Also known as hand-poked or machine-free tattoos, stick-and-poke tattoos have mostly been associated with the underground culture and tattoo community for a long time. These tattoos have always been straightforward, with simple and minimal designs.
Even nowadays, the stick-and-poke tattoo tends to be simplistic and minimal. However, some tattoo artists do range their tattoos from detailed to complex. There is simply something for everyone in the stick-and-poke tattoo world.
However, stick-and-poke tattoos have also been associated with a DIY technique of getting a tattoo. Because the stick-and-poke technique doesn’t require a tattoo machine and is done in simple dots, many have been brave enough to do these tattoos themselves.
One of the most common methods of DIY stick-and-poke tattoo is done using pen ink. But, can and should you be using pen ink for a tattoo? Let’s find out in the following paragraphs!
Stick-and-Poke Tattoos: Explained
What Is a Stick-and-Poke Tattoo?
When you think of tattoos, the first thing you imagine is the tattoo machine and needle. However, some tattoos aren’t done with the tattoo machine. Stick-and-poke tattoos are a form of, as we mentioned, machine-free, non-electric tattooing. The ink is simply applied to the skin using a needle only.
The needle is attached to a contraption (imagine a pencil and a thread), creating an analog tattoo machine. The needle is dipped into the ink and then the tattooist pokes your skin, creating the design dot by dot.
Why Is the Stick-and-Poke Method Used?
The Stick-and-poke tattooing method originates far back in ancient cultures, like ancient Egypt for example. Because the method only requires a form of needle and some pigment or ink, it was one of the easiest ways to do intricate designs and detailed thousands of years ago.
However, the method has survived the test of time and in the 1970s enjoyed a spectacular revival. People started doing stick-and-poke tattoos around the world, but the skate and punk subculture stood out as the ones pioneering the DIY method.
Nowadays, stick-and-poke tattoos are done for the fun of it. They’re also more affordable and are generally thought to require less tattooing knowledge to get them done. Nevertheless, these tattoos aren’t as easy to do as many think. Therefore, DIY tattooing methods are not recommended. If you want a proper stick-and-poke tattoo, go get it done at a reputable tattoo shop.
Do Stick-and-Poke Tattoos Hurt?
Generally, stick-and-poke tattoos tend to hurt less than the tattoos done using a machine. However, the pain question is always subjective. Because people have different pain tolerance and levels of pain they can handle, it is hard to say whether stick-and-poke tattoos hurt or not.
We would say that stick-and-poke hurt moderately; the pain is there but it is not as intense as when the tattoo is done using the tattoo machine. You can expect some levels of discomfort, especially if the tattoo is done somewhere sensitive on the body (like an area with a lot of nerve endings and generally thinner skin).
Are Stick-and-Poke Tattoos Temporary?
One of the most popular misconceptions about stick-and-poke tattoos is that they’re temporary. However, people who think this couldn’t be more wrong. Stick-and-poke tattoos are the same as regular tattoos; the only differences are the tools and the method. Nevertheless, the ink does end up in your skin, and it is there to stay, permanently.
We do have to admit that stick-and-poke tattoos done by non-professionals, amateurs who use DIY tools and techniques, do not last long. In such cases, the tattoo either fades away due to the displacement of the ink in the skin, or one experiences a tattoo blowout. Either way, the tattoo doesn’t last long due to an infection, fading, feathering, and overall lack of proper execution.
So, Can I Use Pen Ink For a DIY Stick-and-Poke Tattoo?
Well, Yes and No!
Now that we know what stick-and-poke tattoos are and how they’re done, there are two kinds of answers we can provide;
- Yes, you can do your stick-and-poke tattoo using a DIY technique, but you’re risking an infection, blowout, and complete tattoo fading!
- No, you cannot do a stick-and-poke tattoo using a DIY pen ink, for the aforementioned reasons!
Technically, it is possible to use pen ink for stick-and-poke tattoos; that can’t be denied. But, the question is whether you should use pen ink and insert it into your skin. We believe that such a thing is truly ridiculous for numerous reasons. We know that DIY, home tattoos are a thing, but just remember; you’re placing PEN INK into YOUR SKIN! Let’s look at some reasons why you shouldn’t do that!
The Risk of Pen Ink
Pen ink is found in gel pens, permanent markers, highlighters, etc. It contains dyes, alcohols, and a chemical gel known as glycol or glycol ether. This chemical gel is generally considered toxic in large amounts. Because its amounts in pens are so insignificant, pen ink is NOT considered to be toxic.
However, this non-toxicity information is valuable when the pen ink is not consumed internally, of course. So, the issue arises when one decides to put pen ink into their skin and connect it directly to their bloodstream and metabolism.
In such a case, the pen ink can result in poisoning and pen ink overdosing. Some of the most common symptoms and effects include;
- Stained skin
- Stomach upset
- Digestion issues
- Skin infection
Nowadays, pen inks aren’t considered toxic since many manufacturers have removed toxic ingredients from use. However, you never know where the pen comes from and how it’s been made. So, you need to keep that in mind as well.
The Risk Of Pen Ink Stick-and-Poke Tattoo
First of all, one of the main risks of DIY, homemade tattoos is the fact that they’re not done in sterile and health-regulated environments. They are also not done with proper and sterile equipment.
Therefore, the DIY stick-and-poke using pen ink can result in serious infections, including MRSA and Hepatitis infections.
There is also always the issue of skin/tattoo infection, permanent skin staining, and tattoo blowout. Not to mention the fact that a stick-and-poke tattoo is an open, fresh wound, just like a regular tattoo. As such, it makes you exposed to germs, bacteria, and viruses which can put your health at serious risk.
The health hazards of doing a pen ink stick-and-poke tattoo are just overwhelming. We again urge you to go to a professional and reputable tattoo artist and get your stick-and-poke tattoo done properly!
How To Do Stick-and-Poke Tattoo DIY?
Now, if you really don’t want to go and get your tattoo professionally done, there is a way to get the stick-and-poke tattoo in the comfort of your home. But, bear in mind; a DIY tattoos will always look like it was homemade; it will never have a professional appearance!
So, for starters; do not use pen ink! Just, go online and order a bottle of black tattoo ink. The real ink will look 1000 times better, and there is a lower chance of infection with the real ink. We recommend you go for vegan, heavy-metal-free ink.
Then, make sure that the tools you use are properly cleaned and sterilized. This, unfortunately, doesn’t mean the tools will be 100% sterile, but it’s better than doing nothing.
Try to also clean your skin properly, and maybe even consider shaving the area where the tattoo will be placed.
Once you’ve completed your homemade tattoo, make sure to follow a proper aftercare routine. Let the tattoo heal, clean it properly, do not cover it with heavy lotions, and try not to pick it and peel it.
If the tattoo becomes red, inflamed, and sore, and stays so for a few days, chances are the tattoo is infected. In that case, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Note: We don’t recommend you use the so-called India ink, because the source of this ink is always questionable, as well as its ingredients. Chances are the ink contains heavy metals, which could cause serious health issues.
As you may have noticed, we seriously advise people not to do any DIY, homemade tattoo, especially the stick-and-poke kind with pen ink. This can be seriously dangerous and can put your health at risk. It is always better to go get professionally tattooed than to risk skin and tattoo infection.
Stick-and-poke tattoos aren’t even that expensive; compared to regular tattoos, stick-and-poke tattoos tend to cost less than $100. What we’re trying to say is that DIY tattoos aren’t simply worth it!