The Story of The Stick and Poke Tattoo Kit

Welcome to the world of “stick and poke” tattooing — that is, tattooing without a machine, and usually without any training

While most people get their tattoos in a professional tattoo parlor, others like to hand poke themselves. You can’t throw a rock in a middle and secondary school without hitting a stick and poke tattoo. Tragically, some of them learn to from Youtube.

You can find hundreds of how-to videos, made by a high school senior. They start listing the materials: artist’s ink, thread, paper towels, and a sewing needle stuck to a pencil. In a four-minute fast-forwarded sequence, they repeatedly ink the needle, stab it into the skin, and wipe off the blood and excess ink. In the end, they are permanently scrawled with a small tattoo in a, most likely, hidden part of the body.

Welcome to the world of stick and poke tattooing – that is, tattooing without a machine, and usually without any training.

Hand poked ‘self love’ tattoo by Matheus Tomes. source

However, stick and poke tattooing isn’t nearly as complicated as the industry makes it out to be. Hand poking is like pontillism, you are doing a point, and another point, and another point (…) until you finally end with a small tattoo. It’s really difficult to make something big and terrible, you would need multiple day long sessions.

There are multiple reasons why people get stick and poke tattoos, and if you think young rebels and grownups will stop practicing DIY tattooing just because there are some other people preaching stick and poke abstinence you are out of your mind. Stick and poke tattoo is as old as time itself, and if someone wants to do a stick and poke themselves they’re gonna do it regardless.

The problem is that the materials and practices used for DIY tattooing still aren’t necessarily medically safe. The stick and poke process is often pretty janky, involving toxic materials like pen ink, unhygienic practices like re-using sewing needles “sterilized” with a lighter, and huge health risks like infections and diseases. Some blood borne pathogens can survive common home-sterilization techniques, including bleach, boiling, and hydrogen peroxide. And many stick and pokers wrap their needles in thread to hold ink near the tip, usually sewing thread, which is rarely sterile because it’s so difficult to sterilize. What’s more, the ink itself might be contaminated, either with bacteria (especially if the bottle isn’t newly opened) or with harmful chemicals if it isn’t proper tattoo ink (although even tattoo ink is not FDA regulated.)

Hand poked rose tattoo by Onil. source

As a harm reduction approach, the stick and poke tattoo kit was invented, aiming to make home tattooing as safe as it can possibly be. A resource that tries to help those who are gonna tattoo themselves be safer about it. Without this kit, many people would be taking even bigger risks and tattooing with worse materials.

The real risk a lot of people get confused about tattoo kits is that there are a lot of machine kits that come with a machine and ink for you to really mess up, and have a permanent large bad tattoo. Tattooing with a machine is difficult and dangerous. Getting a self-made machine tattoo is one of the dumbest things you can do.

Designing the Stick and Poke Tattoo Kit

The kit is a harm reduction approach, launched a few years ago now (around 2010) and targeted at adults who already poke as a hobby, or were already going to. We want to scare them into doing it as safely as they possibly can. Without the kit, many people would be taking bigger and unnecessary risks and tattooing with low quality materials. All we care about is making DIY tattoo counter culture safer and more responsible, one poke at a time.

All of these cheap tattoo tools are really easy to get, but if you want the best professional tattoo tools, you can only get them by buying in large quantities, making them less affordable for the average Joe and Jane. The material included in the stick and poke tattoo kit has been selected carefully, especially the ink and the needles. Bear in mind that a lot of DIY tattoos go wrong because of bad ink, especially the inks and needles packaged in cheaper stick and poke tattoo kits.

Hand poked © 1997 tattoo with the Stick and Poke Tattoo Kit. source

To make sure the customers understand the health risks of tattooing, the kit also includes a how-to booklet, as a manual on the proper use of the kit. Risks are explained and instructions are provided as to how one should open the materials and in what order, how to hygienically dispose of the materials when done and why (the ink denatures, plus you can spread gross diseases), and, importantly, how deep to tattoo: you have to poke the skin with the amount of pressure enough to puncture only the top few layers of skin. Dispel the common myths that tattooing involves getting the ink as deep into the skin as possible, and that profuse bleeding is healthy and normal. There should NOT be much blood.

It was important to Stick and Poke Tattoo that everything in the kit be vegan and never tested on animals. The company also has taken steps to lessen its carbon footprint by making the packaging compostable. The wrapping brown box is made of 100% recycled paper. Our aim is to offset the impact our products have by utilizing environmentally friendly solutions and recycled materials wherever possible and never stop creating new initiatives for further improvements.

Buy the Stick and Poke Tattoo Kit here.

Hand poked Hedgehog by Lilian Yeah. source
Hand poked minimalist wave by Asya. source
Hand poked dots on the back of the neck. source