If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, probably one of the first questions you’ll ask is, “does getting a tattoo hurt?”

The simple answer to that is yes, a tattoo gun pierces your skin hundreds of thousands of times during a single session, so it’s going to hurt.  

Where does getting a tattoo hurt the most depends on a lot of different things, including placement, style, and even age and gender. 

The more accurate answer to “does getting a tattoo hurt?”, though, is that it’s complicated.  

Not all tattoos or body placements cause pain equally, and there are a lot of factors that affect the amount of pain you experience.

This article will explain everything you need to know about tattoos and pain.  

Where Do Tattoos Hurt Most?

Generally, the most sensitive areas on the body are the most painful to get tattooed, including:

  • Feet
  • Hands and fingers
  • Armpits
  • Head
  • Inner Wrist
  • Ribs and Chest

This places have a lot of nerve endings. Other examples are the face, genitals, throat, and nipples.

Areas that are bony with little to no fat are also the most painful, like the wrist, ankles, feet, collarbone, ribs, and elbows. 

If you ask five different people about where the most painful place to get a tattoo on the body is, you’re going to get five different answers. 

6 places Where it Hurts the Most to Get a Tattoo


#1 Feet

Feet have very little muscle and fat on them, for the most part they are just bones covered by skin.

Therefore, the nerves are pretty exposed and will feel the tattoo gun the most, sometimes even down to the bone.

There is no way around the intense, sharp pain of a foot tattoo

Tattoo foot world map

#2 Hands and Fingers 

Hand and finger tattoos have been made popular by celebrities because they look really cool.

However, getting a tattoo here is no walk in the park.

Hands have tons of nerve endings because they are what we use to touch and feel things with.

Naturally, getting a tattoo here will hurt immensely because there’s hardly any fat or muscle covering your bones.

Hand tattoo fly

#3 Armpits 

You might be curious why someone would want a tattoo on their armpit, but they’re more common than you might think.

Either way, the armpit is one of the most painful places on the body to get a tattoo.

The axillary nerve runs through the armpit, which is responsible for feeling and movement of the shoulder and arm.

This is also the site of glands and lymph nodes, so the healing process will be much longer and more painful than your average tattoo.


#4 Head 

Some people claim that tattoos on the head feels like someone is drilling into your skull. Ouch!

There are so many nerve endings and little to no fat on the head, making it one of the most painful places to get tattooed.

This is not an area you want to mess with if you have a low pain tolerance. 

Head and face tattoo

#5 Inner Wrist 

Wrist tattoos are typically delicate and have a deep meaning behind it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt like crazy.

Even looking at your wrist, you can see all the nerves and vessels that run under your skin.  

There’s hardly any fat or muscle to pad the tattoo needle here, and you’ll definitely feel sharp pain.

Wrist tattoo lotto flower

#6 Ribs and Chest 

Tattoos on the ribs and chest always come out looking awesome, but they are usually large pieces that caused a lot of pain and tears.

The ribs have very little padding and are right beneath the skin, so the nerve endings will definitely feel the pain of the needle.  

Also, your chest and ribs move every time you breathe, making a tattoo here all the more painful.

Chest old school eagle tattoo

Where Do Tattoos Hurt Least?

Any tattoo you get is going to hurt, but that doesn’t mean you need to get it in the most painful spot!

There are certain places on the body that are less painful because of the abundance of fat and muscle, including:  

  • Upper back
  • Outer arm
  • Upper outer thigh
  • Butt
  • Forearm
  • Calves

If your pain threshold isn’t too high, or you don’t feel like writhing in pain, we’ll show you the places where tattoos hurt least: 

6 Places That Hurt the Least to Get a Tattoo


#1 Upper back 

The upper back is the perfect canvas for a large tattoo because it’s not nearly as sensitive as the rest of the body. As long as you avoid the spine, an upper back tattoo will go smoothly. The only rough part about a tattoo here is sleeping for the first few days. 


#2 Outer Arm 

The upper arm and shoulder are large, meaty areas that don’t have a lot of sensitivity. That’s why sleeve tattoos are very common here, the arm can withstand quite a bit of pain and will recover quickly. 

