Do tattoos hurt?: What it really feels like to get an ink done

“Did it hurt?”

“Was it painful?”

and other variations were probably the most frequent question I received when I got my birthday watercolour ink.

My answer in short is:

Well, what do you think? Image credit: Inferno111 / Deviantart

I thought to share greater detail about how it really feels to get inked since it’s still fresh in my memory.

Disclaimers: pain is subjective. My tattoo artist actually has a story of someone who walked out after getting his outline done. Different parts of the body also feel different, due to the situation of nerves, soft tissues and so on.

I’ve also fainted while getting inked (over an outline of a heart that took all of 5 minutes) Not sure I would say my tolerance is very high. Tip: make sure you have a good breakfast before getting your ink done to avoid fainting like a n00b (me)!

So here goes, with visuals and annotations all!

Pain is ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being snooze fest, 10 being I’m going through hell and looking at the door.

1. Getting small fine lines tattooed,
Pain scale: 1/10

Pfft, these were nothing. I could have fallen asleep here.

All I felt was a soft vibration, like a little kitten’s purr.

Super fine lines on the tattoo are highlighted

Kitten purring and stretching
Just like this wee purring kitten here. Image credit:

2. Getting not so fine lines tattooed,
Pain scale: 5.5 – 7/10

Some parts ached more than others, but generally it felt like someone dragging a blunt pen knife across my back.

S l o w l y. . . ..

I was still able to hold up a book and read, although I did repeat several paragraphs multiple times. Generally though, no, I didn’t manage to get through the last 10 pages of my book.


An open book
Only light reading here. Image credit: quattrostagioni / Flickr

3. Getting colouring done,
Pain scale: 7/10

First, picture a cheap, plastic razor. The ‘no frills’ kind you get for free in mid-range hotel rooms.

Now imagine that cheap plastic razor a little bit rusty.

Especially for the deep purple portion, it felt like that same cheap, plastic, rusty tool razing the surface of my skin repeatedly – abusing the same real estate of swollen, weeping skin over and over again. ;_;

tattoo colouring

Colouring needles are a little different and multi-pronged, which probably explains the shaver sensation. Here’s a picture (you’re welcome):

tattoo needle
Of course he had to be inking with red in this photo. Photo credit: Annodyne / Reddit

4. Getting that tiny splash towards the spine done,
Pain scale: 9/10

I actually turned to my artist all crazy-eyed to exclaim WHAT WAS THAT?

This was cold, sharp pain, with a burning sensation that glowed in the aftermath.

It felt like ripping out tiny mushrooms that had suddenly taken root in my skin.

Tiny mushrooms with deep, deep roots, entangled with my most sensitive nerves. Being torn out. Violently.

I’m glad I didn’t ask for a spine piece. This was one tiny splash not even directly on the spine and it had me bubbling like a newborn already ferchrissakes.


A single mushroom against a green patch
Out, damn spore! Image credit: Seabamirum / Flickr

5. Getting tattooed on the collar bone,
Pain scale: 9/10

Holy. I swore out loud at this one.

Picture the biggest, baddest, fire-engine-red ant you can think of. And then BAM, that bad ass red ant from the lowest level of hell chomping down into your highly sensitive and very much feeling flesh.

This one was pret-ty bad.

Cold sweat, biting the inside of my cheeks and saying zen prayers kind of bad.

Again, I’m glad I didn’t ask for a collarbone piece. This was quite the preview.


Red ant on a green life
*Chomp* never letting you go. Image credit: Yogendra Joshi / Flickr

The aftermath
A tattoo is basically an open wound when it’s finished, and it certainly feels that way too.

When I eventually got up from the chair, all excited to have my first look in the mirror, the sudden movement opened up the wound in a new way that caused a wash of pain I didn’t expect – like skinned knees when you’ve fallen on the roughness of road tar.

The cold from the air-conditioner felt like salt water. My very first thought after viewing my new tattoo was dedicated to seriously contemplating not showering for a week. but hey. I love it!


Can’t wait to get your own tattoo?

My super talented tattoo artist, Jared Asalli from Fingers Crossed Tattoo Co, can be found on Instagram here

If you’re curious for more information, you can check out Mashable’s 10 most painful places to get a tattoo infographic at this article here

2 thoughts on “Do tattoos hurt?: What it really feels like to get an ink done

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