How much do tattoos hurt? Artists and those of us who have multiple tattoos seem to hear that question more frequently by those who are interested in getting one themselves or those who are just flat out curious. The answer: It depends on the persons' pain tolerance, the part of the body the tattoo is placed, and even the artist they have chosen.
Whenever considering a tattoo you need to remember it is not like the temporary ones you used to get out of the Cracker Jack boxes. The artist uses a machine that has an insert for the "needle", although it is not just one little needle. The "needles" used by tattoo artists have more than three needles at the tip and some even have seven! Do not let that scare you. They are very small and you never see them.
First, everyone has a different tolerance to pain. Some of us can handle almost anything without even flinching and some of us can not even handle a stubbed toe!If your pain tolerance is low, I would suggest starting small to see how much you can handle. Another option is to have the area you want your tattoo to be "blood lined". A "blood line" tattoo is not very popular from my perspective but is also not uncommon. Basically the artist will run the area as he/she normally would when starting a tattoo but without the ink. It still hurts but nothing is permanent and the marking will resolve in a few weeks.
Second, the amount of pain from a tattoo varies on the area you have it placed. For instance, I have five tattoos mostly on the left side of my body and I can tell you the two most painful tattoos are on the side of my thigh and my actual side (from under the breast to the top of the hip). Those two areas are very tender with a large amount of nerve endings. What other areas hurt the worst? From experience and from what my family tells me, some of the most painful areas are the top of the foot, the lower back, anywhere along the spine, under the elbow (close to the Ulnar nerve a.k.a "the funny bone"), and behind the knee.
Another thing to consider when going to get your first tattoo is choosing the artist. A good way to learn about how he or she does their work is to read up on reviews or ask other customers. A majority of artists are very good at what they do but there are still the handful who may press down too hard or just work way too slowly, thus causing more pain. So whenever I am asked, "Do tattoos hurt?", I always say, "Yes but it is up to you". No matter what, it is worth the pain to see the outcome of an art that began long ago. Plus, when someone asks you if it hurt you can grin and say, "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."