How Bad Do Tattoos Hurt? Top 3 Ways To Determine Tattoo Pain

Tyler Martina

How Bad Do Tattoos Hurt? Top 3 Ways To Determine Tattoo Pain

You are thinking about getting a new tattoo. You’re looking at cool designs, thinking about where to get your new tattoo, and imagining how you will look with your new ink. You are on top of the world and filled with excitement….

Then suddenly, a thought flashes across your mind, and you get a sinking feeling in your stomach….

Tattoos hurt.

You are of course still going to get the tattoo, but the wonder is enough to cause pause.

“How bad is this tattoo going to hurt?”

Whether you have had many tattoos, or this is your first one, the question is always there, sitting in the back of your mind. 

I know it’s going to hurt, at least a little, but exactly how bad is it going to hurt?

Don’t worry! It’s not just you. Everyone worries about how much their next tattoo is going to hurt. And I mean everyone. I myself have a countless number of tattoos, and I still feel the fear before every tattoo. It’s natural, it’s normal, and this article will help have a better idea of exactly how much your tattoo is going to hurt.

Now, let’s go over the factors that raise and lower the tattoo pain scale:

#1 Location:

Just like in Real Estate it’s all about location. This is by far the most critical component to how painful your tattoo will be. Everyone is a bit different but here are some of the least painful locations to get tattooed.

Least painful locations:


Outside upper arm



Lower Back


And here is a quick list of all of the most painful locations to get tattooed.

Most painful locations:



Inner arm

Arm Pit

Inner Thigh


All the other locations are about the same when it comes to pain level. Again, a lot of this varies from person to person. However, it is a good general guide when trying to gauge how much your tattoo will hurt.

#2 Duration

The length of time you are under the needle is very important in determining the tattoo pain level. Even a relatively painless shoulder tattoo will start to really hurt after about 4 hours. Again the amount of time people can bear getting tattooed will vary from person to person. But, the below timeline guides will help you in your quest for answers.

1-2 Hours: Easy mac n’ chessy.

2-4 Hours: Not a walk in the park, but you got this.

4-6 Hours: Faint of heart need not apply, this is when the average person taps out.

6+ Hours: 99% of people will stop and decide to break the tattoo into multiple sessions. Even the artist is in pain after a session this long.

#3 Needle Size

Small does not equal less pain. That’s right when it comes to getting a new tattoo fine lines are more painful than bold traditional. Upside is, most fine line tattoos are smaller. And smaller needle sizes are used mostly for the outline at the beginning of the tattoo, when you are fresh and ready for the pain. Leaving larger needles to shade and fill in your tattoo later in the session when your willpower toward pain has become fatigued. Providing some much needed relief near the end of your tattoo.

So, there you have it. Now you know the 3 factors that affect the pain level of your tattoo the most. This will give you a great idea of how bad your next tattoo is going to hurt, and in turn will help you prepare for your next tattoo session.

Where does your next tattoo land on the ouch scale?

Did you end up with an easy 1 hour traditional shoulder tattoo?

Or, did you opt to go for the monster 6 hour plus riblet tattoo in all fine lines?

Let us know in the comments below.

See You Soon!

1 comment

  • Kikj: April 25, 2022
    Author's avatar image

    I love this short guide. My hand and inner wrist tattoos hurt so bad when they were done, the pain from the hand design carried up my lower arm and hurt less compared to my hand, both are fine line.
    My inner forearm is a shaded piece as is the other on that same arm. Both hurt significantly less.
    My shoulder tattoo hurt cause it was a larger area with heavy lining and shading.
    I am going for an upper breast bone area wrapping round in a neck bracelet design on Monday and I cannot wait!!

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