Tattoo Pain Chart & Tattoo Pain Guide

Tattoos have been a form of expression for centuries, and while they are a beautiful art form, the pain associated with getting one can be a deterrent for many. As a seasoned tattoo artist and expert, I’ve had countless clients ask me about the pain levels they can expect during their sessions.

This guide aims to demystify pain experience, offering insights from both a professional and personal perspective. Pain is subjective and varies from person to person.

Factors like tattoo placement, individual pain tolerance, and even the tattoo artist’s technique can influence the pain experience. This section will provide a foundational understanding of what to expect.

When the needle pierces the skin, it causes a minor injury, prompting the body to respond. The needle’s rapid movement causes vibrations that can be felt as a burning or sharp sensation.

  • Skin Layers: The skin comprises three main layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue. Tattoos are inked into the dermis, the second layer, which contains nerve endings and blood vessels.
  • Body’s Response: Upon injury, the body releases endorphins, natural painkillers, which can lead to feelings of euphoria in some individuals.

Personal Pain Tolerance

Everyone’s pain threshold is different. Some might find the process merely annoying, while others might find it excruciating.

Personal experiences, such as past injuries or medical conditions, can also play a role in how one perceives pain.

  • Mental Preparation: Being mentally prepared can significantly influence your pain experience. Anxiety can heighten pain, so it’s essential to approach your session with a calm mindset.
  • Physical Factors: Hydration, adequate sleep, and even the menstrual cycle can affect pain tolerance. It’s crucial to be in good physical condition on the day of your tattoo session.

Tattoo Pain Chart

Tattoo Pain Level Breakdown

As a tattoo artist, I’ve noticed that certain body parts tend to be more sensitive than others. This section will explore the various areas of the body and their associated pain levels, providing a roadmap for potential placements.

Body Part Pain Level Description
High Pain Areas
Ribs High The ribcage is sensitive due to the thin skin covering the bones. Feels like a sharp, scratching sensation.
Hands and Feet High Many nerve endings make tattoos here particularly painful.
Head and Face High Thin skin and close bone structure intensify the pain.
Moderate to Low Pain Areas
Arms and Legs Moderate to Low Biceps, forearms, thighs, and calves generally offer a more tolerable pain experience.
Back Moderate to Low The upper back can be sensitive near the spine, but the lower back and shoulder blades are more padded.
Chest Moderate Moderate pain is experienced but can be more intense near the collarbone.

High Pain Areas

Some areas of the body are notoriously more painful due to the proximity of bones or the thinness of the skin. These areas include:

  • Ribs: The ribcage is a sensitive area due to the thin skin covering the bones. The sensation can be likened to a sharp, scratching feeling.
  • Hands and Feet: These areas have many nerve endings, making tattoos here particularly painful.
  • Head and Face: The skin on the face and head is thin, and the bone structure is close to the surface, intensifying the pain.

Moderate to Low Pain Areas

Other body parts have a thicker skin layer or more muscle padding, which can reduce the pain sensation. These areas include:

  • Arms and Legs: The biceps, forearms, thighs, and calves generally offer a more tolerable pain experience.
  • Back: While the upper back can be sensitive near the spine, the lower back and shoulder blades are more padded, offering some relief.
  • Chest: For many, the chest provides a moderate pain experience, though it can be more intense near the collarbone.

Tips for Managing Pain

While it’s impossible to eliminate tattoo pain entirely, there are strategies to manage and reduce discomfort. Drawing from my years of experience and feedback from clients, here are some tried-and-true methods.

Before the Session

Preparation is key. Ensuring you’re in the best physical and mental state can make a world of difference in your pain experience.

  • Eat a Good Meal: Having food in your system stabilizes blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of feeling faint or nauseous.
  • Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine: Both can thin the blood, leading to increased bleeding and potentially affecting the tattoo’s quality.

During the Session

  • Deep Breathing: Taking deep, controlled breaths can help relax the body and mind.
  • Distractions: Listening to music, watching a show, or chatting with your tattoo artist can divert your attention from the pain.