Shoulder tattoo skull 

#3 Upper Outer Thigh 

Our thighs have thick skin, lots of fat and muscle, and not very many nerve endings, making the upper outer thigh the least painful place to get a tattoo. Most people report feeling low to medium pain here. Thigh tattoo flowers

#4 Butt 

The butt is relatively painless to get tattooed. There’s plenty of fat and muscle to absorb the pain of the needle, and there aren’t any bones that will get in the way. The only tricky part about a butt tattoo is the healing process, since it’s difficult to air it out. 

Butt old school rose tattoo

#5 Forearm 

Your forearm has very thick skin and not that many nerve endings. This is a good place to get a tattoo if you don’t want to go through so much pain, however, don’t go down to the wrist because that’s one of the most painful places. 

 Forearm tattoo old school

#6 Calves 

Our calves have a good amount of fat and muscle, and not very many nerve endings. Calf tattoos aren’t that painful, and you’ll have a relatively easy healing process.

Calf tattoo old school

A lot of information, we know.

If you need personalized guidance, you are welcome to contact us, and we will gladly help you with your next tattoo.

Factors that Affect Pain When Getting a Tattoo

There are several factors that go into how much or how little a tattoo hurts.

That’s why you’ll always hear different things about tattoo pain from different people. These factors include: 

– Placement  

One of the biggest factors that affects tattoo pain is where on your body you get a tattoo.

Fatty areas with thick skin are the least painful because they are able to cushion the sting of the needle.

Areas with thin skin and little fat are the most painful, because the pain gets down to the bone.

– Size & Duration 

The bigger your tattoo, the more it will hurt, that’s just a fact.

It requires more, longer sessions with detailing, shading, and different needles.


– Style 

The level of pain will also be affected by the style of your tattoo.

For example, a realistic portrait hurts a whole lot. It takes a long time, uses large amounts of ink, shading, and different needle tips to get the desired picture.

If you choose to get a simple outline, it won’t take as long or as much ink, so it’ll hurt a lot less.


– Tattoo Artist 

The artist you go to will also affect how much it hurts.

Generally, the more experienced the artist, the better it’ll be for you in the end.

Some artists are more gentle, while others are more heavy-handed. An artist who takes their time will hurt less than one that is rough and quick.

Their needle speed and quantity will also affect the level of pain.

In Iron & Ink Los Angeles we have an amazing team of professional tattoo artists that will make sure your experience is as pleasant as possible 🙂

Tattoo artists los angeles


– Pain Threshold

This is not something we can help, everyone experiences pain differently. You know your body best, so what is not painful for someone else might be very painful for you.

Things like age, gender, medical conditions, and sobriety can affect your threshold.

 Read more about legal age to get a tattoo here.

– Mentality 

If you go in expecting the worst, and have built up a fear of the pain, then you will probably have a bad experience and sike yourself out.

The best way to approach a tattoo, especially in a more painful area, is with a positive attitude.

Just focus on getting through it one session at a time, and mentally prepare yourself for the pain, then before you know it you’ll have an amazing tattoo.

If you want to have an estimate on how long will it take to get a tattoo, check this article

Types of Pain to Expect

It’s important to identify the different types of pain associated with getting a tattooed. 

Familiarizing yourself with the types of pain will help prepare you and give you an idea of what to expect. 

These are the most common sensations felt when getting a tattoo:


– Burning Pain 

Burning pain feels like you’ve had a heating pad pressed to your skin for a long period of time.

It’s usually felt after a long session when your skin is raw and recovering from the needle piercing your skin repetitively.

Burning pain isn’t intense, but it’s persistent.

 Close up tattoo

– Sharp Pain 

This is an intense, stinging pain akin to bee stings.

Body parts with thinner skin are more likely to experience sharp pain.

This is usually felt when an artist uses one needle to make fine details on a tattoo, however it could also mean that they are going too deep into the skin.

Although uncommon, this can result in a tattoo blowout where the ink disperses and creates a blurry tattoo.


– Scratching Pain 

This is the most common pain to feel while getting a tattoo.

It feels like a cat is scratching its claws over and over again on your raw skin.

It can get intense if the artist is working on the same area for a long time. It is also made worse by using multiple needles, like when the artist is shading. 

Bottom Line

There’s no way around it: getting a tattoo is a painful experience for the majority of us.  

Some factors affect how much pain you as an individual experience while getting tattooed, though: placement, skin condition, and even the tattoo style can affect how much it hurts to get inked. 

Make sure you’re aware of the pain, complications, and risks of tattoo regret before you head to the tattoo parlor.