Tattoo Pain Chart: How Bad Do Tattoos Hurt?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on April 7, 2023
    Last Updated: April 7, 2023

Are you wondering if tattoos hurt? Well, the truth is, they can. But the extent of pain experienced during a tattoo session varies greatly depending on numerous factors. Contrary to popular belief, getting a tattoo isn’t just about enduring relentless, excruciating pain. In fact, during a tattoo session, an individual is likely to encounter a wide range of emotions, thoughts, and sensations, all influenced by a variety of elements.

Dive into this fascinating world of tattoo pain, and discover the factors that can make your tattoo experience a more manageable and enjoyable journey.

Factors Affecting Tattoo Pain

When it comes to getting a tattoo, one of the most common concerns is the pain associated with the process. Tattoo pain can vary significantly depending on several factors. These include the tattoo placement, the person’s individual pain threshold, and even the skill level of the tattoo artist. This article will explore the factors affecting tattoo pain and offer suggestions on how to make your tattoo hurt less.

One primary factor in tattoo pain is the placement. Some areas of the body have thinner skin and more nerve endings, leading to more pain during the tattoo process. Additionally, areas with less fat or muscle may also be more sensitive. The tattoo pain chart can help you determine which areas might be more or less painful.

Another factor is an individual’s pain threshold. Everyone’s pain tolerance varies, and what might be unbearable for one person could be tolerable for another. Understanding your personal pain tolerance will help you prepare for the tattoo session and manage your expectations.

The skill and experience of your tattoo artist also play a role in how much pain you’ll feel during the tattoo process. An experienced tattoo artist can work more efficiently, causing less damage to the skin and potentially reducing the amount of pain experienced. Always research and choose a reputable tattoo artist to minimize discomfort.

Where Does It Hurt Most To Get A Tattoo?

A tattoo pain chart can be a helpful tool in understanding where it may hurt the most to get a tattoo. In general, the most painful body parts for tattoos are those with thinner skin and many nerve endings. Some of the most painful tattoo spots include the rib cage, armpit tattoos, and areas with bone close to the skin, such as hip bones and the collarbone.

Thinner skin in these areas allows the tattoo needle to penetrate closer to nerve endings, resulting in sharp or stinging pain during the tattoo process. Additionally, areas with more fat, such as the upper outer thigh, may provide a little more cushion, but it still might not be enough to prevent intense pain from being felt.

Some of the most painful tattoos can be found on areas where the skin is stretched over bones, like the rib cage, where the skin is constantly moving with each breath. Armpit tattoos are also considered to be among the most painful tattoo spots due to the high concentration of nerve endings and thin skin in this area.

Most Painful Tattoo Areas and Pain Ratings

Armpit (10/10): The armpit is considered the most painful area to get tattooed due to the high concentration of nerve endings and thin skin. Most tattoo artists advise against getting armpit tattoos because of the severe pain experienced during the process.

Lips (10/10): The lips’ loose skin and many nerve endings make tattooing on and around the lips a severely painful and potentially bruising experience.

Nipples and Breasts (9/10): The extreme sensitivity of nipples and breasts results in severe pain when being tattooed in these areas.

Rib Cage (9/10): The rib cage ranks as the second most painful spot for tattoos, with pain levels being severe. The skin around the ribs is extremely thin, and the constant movement due to breathing can make the experience intense.

Ankles and Shins (9/10): Tattooing on the ankles and shins is painful as the bones are close to the skin’s surface, causing severe pain levels comparable to rib cage tattoos.

Groin (8/10): The groin area is filled with nerve endings, making tattooing here a high to severe pain experience.

Elbows or Kneecaps (8/10): With bones close to the skin, tattooing on the elbows and kneecaps can cause high to severe pain due to vibrations over the bones.

Behind the Knees (9/10): The loose, stretchy skin and numerous nerve endings make tattooing behind the knees a severely painful experience.

Hips (9/10): The hip bones’ proximity to the skin surface makes hip tattoos a severely painful endeavor, especially for thinner individuals with less fat cushioning.

