Beauty/Grooming, Health/Life

How to stick and poke tattoo safely: complete guide

How to stick and poke tattoo

Outlines how to stick and poke tattoo safely, proper tools and techniques, things to consider before deciding on a design, and what to watch out for.

Getting a tattoo is in principle no longer a big deal these days. Tattoo studios can be found in almost every city and, if necessary, the motifs can even be selected from a catalog on site. As a result, tattoos have to a large extent become popular partly because they’re “in”, partly because they are an aesthetic accessory that is your own and gives a bit more expressiveness to the body. It is not uncommon for those tattoo decisions to be regretted later in life unless you consider them thoughtfully and approach them properly.

Especially people who do a tattoo themselves, often regret this later, as it is rarely done thoughtfully and under good conditions. Few of them are even aware that there are special techniques for hand tattooing, such as the stick and poke technique — also called stick’n’poke or hand poked tattoo.

But there is also another motivation and it is much older than tattooing is known in our society. The original purpose of a tattoo was much less an aesthetic than much more a ritual. A tattoo is a mark on the skin that is part of the medicinal body of the person who wears it. For example, it is something that carries and supports its inner presence to the outside, that creates a connection to its powers, to its ancestors, power animals or spiritual helpers. But it can also be seen as a protection that wards off influencing and destructive energies.

Should I get a tattoo or not?

So before deciding on a tattoo, it is important to ask yourself a few more questions in order to recognize your true motivation behind this step. Do I want to prove anything to anyone with this step? Do I want to shock my parents or other persons in authority or show them that I can make my own decisions? Do I have the feeling that I am not beautiful enough and therefore have to change something about my body in order to finally get recognition and love? Do I want to please someone? Do I have the feeling that I belong to a certain group? Do I think I need the tattoo to make me feel masculine or feminine?

Pay attention to internal alarm bells

All of these motivations are warning signs that, if you recognize them, should prevent you from getting a tattoo. Because even if a tattoo belongs to you and it can be powerful and beautiful under the right circumstances, you are now destroying this power by not taking the step for yourself, but for someone else.

How do I know that a tattoo belongs to me?

However, if you feel inside yourself and realize that this tattoo simply belongs to you, you feel a special force, when you think about it, you may even have the feeling that the tattoo has always been on your skin, but so far it is still is not visible, then you can be sure that you are making the right decision whether you want to do the tattoo yourself or have it done.

How should the tattoo be done?

If you have now decided to really get a tattoo, then there are different ways to do it. The simplest, most obvious but not necessarily also the most powerful is to visit a trustworthy tattoo studio with competent and experienced tattooists and to give yourself confidently into their hands.

How to stick and poke tattoo by hand

how to stick and poke tattoo - traditional Maori ta moko

The second variant is to have the tattoo done by hand in the old, traditional way or to have it done in what we now call a stick n poke tattoo. Since you can usually get by without a professional tattoo studio, one usually speaks of the “Do it Yourself tattoo” or DIY tattoo. The color is not brought under the skin with a tattoo machine, but only with the help of a needle or a comparable tool.

Since ritual tattoos play an important role in many cultures around the world, there are very different methods for doing this, all of which require more or less a lot of practice, skill and perseverance. An original, ritual variant of getting a ritual tattoo yourself is, for example, working with carved bird bones. Their tips are soaked in the paint and then tapped into the skin with a kind of small hammer. This method was mainly used by the traditional Maori tattoos known as ta moko from New Zealand, and similar ritual tattoos through the Pacific Islands (pictured above).

The variant that we have decided on and that we would like to present here, on the other hand, is a bit more modern and easier to implement. In a sense, it is a hybrid of modern tattooing and the traditional stinging of primitive people. In tattoo circles this technique is also called “stick n ‘poke”. You use the normal tattoo needles and the normal color, which is also used for machine piercing, but without the associated machine.

Stick and Poke tattoos are usually small, simple tattoo motifs that can be done by laypeople without a tattoo machine. Simply a needle and ink are used. In the simplest variant, any sewing or safety pin and black Indian ink or ballpoint pen ink are actually used here. More ambitious stick and poke fans use special tattoo needles, which are actually intended for use with a machine, and tattoo ink.

In America even complete stick and poke sets are offered for quick pricking at home, but tattoo needles and ink are also available from Amazon. This may give the impression that anyone is able to get a tattoo on themselves. We’ll show you how elaborate stick and pokes really are!

It really is laborious

To understand how stick and pokes work, it is helpful to know how tattoos are made in general. The basic principle is the same, whether with a machine or by hand: With the help of a needle, tattoo ink is placed under the top layers of skin with many small stitches. After the healing phase, the engraved motif is visible through the upper layers of the skin.

The biggest difference between a machine and a manual tattoo is the speed at which the needle penetrates the skin. A tattoo machine stabs about 80 to 150 times a second. Since only a fraction of this speed can be achieved with a hand-guided needle, stick and poke tattoos are many times more tedious and time-consuming to pierce.

How to stick and poke tattoo: What equipment do I need for a tattoo ?

Before you can get started, of course, you first need the right equipment, most of which you can order from Amazon. You can also get matching colors in a specialist shop for tattoo needs. However, we ourselves have found that there are colors that are suitable for hand stitching and others that are rather unsuitable.

Stick n ‘poke tattooing works in a similar way to writing with a goose quill, which means that you dunk the needle over and over again in the color, which then sticks and can be transferred into the skin.

Which colors are suitable for stick and poke tattooing?

The stick and poke tattoo technique works very poorly with very liquid colors and you hardly get any color under your skin. With a little thick paint, however, you can achieve very good results. At this point, we would strongly advise against using colors that are not intended for tattooing, as the colors we use nowadays for handicrafts, painting or the like almost always contain toxic additives that are harmful to the body and which can lead to allergic reactions.

