what you need to know


the following sentences are in the TOP10 of the ones I heard the most in 15 years of working in the tattoo sector:

  • “does it hurt to get a tattoo?”
  • “which part of the body is the most painful?”
  • “how can those people tattooing their whole body stand the pain?" it must be so painful!”
  • “oh, come on, pain is subjective…”


getting a tattoo is painful and pain is very subjective, nevertheless, many aspects of pain are objective and WE CAN CONTROL THEM ^_^


don’t get me wrong: if you have a very low pain threshold, this article won’tt make you fall asleep when you’ll get your next tattoo, but you will have more knowledge about how to handle the pain and improve your experience (and your tattoo artist’s one ^_^)


Let’s start from the beginnig:

the mind plays the main role

motivation for a tattoo is crucial, pain is much more psychological than physical and if your mind is strong and motivated, standing the pain will be much easier, even if the chosen area is potentially more painful than others

on the contrary, if your motivations are weak, a potentially less painful area becomes more so! why?


what pain is?

it is a message that our brain sends us to let us know that we are in danger, that there is a threat (external or internal) or that we are breaking

that’s why the tattoo brings with it a painful component: because our skin is breaking
we objectively know that “YES, it’s true, we are breaking”, but we also know that it’s not dangerous for our life
it is a safe wound so the alarm bell ringing in our brain is not necessary

now we just need to find a way to let our brain know this ^_^

we know that it’s a calculated risk,
we know that we are putting ourselves in the hands of a professional who is NOT going to pierce our heart nor cut our veins, we trust them



therefore, the first important thing to do is:

carefully choose the tattoo artist and then trust them
not only for their aesthetic part and for their artistry, but also for the physical part

if you trust the tattoo artist, if you trust that particular person and if you feel comfortable in the room, you will automatically be more relaxed and also more prepared to logical thinking. In this way, you won’t get overwhelmed by the primitive instinct of combat

choosing the right tattoo artist is an important and delicate step
do you need some help with it?
to help you with it, I wrote my Stalker Customer’s Guide to the Galaxy:


when it comes to a tattoo you know that you asked for this pain, for this experience, for this tattoo, you chose it

it’s not a forced pain
it’s not even unexpected

you are prepared for the tattoo
so your body is potentially ready for the “invasion”


second thing to do:

be very motivated

have a strong motivation, a meaning, some feelings or a powerful story in which we truly believe

for sure a generic tattoo or one made for fashion will carry a minor mental motivation and therefore it will be more difficult for the mind to explain to the body that this practice makes sense and that there’s a reason behind it
it will be more difficult because the “reason” is weaker
do you need some help with this too?

I wrote another article to cover this topic, which is very essential to me: WHY GETTING A TATTOO?


besides having a strong motivation and the fact that we like the tattoo’s design very much,
the tattoo should also be made in the perfect area of the body, where you really want it, where you really feel it inside of you

yes, right there ^_^

and at this point maybe you might need some notions about the symbolism of the body, and I just wrote it ^_^
WHERE DO I TATTOO?!?! 20 tips from the body symbolism

or you might want to know that you should tattoo where you don’t like yourself aesthetically ^_^
WEIRD, isn’t it? yet it’s very logical! here I explained why:


if you have chosen the external part of your arm only because you think it’s less painful and not because it’s exactly where you want the tattoo, you will just weaken your mind. In this way, your mind will be a little hesitant and less convincing when it will have to tell your body that everything is fine

because yes, the mind can tell the body that there is no need to feel pain,
because there is no danger

how can the mind do this?
well, that depends on you

only you can communicate such profound messages to your body;
some people find it easier, more spontaneous; others find it difficult, but it’s an internal type of communication that only patience and listening can bring

as always, the key to everything is breathing and concentration

let’s find out why


how is the pain transmitted?

pain impulse is transmitted by the brain through the nervous system, made of many small nerves, like fine threads, like the strings of a guitar

in this case, in fact, the nervous system works like a guitar:
if the strings are well stretched the sound is well transmitted, if they are NOT… the sound is poor
it’s the same for pain
if you contract and keep the nervous system tense, the pain signal will be transmitted in the body with extreme force and speed, it will be intense
if you breathe
and you try to relax the fibres of your body, the signal will be much weaker
of course, the first instinctive reaction to pain is stiffening
because if the body stiffens it’s easier for the fragile organs of the body to be protected from danger, from the incoming blow, from war

but in that moment there’s no war going on, no emergency for our health

the tattoo is a practice that can temporarily and partially damage our body (our skin) but it’s a practice that is carried out under the control of an expert who knows what he or she is doing and most importantly, he or she knows what to do to NOT injure you


this assumption means that tattooing IS NOT a dangerous practice for the body
and if THERE ISN’T danger, there SHOULDN’T be pain either

