Tattoo Pain Chart: Where It Hurts Most and Least, and More (2023)

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Getting a tattoo generally involves some pain, but the tattoo’s location and your personal pain tolerance will affect how much it hurts. Generally speaking, the most painful body parts to ink are bony areas, or areas with thin skin or that have a lot of nerve endings.

Tattoos are among the most common body decorations globally. According to a 2010 study, a whopping 38 percent of people 18 to 29 years old have been inked at least once in their lives.

A natural question to ask is, “Does getting a tattoo hurt?”

While most people will say yes, in reality this is a complex question to answer.

Tattooing involves repeatedly piercing your skin’s top layer with a sharp needle covered with pigment. So getting a tattoo is generally always painful, though people may experience different levels of pain.

People who are biologically male tend to experience and cope with pain differently from those who are biologically female. In addition, the various parts of the body experience different levels of pain when tattooed.

While there is no scientific evidence that says which areas of the body will feel the most and least pain when getting inked, we gathered anecdotal information from sites run by people in the tattoo industry.

Here’s the general consensus: The least painful places to get tattooed are those with the most fat, fewest nerve endings, and thickest skin. The most painful places to get tattooed are those with the least fat, most nerve endings, and thinnest skin. Bony areas usually hurt a lot.

(Video) Most Painful VS Least Painful Tattoo Placement

Read on to find out which spots are likely to be most and least painful.

Tattoo Pain Chart: Where It Hurts Most and Least, and More (2)Share on Pinterest

Everyone experiences pain in different ways. The placement of your tattoo, as well as what your sex is, can affect the pain. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the most and least painful places to get tattooed.

Most painful

It’s likely most painful to get a tattoo on a part of your body with many nerve endings, close to bones without much fat, or where your skin is very thin. Pain in these areas may be high to severe.


The armpit is among the most painful places, if not the most painful place, to get tattooed. The pain you’ll experience getting tattooed here is very severe. In fact, most tattoo artists advise against people getting armpit tattoos.

Rib cage

The rib cage is probably the second most painful place for most people to get tattooed. Pain here can be severe. The skin around your ribs is extremely thin, and there’s less fat here than on most other parts of your body.

Also, every time you breathe, you move your rib cage and the skin above it, which can make the feeling of being tattooed here much more intense.

Ankles and shins

Your ankle bones and shinbones lie just beneath thin layers of skin, making it very painful to be tattooed in these areas. Ankle and shin tattoos usually cause severe pain. It’s about the same level of pain caused by tattooing over your rib cage.

Nipples and breasts

Nipples and breasts are extremely sensitive areas, so being tattooed here can cause severe pain.


Your groin is filled with nerve endings that can be irritated by tattoo needles. Pain here can be high to severe.

Elbows or kneecap

Your elbows and kneecaps are areas where your bones lie just beneath your skin. Vibrations caused by tattooing over bone can cause high to severe pain.

Behind the knees

This is another part of the body where you may experience severe pain when being tattooed. The area behind your knees has loose, stretchy skin with many nerve endings. These characteristics make this area very sensitive to tattoo needles.


Because your hip bones lie just below your skin, getting hip tattoos can cause severe pain. This is especially true if you are very thin and have less fat around your hips to cushion your hip bones.

Neck and spine

Neck and spine tattoos are known to be among the most painful tattoos because the neck and spine are very sensitive areas.

Head, face, and ears

Like the neck, your head, face, and ears contain many nerve endings that can be irritated during a tattoo and may cause severe pain. There’s not a lot of fat on your head, face, and ears, so you don’t have much of a cushion for the tattoo needle here.


The skin on and around your lips is generally loose with lots of nerve endings. A tattoo on your lips will almost certainly cause severe pain, and could lead to bleeding, swelling, and bruising.

Hands, fingers, feet, and toes

The tops and insides of the hands and feet, as well as fingers and toes, are popular places to be tattooed. Being tattooed anywhere on your hands and feet can cause severe pain. The skin here very thin, and it contains numerous nerve endings that can trigger pain when hit by a tattoo needle.

