Tattoo Pain Chart

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 19, 2018
    Last Updated: November 28, 2020

All tattoos are painful, but some areas hurt far more than others. Take a look at our tattoo pain chart below to see which places might make you shout “Ouch!”.

Tattoo Pain Chart

Where Do Tattoos Hurt The Most?

You may hear this saying repeated by me a few times throughout this article, but it’s so true; everybody perceives pain differently!

While the areas in the pain chart below are generally where people feel the most pain when getting tattooed, that’s not to say you’ll suffer the same painful experience when getting inked in these areas.

You may find some of the body parts in this pain chart a doddle to get tattooed on, and alternatively, you may find some of the typically less painful areas a real struggle; it’s all down to how your body reacts to different types of pain in different areas.

Tattoo Pain Scale

Ways To Reduce Tattoo Pain

Although it’s inevitable that you’re going to experience at least some sort of pain and discomfort during your tattoo session, there are many various things that can be done to help ease the pain and make for a better tattooing experience:

Remember that Everybody Goes Through Pain to Get a Tattoo

Always keep in the back of your mind that not a single person has been able to get a tattoo without feeling some kind of pain and/or discomfort.

Yes, some people experience more or less pain than others depending on various factors mentioned above, but everybody goes into the chair with at least some kind of apprehension/anxiety knowing that it’s going to hurt at least somewhat.

Remember Why You’re Getting Inked

Many of you reading this will be getting a tattoo that will have significance to you. If you start to struggle with the pain during your session, always remember why you’re getting the tattoo and how much it will mean to you once it has been completed. The pain is just temporary, after all, and your artwork is for life.

Will a few hours of pain and discomfort be worth it in the end? I think every one of you will agree that it definitely will be. Pick a tattoo that is right for you and your life, don’t pick one just because it’ll be slightly less painful. Your future self will thank you for it.

Educate Yourself

It’s always helpful when you know what you’re going to be getting yourself into before going to the studio in order to prevent any unwelcome shocks and surprises.

Read up as much as you can about the whole tattooing process – this is extremely easy nowadays with the power of the internet. This way, you will be pretty educated about each step of your day of being tattooed.

This should help ease any anxiety that you may have and help to keep you relaxed leading up to the session.

If you are truly worried about getting your first tattoo, ask the tattoo artist what their normal daily schedule is like at the studio so you know exactly what will happen throughout the day.

Eat Well Beforehand and Take Snacks

Ensure that you eat a big wholesome meal about an hour before your session. This will boost your sugar levels and keep them boosted for the next few hours. A big meal should also keep you energized so you don’t feel sluggish an hour or two into the session.

If you feel lethargic, dizzy or slightly ill during your session, eat something sugary. The tattoo needle continuously puncturing your skin can cause your blood sugar to drop, which can lead to some of these unwanted side effects.

Remember to let your tattoo artist know if you feel ill or dizzy and they will stop and let you have a break to get some fresh air and regroup.

Ensure You’re Well Hydrated

Water has so many benefits that it will be impossible to list them all there. Just make sure you get your recommended amount of water in the days leading up to your sitting and you should feel miles better throughout the session.

Wear Comfortable Clothing

The aim is to feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible – and wearing loose-fitting, comfy clothing should go a long way to making you feel relaxed in the chair.

Getting agitated and fidgety because your pair of skinny short-shorts are getting stuck up your bum isn’t going to help you when trying to concentrate on fighting through the pain barrier. Think smart. If you’re getting an upper arm tattoo, it would likely be wise to attend the studio wearing a vest or tank top.

Think Positive

As previously mentioned, a positive state of mind goes a long way when going through painful and uncomfortable situations. Bring your best outlook to the situation, and you will come out feeling proud of your awesome new tattoo and the way you handled the day.

Get a Good Sleep the Night Before

There is nothing worse than sitting for hours on end on 2 hours of sleep or with a hangover. You will enjoy the experience so much more if you’re in the most optimum and energetic state possible.

A bad night’s sleep before getting your tattoo can lead you to become tired, grouchy and fidgety throughout the day, which won’t help either you or your tattoo artist – and you definitely won’t be able to handle the pain as well.

Listen to Your Artist’s Instructions

Your tattoo artist will always know what’s best for you and how to keep you as comfortable, relaxed and pain-free as possible.

Follow whatever advice your tattoo artist gives you, and you will be better off throughout the session for it. If they tell you to go out and get some fresh air for 5 minutes because you look like you’re struggling, go and do it!

Take Something to Bite On

An old classic tactic! You must have seen at least one war film where a soldier needs to have an arm or leg taken off in the field with access to no anesthetics – what do the medics do? Give the person something to bite on!

Although not as extreme when compared to an at-war soldier- and you won’t look like such a hard-ass by doing it, but by having something to bite on during the struggling parts of your tattoo, it may actually help with pain relief for a little while if the tattoo artist is going over a particularly sensitive spot.

