Tattoo pain is a factor for getting body ink that depends on sex, age, threshold level and placement. A tattoo pain chart can be the guidance needed to help men and women determine how much a tattoo will hurt.
While getting a tattoo is generally always painful, people will experience different levels of pain based on the body part, health and tolerance. The worst areas that hurt the most generally have more nerve endings, little fat, thinner skin and bony spots.
The most painful places to get a tattoo include the armpit, rib cage, ankle, finger, spine, shin, groin, kneecap and elbow. The least painful tattoo spots are the forearm, thigh, back and shoulder, which are areas with fewer nerving endings, thicker skin and extra fat for protection.
For those wondering what a tattoo feels like, most people compare the pain to a burning sensation combined with a sharp pricking feeling. With so many painful areas, it can be a challenge knowing where tattoos will hurt the least.
To help you, we’ve compiled this list of the most painful spots to get tattooed. From male to female, explore these charts to find the tattoos that will cause the least pain.
- 1 Tattoo Pain Chart
- 2 Most Painful Places To Get A Tattoo
- 3 Least Painful Places To Get A Tattoo
- 4 Factors That Affect Tattoo Pain
- 5 What Does Tattoo Pain Feel Like?
Tattoo Pain Chart
While there are many factors, a tattoo pain chart can help you determine how much it will hurt to get tattooed on a body part.
Tattoo Pain Chart For Female
This tattoo pain chart for a female shows that the sternum, stomach, pubic area, elbow, face, underboob, shin, foot and knee cap will hurt the most. The least painful spots like the back, shoulder, outer thigh and forearm have thicker skin, more fat and fewer nerve endings.
Tattoo Pain Chart For Male
This tattoo pain chart for a male shows that the groin, butt, head, neck, face, rib cage, foot, shin, elbow, knee cap and sternum are the most painful spots. Getting a shoulder, arm, back, chest and outer thigh tattoo will likely hurt the least.
Most Painful Places To Get A Tattoo
The most painful places to get tattooed have the most nerve endings, the least fat, the thinnest skin and multiple bony spots that vibrate. Choosing tattoo spots like the armpit, rib cage, ankle, shin, breast, groin, neck and spin are going to hurt the most.
As one of the most painful places, an armpit tattoo will cause severe pain and can take a long time to heal. The pain is usually caused by the axillary nerve which runs through the main arm and to the armpit. These levels can increase since this spot is ticklish and the skin around the area is thin, meaning you may flinch while your artist is working.
The presence of lymph nodes can also cause issues since your body’s response may cause them to become enlarged and irritated. Whether you’re experienced or a first-timer, expert artists advise against getting armpit tattoos. If you decide to take the plunge, keep the area clean and free of friction by using a breathable gauze and avoiding deodorant and tight clothing.
The rib cage is the second most painful spot to get a tattoo, likely resulting in a session that will hurt more than usual. Since the skin around the ribs is very thin and directly above several bones, the pain will be sharp and stabbing as opposed to dull and aching.
Rib tattoos are often reserved for people with high pain tolerance because there are various nerve endings, low levels of fat in the area and breathing can cause severe pain during the session.
Ankles and Shin
An ankle and shin tattoo generally causes intense pain since there is very little fat surrounding these areas. Sharp and severe, getting your leg tattooed in this area will hurt because it’s close to bones and doesn’t come padded with fat, making the nerve endings more sensitive to the strong needle vibrations.
Your ankles and shinbones will experience repetitive needle movements, causing your bones to rattle. The pain level will increase for large artwork so consider getting a small and simple design to minimize the hurt.
Nipples and Breasts
The nipples and breasts are very sensitive spots and will make getting a tattoo severely painful. While the pain will be less than bony areas like the rib cage or shin, breast and nipple tattoos will irritate your nerve endings and cause soreness.
Breast skin tends to be loose and packed with fatty tissue and women will naturally feel more pain in this area than men, who have pectoral muscles to support their skin. It’s worth noting that tattoos closer to the sternum will hurt more as the skin in this area is thinner and close to the bone.
The groin is a very painful area to get tattooed because it is packed with nerve endings and is constantly subject to friction. This part of the body is also very close to the genitals which are home to several lymph nodes that make this area more sensitive.
As a tricky area to keep clean and dry, you’ll find that your skin will be extremely irritated post-ink. To relieve the pressure, plan to go commando for a few days after your session and avoid irritating scrubs and lotions until you’re entirely healed.