(Video) Comparison: Most Painful Places to Get A Tattoo

What’s more, when nerves in your hands and feet are disturbed by a tattoo needle, they may undergo painful spasms that make the tattooing experience very unpleasant.


Stomach tattoos may cause pain that ranges from high to severe.

The level of pain you experience depends on what kind of shape you’re in. People with higher body weights tend to have looser skin on their stomachs than people with lower body weights.

A person with tighter skin over their stomach is likely to experience less pain than a person with looser skin in this area.

Inner bicep

While the muscle inside your inner bicep can reduce the amount of pain of getting tattooed in this area, the skin here tends to be soft and loose. Getting tattooed on your inner bicep can cause a high amount of pain, but doesn’t usually cause severe pain.

Tattoos here generally take longer than other parts of the body to heal.

Least painful

Areas that likely cause the least amount of pain when tattooed tend to be padded with some fat, have tight skin, have few nerve endings, and aren’t close to bones. Pain in these areas will be low to moderate.

Some of the least painful spots include:

Upper outer thigh

This part of the body is well padded with fat and has few nerve endings. The upper outer thigh is one of the least painful places to get a tattoo, with pain low to low-moderate in most people.


There’s a lot of muscle and thick skin on your forearms, without many nerve endings. Tattoos on the forearms usually cause a low to low-moderate amount of pain.

Outer shoulders

The outer part of your shoulders has thick skin with few nerve endings, making it one of the least painful places to get tattooed. The pain of being tattooed here is usually low to low-moderate.

Outer bicep

The outer bicep has a lot of muscle without a lot of nerve endings, making it a good place for a tattoo that won’t cause a lot of pain. Outer bicep tattoos usually cause low to low-moderate levels of pain.


There is a significant amount of fat and muscle on the calves, and few nerve endings, so calf tattoos usually aren’t too painful. You can expect to feel low to low-moderate levels of pain here.

Upper and lower back

Getting a tattoo on your upper or lower back usually causes low-moderate to moderate amounts of pain because skin here is thick with few nerve endings. The further away you tattoo from the bones and nerve endings in your spine and hips, the less pain you’ll feel.

Several things may affect how you feel pain:


Research suggests that people who are biologically women experience sensations of pain more intensely than men. This may be due to physical and chemical differences between women’s and men’s bodies.

On the other hand, scientists have also found that women are more accepting of pain than men.

However, there’s no specific research suggesting women experience more pain while getting tattoos than men or vice versa.

(Video) TATTOO PAIN : Most Painful Places for Tattoos


Research suggests that people who have had tattoos may have a higher pressure pain threshold compared to those who have never had a tattoo.

Age and weight

While not supported by research, it’s possible that age and weight may make tattoos more painful.

Older skin may be more likely to bruise or feel pain than younger skin.

Heavier people may have looser skin, which could also be more sensitive to tattoos. Conversely, people with very low body fat might also feel more pain.

The way you experience pain and the placement of your tattoo can greatly affect how it feels to get inked.

Again, this hasn’t been proven scientifically, but certain types of pain are well-known in the tattoo community.

There are a few general sensations commonly felt when getting a tattoo. Being familiar with these sensations before getting tattooed can give you an idea of what you can expect to feel and how to tell when your pain isn’t normal.

Common types of tattoo pain include:

Burning pain

Burning pain feels like having something very hot pressed against your skin for an extended period.

It’s most commonly felt in areas a tattoo artist has worked on for a long time, caused by a combination of your skin’s rawness and the repeated trauma resulting from a tattoo needle piercing your skin in the same place. It’s also common in areas with more fat beneath the skin.

Burning pain isn’t usually intense, but it can be very irritating.

Dull or background pain

Tattoo artists say this is the best kind of pain you could feel while getting tattooed.

When the needle revs up with its loud buzz and the needle’s sharp prick first hits your skin, your body’s reaction is to start producing stress hormones like adrenaline. These hormones actually work to numb the pain into feeling like a dull ache in the background.

