Stick-and-Poke Tattoo Tips and Ideas

For many people, a tattoo is a rite of passage. However, those people do not always want to pay the price of getting a professional tattoo, or maybe they simply are not allowed to get one. A stick-and-poke tattoo is an alternative form of tattooing that is done by hand with a needle and ink. In my experience, this form is used by people giving themselves or a friend a tattoo so that they do not have to pay a professional to do it. Though performing or receiving a stick-and-poke can be dangerous, if done properly, it truly is a cheap alternative.


Tattooing Tips

  • Use a sharp, clean needle. Sewing needles work as long as they are not dull. Sanitize the needle to prevent infection—you can place the needle in boiling water to kill bacteria.
  • Clean the desired area of skin before tattooing. This can be done with soap and water, or a wound wash.
  • If you are prone to fainting, sit or lay down while the tattoo is being done. If you are tattooing yourself, keep water near you for hydration and make sure to be sitting comfortably. If someone else is doing the tattoo, make sure you communicate with them so they know if you need a break or feel faint.
  • Don’t poke the skin too deep. Not only will it hurt more, but it is unnecessary and may cause complications.
  • Use real ink, not pen ink. It is also recommended that it be black ink. A local art supply store should carry the proper ink.
  • For after-care treatment, you can buy real tattoo ointment, but using antibacterial soap and unscented lotion is the cheaper and still-effective option.
  • Avoid touching the fresh tattoo. If it starts to scab, don’t pick at it. For the first week or two, wear clothing that gives the tattoo breathing room—if the tattoo is located on an area that a bra will touch, try to wear a bralette or some other loose bra that won’t put too much pressure on the tattoo.
  • The tattoo may fade over time, so getting it retouched is normal, especially if you can see the individual ink dots from each poke of the needle. Only get the tattoo retouched once the first attempt has healed completely—wait around 2-3 weeks at the minimum before doing it.


Stick-and-poke tattoos are typically small and simple, since they are done with a small needle. Here are some cute tattoo ideas for your next stick-and-poke.

  • Religious cross
  • Crescent moon
  • Wishbone 
  • Heart
  • Astrological symbol
  • Stars
  • Planet
  • Mountain peaks
  • Arrows
  • The sun
  • Numbers or letters
  • Smiley face
  • Trees
  • Music note
  • Anchor
  • Leaves
  • Simple flower
  • Cactus
  • Cat ears or paw prints
  • A key
  • Clouds
  • Ocean waves


Good luck and be safe!