Tattoo Pain Chart – Where Does it Hurt Most (and least) to Get a Tattoo?

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If you’re considering getting a tattoo, one of the main questions you may have is whether it hurts or not. Well, the answer is straightforward – yes, it does hurt. The reason is that when a tattoo artist uses a tattoo gun, it penetrates your skin numerous times during the session, leading to some level of pain.

The amount of pain you’ll feel and where you’ll feel it most depend on various factors, such as the location of the tattoo, the style, your age, and gender.

The truth is that the answer to whether tattoos hurt or not is not simple. The pain levels vary based on several aspects, and it’s not the same for every tattoo or body part.

In this article, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know about tattoos and pain, so you can be better prepared for what to expect.

Tattoos & Pain: Explained

When it comes to getting tattoos, the most sensitive regions of the body are the most painful. These include parts such as the feet, hands, fingers, armpits, head, inner wrist, chest, and ribs. These areas have many nerve endings, making the tattooing process more uncomfortable. Other regions that can be very painful include the face, throat, nipples, and genitals.

Areas of the body with bony structures and little fat are also painful to tattoo. These include the wrist, ankles, feet, collarbone, ribs, and elbows.

However, it’s essential to note that everyone’s pain threshold is different, so the most painful area for one person might not be the same for another.

If you ask several people about the most uncomfortable part of the body to get a tattoo, you’re likely to get varied responses.

6 Most Painful Places to Get a Tattoo

There are six body areas where getting a tattoo is known to be very painful.

#1 Feet

The feet have minimal fat or muscle, meaning the nerves are very exposed and sensitive. Therefore, the pain when getting a foot tattoo can be intense and even reach the bone.

Feet tattoo

#2 Hands and Fingers

Secondly, the hands and fingers are also painful to tattoo because they have many nerve endings that allow us to feel and touch things. The lack of fat or muscle around the bones in this region makes the pain more intense.

hand & finger tattoos

#3 Armpits

The armpits may seem like an unusual spot for a tattoo, but they are a highly painful location. The axillary nerve, responsible for shoulder and arm movement and sensation, runs through this area. Plus, lymph nodes and glands at this spot lead to an extended and painful healing process.

armpit getting tattooed

#4 Head

Next up is the head, which has many nerve endings and very little fat, making it an incredibly painful spot for a tattoo.

Some describe it as feeling like someone is drilling into their skull.

Head tattoo

#5 Inner Wrist

The inner wrist has many visible nerves and vessels, which means that the tattoo needle will cause sharp pain since there’s hardly any muscle or fat to cushion it.

inner wrist tattoo lotto

#6 Chest & Ribs

Lastly, the chest and ribs are known for looking great but are quite painful to tattoo since they have little padding and are near the skin surface. Additionally, these areas move with each breath, making the tattooing process all the more uncomfortable.

Find more info on this in our article about sternum/underboob tattoos.

ribs getting tattooed

It’s important to note that everyone’s pain tolerance is different, and some may find these areas less painful than others.

6 Least Painful Places to Get a Tattoo

There are six body areas that are relatively painless when it comes to getting a tattoo.

#1 Upper Back

One such region is the upper back, which is an excellent location for a large tattoo since it is not as sensitive as other parts of the body.

As long as the spine is avoided, the process of getting a tattoo on the upper back is usually smooth and relatively pain-free.

upper back medusa tattoo

#2 Outer Arm

The outer arm, including the upper arm and shoulder, is another example of an area with minimal sensitivity that can withstand the tattooing process with ease. It’s a common spot for sleeve tattoos since the arm can recover quickly with little discomfort.

outer arm messi tattooed realism

#3 Upper Outer Thigh

The upper outer thigh is also a great place to get a tattoo with low to medium pain. This area has thick skin, lots of fat and muscle, and few nerve endings, which makes it an ideal canvas for a tattoo.

thigh tattoo mushroom blackwork

#4 Butt

The butt is relatively painless to get tattooed due to the ample muscle and fat that can cushion the needle’s pain, and there are no bones in the way. However, the healing process can be challenging as it’s difficult to air out the area.

butt tattoo

#5 Forearm

Another location that is not as painful is the forearm, which has thick skin and few nerve endings. While it’s not entirely pain-free, it’s an excellent spot to get a tattoo if you don’t want to endure much pain.

forearm tiger tattoo

#6 Calves

Finally, the calves are relatively painless to tattoo since they have a good amount of fat and muscle and minimal nerve endings, which makes for an easy healing process.

calf heart tattoo

What Determines the Pain Level of Getting a Tattoo?