During your tattoo session, you may feel this dull pain change or intensify at times. You’re more likely to stay in the dull pain phase if you’re distracted by another activity while being tattooed, such as talking to your artist, listening to music, or watching TV.

Scratching pain

Scratching pain is the most common sensation experienced when you’re getting a tattoo. This kind of pain can feel like an intense scratch moving across the tattooed area, as if a cat were dragging its claws across your skin.

While this pain isn’t usually intense, it can hurt a lot if your tattoo artist works on the same area for a long time. It also tends to hurt more when multiple needles are used at the same time, rather than a single needle. This is the case when your artist adds shading to your tattoo.

Sharp or stinging pain

Sharp or stinging pain can be described as many tiny bee stings. This kind of pain is usually quite intense, and it feels like the needle is poking deep into your skin. It’s sometimes enough to make you want to move away from the tattoo needle!

This kind of pain is most commonly felt when a tattoo artist is using fewer needles, or just one needle, to add very fine detail or make the outline of your tattoo. Body parts with thinner or tighter skin are more likely to feel sharp or stinging pain, like the wrists and biceps.

(Video) 'I Felt My Soul Leave My Body' Most and Least Painful Places to Get a Tattoo | Tattoo Artists React

While experienced tattoo artists know what they’re doing, it’s possible for newbies to mess up a new tattoo. Sharp or stinging pain that’s very intense might actually mean your tattoo artist is pushing their needles too deeply into your skin.

This can cause a tattoo deformity called a tattoo blowout, which leads to a tattoo’s ink dispersing below just the very top layers of skin that should be tattooed. The end result is a very painful and blurry tattoo.

You can prevent tattoo blowout by using a highly experienced tattoo artist and avoiding tattooing on very thin skin.

Vibrating pain

You may experience vibrating pain when you’re getting tattooed in a very bony place, such as these areas:

  • outer wrist
  • elbows
  • ribs
  • ankles

When a tattoo needle pierces skin above bone, nerves in your bones may pick up the vibrating sensation, especially if the needle is moving at a very high speed. This causes vibrating pain.

Vibrating pain isn’t usually intense, but it doesn’t exactly tickle either. You’re more likely to experience vibrating pain if you’re thinner and have less skin and fat over your bones.

Here are a few tips to minimize tattoo pain:

  • Ask your tattoo artist to take breaks when you’re having trouble dealing with the pain.
  • Choose a very experienced tattoo artist. Insist on seeing their certification and checking out their equipment beforehand. Your tattoo artist should always wear clean gloves and use sterilized equipment.
  • Don’t eat before you get your tattoo if you’re getting your stomach tattooed.
  • Follow tattoo aftercare instructions such as washing your tattoo, wearing loose clothing over your tattoo, and applying ointment and moisturizer to reduce pain and the risks of complications after your tattoo is finished.
  • Make sure you’ve gotten enough sleep before your tattoo. Having had sufficient sleep before a tattoo will make it easier for you to endure the pain.
  • Stay sober for your tattoo. Alcohol thins your blood and can cause bleeding and bruising. This can bring on a lot of pain and even ruin your tattoo.
  • Stay hydrated to keep your skin supple and tight to reduce the pain of a tattoo.
  • Try a numbing product on your skin before getting your tattoo to reduce the amount of pain you experience. Browse numbing products for tattoos online.

Tattoos may take minutes to hours to add to your body, but they last a lifetime. Pain should be only one consideration of getting a tattoo. Removing a tattoo is a much more time-consuming and painful process, and has mixed results.

Before getting a tattoo, consider:

  • risks of infection, allergic reactions to dyes, scarring, and blood-borne diseases
  • whether you’ll regret the design of your tattoo
  • whether the appearance of your tattoo might change if you gain weight or become pregnant
  • the placement of your tattoo, and whether you want the option of hiding it under clothing

Getting a tattoo is a painful experience for everyone. But there are factors affecting how much pain you as an individual experience while getting inked. Things like sex, skin condition, and tattoo placement can affect how much it hurts to get a tattoo.

