How to stick and poke tattoo

Stick and poke tattoos are completed by repeated poking motions to deposit the ink under the skin and can be done by anyone taking the right safety measures, and using the proper tattoo tools

Follow this step-by-step guide detailing how to stick and poke:

Choose a placement

Choose a placement for your hand poke tattoo, and make sure it’s not near a mucous membrane, abrasion or sores.

Design your tattoo

Choose a simple design you really like and that you are able to simple-line draw. If you need some inspiration, check our social media.

Hand held flower tattoo on the inner arm by Pokyo source

Prepare the working area and the skin area

  1. Create a flat and clean area for the stick and poke tattoo equipment. You will need a small box and a can or plastic bottle for the used needles. Keep them near to the working area.
  2. Prepare the skin area you’ll be tattooing by first washing it with water and soap and then shaving it with a disposable razor.
  3. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before starting your tattoo. Put on nitrile gloves.
  4. Lay out medical covering and place materials.
  5. Shake the ink bottle and squeeze some ink into an sterile ink cup. Fill to the top. Repeat the process if you are using more than one ink color.
  6. Use an alcohol wipe to clean the skin around the area meant for the tattoo.

If you’re looking for a fast and cost-effective way to order all these tools, one of our partners offers complete high-quality kits along with instructions at

Transfer the design

Ideally, you should use stencil paper or a tattoo pen. Check our guide to sketching stick and poke tattoos. A normal pen is not recommended as the risk of infection is higher. Regardless of the type of pen you choose, don’t ever use the same pen across different people.

When tracing with a pen, you might be tempted to stretch the skin when tracing, but that will likely skew your tattoo design when the skin shrinks back to normal.

Take advantage of tracing to see how your stick and poke tattoo will look from different angles and postures. Never hesitate to go back to the drawing board. Slight improvements will make the difference between tattoos you’ll regret and ones you’ll proudly show off.

Hand poking

Use a professional, sterile tattoo needle. Beware of low quality made-in-china tattoo needles sold in places such as Amazon or Alibaba. Start by taking out the needle from its package. Be careful not to poke yourself on the sharp tip.

Dab on some tattoo lubricant to prevent ink from spreading all over the skin surface.

Dip tip of needle into the ink. A little bit of ink should remain on the needle. Poke skin with amount of pressure enough to puncture only the top few layers of skin – not all the way through the skin, just into it. If the skin is bleeding, you might be poking too deep and you should try to put less pressure on the skin. Start light. Ink will not deposit if it is too light. Remove excess ink with a tattoo wipe.

Once your outline is finished, complete the tattoo. Remember that is very important not to touch anything else with your dirty gloved hands during this process.

Hand poked sideboob tattoo by Maia. source

Dispose the tools

  1. Safely dispose of all your used tools. Carefully put the needles inside a can or plastic bottle for safe transport to your local sharps disposal facility. Ask your local pharmacies and/or hospitals for more information, as every country has its own laws.
  2. Collect all used items in a box.
  3. Remove the nitrile gloves by pinching the wrist area on one glove and pull to turn it inside-out half way. Then with clean side half exposed, pinch the other wrist and pull until both gloves are inside-out in a bundle. Finally, add the gloves to the box.
  4. Write “Biohazard”, or add a “Biohazard” sticker on the box and throw it to the trash bin.
  5. Wash your hands thoroughly and clean the surfaces in the area with a bleach-water solution.
Design by Flow So Fly by Anna Liza. source


Stick and poke tattoos need aftercare just like conventional ones. Check our Proper Stick and Poke Tattoo Aftercare post.

You must:

  • Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before starting your tattoo.
  • Use disposable ink-caps; never put needles into ink bottles.
  • Pour each color into its own, new ink cap.
  • Wear clean clothing.
  • Use a hand sanitizer and change your gloves before continuing work on your tattoo if you have stopped to do something else. Hand washing may be done before using hand sanitizer.
  • Wear disposable gloves while tattooing—a new pair.
  • Use wooden sticks to take gel or cream from containers.
  • Use puncture-resistant containers (also known as biohazard containers) to dispose of the needles (they often look like the red or yellow ones you see in a doctor’s office).
Hand poked Picasso’s Face and Dove tattoo by Juan Serrano. source


  • Reuse needles; needles must be sterile, used once and thrown out.
  • Reuse any tattoo equipment, unless it has been properly cleaned or sterilized.
  • Allow staff to put needles directly into ink bottles. Single disposable ink caps should be used for each client.
  • If you have concerns or questions about a tattoo operation, don’t proceed.
Hand poked black snake tattoo on the back of the arm. source