DIY Hand Poked Tattoos: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Xavier in Guides

Let's take a crack at the growing trend of DIY stick and poke tattoos on what makes it so damn awesome and where it goes downhill.

Hand poked or stick and poke tattoos are here to stay and this looks like both good and bad news. It’s good to see hand poking get recognised as actual art and revived from the bowels of tattoo history, but its the DIY aspect is what’s bothering us. As predicted, the stick and poke tattoo trend hit the scene pretty hard last year and it seems like it has no plans on leaving any time soon.

by Eva Bryant - @horseforest/Instagram
by Eva Bryant - @horseforest/Instagram

Although DIY tattoos are nothing new, they often end up in disaster. It’s always either you eventually get yours covered up or get rid of it through several, agonising laser removal procedures. And the tattoo artists who do DIY on themselves are often beginners and are starting on some patches of their skin first before proceeding to work on others. Having said that, we’re not sure if any of them is reassuring. But you know what they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

DIY stick and poke tattoos have been blowing up around college folks and creative types. People are constantly looking for something different and are obsessed with being ahead of the curve. Everybody’s getting tattoos, making it lost its edge and sense of uniqueness. Even tattoo legend, Lyle Tuttle seem to think so. Though we actually see it in a positive light, we understand what threatens others.

by Eva Bryant - @horseforest/Instagram
by Eva Bryant - @horseforest/Instagram

Before you get your tighty whities in a bunch, we’ll have you know that we’re well-aware of the risks involved with DIY tattoos and hand poking. We’re neither encouraging nor discouraging our readers to give it a try. It’s all up to you if you’re going to base your decisions on this or move on.

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by Eva Bryant - @horseforest/Instagram
by Eva Bryant - @horseforest/Instagram

The Good

Those who have been hooked with hand poke tattoos prefer the less manic atmosphere of a hand poke tattoo session for its more laid-back vibe. These tattoo sessions are also perceived as more intimate compared to the constant buzzing of machines in a regular tattoo parlour.

Aside from the difference between tattooing by machine and by hand, people see DIY hand poked tattoos as a psychological experience as much as a physical one. They value DIY stick and poke tattoos not only for its uniqueness, but for the sentimental value of tattooing your skin for various reasons. We see where they're coming from. Getting it done by your very own hands in the comfort of your apartment doesn't sound as bad when you've got the right tools and you know how it works. It's not something just about anybody may give a shot to but it can be quite an experience.

by Eva Bryant - @horseforest/Instagram
by Eva Bryant - @horseforest/Instagram

The Bad

Obviously, anything that has to do with tattoos and DIY is bound to raise eyebrows—and not for the imaginary points you gain for being a special snowflake. There's a reason why South Korea takes their tattoo regulations way too seriously, even requiring a medical license to operate a tattoo machine legally. Although DIY tattoos from hand poking is just as risky as that from a tattoo machine, it's easier to find needle and ink lying around somewhere. Don't even get us started on diseases.

by Eva Bryant - @horseforest/Instagram
by Eva Bryant - @horseforest/Instagram

The Ugly

From what I've heard and read so far, some people are going for DIY stick and pokes mainly because getting a tattoo just isn't doing it for them anymore. Everybody's getting tattoos and they need something outside of what's considered as the new norm to get back their edge. “It’s kind of blowing up at the moment among people who want something that’s not the mainstream,” said artist Sarah March, who first got hooked with doing stick and pokes on her friends two years ago.

But I think just because tattoos are now “too mainstream” doesn't make it a good excuse to risk poking random needles into your skin in an attempt to emphasize how unique you are. We see the aesthetic in it but once it becomes a showdown on who stands out the most before an unseen panel of hipster judges, that's when it becomes ugly. Tattoos are meant to define who we are as individuals—not a facade of who we want others to view us.

Photo by Yi Stropky
Photo by Yi Stropky

All in all, we aren't totally against DIY stick and poke tattoos. There are many who've had no problem with them as the tattoos turned out exactly the way they want it to. Many tattooers also enjoy a bit of some DIY love every now and then especially among the hand poke artists. I personally appreciate the way stick and poke tattoos look—raw and very laid-back.But like any tattoo, risks are always going to be involved. Stay safe!

Stick and poke tattoo photos taken by Eva Bryant. Follow her on Instagram.

Xavier

@Xavier

When she's not writing for Tattoodo, Xavier likes experimenting with art and organizing local music shows. We're kidding, she's probably asleep. Follow her on Instagram @claudia_strife

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