Make sure you’re aware of the pain, complications, and risks of tattoo regret before you head to the tattoo parlor.


Where do tattoos hurt the most and least? ›

Here's the general consensus: The least painful places to get tattooed are those with the most fat, fewest nerve endings, and thickest skin. The most painful places to get tattooed are those with the least fat, most nerve endings, and thinnest skin. Bony areas usually hurt a lot.

What part of the body does it hurt least to get a tattoo? ›

The most painful spots to get a tattoo are your ribs, spine, fingers, and shins. The least painful spots to get a tattoo are your forearms, stomach, and outer thighs.

Who has higher pain tolerance for tattoos? ›

Conclusions: There was no difference between females and males in pain intensity during tattooing. Directly after the procedure, however, pain intensity was higher in women when compared to men. The most important factors increasing pain were time, bleeding, and the level of stress.

How bad does a wrist tattoo hurt on a scale of 1 to 10? ›

The pain is not as bad as, say, having your nerve-rich nipples or lips tattooed. But most people rank it pretty high on the pain chart. People put the pain anywhere between a 5 out of 10 to a “what-was-I-thinking” level of pain. That's a broad range.

What are the top 10 least painful places to get a tattoo? ›

Where Do Tattoos Hurt Least?
  • Upper back.
  • Outer arm.
  • Upper outer thigh.
  • Butt.
  • Forearm.
  • Calves.
Feb 4, 2021

What can I take before a tattoo to ease the pain? ›

How to reduce pain before, during, and after tattoos. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, may help ease the pain following a tattooing procedure.

How much do you tip a tattoo artist? ›

It is customary to tip tattoo artists for their time and skill. A general guideline is to tip between 15-20% of the total cost of your tattoo, but you can adjust this amount based on your personal budget and satisfaction with the service.

Why don t tattoo artists use numbing cream? ›

A lot of tattoo artists refuse to use their own numbing creams or sprays during their sessions. Two of the main reasons why they might not use creams are: They consider the pain of a tattoo part of the tradition. They've used certain numbing creams before and they don't feel like they worked.

What is the most attractive body part to get a tattoo? ›

Those attracted to women saw a three-way tie between the upper back, shoulder and hips (with a 3.3 rating). The back: a top-rated tattoo location for women and men. The hip: a top-rated tattoo location for women. The upper arm: a top-rated tattoo location for men.

Can I handle tattoo pain? ›

Stay relaxed by practicing steady breathing. Distract yourself. Bring your headphones and listen to music. If your artist is open to conversation, or if you're allowed to bring a friend, talk to them to distract yourself.

What is the most overused tattoo? ›

Here Are 25 Tattoo Designs That — According To Tattoo Artists — Are Totally Overdone
  • The Deathly Hallows symbol. ...
  • Anchors — usually accompanied by the words "Don't sink." ...
  • Chemistry formulas. ...
  • Big cats in crowns. ...
  • Forests around people's arms. ...
  • The entire Bible. ...
  • Little sun/moon combos. ...
  • Palm trees.
Feb 15, 2020

How deep do tattoo needles go? ›

A Tattoo needle penetrates 5 layers of the epidermis

That may sound like a lot of skin, but in reality it is only 1/16th of an inch, about 1-2mm. That's pretty tiny. It goes through five layers of the epidermis, through the dermal layer, and into the topmost layer of the dermis.

Can I use numbing cream before a tattoo? ›

Sometimes we all need a little extra help. Emla numbing cream is a trusted brand that can help you through your tattoo appointment. Emla can also be used to numb the skin before laser tattoo removal.

Do thin tattoos hurt more? ›

While no tattoo will be completely painless, Wiwi points out that fine line tattoos hurt less as they use small needles. However, Boyle points out that placement can greatly affect how much getting a tattoo hurts, not to mention the skill level of the artist.

Do small tattoos hurt more than big ones? ›

Tattoo Size

The larger the tattoo, the more discomfort that may be experienced, as bigger tattoos involve more needles, ink, and session time.

