Do Tattoos Hurt? | [Full Tattoo Pain Chart]

One of the most common questions we get asked is “do tattoos hurt?”

There are a number of ways to answer this question but when you get down to it the answer is simple, yes, tattoos hurt! There are a few factors that go into figuring out how much the piece you are planning on getting will hurt and how bad the pain will be. But, it isn’t all bad news; there are steps you can take which will help reduce the pain. Before we dive in and answer all your questions, check out our Playhouse Tattoo Pain Chart below.

What does it feel like to get tattooed?

Everybody is different and nobody will feel pain the same way. However, there are feelings that people typically agree on when describing the pain experienced from getting a tattoo.

Sunburn Scratching

This is by far the most common answer that people give when describing the consistent itch they feel. The best way to think of it is a cat repeatedly scratching on sunburns. As your artists’ gun travels across your skin, your body will react to the sharp scratching. Overall, this feeling is more annoying than painful, but as the gun goes over the same spot over and over again, it can begin to hurt.

One thing that does make this scratching feeling worse is multiple needles. Think of this as the claws of a cat going over your skin. This feeling is typically worse when your artist is shading to create different stylistic attributes to your tattoo.

Steady Vibration Pain

This is definitely one of the weirdest types of pain you will experience during your tattoo appointment. The most common occurrence of this type of pain is over bone, such as your ankles, wrists, ribs, knee cap, and elbows.

If you have ever used a massage gun you will notice that as the gun goes over your bones you begin to really feel the vibration. This feeling becomes uncomfortable pretty quickly especially if the speed starts to pick up. Although this pain isn’t agonizing, it isn’t something you are enjoying either. When the tattoo gun stays over this part of your body for a long time you will become increasingly sore, particularly if you don’t have a lot of fat/muscle on the area.

Bee Sting Pain

Think of this pain as small bumblebees stinging you in the same spot. This kind of pain is typically caused by a lower amount of needles which artists use to add intricate detail or work on the outline of the tattoo. We find that areas with tighter skin are more susceptible to this type of pain, particularly your ankles and wrists.  

Burning Pain

Burning pain is usually caused by your artist working over the same area. The consistent pressure on the area slowly causes you to feel a burning sensation. It is similar to the scratching sunburn pan which isn’t overly painful but can take its toll over time.

Dull Pain

Dull pain is the pain you want to experience! Out of all of the ones we have gone over this one is the best. There is a unique explanation for this type of pain and it is rooted in your bodies reaction to the trauma happening and your adrenaline turning up.

When your artists’ gun first makes contact with your skin you’re going to feel a decent amount of pain. After a while, your body will start dulling out the pain and you will get accustomed to it pretty fast. Think of this is as your body’s way of being on cruise control during the pain. You might come out of the dullness and experience a sharper pain but that eventually does subside and the dullness returns.

The reason most people consider this the best pain is because you aren’t truly experiencing heightened pain. Your body adjusts and reacts efficiently to help you get through your session. If you distract yourself with music or Netflix then you will definitely cruise through your session.

Stopping your Session because of Pain

Everybody comes to a point where the pain is too much to handle. Ideally, you want to stop before this point but most people do try to tough it out. The most important thing to know is there is no shame in asking your artist to stop. A good tattoo artist will always be respectful of how you are feeling during your tattoo session.

It is better to take a break and reassess how your body is reacting to the needle and then move forward. If the pain is too much to handle then your artist should happily re-schedule you for another appointment. If your artist has an attitude or gets upset that you cannot continue then you should not work with this artist any further.

During your break, you should drink water, get fresh air and eat something. Your blood sugar has probably dropped during your session and eating a granola bar or fruit cup will give you a great boost. Finally, you shouldn’t try to rush back to re-start your session until you are fully happy with how you are feeling. Getting tattooed is painful but you shouldn’t be miserable during your session and any good tattoo artist will be more than accommodating to that.

What will affect how much my tattoo will hurt?

There are a number of factors that come into play when trying to figure out how much your tattoo will hurt. Take a look below!

Physical Health: How well are you taking care of your body? If you eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly your body will react a lot better than most.

Tattoo Placement: Certain spots on your body will hurt more than others. For example, your butt will be a lot less painful than your kneecap.