Alternatively, many people claim to find some relief from the pain by sucking a lollipop or by chewing some gum – so it may be worth trying these methods if you start to struggle.


The most effective way to handle pain is to take slow, deep breaths in and out like women do when delivering babies.  It’s scientifically proven to reduce pain perception and won’t damage your teeth like biting on something.

Ensure the Area of Skin is in Good Condition

You don’t want to turn up to your session with a huge bruise, cut or sunburn on the area of skin that is about to get tattooed – this will not feel good when a needle goes into the area a thousand times a minute. Make sure you look after yourself leading up to the day for the best procedure and optimal healing outcome.

Likewise, make sure your skin around the area is nice and supple. Moisturize the area regularly for a couple of weeks before the session and drink lots of water to ensure your skin is well hydrated. The less tight and dry your skin is, the less pain you will likely feel (the difference may be minimal, but every little helps in these situations).

Listen to Music/Audiobook or Watch TV (If There is One)

Basically, try to do anything you can that may distract your attention from the pain for any length of time. Switching on and listening to your current favorite album may be the thing that is able to take your mind away from the pain for a little while to give you a much-needed break from the constant discomfort of the tattoo needle.

Talk to Your Artist (If They Don’t Mind)

Yes, some artists are less keen to converse in small-talk while they tattoo you (concentration and all that), but most will be perfectly happy to talk to you throughout the entire session.

Personally, this is the one method that I find works best for me when trying to take the pain away. Time really does fly by if you find something interesting to talk about with your artist.

Practice Controlled Breathing/Meditation

For some people, this can work well, and for some it does nothing. Personally, I struggle with controlled breathing as my concentration levels aren’t very high while getting tattooed, but many people claim it works wonders for them.

Try to breathe as deeply as possible, and attempt to focus solely on your breathing and nothing else. Take 10 deep breaths, counting each individual breath, and repeat.

There are also various methods of medication that you could try to learn/practice to see if this helps with the pain. Again, this is very hit and miss for people depending on how well they’re able to concentrate on things like deep breathing and focus.

Try a Skin Numbing Cream

Again, this doesn’t work for everyone, but rubbing tattoo-specific numbing cream onto the area of skin before going in for your ink can definitely help keep some of the tattoo pain away.

There are a range of numbing creams available that are safe to use on tattoos, including one of the more popular products below.

For people wanting a little extra assistance for dealing with the pain, a good tattoo numbing cream can really help to take the edge off.

One of the most effective tattoo numbing products currently on the market is Zensa Numbing Cream, which contains the highest level of Lidocaine allowed by the FDA for over-the-counter use. The feedback left by thousands of customers for this product is nothing short of exceptional.

Just follow the instructions supplied with the cream and apply shortly before your tattoo appointment is due to begin so that you can look forward to a less painful and more comfortable tattooing experience. The amount of cream you get in a tube also ensures you have more than enough for a large tattoo.


Always check that the numbing cream can definitely be used specifically on tattoos. There are various numbing cream products on the market created for generalized usage, and some of these creams can affect your skin/blood in certain ways as to be detrimental to the outcome of your tattoo.

Side effects such as tightening/loosing of the skin and thickening/thinning of the blood can definitely cause your tattoo to turn out less-than-desired, and it is therefore always recommended that you check the packaging of each numbing cream you think about using to ensure that the product is tattoo-safe.

All of the tattoo numbing creams recommended above are safe for use before getting tattooed.

Where Do Tattoos Hurt The Least?

The pain chart below contains a selection of places where tattoos generally hurt less when compared to the areas listed above.

Depending on each specific area, the below body parts tend to have either more fleshy tissue/fat shielding the bone, or less sensitive nerve endings branching out around the skin (or both).

Also, these tattoo pain areas tend to cause less psychological fear (pumping yourself up for a lip or nipple tattoo is no mean feat). Feeling more relaxed and less on-edge/tense usually helps reduce how badly pain is perceived by the body.

Will My Tattoo Definitely Hurt?

Unfortunately, all tattoos sting; there is no other way around that question. In doesn’t matter which pain chart your tattoo is going to fall under, your skin is still going to be perforated many hundreds of times a minute, and for 99% of people, this will sting at least slightly as your nerve endings spread to every inch of your body.

Of course, the biggest deciding factor is the actual place you get tattooed on your body. Tattoo on the rib cage is almost always ensured to caused more pain than tattoos on the upper arm, for example.

But at the end of the day, tattoo pain charts and scales are only going to give you a very rough idea of how much your personal tattoo experience is going to hurt, and how painful each touch of the needle is going to be against your nerve endings.

A person with a body that is more sensitive to pain is generally going to hurt more throughout a tattoo session when compared to a person with a higher tolerance to pain. However, it’s a complete myth that all tattoos result in unbearable pain.

If you’re looking to gain even more knowledge about tattoos and tattoo pain specifically, then our most painful tattoos and least painful tattoos guides may help you further.