but you can’t stop once it’s started! A good hour of colouring in tensed my arm up. You just need a TV with a really bad movie on in front of you to think about. I’d rather not do that tattoo in that spot again though.
– Jayke Sutton
The palms were the most painful for me. I have had them both done twice now and WILL NOT redo them. The pain was almost unbearable!!
– Michelle Knight