For centuries, tattoos have been the most literal ‘body language’ in every culture. Talking about tattoos, we usually picture the mainstream machine done ones in our minds; yet, historically, non-electrical and non-mechanical techniques of tattooing existed. A stick and poke tattoo is created manually by dipping a needle in tattoo ink and then poking the skin with it.
Hand poking vs. machine poking
No electric tools are required to craft tattoos with stick and poke technique. Theoretically, they’re affordable and uncomplicated to do while you feel bored at home. It is a fairly simple concept to grab: If you visit a salon which specializes in hand poke tattoos, you’ll see that the method entails a tattoo grade needle being attached to a holding contraption, which lets the ink to be applied to the skin easily.
Hand poked tattoos take longer to craft, are less painful than the electrically done ones, and heal quickly. As only one needle inks the skin at a given moment, in contrast to the simultaneous operation of a machine, so the course of action is less painful.
It should, however, not be thought that a getting a hand poke tattoo would not hurt at all. Different people have different pain thresholds, and getting your skin inked involves a certain amount of pain. People who have undergone machine tattooing before would be better able to feel and tell the difference. The stick and poke technique is less traumatic for your skin, it causes less irritation and less scabbing.
The level of pain also depends on how heavy handed or light handed the tattoo artist is. If the design of your tattoo is intricate and large, of course you’re going to feel it more. Also, certain body parts are more sensitive than others; for example, getting a tattoo on your wrist or ribcage is more painful because the bones in these areas are closer to the skin.
In comparison to machine tattoos, the stick and pokes heal easily. The aftercare is not complex as the scabs are not significant. Your tattoo artist will ask you to keep the tattooed area covered for a few hours and then wash it with a gentle cleanser or an unscented soap. A healing ointment or a tattoo balm can be applied to keep it moisturized.
As in case of a machine done tattoo, you should cleanse and moisturize your hand poked one couple of times a day and protect it from being exposed to sunlight. You may expect it to be healed completely within a fortnight.
Summary: Stick and poke technique doesn’t involve any electrical aid to create tattoos. Although it takes longer to craft a tattoo with this technique, it is less painful and the tattooed area heals quickly.
Stick and poke tattoo
Long before the lockdown DIY hand poked tattoos began emerging online, the concept of non-electric tattooing existed. Actually, hand poke tattoos were there before machine done tattoos became a usual thing.
Mummies of prehistoric times can be witnessed bearing designs of animals and hieroglyphics which means that some sort of manual tattooing techniques existed during the ancient Egyptian times and it is not just a skate punk subculture concept of the 70s.
It has to be kept in mind that without electrical aid, the tattooing process takes longer. The duration of your visit to a stick and poke artist will depend upon how complex or simple the design of your tattoo is.
This technique works particularly well for geometric patterns or dot works but, depending on how skilled the artist is, a vast variety of tattoos can be created with it.
As hand poking takes more time as compared to electrical tattooing; the artist’s attention to detail, concentration, and depth perception are definitely the appreciable factors for a well done one.
Just like the electrically aided tattoos, the stick and poked ones also are permanent marks. A well versed hand poke tattoo artist shall know the extent of penetration of the needle. The craft won’t be permanent if the ink is not deep enough.
Summary: The concept of non-electric tattooing existed long before the lockdown stick and poke tattoos began emerging online. Hand poked tattoos are also permanent marks just like the machine done tattoos.
Health and safety concerns
Sterile equipment, proper hygiene, and clean surfaces are vital for the safety and health of the person being tattooed. Any practice that involves invasion of the skin, the concern of infection is a major one.
While hand poking activity is undertaken at home, hygiene and sterilization requirements can’t be ensured reliably. Bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus is normally present on human skin and it causes skin infection to people with eczema. In an unprofessional environment, where safety and health conditions are compromised, penetration of bacteria is possible through the needle pokes.
Although there’s nothing stopping you to indulge in hand poking by yourself, but if you’re not sure whether you’d be able to perform the act safely, it is advisable not to do so. Not knowing about the technique properly, one may cause injury to oneself or to another. Always prefer to get it done by a skilled tattoo artist, who’d know the right thing to do.
Poking needles into someone’s body, without qualifying any training, poses a risk of pricking a blood vessel. Depending on the location and type of the blood vessel, such occurrence might result in uncontrolled bleeding and the need to seek medical assistance may arise.