A kneecap tattoo generally causes severe pain because the skin in this area is loose, stretchy and unpadded. The kneecap is usually in a state of flexion as you move which will make the healing process more uncomfortable than in other areas.
The needle will also get very close to the bone which results in sharp pain and a strong rattling sensation. If you move your tattoo just below the kneecap, you’ll also experience extreme pain from the patellar tendon that runs down to the shin.
Neck and Spine
The neck and spine are some one of the most painful tattoo spots because these are very sensitive areas. A spine tattoo will hurt for men and women because the part has many nerve endings and the skin is extremely thin. Places around the spine and the lower back will hurt less since they are cushioned by fat and muscle, but the sensitive nerve endings make this entire area difficult to ink.
Neck tattoos are painful for men because the Adam’s apple can be hard to work around. You’ll want to keep your design placement to the side or back of the neck for an easier experience.
Behind The Knee
Getting a tattoo behind the knee will cause significant pain because the skin is thin and the nerve endings are close to the surface. At the back of the knee, you’ll also have to contend with veins and the sensitive sciatic nerve that runs directly down the back of the leg.
You’re likely to feel every vibration and poke of the needle, so bear this in mind before choosing this placement. You’ll also need to prepare for the painful rubbing that happens every time you sit down.
Getting a hip tattoo will cause severe pain but how much it hurts will depend on the placement you choose. The area above the hip can be a painful spot because it’s close to the bone with little fat to cushion the needle, especially if you’re skinny. This spot also has several nerve endings and the skin is very thin.
If you get a tattoo on the side of the hip and closer to the butt, then the pain won’t be as bad since you have the padding of your glute and leg muscles to protect you.
Head, Face and Ears
Head, face and ear tattoos can cause severe pain and are generally considered extremely painful spots for men and women. These areas have very little fat or muscle to protect you and the skin is extremely thin, meaning you’ll feel every vibration and poke as your artist works. For a sprawling head tattoo or a design that spans across the face, you may want to complete the work across multiple sessions to manage the pain.
Although the face is less painful than the head, getting a tattoo on or near the eyes, cheekbones and mouth can be excruciating. The ears hurt slightly less, but the lobes and back of the ear will result in extreme pain, offering fewer fat cells to soften the blow. For something more bearable, a small behind the ear tattoo can be a good compromise.
With loose skin and many nerve endings, the lips are one of the most painful tattoo areas and should be avoided. You will need to hold your lips open for the entire appointment, causing dryness and cracking. To reduce bleeding, bruising and swelling from a lip tattoo, you should stay perfectly still during the process.
Since the amount your design will hurt depends on the thickness of your lips, people with thin lips tend to struggle since fat can buffer the suffering. The healing process can also be frustrating and sore. You’ll need to be careful when you eat or drink and regularly use an antiseptic mouthwash to prevent infections.
Hands and Fingers
While popular, a hand and finger tattoo can cause excruciating pain. With the skin around the hands being thin and close to the bone, this painful spot should be avoid. This sensitive area is also packed with various nerve endings that won’t appreciate the constant needle stabbing sensation.
You may even experience hand spasms that add to the discomfort. Throw in the fact that there’s very little fat and muscle in this area and you have the perfect recipe for a painful session.
Feet and Toes
The feet and toes are extremely sensitive spots, making it a painful tattoo to get. You’ll probably struggle not to flinch as the vibrations of the needle make you feel ticklish. Feet and toe tattoos hit the nerve endings in the area, with the arch being a particularly sensitive area.
You should also note that the skin here is thin, lacking padding from muscle or fat and is very close to several bones which will increase the pain factor. For a small and simple design, you may be able to tolerate the pain. Wherever you choose to express yourself, you should remember that walking or moving your feet will be hard to do.
A stomach tattoo generally causes high levels of pain which will vary based on your body type and sex. People with higher body fat percentages struggle more with the stomach area because the skin is looser and will be more disturbed by the needle’s movement. Men and women who are fit and have high muscle mass can tolerate the experience better. Being too skinny can result in intense pain as well since the skin on the stomach will be taut and stretched.
The great thing about this placement is that you won’t have to deal with any cartilage or bone that increases how much a tattoo will hurt. The lower stomach tends to be hurt the most because of its proximity to the genitals and groin, but the side of the stomach near the ribs can also be extremely sensitive.
An inner bicep tattoo can cause pain but the area is slightly more tolerable than other placements thanks to the natural muscle mass. Getting tattooed on your inner bicep will result in moderate to severe pain during your session because the skin on the underside of the arm is thin, loose and full of sensitive nerve endings.
