Do Color Tattoos Hurt More?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on February 03, 2022
    Last Updated: February 3, 2022

Tattoos are painful. No matter how you look at it or how prepared you are before having your tattoo, the tattoo process involves having multiple needles inserted into your skin, and this will hurt.

Some people say they enjoy the pain, and others tolerate it as they love the end result. Whatever the reason, tattoos are now more popular than ever, with more and more people rushing out to join the millions of others, supporting body art.

When you think about the pain of a tattoo, you generally think about the size and the placement of the tattoo on your body. However, there are now discussions that the color of the tattoo ink you choose could be related to the pain that you feel.

Do color tattoos hurt more than black and gray tattoos? We’ll let you know, and we’ll also let you know how you can reduce the amount of pain felt when getting a tattoo.

Why Do Tattoos Hurt?

There are many factors involved when discussing the pain of getting a tattoo before you even think of what color to choose. People react to getting a tattoo very differently, and the pain felt will depend on your personal pain tolerance. 

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and it’s there to protect the smaller fragile organs. There are two major layers to your skin, the epidermis, and the dermis. The dermis is where all of your glands, blood vessels, and sensory cells are housed. This layer is also where the ink from your tattoo is inserted. 

During the tattoo process, your skin will be penetrated by needles from 50 to 3000 times per minute. So, it’s no wonder that it hurts.

Do Color Tattoos Hurt More Than Black and Gray?

All tattoos hurt in some way, as the needles are penetrating your skin many times in quick succession. This doesn’t make any difference whether you choose black and gray ink or colored ink. 

It used to be that colored ink was slightly thicker in consistency than black or gray tattoo ink. This consistency would affect the pain felt as it would’ve taken longer to pack the colored ink, which is a painful experience in the first place. However, all tattoo inks are now made to a similar consistency, so there shouldn’t be an issue.

When you’re getting a tattoo with different colored ink it will generally take longer to complete than a small black and gray tattoo. Your tattoo artist will also change the needles on their tattoo machine to complete the different tattoo styles.

Many people say that the linework doesn’t hurt as much as the shading or color packing, and this may also explain why they think color tattoos hurt more.

Tattoo Placement

The location of your tattoo on your body plays a large part in the pain felt as some areas are more sensitive than others. Body areas that have many nerve endings or have thinner skin hurt more when having a tattoo. Some of these areas are:

  • Head, face, and neck
  • Breasts and chest
  • Ribcage and spine
  • Armpits and elbows
  • Groin area
  • Inner thighs and knees
  • Shinbone and ankle
  • Fingers and feet

These body areas are more painful than others and are highly sensitive due to thin skin and the proximity to the bones. They also have a lot of nerve endings, making them incredibly painful for many people.

Some areas are more painful for a specific gender, and women are thought to have a lower pain threshold than men. This is mainly due to hormones and their hormonal changes. However, this is dependent on each individual.

Tattoo Process

During the tattoo process, the needles will penetrate the dermis layer of your skin approximately 3000 times per minute. This number will depend on several factors, such as the style of tattoo, the design, the placement of the tattoo, and of course, your pain tolerance.

Needle Types

There are a variety of tattoo needles used for the tattoo process. Most linework is completed with a liner needle, and shading and color packing with a different needle type. 

The variation of needles will affect the level of pain felt. However, all of these needle types can be used for both black and gray and color tattoos. The pain felt during the tattoo process is down to the needle used rather than it being a color tattoo or a black and gray tattoo.

Needle Sharpness

A dull needle will hurt more than a sharp new needle, so you need to make sure that the needles used by your tattoo artist are suitable. 

As the needles are worn down, they will remain sharp but will dull slightly. This will affect the level of pain felt during the tattoo process and may also cause damage to your skin or tattoo.

White Ink Tattoos

Tattoos using white ink will hurt more than other types of tattoos. This is down to the fact that for the tattoo to show on the skin, and it to be fully saturated, the tattoo artist will need to go over the same area again and again. 

The needle penetration in the same place repeatedly will cause pain and possible damage to your skin.


We can’t say for certain that color tattoos hurt more than black and gray tattoos or vice versa. However, we can say that as color tattoos may require more needles and different types of needles to be used, this may affect the amount of pain felt. 

There are several factors that will cause more pain than if you choose a color tattoo or a black and gray tattoo. These include the placement, design, and size of the tattoo. The level of pain felt can also be determined by your individual pain tolerance, gender, and your weight. If you have experienced other tattoos previously, this may reduce the amount of pain felt.

You need to consider the pain before deciding to go through with the tattoo process, and speak to your tattoo artist about this. They may be able to reassure you and relax you before you start the process.

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