Where is the softest place to get a tattoo? ›

The upper thigh and the upper outer thigh have everything that aids comfort levels when getting inked; they are well padded with fat, they have fewer nerve endings, and they're far from any bones, making for a lower tattoo pain scale.

What is more painful outline or shading? ›

Contrary to what you might expect, many people report that the shading hurts significantly less than the outlining of the tattoo. If you've already made it through your line work, pat yourself on the back. You've likely conquered the most painful part already. You can do this!

Can I take painkillers before tattoo? ›

With that said, don't take painkillers before getting a tattoo either. Painkillers like Advil and Ibuprofen also thin the blood, which will lead to similar issues that alcohol has. Acetaminophen may potentially be fine to take, but should be discussed with the artist beforehand.

What helps nerves before a tattoo? ›

How to Calm Your Nerves Before Getting a Tattoo
  1. Remind Yourself of the Worthy Reason for Getting a Tattoo. Anything that is worth doing is hard. ...
  2. Express Your Anxiety to Your Tattooist. Your tattooist is putting their handiwork on your body, for life. ...
  3. Start Small. ...
  4. Get Tattooed With a Friend of Family Member.
Sep 19, 2022

What not to do before tattoo? ›

Drink a lot of water during the week; avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours before getting tattooed. Please do not shave the area; we will do it for you at your appointment. Avoid aspirin or blood thinning medication at least 24 hours before your tattoo; ibuprofen, acetaminophen, & other NSAID pain relievers are OK.

Do you tip for a $1000 tattoo? ›

Yes, in most cases you should leave a tip

For example, if you were charged $1,000, the artist may only be getting about a $300 paycheck for their work. Next, most artists are required to pay for their own equipment.

How much do I tip for a $100 tattoo? ›

You generally tip tattoo artists 20% - 30% for the price of the service you're paying for. So a $100 tattoo would include a $20 - $30 tip at the end of the session.

How much do you tip for a $500 tattoo? ›

The average percent of tips to a tattoo artist is 15-20%. So, for a $500 tattoo, you can tip $75-100.

What are the downsides of tattoo numbing cream? ›

It also makes it harder to push ink between those skin cells. The tissue becomes more difficult to saturate. Another con on numbing cream is it takes longer to tattoo the person which, in my opinion, negates the purpose of the numbing cream.

Do tattoo artists charge for numbing cream? ›

Turning up with numbing cream may cost you your appointment (depending on the tattooist you see). It's likely to cause you more grief that it's worth. If your artist is comfortable with numbing the tattoo for you, that's between you and your tattooist.

Does painless tattoo numbing cream work? ›

Do these tattoo numbing creams, ointments, and sprays actually work? The short answer is: Yes, they do work. However, they are not a magic cream that is going to make your tattoo completely painless. They will make the pain bearable though, and in some cases much more bearable.

What body parts do tattoos age best on? ›

These parts of the body are the best places to get a tattoo for minimal aging.
  • Inner Forearm. This is proven to be the best area to get a tattoo when it comes to aging. ...
  • Upper, Outer Chest. This area is normally covered by clothing, which means it is not often exposed to the sun. ...
  • Back of The Neck. ...
  • Lower Back.
Aug 27, 2016

What tattoos do girls like the most? ›

Tattoo Location
  • Tattoo Location. ...
  • Forearm Tattoo – Forearms tied for first place with chest ink, with 28% of the votes.
  • Bicep Tattoo – 18% of women like bicep tattoos, with no specification as to inner or outer arm.
  • Shoulder Blade Tattoo – 11% of ladies prefer to see a man with ink on their shoulder blade.

Where are secret areas for tattoos? ›

The 15 Best Spots to Hide a Tattoo if You Want to Keep It on the...
  • On your chest. ...
  • Inside your lip. ...
  • On your neck. ...
  • Inside your arm. ...
  • On your upper thigh. ...
  • Underneath your finger. ...
  • On the side of your finger. ...
  • On your collarbone.
Jan 6, 2021

What is the best age to have a tattoo? ›

The safest bet is to wait until you're 18 to start getting inked, but if you just can't wait, there are many ways to still get one with parental consent. Regulations are for your safety and well-being, as well as that of the tattoo artist and the shop.