Which needles are suitable for hand tattooing?

In addition to the color, you will of course need needles for your DIY tattoo. In theory, any sterile needle will do as it’s just a matter of making a small prick in the skin and letting the paint flow into it. The advantage of real tattoo needles, however, is that they have more than one point, so that you not only create a tiny point with each stitch, but also a small circle or line of points, which makes hand tattooing much easier.

In our experience, the so-called “Round Liner”, which can be used to create small circles that can then be joined to form a line, and the “Magnum” needles are particularly suitable for this. The latter consist of a double layer of small needle points. We have used needles with 4 points in the top row and 3 points in the bottom row.

Creating a tattoo template

If you don’t want to improvise directly on your skin, you also need something to transfer your tattoo design onto the skin. So-called matrix paper is best suited for this. It is the black paper that is used to print multiple copies of documents or receipts. Thanks to the modern computer world, it is rarely used today, but it is still easy to get. Other materials you will need:

  • Alcohol or another disinfectant to clean the skin before tattooing
  • A so-called transfer cream that allows the paint from the matrix paper to stick to the skin.
  • Small, thimble-sized pots or lids in which you can fill the paint.
  • Cloths and water to wipe off the excess paint.
  • Small wooden sticks and tape or something else that you can use to make a handle for the needles that fits comfortably in your hand.
  • A fine, dark pen to trace any ambiguous lines.
  • A nourishing cream to care for a new tattoo properly, so you apply cream to the skin after tattooing so that it can recover and regenerate without drying out. Here you should make sure that you use chemical-free natural products, as the skin is particularly receptive due to the many small stitches and you probably do not want to ingest any unnecessary toxins. Here, too, there are extra care creams for the tattoo after-treatment. Alternatively, you can also use coconut fat or an oil mixture.
  • Transparent film to cover the freshly made tattoo, as well as skin-friendly adhesive strips to attach the film.
  • Tattoo needles: All tattoo needles can be used in the tattoo machine as well as with a handle for stick and poke tattoos by hand.
  • Grips to guide the needles safely and precisely. You can use a pen handle to make the needle easier to hold. To make the needle thick enough, you can glue thin wooden sticks (matches are also possible) around the needle.

How to stick and poke tattoo: the technique

For the daring among you who still want to get started, here are a few basics.

  • What you need to get started are tattoo needles, tattoo ink, ink cups (where you put the ink in), petroleum jelly, kitchen roll or handkerchiefs, a disinfectant or green soap, gloves and lots of cling film.
  • Before you start to work, you have to cover the entire workplace and everything that you could touch with your hands or the tattooed body part with cling film.
  • Just like with a conventional tattoo, hygiene comes first. The area of ​​skin to be tattooed should always be disinfected. Also, the person doing the tattoo should always wear clean, disposable gloves. You should never reuse a tattoo needle or share it with another person. This can transmit dangerous diseases!
  • For the actual sticking of the tattoo, the motif must first be drawn on the skin with a special transfer film or a tattoo marker. Since stick and pokes take up a lot of time, only very small, simple motifs are usually engraved with this technique.
  • Gloves on, disinfect the area on the body with soap.
  • Then draw on the motif with a water-soluble pen and spread a little Vaseline on it.
  • Put a little ink in the cup, unpack the needle and dip the tip in.
  • Stretch the skin slightly with one hand and then start making dots. So you poke your skin hundreds of times.
  • Some DIY tattoo artists tie a thread around their tattoo needle, which acts as a reservoir for the tattoo ink. The point of the needle has to be dipped into this again and again and stabbed into the skin.
  • It is often difficult for inexperienced home tattoo artists to gauge how deep the needle should penetrate the skin. A poke that is too deep causes the motif to run and lines appear unclear, while a poke that is too superficial simply has no lasting effect. So it takes a lot of tact and experience to get a clean stick and poke tattoo. The procedure must now be repeated until a desired continuous black line is created.
  • When you’re done (rework lines often), wipe again with germicidal soap and put plastic wrap on it. Find out about suitable tattoo aftercare!

What to watch out for

A lot can also go wrong . If you stick the needle too deeply into the skin, scars will appear. If you don’t prick deep enough, the color won’t stay in it. And the most important thing is hygiene when tattooing anyway. Be sure to use gloves, a lighter to disinfect the needle, and cling film to protect the pierced tattoo from infection.

How to stick and poke tattoo: Design

In general, you should be aware that the risk that it doesn’t look the way you expected or even heals worse and becomes infected is a lot higher than if you let a professional tattoo artist do it. It is not for nothing that they require their customers to be at least 18 years old and give them good advice beforehand.

The question of what kind of tattoos can be realized with the stick and poke technique is not easy to answer. For stick n poke ideas, basically, black linear or dotted motifs can be engraved, while 3D are not suitable. Above all, however, the realization of your desired motif depends on the skill and patience of the tattoo artist.

You shouldn’t get misconceptions through pictures of artistically engraved stick and poke tattoos on social networks. Just because a tattoo was handpicked doesn’t mean the tattoo was made at home by a layperson. Many of the frequently shared photos on Instagram, which inspire so many to do a tattoo, were done by experienced professionals.

Often, your first own stick and poke attempts look rather messy. So if you are unsure about your artistic dexterity, you should keep your hands off Stick to Poke Tattoos! Otherwise, you will have to go to a professional studio anyway to cover your unsuccessful work again.

And even if the attraction of stick’n’poke is the imperfect – crooked smileys and crooked letters are the rule in the first attempts – the method is now being offered by more experienced tattoo artists.