If you and needles aren’t exactly best friends, consider this your warning. But for those who aren’t afraid of getting stabbed repeatedly by pointy metal, this one’s for you.
Maybe you’ve got a lot of tattoos already and are looking for more, or maybe you’re a bit intimidated by tattoo machines but still want some ink. Regardless of your tattoo experience, a stick and poke may be your answer if you’ve been wanting one.
Stick-and-poke tattoos are done by hand, by professionals and amateurs alike. With a needle — either one specifically for tattoos or your average sewing needle — and tattoo ink (please don’t use ink from that ballpoint on your desk), you can have the tattoo design you’ve been lusting after.
While a stick-and-poke tattoo may seem like an intimidating and difficult process, it comes with a lot of added benefits. Here are eight reasons to get a stick-and-poke tattoo.
1. College-budget friendly
If you successfully beg a friend who has a steady hand and an ounce of artistic abilities to tattoo you, you’ll only have to cover the cost of supplies (and maybe a drink or some food for them as a thanks). Or if you’re feeling particularly brave, you could give yourself a stick-and-poke tattoo.
Supporting tattoo artists is great and all, but dropping a hundred dollars on a small design may not be in every student’s budget. Since stick-and-poke designs are often small anyway, it’s the more cost-effective option if you’re looking to avoid a tattoo artist’s high minimum price for a tattoo about the size of a coin.
Since stick-and-poke tattoos are usually smaller than ones done by tattoo machines, they’ll be much easier to conceal, if that’s something you’re concerned about.
Or, maybe doing it yourself or having someone close to you do it means you’ll feel more comfortable getting a stick and poke on a more intimate place on your body. While tattoo artists are used to working on more private areas, that may be out of your comfort zone.
Either way, stick-and-poke tattoos are great for someone going into a strict professional field or someone with anti-tattoo family members. The small size also means the stick and poke will be easier to cover up down the road if you ever change your mind about it.
3. Bonding experience
Nothing brings people together like stabbing each other with needles and ink. It doesn’t even have to be a one-sided event with only one friend getting a tattoo.
Maybe you and a friend have been thinking about getting matching tattoos, a commitment that has sentimental value in and of itself. But imagine how much closer you’d be if you both permanently modify each other’s bodies (just don’t use the same needle, you don’t need to be that close).
A stick and poke could be a great gift or monument to friendship.
4. Souvenir of college years
Speaking of sentimental value, getting a stick and poke can be a great, permanent reminder of your time in college.
Once you’ve graduated, you can look at your tattoo and remember how your friend gave it to you at midnight while your other friends watched in amazement as you hardly flinched. Or maybe you got something related to your major, a sport you played or a club you were in.
Memories may already last forever, but why not ensure their longevity with a stick-and-poke tattoo that has special meaning to your years in college.
5. A bit badass
Provided you don’t squeal in pain and chicken out halfway through your tattoo — prevent that by avoiding boney areas and keeping yourself distracted — there’s something that feels tough about sitting in your apartment getting a stick and poke (even if it’s a delicate flower).
Plus, stick and pokes make for great conversation with fellow ink enthusiasts, they’re perfect for icebreakers and they may even impress a person or two. Just get ready for others to ask if you’d give them a stick-and-poke tattoo so they can be just as badass.
6. Impulse tattoos
Most tattoo advice centers around considering the design you want for some time. While you can do that, and it’s common advice for a reason, an at-home stick and poke can be a spur-of-the-moment affair.
Provided you have all the supplies, you can wake up one day and say, “I’m getting that tattoo right now.” Even if you have thought about the design for a while, an at-home stick and poke is still something you can get right to doing. No appointments or consultations necessary.
7. Automatic safe space
The tattoo world is a male-dominated one and because of that, many women have trouble finding artists that do what they want or even treat them respectfully.
In an interview, tattoo artist Charline Bataille discussed the issues women, trans individuals and people of color may face when getting tattoos, ranging from personal discomfort to sexual harassment.
Getting a tattoo should be a positive experience, but for those who feel overwhelmed by finding artists in the industry who can accommodate them, it may be best to have a trusted friend do the tattooing.
8. Support non-traditional tattoo artists
If you don’t trust your friends or yourself to permanently alter your skin, you can seek out professionals if price isn’t a factor. You’d be benefiting individuals who didn’t have the opportunities traditional tattoo artists have or women who found it difficult to find footing in the patriarchal tattoo world.
If you’re worried about messing up the design or the risk of infection, a professional tattooer might be a better option. Still, with the right precautions, you can easily avoid those concerns for at-home stick-and-poke tattoos, too.
Of course, with all great things come the negatives, and many sources aren’t shy of telling you what could go wrong. The most important rule of stick-and-poke tattoos, though, is keep everything clean.
Sanitize the table your supplies are on, the needles, the containers you keep your ink in and anything else that will come in contact with the area you’re tattooing.
Do your research, too, on what you should and shouldn’t do during the stick-and-poke process. While it’s easy for things to go wrong, it’s also easy to make them go right and end up with a tattoo that has a great backstory, personal connection and sentimental value.