What Does Getting A Tattoo Feel Like? The Honest Truth

What does getting a tattoo feel like
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What does getting a tattoo feel like? This is a common tattoo question that many people ask before they get their first tattoo. What most people want to know is how much it will hurt and can they handle it. So what does getting a tattoo feel like?

What a tattoo feels like varies depending on where the tattoo is being done. Some people describe it as scratchy, annoying, or burning. Others find it vibrating, sharp, stingy, dull, or achy. The bottom line is that it’s not unbearable – and the end result is worth any discomfort.


Most people can handle the pain of a tattoo without too much trouble. However, it’s nice to know what you are going to be facing before you get in the tattoo chair for the first time so read on to find out about the different sensations associated with tattooing.

We will also talk about ways to minimize the pain once you are in the Tattoo Studio.

If you are really worried about tattoo pain, you might like to check out this post. Tattoo pain chart. How to minimize your pain.

Tattoo Pain Chart – 10 Tips To Minimize Your Pain




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What Does Tattoo Pain Feel Like

So, What Does Getting A Tattoo Feel Like? The honest truth is that it depends on the individual. Some people feel a scratching sensation, others feel a burning sensation. You might feel a sharp pain, a vibration, or a dull ache. The bottom line is that it’s not unbearable and the end result is worth any discomfort.

Pain levels and levels of discomfort vary massively from person to person.

The sensations associated with the tattooing process can be separated into two broad categories:

  • Point Pain: This type of pain feels like a needle stick or scratch and it comes from the puncturing of the skin by the tattoo needle. It feels like a sharp or stingy pain that can be felt at each individual point where your tattoo artist puts the tattoo ink in.
  • Diffuse Pain: This type of pain is unpleasant but it’s not too bad and it’s associated with having an area of sensitive skin when the needles are moving across it. It feels like a vibrating or throbbing pain that is more of an annoyance than anything else.

Larger tattoos feel different to smaller tattoos pain wise. A small tattoo may be more intense but over quickly. A larger tattoo requires a higher level of mental control over pain.

There are other types of pain, such as those associated with an infection or allergic reaction or the feeling of a healing tattoo which often feels like sunburn.

However, we will concentrate on the pain of the actual tattooing process here.

What Does getting a tattoo feel like?

The Different Types of Tattoo Pain

 

1 – Scratching Tattoo Pain 

This is the most common type of pain that people feel when they are getting a tattoo. It’s often compared to the feeling of a cat scratch. It’s a sharp feeling scratchy kind of pain. This sensation is caused by the needles puncturing the skin and depositing ink into it.

The feeling usually starts as mild discomfort and becomes more intense the further along the tattooing process you get. However, it’s not unbearable and most people can handle it without too much trouble.

2 – Throbbing Tattoo Pain

This type of pain is usually felt when the artist is working on an area that is already sore or sensitive. It feels like a throbbing sensation that comes and goes in waves.

This is not a pleasant feeling but it’s not too bad either. It can be compared to how you feel when your leg falls asleep and then someone rubs the area that has gone numb. The sensation isn’t intense or sharp, but it hurts more than getting tattooed normally would in that particular area of skin.

3 – Burning Tattoo Pain

This type of pain is more intense than the scratching or throbbing sensations and it’s more common in areas that have thin skin, like around the wrists and ankles or on the back of the neck over the spine. It feels like a burning sensation that can be uncomfortable.

4 – Sharp Tattoo Pain

This type of pain is not as common as the others and it can be similar to the feeling that you get when getting a shot or having blood drawn. It feels like a sharp sensation of quite intense pain that comes on suddenly and then goes away quickly afterward.

You might feel this kind of sensation in nerve-rich areas like the elbow ditch. Much of a tattoo may be OK pain wise and then you hit a particularly painful spot.

5 – Dull Achy background Tattoo Pain

This type of pain is the easiest type to handle. It feels like an ache or dull pain that can be annoying but not unbearable. Your body’s natural painkillers {known as Endorphins } kick in and push the sensation of pain into the background.

It’s quite easy to ignore and tune out this kind of tattoo pain. You can handle this kind of background tattoo pain for many hours at a time.

6 – Vibration Tattoo Pain

This type of pain is caused by the vibration of the tattoo machine rattling through your bones and organs. Not gonna lie, in my opinion, this is the worst kind of tattoo pain. You might feel this kind of sensation in areas in the middle of your body, such as the chest, ribs, and lower back.

Different people have different levels of pain tolerance so it’s impossible for us to tell you exactly what your tattoo will feel like. What we can say is that the sensations described above are generally experienced by most people who get tattoos. It hurts but it’s not unbearable and you will be able to handle the discomfort.

Vibration Tattoo Pain

Vibration Tattoo Pain can be an issue for rib and chest tattoos

Is getting a tattoo unbearable?

Getting a tattoo isn’t unbearable. It doesn’t feel good but most people can handle the pain without passing out or throwing up. Taking painkillers, keeping hydrated, avoiding hangovers, eating before your appointment, and using numbing cream can all make getting a tattoo more bearable.

You’re going to come out of your tattoo appointment with a great new piece of artwork on your body and the pain that you went through will be worth it.

How do I know if I can handle a tattoo?

The only way to know if you can handle a tattoo is to get a tattoo. If you’re worried that you might not be able to handle the pain then you can start with a small piece of work first. That way you will know what you can handle without committing to a massive piece you might not be able to finish.

Talk to your tattoo artist about your concerns and they will be more than happy to help you out.

I’m still worried. Is there a way to make the tattoo hurt less?

There are ways to make the tattoo hurt less and to minimize the pain. Taking painkillers, keeping hydrated, avoiding hangovers, eating before your appointment, and using numbing cream can all make getting a tattoo more bearable. We will go over these below.

