More and more ancient techniques like hand poke tattooing, also known as stick and poke tattooing, are becoming more well-known and respected within the tattoo industry. In this article, we answer some of your questions regarding this style, we break down some of the myths and incorrect perceptions, and we even talk about some of our favorite hand poke tattooists who are creating work that we’re sure you’ll love.
What is stick and poke tattoo?
A stick and poke tattoo is created by using a needle, or group of needle, to put ink into the skin. There is no electric machine involved, so the tattoo artist does this by hand using only a needle or a tool that holds the needle.
How do hand poked tattoos work?
A hand poked tattoo works just like an ordinary tattoo. The ink is deposited into the second layer of skin called the dermis. The only difference is that this is a non-electric technique used by tattooers.
What is the difference between machine and stick and poke tattoos?
The difference between machine and stick and poke tattoos is the lack of electricity. This is the main difference. There may also be a difference in process, such as the like of a tattoo stencil prior to the ink being deposited into the skin, but this could also go for machine-made tattoos as well.
Are stick and poke tattoos cheaper than machine tattoos?
Stick and poke tattoos are not cheaper than machine tattoos. They are, if you’re going to a reputable artist, pretty much priced exactly the same. It takes just as much effort, if not more, to create a work of art on your skin by hand. If your stick and poke tattoo is super cheap, then you should assume that this person is either trying to build a portfolio or is not experienced. This is why it’s very important to do research about this particular style and find an artist who you can trust.
How long do hand-poked tattoos take to do?
Hand poked tattoos can take just as long as a regular tattoo to make. It totally depends on the working process of the artists. Zzizzi, in Seoul, can create a hand poke tattoo incredibly quickly. But other artists may be slower. It’s exactly the same for tattooists who use machines. Joel Soos is well known for outlining a full back piece in an hour or two, but that is definitely not the case for most artists. It also depends on the size, placement, and complexity of your piece.
Do stick and pokes hurt?
Yes, stick and poke tattoos hurt. Almost any body modifications will hurt. But how much will it hurt? Unfortunately, there are a lot of different things that could affect how much it hurts: your personal physiology and pain tolerance, the technique of the tattoo artist, etc. But many people have said that the pain, and the healing process, are much easier with a hand poke tattoo. Again, this is a matter of opinion though. Some people think that lining a tattoo hurts way more than shading a tattoo, but others think the exact opposite.
How long do stick and poke tattoos take to heal?
Most stick and poke tattoos take about two weeks to heal, just like any other tattoo. The process to make a hand poke tattoo is still to deposit ink into the dermis layer of your skin, just like a machine-made tattoo. So the healing process is very similar. That being said, many people think that hand poke tattoos actually heal much faster and this may be due to the fact that they cause less trauma to the skin than a machine-made tattoo.
How long do stick and pokes last?
Stick and poke tattoos should last a lifetime. If your piece is made by a reputable hand poke tattoo artist, then this will certainly be the case. The only time a hand poke tattoo “falls out” or heals incorrectly is because the person doing your tattoo is inexperienced and should not be handling tattoo materials.
Are hand-poked tattoos dangerous?
No, hand poke tattoos are not dangerous if they are done by a reputable tattoo artist. If you’re interested in this technique for your next tattoo, our best advice is to find a tattooist who is well known for their talent and capabilities and who creates their work in a safe, sanitized environment.
Are stick and pokes illegal?
Stick and pokes are not illegal if they are done by a licensed artist. Many states, and countries, have differing legislation that controls the cleanliness of the work being made. If you choose a reputable tattooist or studio, you can bet that they keep up with laws in order to stay in business. The only time a hand poke tattoo would be illegal is if it is done in a country, like Korea or Japan, where any tattoo making is illegal if done by a person who does not have a medical license, which is a shame because so much great art comes from those particular countries.
Hand Poke Myths
The most prevailing myth about hand poke tattooing is that it is not respected, trash, and only done by scratchers who work out of their kitchen. But, here’s the thing: hand poke tattoos, also known as stick and poke tattoos, are the oldest tattoo tradition. To not give them their due respect is, honestly, just a bit biased and slightly ignorant of the long history, tradition and resounding cultural importance of hand poke tattooing. To put it into perspective, the first tattoo machine was invented and patented by Samual O’Reilly in 1891. That was only 129 years ago. But humanity has existed for about 200,000 years. So, what do you think people were doing before then? Maybe some super smart people out there who never got the recognition created something like an electric machine, but...most of them were doing the age-old technique of hand poke tattooing. It’s something to be celebrated because without it this industry and community we love would never have existed.
For example, many tattoo artists who create Thai Sak Yant, Polynesian or Irezumi tattoos still use the tools that their ancestors used before them. Thai Sak Yant tattoos, Polynesian tatau’s and Japanese Tebori tattoos are made with a long pole that holds needles. These practices have never really been questioned, and many people may not think of them as “stick and poke tattoos” but the technique is almost exactly the same: using non-electric tools to create tattoos is a powerful way to make a work of art that connects with your culture or past ancestors.
Well-respected Hand Poke Tattoo or Stick and Poke Tattoo Artists
As we mentioned above in our hand poke tattoo question and answer section, the smartest thing you can do when researching a stick and poke tattoo artist is to do some research and find an artist who really knows what they’re doing and excels at the art form. We list some of our favorites below who really make incredible and unique work. Many of these artists have chosen this technique because it’s more intimate, special, and pays homage to all the ancient peoples before us who created tattoos using this particular art form.
Many artists have their own reason for becoming a hand poke tattoo artist. Whether it’s because they love the authentic primitive roots of the technique, or because they simply adore connecting with their clients on a more intimate level with this transformative tattoo style, tattooists who choose this craft certainly are able to say why stick and poke resonates with them.
Some of the tattoo artists we’ve interviewed, like Blame Max or Sabrina Drescher, are incredibly talented and have a style, as well as a philosophy all their own. Gossamer, aka greylsian, is also someone who is deeply devoted to their artwork and makes the client experience a priority. Their creations are incredibly special.
Zzzizzi based in Seoul, Korea, creates super colorful and fun designs that clients from all over the globe love to collect, as well as Hey Hey Diary and Tan Tattoo who are also based in that city. Keep in mind that although the artists working in Seoul have to create their work in secret, some of the most mind-blowing work in the tattoo community today is coming from that area.
Perhaps the most established and well-known hand poke tattoo artists working in the industry today are Tati Compton, and Jenna Bouma, also known as Slowerblack. These tattoo artists are not only known for their devotion to the hand poke technique, but they also have very special styles that set them apart from many other artists working today. Tati Compton often illustrates magical scenes with goddess-like portraits of empowered women. She’s also known for creating lovely little galaxies and cute jungle cats. Slowerblack blends Traditional tattooing and Japanese style in beautiful black and grey tones. She also often infuses folk patterns into her tattoos as well.
How to Get Your Own a Hand Poke Tattoo or Stick and Poke Tattoo
Again, we couldn’t say this enough: any time you get a new tattoo you should put effort into researching an artist who knows what they’re doing. We want you to get a tattoo, and have a good experience, so the best thing you can do is find tattooists who can give that to you. There are so many great artists out there, and many of them are included in this article. We hope that this gives you inspiration and lets you know that although hand poke may be questioned by some people in the industry, it is a thriving technique that is definitely worth your respect and attention.