Photo of Brooklyn tattoo artist Michael Angelo by Ryn Gargulinski

Acquiring a tattoo, by its very nature of a needle puncturing the skin in quick succession, is going to hurt. But you can cut down on that pain with several tips that will help you get a painless, permanent tattoo. Mindset is the big one. If you go into the tattoo shop thinking you are going to be in agony, you most likely will be. You can use some tricks and tips to help you get a painless, permanent tattoo.

Pick a fleshy area. Tattoos done on the hips, thighs and buttocks are going to hurt less than those done on sensitive areas without a lot of padding. Some of the most painful spots include the lower back, inner arm and other areas without much muscle but a lot of bone.

Choose a simple design. The larger and more elaborate your design, the longer the tattoo is going to take and the more pain you will feel. This is just common sense. Shading a tattoo is also more intense than simply lining one, so you may want to pick line art only without any shading involved.

Get your mind ready. Once you’ve decided on a fleshy area and a simple tattoo, start preparing your mind. Tell yourself nightly, daily and even hourly, if you have to, that tattoos are beautiful and getting one is something that you can handle. The sensation is more like an annoying massage than anything else.

Talk to the artist. Tell her that you fear the pain but your desire for a tattoo outweighs it--kind of. If that tattoo artist knows you are in a delicate state, a good one will work with you, take breaks when necessary, and do whatever she can to help you feel the most comfortable during the process.

Meditate. Once you’re in the tattoo seat, close your eyes and breathe deeply for eight inhales and exhales before you begin. Continue the deep breathing, concentrating solely on your breath and nothing else. Try to block out everything else. Tell yourself that this process is temporary and that you can handle it. It will be over soon.

Treat the tattoo with care afterwards. Don't bang it, bump it, get it sun-burnt or otherwise ask it to give you more pain. Watch out for dogs that like to jump on you because they will inevitably find the spot where you just go a new tattoo. Ouch.


If closing your eyes during the tattoo works for your meditation concentration, go for it. Sometimes, however, closing your eyes can make it worse. If you leave them open you can be awed by the process, the really cool design and how fast it’s going to be over. There are numbing creams that can numb an area about to be tattooed but there are some caveats. The cream takes at least 30 minutes to kick in, lasts only 30 minutes and, once it wears off, the body can be shocked because it will have a big dose of pain rather than smaller increments. If meditation isn’t working, keep a conversation going with the artist or someone your brought with you to keep your mind on something other than the tattooing process. You can also read, listen to music or, if you don’t disrupt other clients, sing. Another way to ready yourself for a tattoo is to visit the shop and watch other tattoos being done, if the people are okay with that. Watching someone else go through the process will prove that you can do it, too.


If you are terribly scared of the pain, perhaps you should instead consider temporary tattoos or another means of body art.