This area is also close to the armpit and crook of the elbow, which are notoriously painful places. During the healing process, you may have to deal with pain as your body and clothing rub against your skin. If you have a low pain tolerance or want a large design, the outer bicep is a better choice.
The inner thigh will always be an extremely painful place to get tattooed because it contains a high concentration of nerve endings that run to the top of the leg. The skin on the inner thigh is also extremely thin and soft, meaning that you’ll feel every movement of the needle.
If you want to reduce pain, stay as far away from the groin area as possible and keep your design small. While your ink is healing, try and avoid clothing that rubs against the area to avoid friction and fading.
An underboob tattoo can be very painful to get since there’s almost no fat or muscle in this area. The fact that the underboob is right above the ribs and breastbone will also make you feel uncomfortable as the needle stabs and rattles near the bone.
The skin near the underboob is relatively thin and you may experience uncomfortable swelling and bruising as your ink starts to heal. If you can tolerate the pain, you’ll be left with a sexy design that’s bound to catch the eye.
Chest tattoos are always painful since the spot is right by the sternum, collarbone and nipples, which are all highly sensitive areas and full of nerve endings. Although the skin on the upper chest is usually thicker and tattoos here should be more tolerable, the proximity to bone and the lack of fat means you’ll have virtually no cushioning to work with.
For a biological female, getting a tattoo on the chest may cause slightly less pain since you’ll have support from your breast tissue. While guys may have muscle mass in this spot, a chest tattoo may cause severe pain for a biological male. Since most designs are statement pieces, you’ll need to prepare for a long and intense session.
Least Painful Places To Get A Tattoo
The least painful spots to get tattooed are the shoulders, arms, outer bicep and upper thighs. These areas are less sensitive and have thicker flesh to absorb the needle.
The forearm is one of the least painful places to get a tattoo since the area has thick skin and a considerable amount of muscle and fatty tissue. Without many nerve endings, forearm tattoos are a popular spot for cool designs and the half sleeve.
The outer forearm will hurt less than the inner arm because the radial nerve runs through this area, causing issues as you move your ink closer to the wrist and elbow. It also helps that the lower arm gives your artist visibility, allowing them to complete their work efficiently.
The shoulder comes with a low to moderate pain level. A shoulder tattoo will hurt less than other spots because there is thick flesh and muscle to cushion the needle. Great for large designs, there are fewer nerve endings to make you wince and the skin is thick enough to handle a longer session.
The front and back of the shoulder may be slightly more painful, but the outer shoulder is a great placement for tattoo newbies who haven’t worked up their pain tolerance yet. This area tends to be less painful for men as they typically have more muscle mass, but women shouldn’t expect more than moderate soreness from their session.
A less painful spot, the bicep is a great place to get a tattoo and comes with fewer nerve endings and thick muscle tissue. The inner section and underside of the bicep are more painful as the skin is thinner, but the outer bicep is well-cushioned against the vibrations of a tattoo needle.
The pain in this area tends to feel more scratchy than sharp and should be tolerable for most people. As a result, it’s perfect for a stylish sleeve or expansive design.
The calf is not a painful place to get a tattoo and you should experience low to moderate-low levels of pain. The calf muscle is thick and surrounded by fat and thick skin, allowing it to act as a strong buffer against the needle. Calf tattoos are great for vibrant designs and large artwork.
This area is also far from any bones which will reduce the unpleasant rattling that comes with other placements. You’ll experience more pain as you get closer to the ankle and the back of the knee which are packed with nerve endings, so bear this in mind before committing to a design.
Upper and Lower Back
The upper and lower back can be painful areas to get tattooed, but the area will depend on the size of your artwork. Getting an upper or lower back tattoo will cause low to moderate pain since there are fewer nerves and a decent amount of muscle mass, cushioning you against the needle.
If you’re really skinny and your upper back is bony, you may struggle with rattling and vibrating pain. For this reason, the lower back is a better choice for your first time because, offering a stronger buffer to the pain.
Upper Outer Thigh
An upper outer thigh tattoo will cause low levels of pain thanks to the muscle that pads your nerves and bones. The skin on your thigh is also extremely thick and covered with a layer of fat that gives you support. A thigh tattoo won’t hurt much, making it the perfect place for a cool design.
Factors That Affect Tattoo Pain
While there are many factors to consider, tattoo pain will vary based on your sex, age, weight, the artist and your adrenaline levels.