The main thing to do is to speak to your artist and tell them that you are worried about the pain. A good tattoo shop will be more than happy to work with you to make sure that you’re comfortable.

What can I do to minimize the pain of a tattoo?

There are a few things that you can do to make sure you have a comfortable tattooing experience.

These include:

  • Eating a meal before your appointment {you need to have some energy in your body before you start getting tattooed otherwise you may feel lightheaded or nauseous. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable is extremely important to feel your best whilst getting tattooed.}
  • Taking over the counter pain killers such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol { these can help to decrease the amount of pain that you feel}
  • Bringing along a personal comfort item, like a pillow or blanket { something to make you feel more at ease and relaxed }
  • Keeping your mind occupied with distractions by talking to your tattoo artist or listening to music { this will help you to focus on anything other than the pain}
  • Practicing a relaxation technique such as Meditation.
  • Practicing deep breathing. Good breathing technique can make all the difference.
  • Ask your artist if using numbing cream is possible? I wrote a detailed post about when you can use it. Can I use numbing cream before a tattoo?

What should I avoid doing when getting tattooed?

  • Drinking alcohol before your appointment { having a hangover when you are getting tattooed is quite literally the worst thing ever and you will wish you were dead }
  • Tensing up. If your body is tense you will be more sensitive to the pain. Relax, breathe deeply and relax your muscles individually.

What if I have a low pain tolerance?

If you know that you have low pain tolerance or pain threshold, then it’s important to prepare yourself as best as possible. You may want to avoid getting large or elaborate tattoos in areas that are very sensitive like your ribs or spine. You may also want to consider numbing cream, which can be purchased over the counter at most pharmacies.

This is a topical anesthetic that is applied to the skin before the tattooing process begins. It will help to numb the area and make the sensation of getting tattooed more bearable. You need to speak to your artist about using it though as many tattooists don’t like using it and will drop your appointment if you do so.

Storytime – Don’t listen to your mates.

I’ve had SO MANY people turn up for their first tattoo absolutely white with fear.

It’s always the same story. They have told a tattooed mate they are getting their first tattoo. The mate has then taken great delight in putting the absolute fear up them. Telling them exactly how incredibly agonizing it will be and how they will surely die/faint/puke/piss themselves/be unable to finish the tattoo.

It seems to be the done thing to scare someone half to death. Then when they come to the appointment they are not in the best state of mind.

So, don’t tell your tattooed mate you are getting your first tattoo. Or if you do, don’t listen to their bullshittery. You will handle it all just fine.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Getting a Tattoo Feels Like

what does tattoo pain feel like?

What does it feel like to get a forearm tattoo?

 What does getting a tattoo feel like on your forearm?

The top of the forearm is a good place for a tattoo as it’s not too painful. Getting a tattoo on your forearm feels like a scratchy sensation that is fairly easy to handle. The top of the forearm is one of the least painful places to get a tattoo. However, the inner forearm is fairly painful.

What does getting a tattoo feel like on your inner forearm?

It feels quite painful to get a tattoo on the inner forearm. The inner forearm has quite soft and tender skin. The skin is also quite thin over the muscle. Getting tattooed here will feel sharply scratchy. If you are worried about the pain the top of the forearm is a better location.

The elbow ditch is a pretty unpleasant place to get tattooed. Ditch tattoos can be sharp and scratchy and intense.

What does it feel like to get a tattoo on the inner forearm

I have to say, this blue flower on the inner forearm was the most painful tattoo I have had {and I have many others}. The tattoo in the ditch wasn’t great either.

What does getting a tattoo feel like on your wrist?

The wrist has thin skin over bones and tendons. For this reason, getting a tattoo on your wrist feels like a sharp and hot dragging scratch. A wrist tattoo on the underside, over the tendons, can be quite intense. The top side of the wrist however is less painful.

What does getting a tattoo feel like on your ribs?

The ribs are one of the most painful places to get tattooed. Getting a tattoo on your ribs feels like a deep and burning pain vibrating through your rib cage and internal organs. If you are unsure of your pain tolerance, or if it’s your first tattoo, it’s not recommended to start on the ribs.

What does getting a tattoo feel like on your shoulder?

Getting a tattoo on your shoulder feels like a dull scratching kind of pain. This kind of pain is fairly easy to handle. The shoulder is fairly low pain for a tattoo. The shoulder is a good place to get your first tattoo or if you are worried about the pain of getting a tattoo.

Which style of tattoo is the least painful?

Some kind of tattoos hurt less than others. If you are worried about the pain of a tattoo you might want to check out this post Are dotwork tattoos less painful? 5 Crucial reasons why.

What does a tattoo feel like once it’s finished?

When you have reached the end of the tattooing session how will you feel? The good news is that as soon as the tattoo session has finished, the pain subsides and your pain receptors can calm down. Your layers of skin have been scratched over a prolonged period though so the skin will be understandably tender and sensitive.

However, there will no longer be any intense pain. It’s often describes as a general sensitivity, very similar to an annoying sunburn sensation.

Your tattoo aftercare regime will be explained to you. This will involve washing down the tattoo. This can be minimally painful as the skin will be sensitive to the touch. However, it really isn’t too sore and is easy to handle.

Conclusion – What does getting a tattoo feel like?

If you are worried about getting a tattoo for the first time and wonder what it feels like, then we hope that this article has helped to answer your question. What does getting a tattoo feel like?

The honest truth is that it hurts, but it’s not unbearable. Most people can handle it just fine so don’t let it put you off heading for the tattoo studio.

There are things you can do to minimize the pain, so you need to talk to your Tattooist about how to handle it throughout the tattoo process.

You will end up with an amazing piece of body art so it’s worth the discomfort.

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