Tattoos are made using a machine that bounces a bundle of very small needles up and down into your skin. So...uh...yeah, Ouch! Some have compared it to the scratch of kitten, others compare it to a bee sting. Any way you describe it, getting tattoos is usually painful. The pain is actually a good thing though, if you think about it. People already get stupid things permanently tattooed on them even though it hurts. Can you imagine how many stupid things people would tattoo on themselves if it didn't hurt? Pain makes you think a little harder about which tattoo to get, and that is a REALLY good idea. Removing a tattoo is very expensive and even more painful than getting it done in the first place, and covering a tattoo requires a larger tattoo. So the pain ought to make you consider carefully whether the tattoo is something that you want on you forever. The best tattoos are badges of courage and conviction and have more value BECAUSE of the pain, while bad tattoos humiliate their wearers by forever advertising a bad choice. At Ayiti Ink, we want you to have GOOD tattoos.
The level of pain is really dependent on the placement and size of the tattoo. A kitten scratch doesn't hurt too bad, but a thousand little kitty claws passing over the same spot on your skin would be brutal. The more fill and color saturation you want in your tattoo, the more the tattoo needle will be passing over the same area multiple times. This causes more pain. So "tribal" style tattoos, for example, typically hurt a bit more than text tattoos because they are made of large shapes filled in with black.
Some people will say that bony areas are more painful to get tattooed. This is not entirely true, as under-ear and cranial tattoos can actually tickle a bit, but most bony areas increase the sense of the impact of the needle, and increase the potential of actual damage being done to the deeper levels of skin tissue. This damage heals, but the process can mean more pain in some bony spots. On the other hand, fatty areas require more needle penetrations to really get the ink in, so the repetitive attention can cause more pain in your chubby spots.
Besides the amount of flesh cushioning impact and the number of repetitions needed to saturate ink in an area, a significant factor for the level of pain is the number of nerves bundled in the area that is being tattooed. The skin on your torso is a key sensor to protect your vital organs, so tattooing your chest, spine, and ribs triggers these sensitive nerves and makes for a painful tattoo. Your palms are used to feel textures and are thus packed with nerves and also very painful to tattoo.
BUT, DON'T BE AFRAID! Most people are more surprised by how much LESS the tattoo hurts than they thought it would, and there are also anesthetics that help make your tattoo less painful. At Ayiti Ink & Image, we prefer to use an ink/anesthetic mix called "painless ink". Painless ink uses lidocaine to soothe the epidermal nerves after the first few passes of the tattoo needle. Because it takes a moment for the lidocaine to work, "Painless" ink is not entirely painless, but it reduces the pain significantly, and many clients LOVE this stuff. If you choose "painless ink" there is an additional $10 per hour charge for your tattoo.
For more information, read our page describing HOW TATTOOS WORK
To contact us about planning, designing, or scheduling your tattoo, click here.