Can You Use Sharpie Ink For Stick and Poke Tattoos?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 5, 2020
    Last Updated: December 20, 2020

If you’ve decided to give yourself a stick and poke tattoo, you may be tempted to just grab any ink that you have lying around. Lots of people use pen ink, which is extremely toxic and could pose long-term consequences. Sharpie ink is the next on the list.

What is a Stick and Poke Tattoo?

Stick and poke, also known as hand-poked tattoos, have been around for centuries. They’ve always been the go-to method for prison tattoos as they require minimal tools to create, but have recently surged in popularity as a DIY-at-home tattoo method.

Stick and poke tattoos use a single needle and some ink to imprint designs into the skin. Some people will attach the needle to something else like a pencil or rod to hold it steady for ease of use. 

Hand-poked tattoos do not penetrate the skin as deeply as tattoos made with a gun, yet there is still the risk of infection if the area and tools are not sterilized correctly. It is always best to get a hand-poked tattoo from a professional.

Ink For Stick and Poke Tattoos

Hands-down, the best thing you can do if you decide to get a stick and poke tattoo is to use actual tattoo ink

One type of ink people use for hand-poked tattoos is India Ink. This ink can be found at many craft stores. Other common ink types include pen and Sharpie ink. But is it safe? We will discuss this further into the article.

Tattoo Ink

The composition of tattoo inks vary from brand to brand, nevertheless, the bottom line is that they’re all safe to use and are specifically crafted to be used in tattoos. A small bottle of tattoo ink can cost around ten dollars and may be purchased online. 

Another benefit of using tattoo ink is that it comes in various colors that are safely pigmented, therefore, you are not limited to just black. You can choose from either stable pigment-based inks or pre-dispersed inks; stable inks need to be mixed prior to use and aren’t as common anymore. On the other hand, pre-dispersed inks only require a solid shake, and then they’re good to go.

India Ink

India ink is a popular choice for stick and poke tattoos because it can be found at any major craft store and in multiple places online. India ink is natural, non-toxic, and carbon-based, however, it still isn’t recommended as the first choice for hand-poked tattoos as there is a risk for allergic reactions and infection.

Pen Ink

With the number of art stores and online warehouses that you can purchase from, pen ink should never be an option for tattooing. Pen ink is easily accessible and cheap. Still, it is not meant to enter your body in any way, shape, or form.

Pen ink is highly toxic and unsterile. Using pen ink with a stick and poke tattoo can lead to severe infection, or it may just heal over and scab, leaving you with no tattoo and damaged skin.

Sharpie Ink

Sharpies are great. They’re the go-to, top of the line choice for permanent markers. Since the markers are permanent, then they should make an excellent choice for stick and poke tattoos, right?


Any marker labeled as ACMI “non-toxic” by Sharpie has been tested and deemed to be safe for art, but this does not include body art or using the ink for tattoos. Even though Sharpie does not recommend using their markers to draw on skin, many people do it anyway. This doesn’t result in serious health issues, yet it’s another story when it goes beneath the outer layer of skin.

Harmful ingredients found in various sharpie markers include n-butanol, diacetone alcohol, and cresol, all of which have the potential to cause health effects such as eye, nose, and throat irritation. 

King size Sharpies, Magnum Sharpies, and Touch-Up Sharpies contain xylene. Xylene is a chemical capable of damaging your respiratory, cardiovascular, nervous, and renal systems. Many of these risks come from inhaling the vapors, though all bets are off once xylene enters your bloodstream directly, which is plausible if the needle goes too deep during an amateur hand-poked tattoo.

Even if you can avoid going too deep with a stick and poke tattoo, you still need to extract the ink from the Sharpie, and you could be exposed to harmful fumes while doing this.

Should I Use Sharpie Ink For a Stick and Poke Tattoo?

Long story short, you should not use sharpie ink for stick and poke tattoos. While many of their markers are advertised as non-toxic. This only applies to external contact. Inhaling the fumes while extracting the ink or possibly going too deep and depositing sharpie ink into your bloodstream can be very dangerous.

If you’ve decided to get an amateur hand-poked tattoo, the safest ink to use is professional tattoo ink, easily accessible by the public.

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