Neck and Spine (9/10): The sensitivity of the neck and spine areas makes tattoos here among the most painful experiences.

Head, Face, and Ears (9/10): These areas contain numerous nerve endings and lack fat cushioning, resulting in severe pain when tattooed.

Hands, Fingers, Feet, and Toes (9/10): Tattooing these areas can cause severe pain due to thin skin and many nerve endings. Disturbed nerves can cause painful spasms during the process.

Stomach (7-9/10): Stomach tattoos range from high to severe pain, depending on factors like body weight and skin tightness.

Inner Bicep (7/10): The inner bicep tattoos can cause high pain levels, but not typically severe pain. Healing may take longer in this area.

Where Does It Hurt Least To Get A Tattoo?

On the other hand, some areas of the body are generally considered to be less painful for tattoos. These include locations with thicker skin, fewer nerve endings, or more fat. Examples of less painful body parts include the outer arm, calf, and outer thigh. The tattoo pain chart can also help guide you towards less painful spots for your next tattoo appointment.

Thicker skin in these areas provides a buffer between the tattoo needle and the nerve endings, leading to less pain. In addition, more fat or muscle can act as a cushion, further reducing the pain. Finally, fewer nerve endings mean that even if the needle does make contact, the sensation will be less intense.

Least Painful Tattoo Areas and Pain Ratings

Upper Outer Thigh (2-3/10): With fat padding and fewer nerve endings, the upper outer thigh is a less painful tattoo spot with low to low-moderate pain levels.

Forearm (2-3/10): The thick skin, muscle, and fewer nerve endings in the forearm result in low to low-moderate pain levels during tattooing.

Outer Shoulders (2-3/10): Outer shoulders have thick skin and few nerve endings, making tattoos here a low to low-moderate pain experience.

Outer Bicep (2-3/10): Outer bicep tattoos typically cause low to low-moderate pain levels due to muscle mass and fewer nerve endings.

Calves (2-3/10): Calf tattoos are usually less painful due to fat and muscle padding and fewer nerve endings, resulting in low to low-moderate pain levels.

Upper and Lower Back (3-4/10): Tattoos on the upper or lower back cause low-moderate to moderate pain levels, as the skin in these areas is thick and has fewer nerve endings. The further away from the bones and nerve endings in the spine and hips, the less pain experienced.

How Can You Make Your Tattoo Hurt Less?

There are several ways to make your tattoo hurt less, starting with selecting a less painful spot for the tattoo. Using the tattoo pain chart as a guide can help you identify areas with fewer nerve endings or more cushioning from fat or muscle.

Additionally, maintaining open communication with your tattoo artist can help them adjust their technique or take breaks when needed. Be sure to let them know if you’re feeling severe pain, as they may be able to make adjustments to minimize discomfort.

Another way to reduce tattoo pain is to practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, during the tattoo process. This can help you stay calm and focused, reducing stress hormones that can amplify pain sensations. Some people also find that distractions, like listening to music or watching a show, can help take their mind off the pain.

Preparing for your tattoo appointment by getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and eating a balanced meal beforehand can also help. Being well-rested and properly nourished can improve your body’s ability to handle stress and pain.

Topical numbing creams or gels can sometimes be applied before the tattoo session, but it’s essential to discuss this option with your tattoo artist. Some tattoo artists may not recommend using numbing agents, as they can potentially affect the tattoo’s outcome.

Lastly, remember that everyone’s pain tolerance is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you in managing tattoo pain.


Tattoo pain is a normal part of the tattoo process, but there are ways to mitigate and manage it. Understanding the factors affecting tattoo pain and utilizing a tattoo pain chart can help guide your decision on tattoo placement. Additionally, open communication with your tattoo artist and utilizing coping strategies can make the experience more manageable.

By taking these steps, you can ensure that you have the best possible experience during your tattoo session, resulting in a beautiful piece of body art that you’ll be proud to show off.

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