There are numerous factors that contribute to how much pain a person experiences when getting a tattoo. As a result, you’ll hear different things about tattoo pain from different people. These factors include the following:

– Location

Location is one of the most significant factors that determine tattoo pain.

Areas with a lot of fat and thick skin are less painful because they can cushion the needle’s sting. In contrast, areas with thin skin and little fat are more painful since the pain reaches down to the bone.

– Size and Duration

Size and duration are also significant factors. The larger the tattoo, the longer it takes, which means more detailing, shading, and needle work, resulting in more pain. Click here to find out how long does it take to get a tattoo.

– Tattoo Style

The style of the tattoo can also impact the level of pain. For example, realistic portraits require a lot of ink, shading, and needle tips, which can be painful. In contrast, simple outlines require less ink and take less time, making them less painful.

– Gender

A recent study showed that men and women experience tattoo pain differently, with women feeling more pain in most areas of their body, and men experiencing more pain in their rib and belly button areas. The study also suggests that women may have a lower pain tolerance. Further research is needed to better understand the factors that affect tattoo pain and how to reduce it for all.

– Tattoo Artist

The tattoo artist’s experience and technique can also affect pain levels.

As a rule of thumb, a more experienced and gentle artist is likely to cause less pain than a rough and quick one.

Needle speed and quantity can also play a role in determining pain levels.

– Pain Threshold

The pain threshold is something that varies from person to person, depending on age, gender, medical conditions, and environmental factors.

– Expectations

Additionally, one’s mentality and expectations can affect pain levels. Going in with a positive attitude and mentally preparing oneself for the pain can help reduce it.

Overall, understanding the factors that affect tattoo pain can help you prepare better and have a more positive experience.

tattoo artist tattooing face girl

Types of Pain When Getting a Tattoo

Before getting a tattoo, it’s essential to know about the different types of pain you may experience. This knowledge can help prepare you and give you an idea of what to expect during the process.

#1 Sharp Pain

The first type of pain you may experience is sharp pain.

It’s an intense, stinging pain similar to a bee sting. Areas with thinner skin are more likely to experience sharp pain.

This type of pain is usually felt when the artist uses one needle to make fine details on the tattoo.

If the artist goes too deep, it can cause a tattoo blowout, where the ink disperses and creates a blurry tattoo.

#2 Scratching Pain

The second type of pain is scratching pain.

It’s the most common pain felt while getting a tattoo and feels like a cat is scratching its claws repeatedly on your raw skin.

It can become more intense if the artist works on the same area for an extended period or uses multiple needles, such as when shading.

#3 Burning Pain

The third type of pain is burning pain. It feels like having a heating pad pressed against your skin for a prolonged period. This type of pain is typically felt after a long tattoo session when your skin is raw and healing from the needle piercing.

tattoo artist doing neck

Understanding these different types of pain can help you prepare mentally and physically for the tattoo process.


In conclusion, getting a tattoo is a painful experience for most people.

However, certain factors, such as placement, skin condition, and tattoo style, can affect the level of pain you may experience during the process.

It’s crucial to have a good understanding of the pain, complications, and risks of tattoo regret before visiting a tattoo parlor.

Consider researching and consulting with a professional to ensure that you’re fully informed before making a decision.

Remember that getting a tattoo is a long-term commitment that requires proper aftercare and maintenance to avoid complications such as infection, scarring, or fading. By preparing yourself and taking the necessary precautions, you can make the tattoo experience more comfortable and increase your chances of being happy with your ink for years to come.


What is tattoo pain equivalent to?

The sensation of sharp or stinging pain during a tattoo can feel like many tiny bee stings. This type of pain is often very strong and may feel like the needle is penetrating deeply into your skin. The discomfort can be so intense that you may feel the urge to move away from the tattoo needle.

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

Most people rank the pain level of getting a wrist tattoo high, ranging from a 7 out of 10 to an intense level of pain. The pain level of getting it can vary from person to person. It’s usually not as painful as getting a tattoo on sensitive areas like nipples or lips, but it can still be quite uncomfortable.

Do tattoo artists use numbing cream?

Tattoo artists may choose to use numbing cream on their clients during a tattoo session to reduce pain and discomfort. The cream can also help the artist work on a larger area of skin during one session. However, the use of numbing cream is a controversial topic in the tattoo industry, so it’s important to talk to your tattoo artist about it beforehand.

What hurts more linework or shading?

Shading in tattoos may hurt less than outlining for some people. It covers a larger area and the needle is moved more quickly. However, everyone’s pain tolerance is different.

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