I know that my words may sound absurd, but they are true

it’s all in your ability to concentrate
in your ability to communicate to your body the notions that the mind already knows
in your ability to be sure of yourself, of your body, of what you know

we all know that a tattoo is not dangerous
yet some of us surrender to the pain and fight against the tattoo and against the tattoo artist

but this is the most wrong way to face it



third things to do:

don’t fight, give up

surrendering to pain will make it disappear
because you’ll make your body understand that there is no need to worry

instead, if you fight together with it against the tattoo, you support it
you are confirming that the threat is real and truly dangerous and that it must be fought hard
so the pain will increase and the whole body will enter a state of anxiety
not to mention the fact that when the body activates a protection mechanism, it activates everything it can
and the skin is our first border with the world
it is the first border of a castle to be protected,
it is our first city wall
and the skin can also stiffen and it’s exactly what it does, in time of need
so if you are not relaxed during a tattoo, the skin will be first thing to stiffen

the skin that the tattoo artist is trying to “mark”
and when it stiffens, it also becomes harder to go on tattooing
the tattoo artist will have to push harder, which will hurt you even more
and the practice will take longer, extending not only the duration but also the pain
this will trigger a sequence of negative effects, because as soon as you feel the pain you will contract the muscles, but you should listen to your body and don’t react instead

I know, it’s difficult
but, of course, everything is possible
breathing and concentration are the key ^_^


breathing is also a right and proper thing
not only for living, but also for the physical and chemical management of pain


in fact, during the tattoo process, the body produces a series of hormones and substances (various types of morphines…) that help you with the pain management and the “field invasion”
even if you are lying on a tattoo bed doing nothing, your body is working hard to help you
and to spread these amazing painkilling substances into the body, the body uses blood
blood is pumped in the veins by the heart, which follows the rhythm of breathing
therefore, breathing helps spread these painkilling substances faster, these substances are produced by the body to help you

but if you hold your breath when you feel the pain, you slow down the circulation
and I think that, lucidly, you don’t want to slow it down, do you? ^_^


are you familiar with women during childbirth?
in any movie that you’ve seen they’re always told to breathe, even if they’re feeling an unbearable pain, they’re always reminded to breathe

and it’s because our first instinctive reaction to pain is blockage, manifested through muscle contraction, breath holding: we stiffen to protect our organs from the oncoming blow

it is very useful in case of an accident or a fight
but it is counterproductive during a tattoo ^_^



however, after all this motivational story,

I must say that obviously there are parts of the body that are objectively more painful than others

there are also people who endure pain better than others
but, above all, people endure some kinds of pain better than others
so, let’s make some distinctions…


there are two types of pain in tattoos, two different types of sensation:

  • where the skin is particularly delicate (e.g. inner arm or inner thigh, or under the butt, but you’ll just need to pinch yourself a little to compare the different areas and understand where the skin is more sensitive)
  • points where the skin is very thin even if it’s thick and under it you can spot the bones (ribs, feet, hands…)

obviously, these two characteristics make a tattoo more painful if compared with other areas full of muscles or with a layer of tissue or fat that softens the blow (e.g. thighs and arms)

in general, each person can endure one of the two sensations better
and if you know which of them you endure better, you can use this information to choose the next area to tattoo ^_^
(even if a choice that is led by the pain factor weakens your mental motivation and, consequently, could be counterproductive, damn!)
then there are the joints, full of bones that are clearly visible and with more exposed nerve endings that can irritate faster. In those areas, the pain message gets faster as they’re directly connected to the brain
it’s the case of hands, feet, elbows and knees as well as the inner wrist or the spine (even if the latter has a thicker layer of fat that softens the blow a bit, compared to the other zones)

the joints are said to be the most painful areas of the body
because the skin is very thin, but even so, it still has to fulfil its protective task, thus it’s also harder
for this reason, they’re more difficult to “mark” and the proximity to the nervous system makes the pain faster and more intense


if you want you can do a quick and easy test to understand which are the most painful areas of your body

you just need to imagine fighting with someone and having to take hits
which areas of your body would you protect the most?
those are the most painful to be tattooed
(ribs, stomach, kidneys, inner arms, neck, knees etc…)
and which areas of your body would you use as a shield?
those are the least painful
(external arms, external thighs, calf, shoulder etc…)

or you can try to pinch yourself, maybe with the nails, to understand in which areas of your body the skin is more sensitive

it’s weird, but sometimes we take for granted many parts of our body
we take pain for granted even if that’s not a painful area for us
or, on the other hand, we think they’re not painful and yet they are!
for instance: the area under the butt
that area that we sit on every single day
it doesn’t look painful at all, but it’s said to be the most painful spot of the whole body!!!

try to pinch it a little ^_^

this is related to physical sensations but, as I said at the beginning, tattoo pain is more mental than physical
it’s a pain that we seek and to which we should approach with a firm mind, rather than following our body’s primitive survival instinct



in conclusion, the only thing that is truly useful in order to feel less pain during a tattoo
is having a confident and motivated mind
in this way, an area that is supposedly more painful will become less so compared with another one that is supposedly more painful, but it’s accompanied by a low motivation



with love, but always irreverent