The major concern that experienced tattoo artists mention about is not the wrongly done craft, but the risk of cross contamination and possible infection; while talking about stick and pokes being done by untrained people. It may seem special to tattoo yourself, or several close friends tattooing each other, but health risks like hepatitis or staph infection prevail.
Summary: For the safety and health of the person being tattooed; sterile equipment, proper hygiene, and clean surfaces are vital. These requirements can’t be ensured reliably while hand poking activity is undertaken at home. Being untrained and unsure about the right procedure, one may cause injury to oneself or to another.
Popularity of hand poked designs
Although it has been happening in the distant past, what has made stick and poke technique popular is Instagram. For many people, stick and pokes are the preferred choice. One of the reasons of the stick and pokes’ popularity is the, rather, personal feel while having one. Without any electrical aid, it is all handcrafted.
Artists wishing to start their journey in tattoo industry may, practically, begin by offering their designs in stick and poke form. The material procurement is easy on the pocket and the overall process is also inexpensive. In about $15 to $20, you may equip yourself with the needles and ink.
It should, however, be kept in mind that a DIY hand poked tattoo created by someone unskilled in tattoo art might produce unexpectedly unwanted results. What it means is that, even though manual tattooing historically existed; producing the right outcome required someone skilled.
The popularity of hand poked tattoos has grown particularly during the past few years. Alongside the mainstream machine done tattoos, the hand poked ones also hold their ground well. While someone tries to decide whether to go for a machine tattoo or for a stick and poke, the preferences of the individual come into play.
Factors which may influence a person’s decision of whether to go for a machine tattoo or for a stick and poke include:
- The part of the body where the tattoo shall be made
- The complexity or simplicity of the design
- How many colors (of ink) are required for the desired tattoo
- Pain threshold of the person being tattooed
- Time required for the completion of tattooing
Summary: In the recent years, Instagram had contributed to the popularity of hand poked tattoos. Although procuring needles and tattoo ink may seem easy, hand poking done by any unskilled person may produce unexpectedly unwanted results. Several factors play their part while someone tries to decide whether to go for a machine done tattoo or for a hand poked one.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How deep does a hand poke go? Does it go the same depth as the machine poke?
A 1/8 of an inch is the maximum that the needle should penetrate. When poked the right depth, a pop of the skin is felt, and that’s the limit. Going past that depth would cause bleeding and injury. Yes, whether it is a hand poke or a machine done tattoo, this depth is required to attain a permanent mark.
2. In terms of safety and health, doesn’t a stick and poke tattoo pose higher risk than a machine done one?
Due to the fact that, provided the basic tools (like needles and ink), hand poking is within reach for everyone who wishes to go for it; safety and health is definitely a point of concern. Prevention of disease and infection is a major part of a professional tattoo artist’s job, and it certainly gets compromised when someone untrained tries to DIY it.
3. In these technological times, when complex and detailed tattoo designs can be made with electrical and mechanical aid, why would anyone opt for a stick and poke technique?
Cost of, let’s say, getting a simple and small tattoo might be considerably less with stick and poke technique than machine tattooing. So, someone looking to fulfill their wish of being tattooed within a limited budget would go for a stick and poke.
4. I intend to get a tattoo made on my bicep. The design is 4 inches by 3 inches and 5 different colors shall be required for this tattoo. Would you recommend me to get it done with a machine or hand poking?
The size that you’ve mentioned is not a small one and 5 colors suggest that your tattoo is going to be an intricate one. Although a skilled stick and poke artist may be well able to craft the design for you, it is advisable to go for machine tattooing. The time that the stick and poke technique would require for the creation of such a design shall be considerably more than the machine tattooing.
In comparison to machine tattoos, the stick and pokes heal easily. As in case of a machine done tattoo, you should cleanse and moisturize your hand poked one couple of times a day and protect it from being exposed to sunlight.
Just like the electrically aided tattoos, the stick and poked ones also are permanent marks.
Prevention of disease and infection is a major part of a professional tattoo artist’s job, and it certainly gets compromised when someone untrained tries to DIY it. While hand poking activity is undertaken at home, hygiene and sterilization requirements can’t be ensured reliably.
While someone tries to decide whether to go for a machine tattoo or for a stick and poke, the preferences of the individual come into play. Although a skilled stick and poke artist may be well able to craft an intricate design for you, it is advisable to go for machine tattooing.
In the recent years, what has made stick and poke tattooing popular is Instagram. It should, however, be kept in mind that even though manual tattooing historically existed; producing the right outcome required someone skilled.