Studies have generally shown that biological women experience more pain than men, but they tend to tolerate it slightly better when getting tattooed. Some medical experts suggest this may come down to hormones since testosterone is said to inhibit pain and enable guys to deal with injuries and extreme suffering more effectively. Placement can also be a factor since biological men will feel more severe pain in areas like the throat, groin, upper thigh and hips due to a naturally lower level of body fat.
Age and Weight
Younger people tend to handle tattoo pain better as their skin is more resilient. Our skin thins significantly as we get older and provides less cushioning against the needle. Younger skin is also tighter, meaning it easily absorbs the ink and won’t require as many pokes to achieve a vibrant result. Your experience may vary as it’s been shown that older people can handle pain more effectively than young people.
Your weight can also impact how much pain you feel, and those at either end of the scale will feel more pain than those at normal body weight. Overweight people may have loose skin that makes their ink hurt more and the same is true for underweight people with very little fat to buffer the needle.
As a rule, the more tattoos you’ve had, the less likely you are to feel intense pain. This is because you’ll have built up a decent pain tolerance and be used to the sensation of the needle hitting your skin and vibrating near bones. You’re also less likely to flinch or squirm if you’ve had several tattoos, which will reduce how often your artist needs to stop.
Your response to pain will also depend on your personal threshold. This depends on several factors, but you’ll be far more attuned to the pain as an experienced ink lover than someone getting their first piece of body art.
A tattoo artist’s experience, skills and style can influence how much pain you will feel. Some artists are heavy-handed while others are meticulous and gentle with their needles.
Slower artists usually cause less pain than faster ones, but you will have to endure the discomfort for longer. If your artist is new to the game, they may also struggle to get the pressure right initially. It’s also worth noting that inexperienced artists will take their time, and you may want the process to be over as quickly as possible.
Although cheap tattoos may feel like a bargain, you’ll want to be careful to visit an artist with clean tools and a professional who will observe your reactions and adjust their approach accordingly.
Endorphins can greatly reduce pain during your tattoo experience as this hormone allows you to feel happy and relaxed while the needle attacks your skin. This chemical response happens when your brain registers pain in the skin and takes place in the pituitary gland.
While endorphins may not relieve your pain much, the hormone can act as a natural painkiller, working alongside over-the-counter options and numbing cream.
What Does Tattoo Pain Feel Like?
While a needle penetrating your skin repeatedly will never feel good, how painful the tattoo process is will depend on you. Some people describe tattoo pain as a sharp burning sensation, while others say it feels like you’re being cut a thousand times a minute. Generally, tattoo pain is severe in the worst places and mildly uncomfortable in the best areas. How much your tattoo will hurt really comes down to your pain tolerance, the artist’s skill level, the placement and design.
Burning pain is one of the most common sensations that you’ll feel on your skin while getting a tattoo. This burning will make your skin feel like it has a hot object pressed against it and is caused by the repeated stabbing motion of the needle. The pain type is more common in spots with loose skin or fatty flesh and may last for some time during a tattoo session. While not as searing, the continuous discomfort can wear you down after a while.
Dull pain is the easiest to cope with and it’s quite easy to ignore. This typically happens after the first few prods of the needle, and it gradually dies down into a background pain as adrenaline and hormones start to appear.
You’ll still feel a degree of pain and it may shift back into a sharper pain during the session, but it’s reasonably easy to distract yourself from the soreness by watching TV or talking to a friend. If you’re getting a large design, you’ll need to prepare for your pain-inhibiting hormones to wear off and for things to hurt more towards the end of your session.
Scratching pain is extremely common when you’re getting inked and feels like an intense and repeated scratch from a cat across your skin. While not pleasant, this type of pain can be tolerable for most people and you can usually take your mind off it.
This scratching sensation is usually felt when your artist is shading, adding depth to your design or has been working in the same area for a while. Although you’ll feel this pain with a single needle, it hurts more when multiple needles are used to boost your ink.
Sharp Stinging Pain
Sharp stinging pain is said to feel like bee stings beneath the skin and can feel unbearable at times. It hurts quite a lot and is usually felt when a tattoo artist is doing detailed work using a single needle or doing an outline for your design. You may also feel it when you’re getting tattoos on areas with thin or tight skin like the ankle, wrists or inner biceps.
Vibrating pain is a result when you’re getting tattooed in an area with several bones like the wrist, ribs, ankle or shin. The nerves surrounding the bones feel the vibration from the needle and rattle against their surroundings. While not severely painful, the sensation can feel strange and uncomfortable for a first-timer.