One of the most important things people focus on when getting a tattoo is the pain. Now, tattoos are infamous for being rather painful, especially if a tattoo is being placed somewhere with a lot of nerve endings or really thin skin. However, as of lately, there has been an ongoing discussion about the pain being related to the color of your tattoo, not just its placement on the body.
It seems that colored tattoos tend to hurt more, compared to the regular black & white tattoos. Some agree with this assumption, while others stick to their experience and claim there is no difference in pain regardless of the ink color.
So, we’ve decided to explore this topic and get to the bottom of this for our readers. So, without further ado, let’s see if ink color truly affects the pain levels during tattooing, or not.
Ink Color Vs. Tattoo Pain
First of All, Why Do Tattoos Hurt?
To understand the reasoning behind colored tattoos hurting more than the regular ones, we need to take a look at the actual causes of pain during the tattooing process.
Now, the placement of the tattoos plays an important role in determining whether the tattoo will be more or less painful. As we mentioned in the introduction, body areas where the skin is really thin (chest, neck, armpits, fingers, wrist, thighs, private areas, ribs, feet, etc.), or has a lot of nerve endings (the area around the spine, neck, chest, breasts, ribs, head, face, etc.), tend to hurt the most during the process.
According to the tattoo pain chart, these are the most painful areas to get a tattoo;
- Armpits – highly sensitive due to incredibly thin skin and nerve endings, for both sexes
- Ribcage – highly sensitive due to the thin skin and proximity to the bones, as well as nerve endings, or both sexes
- Breasts and chest – highly sensitive due to thin skin, a lot of nerve endings, and proximity to the bones, for both sexes
- Shinbones and ankles – highly sensitive due to nerve endings and proximity to the bones, for both sexes
- Spine – incredibly sensitive due to the proximity to nerve endings in the spine, for both sexes
- Groin area – highly sensitive due to thin skin and nerve endings, for both sexes
Of course, we have to mention areas like head and face, elbows, knees, inner and back thighs, fingers and feet, etc. However, the pain varies from one person to the other, and it is not the same for both male and female clients.
When we speak about tattoo pain, it is surely important to talk about personal pain tolerance. What is extremely painful for some, isn’t painful at all for others.
Also, there is the notion of different pain experiences for male and female clients. For example, studies show that women react to (tattoo) pain more intensely than men, which is believed o be caused by hormonal and chemical composition in men and women.
It is also believed that people with excess weight and body fat tend to be more sensitive to pain compared to people with lower weight and body fat. So, there are a lot of factors that can affect the pain levels during tattooing, even before you choose whether your tattoo will be colored or not.
Tattoo Needles As The Main Cause of Pain? – Needles for Coloring
Now, let’s talk about the main cause of pain during tattooing; the tattoo needle.
During the tattooing process, a needle will penetrate your skin approximately 3000 times per minute. The rate can of course vary; sometimes the needle penetrates the skin 50 times in a minute, while other times it penetrates the skin 100 times per second. This all depends on the type of the tattoo, the placement, the design, your pain tolerance, and so much more.
Now, for black & white tattoos, the tattoo artist may use the single needle tattooing method. This means that there is only one needle in the tattoo gun. However, that one tattoo needle is actually a grouping of multiple needles.
Apart from black & white tattoos, such a needle is also used for tattoo outlining or lining, which is done using black ink. Many claim that the outlining of a tattoo hurts more than coloring since different methods are used for these two processes.
Now, when it comes to colored tattoos, the outlining of the tattoo is done using the liner needle. However, the coloring of the tattoo is actually the process of shading. This means that the tattoo artist uses shader needles to fill in the tattoo and pack color. Shader needles can also be used for black & grey tattoos.
So, considering that all sorts of needles can be used for both color or black & grey tattoos, the pain argument doesn’t really hold up well.
There is also the notion of needle thickness. Not all needles are of the same diameter, nor do they have the same needle count. Because of this, some needles can irritate and damage the skin more than others.
However, there is no exact rule for which needles are used for coloring or not. Depending on the technique and the tattooing style of your tattooist, they can use different tattoo needles for coloring, and the same needles for both colored and black & grey tattoos.
So, Do Color Tattoos Hurt More?
Generally speaking, ink color doesn’t determine the amount of pain you’ll feel. The color simply doesn’t have to do anything with the pain of the tattoo. As we mentioned, tattoo placement, your pain tolerance, and your tattooist’s technique are the main factors determining how painful the process will be.
Sure, there was a time when colored ink used to have a thicker consistency than black ink. This was an issue since it took the tattooist longer to pack the colored ink, which in itself hurts. The longer you’re getting tattooed, the higher the skin damage and the more painful the process becomes.
Nowadays, all inks are of similar consistency, so there isn’t an issue there. Now, if your tattoo artist takes a long time to complete the tattoo, you’ll experience more pain as the process goes on.
Also, if the tattoo artist uses a dull needle, chances are the process will hurt more. Sharp, new needles tend to hurt less. Now, as the needle gets worn out, it remains sharp, but it dulls out a little bit. This small difference in needle sharpness can promote faster skin damage and of course, cause more pain.
If your tattooist uses white ink highlight, you can expect more pain. This is again not because of the needle or the ink color, but rather the pain is caused by the repetition of needle penetration in one place. In order for the white ink to fully show and become saturated, the tattooist needs to go over the same area several times. That is what causes skin damage and pain.
Now, after all of the information, we do have to point out that there are people who swear that the coloring/shading of the tattoo hurts more than the linework or tattoo outline. Pain is a subjective thing, so it can be hard to be exact with the answer to whether color tattoos hurt more than regular ones.
So, to summarize, let’s just say that some people experience more pain with color tattoos than others. And that is a perfectly fine conclusion because we experience pain differently than other people.
That is why we mentioned that tattoo pain depends on your personal pain tolerance, as well as your sex, weight, even experience in tattoos, etc. So, what is painful to someone, doesn’t have to be painful to the other person.
Now, to say that color tattoos hurt more solely because the tattooist is using colors or different needles can be interpreted as wrong. But, depending on the tattooist’s technique of coloring/shading, the pain can indeed increase. This especially applies to cases where the artist works with white ink.
Now, when thinking about getting a tattoo, you need to be aware of the pain, regardless of the colors of the tattoo or the needle used. If a tattoo is placed somewhere sensitive, the process will hurt. Pain is a part of the process, so to minimize it you can choose a different placement, use CBD spray to numb the area, or simply not get tattooed.