Where do tattoos age the worst? ›

You should expect your upper arm and abdomen to sag more as you age, which can affect how a tattoo in those areas would look. "Shoulders and ankles have tight skin, and the skin does not sag and become as loose over time, unlike the upper arm or abdomen," Edgar Fincher, a dermatologist, told Allure.

Where is the most attractive place to get a tattoo? ›

Those attracted to women saw a three-way tie between the upper back, shoulder and hips (with a 3.3 rating). The back: a top-rated tattoo location for women and men. The hip: a top-rated tattoo location for women. The upper arm: a top-rated tattoo location for men.

What tattoos do not age well? ›

  • TINY TATTOOS. Tiny tattoos may seem like a great idea, they're discreet and don't require a huge amount of time. ...
  • TRENDY TATTOOS. Just like clothes and haircuts, any trends regarding tattoos will come and go. ...
  • WHITE INK TATTOOS. White ink tattoos sound like a great idea. ...

What would be a good first tattoo? ›

Tiny tattoos are a popular first choice as well. Whether it's hearts, stars, or zodiac symbols, fine line techniques are ideal for a first tattoo because of their delicate design and barely-there size. Another memorable first tattoo choice is a word or mantra that defines who you are.

Where not to get tattoos? ›

So what are the worst places to get a tattoo on the body? Areas like the feet, hands, stomach, chest, elbow, lips, and inner ear are not good tattoo locations. It's essential to consider a few things when choosing a proper placement, such as pain intensity, practicality, and visibility.

What is a good price for a first tattoo? ›

There is a lot that goes into figuring out the cost of your new tattoo. It isn't a straight forward answer. Things like materials, size, location, and type of tattoo affect the price. On average you can expect to charge $50-100 for a small tattoo, up to $200 for a medium tattoo and over $250 for a large tattoo.

Will my tattoo change if I lose weight? ›

Your tattoo might move around a bit during weight loss. If your skin gets a bit loose during your weight loss, your tattoo might shift. If you are losing weight while also toning or building muscle, then your tattoo might find itself sculpted to your body in a different way.

Do thin tattoos age badly? ›

Yes, as with all tattoo styles, fine line tattoos can fade over time. Though all tattoos fade and some blur, you can extend the vibrance, definition, and color of your fine line tattoo with some simple steps: choose a skilled tattoo artist. allow your tattoo to fully heal.

What is the oldest known tattoo? ›

The world's oldest figurative tattoos have been discovered on two 5,000-year-old mummies from Egypt. Tattoos depicting a wild bull and a Barbary sheep were found on the upper arm of a male mummy, while the shoulder and upper arm of a female mummy bore “S”-shaped motifs.

Where are tattoos best that don't wrinkle? ›

The upper back region around the trapezius, below the neck, and around posterior deltoids all provide a stretch-free (for the most part) canvas. Even with significant weight gain, aging skin, or muscle growth the skin in this area keeps the same relative range of elasticity.

How long after a tattoo can I shower? ›

You can shower 3-4 hours after getting a tattoo, if you have a Saniderm bandage on, however, if you have a plastic wrap wait 24 hours to unwrap your tattoo and shower. In either case, shower in cold or lukewarm water and avoid prolonged soaking or submerging your tattoo in water for 3-4 weeks.

What is the most popular tattoo for a girl? ›

The heart is one of the most popular tattoo choices, and for a good reason. It is a universally recognized symbol across all cultures and holds deep meaning for the wearer, including love, loss, and heartbreak.

Where do girls like tattoos the most? ›

Tattoo Location
  • Tattoo Location. ...
  • Forearm Tattoo – Forearms tied for first place with chest ink, with 28% of the votes.
  • Bicep Tattoo – 18% of women like bicep tattoos, with no specification as to inner or outer arm.
  • Shoulder Blade Tattoo – 11% of ladies prefer to see a man with ink on their shoulder blade.


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