Style and Sizing: Typically, larger tattoos take more time and tend to be more painful. Different tattoo styles also play a role in the level of pain you feel. Pieces with a lot of shading usually feel worse than pieces with simple lines.

Preparation: How you prepare for your tattoo will influence how you feel throughout the session. If you have a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy meal and stay hydrated the pain will be less than if you show up tired and hungry. Read our full guide on how to prepare for a tattoo to help you get ready for your next appointment.

Least Painful Places to Get a Tattoo

You probably want to know, where do tattoos hurt the least?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, everyone is different, so you might feel less pain on your hand compared to your friend and he/she might feel more pain on their elbow compared to you. That is what makes answering this question so difficult; pain tolerance is not the same for everybody. In general, we know we can look to a few factors that help determine pain level.

Typically, getting tattooed where there is the most amount of fat will be the least painful. This isn’t the case all the time, for example, most people find getting tattooed on their buttocks not painful but the inside of the thigh can be very painful. We also found that areas that have the least amount of nerve ends are also less painful than areas where you have more nerve endings.

When we put it to a vote amongst our artists, the body parts that continuously got votes for the least painful are the shoulders, upper back, lower back, buttocks, forearm and outside arm. If you plan on getting tattooed on any of these body parts you might be better off than other areas (for the most part).

Most Painful Places to Get a Tattoo

Similar to knowing where tattoos hurt the least, everybody wants to know, where do tattoos hurt the most?

The spots that you feel the most pain are usually lacking fat and have more open bone and high amounts of nerve endings. That is why people always say that the palms of the hands, back of the knee, ribs, tops of the feet and ankles are the most painful.

Once again, when we put it to a vote amongst our artists we were told that the sternum, anything on the face and back of the knee are truly painful areas from tattoo hell. Considering that tattoo guns today move ink into your skin over 100+ times per second, it is easy to understand why repeated penetration at high speeds can do damage for these areas.

How can I make my tattoo less painful?

We went over a few of these elements when we talked about what will affect how much your tattoo will hurt. The good thing is that there are steps and measures you can take to help reduce the pain and make the entire experience more enjoyable.

Understand Placement

We’ve gone over tattoo placement and its role in determining the amount of pain you feel. If it is your first tattoo then it is probably best to avoid areas that we have highlighted as typically being more painful.


A good night’s rest will always do wonders for you, especially when you have a tattoo appointment the next day.

Avoid Painkiller

Don’t take any aspirin 24 hours before your appointment. In fact, you should avoid any medication that has the ability to thin your blood.

Do not get tattooed if you’re sick

When you decide to get a tattoo make sure you aren’t sick or are recovering from a sickness. Your immune system will be weak as it tries to fight off any viruses and recover.


Coming in with an empty stomach will make you more prone to passing out. Remember your body is having a needle poked into it multiple times a second. You need your strength!


Water is king. Drink as much as you can before your tattoo, trust us, it will be your savior.

Avoid Alcohol

If you are hungover from a night of partying you should let your tattoo artist know. You will be able to take more breaks or if you’re really feeling unwell you should re-schedule your session.

Removing Tattoos

Although we welcome almost any tattoo idea, we do want our clients to be happy with their choices. You don’t want to sit through a painful tattoo and realize you made a big mistake. Take some time to consider why you are getting this tattoo and if you will still be happy looking at it tomorrow. As the tattoo industry grows so does the tattoo removal industry, which leads to another question we get asked, does tattoo removal hurt?

The answer to that is, yes! Tattoo removal hurts a lot more than getting a tattoo. The process also takes a lot longer than getting tattooed. When you get a tattoo removed you will go through multiple sessions and you will need to give your skin a long time to recover. That is why removing a piece takes months and even years depending on the size of the tattoo.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, tattoos are painful but they aren’t unbearable. Hundreds of people get tattooed every day and live through the pain. The best thing to do is come in with a positive mindset, prepare sufficiently and talk to your artist. Communication is vital and your tattoo will turn out a lot better if you know when you need to take breaks.

Hopefully, after reading our article you feel a little more at ease with the entire process and what you can expect. Like most good things in life that you get or experience, there is a little bit of perseverance required and that is the best way to view tattoos. You might have to go through some pain to get yours but it will definitely be worth it at the end.