The Impact of Tattoo Size and Color on Pain

The design intricacies, including its size and color palette, can influence the pain levels during a tattoo session. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect based on these factors.

Size Matters

  • Small: While they might be over quickly, small tattoos can still be intense, especially if they’re in a sensitive area.
  • Large: These often require longer sessions or multiple visits. The prolonged exposure can lead to skin irritation and increased sensitivity.

Color vs. Black and Grey

  • Black and Grey:  These usually involve fewer passes with the needle over the same area, potentially leading to a less painful experience.
  • Colored: Introducing color often requires the artist to go over the same spot multiple times to ensure even and vibrant color saturation, which can heighten sensitivity.

Aftercare and Pain Management

How to APPLY Healing Ointment & Moisturizer on a NEW tattoo

Once the tattoo is done, the focus shifts to healing and pain management. Proper aftercare is crucial not only for pain relief but also to ensure the longevity and vibrancy of your tattoo.

Immediate Aftercare

The first few hours are crucial for setting the stage for a smooth healing process.

  • Keep it Clean: Gently clean the tattooed area with lukewarm water and mild soap. Avoid scrubbing.
  • Moisturize: Apply a thin layer of tattoo-specific ointment or lotion to keep the skin hydrated.

Long-Term Care

The healing process can take several weeks, and it’s essential to be diligent throughout this period.

  • Avoid Sun Exposure: The sun’s UV rays can fade the ink and irritate the skin. Use sunscreen or protective clothing.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking water helps the skin heal and can reduce itching and flakiness.

Myths and Misconceptions

Over the years, I’ve heard numerous myths surrounding pain. Let’s debunk some of the most common ones.

“Colored Ink is More Painful than Black Ink”

While colored might require more passes with the needle, the ink’s color doesn’t inherently cause more pain. The technique and tattoo placement play a more significant role.

  • Ink Composition: All professional tattoo inks are designed to be safe and as pain-free as possible.
  • Artist’s Technique: An experienced tattoo artist will know how to apply color without causing unnecessary discomfort.

“Tattoos Over Bone Hurt More”

While it’s true that areas with less fatty tissue can be more sensitive, it’s not solely because of the proximity to bone.

  • Skin Thickness: Areas like the ribs or ankles have thinner skin, which can heighten the pain sensation.
  • Nerve Endings: Some areas, like the inner arm or back of the knee, have more nerve endings, leading to increased sensitivity.


Can I use numbing cream before getting a tattoo?

Yes, there are numbing creams available specifically for tattoos. However, it’s essential to discuss this with your tattoo artist beforehand. Some artists might have reservations as certain creams can affect the skin’s texture, potentially impacting the tattoo’s outcome.

Will drinking alcohol help reduce the pain?

It’s not advisable to drink alcohol before a session. Alcohol can thin your blood, leading to increased bleeding during the tattoo process. This can affect the quality of the tattoo and prolong the healing time.

How do I know if my skin is infected post-tattoo?

Signs of an infection include excessive redness, swelling, warmth at the tattoo site, foul odor, yellowish or greenish pus, and fever. If you suspect an infection, seek medical attention immediately.

Can I get it if I’m pregnant?

It’s generally advised to avoid getting pregnant during pregnancy. The risk of infection and the stress it might put on your body could potentially harm the baby. Always consult with a healthcare professional if you’re considering a tattoo while pregnant.

How often should I moisturize?

It’s recommended to moisturize your new tattoo 2-3 times a day. However, avoid over-moisturizing as it can suffocate and cause scabbing. Use a thin layer of tattoo-specific lotion or ointment.

Can I go swimming after getting a tattoo?

You should avoid swimming for at least 2-3 weeks after getting a tattoo. Submerging the tattoo in water can cause the ink to fade and increase the risk of bacterial infections.

Final Words

Tattoos are a beautiful journey of self-expression, artistry, and resilience. While the pain is a part of the process, it’s a fleeting moment compared to the lifetime of memories and stories your tattoo will hold.

Equip yourself with knowledge, trust in your artist, and embrace every part of the experience. After all, every inked story is worth the pain.