What is Stick and Poke Tattooing?

Stick and poke tattoos are becoming more popular than ever before, and for good reasons. Find out everything you need to know about stick and pokes now!

Header photo credit: Ilwol Hongdam

There are dozens of new trends that help shape the world of body ink every year. During the 90‘s, tribal tattoos, arm pieces, and tramp stamps adorned millions of bodies, but these movements are being replaced by newer trends, like stick and poke tattooing.

Despite the fact that stick and poke tattooing first emerged in the DIY ethics of punk culture during the ‘60s and ‘70s, it returned to the spotlight just over a decade ago. A new DIY movement followed the global financial crisis of 2008, which saw the resurgence of the stick and poke tattoo.

Now, with A-list celebrities like Rihanna and Cara Delevingne now sporting stick and poke designs, there’s no denying that this type of tattoo is going through a mini golden age.

Many body ink enthusiasts have made it their goal to find a stick and poke kit to get unique designs tattooed, but it’s important to understand the mechanism behind this technique in order to get it right.

In this piece, we’ll go over the definition of stick and poke tattooing and tell you everything you need to know about this form of body art.

Hand poked number 10 done with the stick and poke tattoo kit.

What is a Stick and Poke Tattoo?

Before going further, let’s take a minute to answer the big question: what is a stick and poke tattoo?

Also known as stick n poke tattoos, DIY tattoos, and homemade tattoos, this type of handmade body ink is performed without using electricity. Instead of using a tattoo machine, the artist uses a needle covered in ink to repeatedly puncture the skin and deposit color pigments in the lower layers of the dermis.

DIY tattoos can be done using sewing needles and similar accessories, so they usually have a rougher look, almost like a jail tat. This is part of the appeal, the fact that the tattoo has a rugged aspect, which usually compliments the design. With this in mind, specialized needles found in stick and poke tattoo kits usually produce the best results without taking away the rough element because they are designed for this purpose.

Likewise, there are many options when it comes to the ink being used, but you’ll always want to opt for toxin-free specialized tattoo ink in order to get the best results. Many DIY tattooers use india ink, but this is not an ideal option because it’s not always sterilized.

It’s also important to note that stick n poke tattoos are more accessible because you only need a needle and some ink. Every day, countless people around the globe get stick and pokes from friends and family members with excellent results. As with any other tattoo, there are some risks involved, so you should take all the precautions to keep side-effects at a minimum. The key to success is creating a safe environment, obtaining quality materials, and making sure you follow a strict aftercare regime once you’re done getting inked.

Christian cross tattoo done by one of our customers with the Basic Box.

Best Body Placements for Stick and Pokes?

Like traditional machine tattoos, stick and pokes can be done on almost every part of the body. The quality of the work, the ink, and the placement you choose will all influence the appearance and longevity of your new ink.

Tattoos in areas that receive a lot of sun exposure or are constantly rubbed will not last as long as in other locations. The arms, inner forearms, back of the neck, chest, and ankles are popular choices for handmade tattoos, but you’ll have to take the right steps to ensure that they maintain their appearance for the longest possible time.

If you’re concerned about aesthetics, you may want to avoid choosing a visible spot for your stick and poke. These tats are rougher by nature and the final outcome will not always be what you envisioned, so you may want to be discreet about the placement of your DIY piece.

Final Appearance

As long as you take care of it properly and use clean, quality materials, your DIY tattoo should heal well. But, keep in mind that the final appearance will depend mostly on the quality of the work. If the poking was not uniform, then the result will be on the rougher side. The good news is that you can practice by drawing the design on paper and use a stencil beforehand to produce a better tattoo.

It’s worth noting that handmade and machine tattoos have a slightly different appearance. Some of the effects you can achieve through stick and poke are not possible with machines and vice versa. As a general rule of thumb, handmade tattoos look great when they feature dotwork, lines, and simple designs, whereas machines are more suitable for shading and realistic pieces.

Stick and poke kiss tattoo by artist Kate aka Hokus Pokeus.

Safety and Tattooing Time

The time tattooing time will vary depending on the size of the design, the artist’s expertise, and the part of the body being tattooed. That said, stick and poke tattoos usually take longer than getting inked with a machine because the poking motion is performed by hand.

As for safety, getting a stick and poke is not any more dangerous than getting a machine tattoo as long as it’s performed by a professional. That said, if you opt to get a DIY tattoo at home, you should sterilize all the accessories you use and create a safe environment to reduce the chance of infections and other side-effects. If you’re getting a tattoo from someone who has never done a stick and poke before, be extra precautions and do some research before starting.

Are Stick and Poke Tattoos Permanent?

Stick n poke tattoos can be made using professional needles and ink, in which case the results can last as long as a piece made in a studio. Of course, there are several factors that will affect how well your ink ages, but if performed properly, your stick and poke should last as long as any other tattoo.

Hand poked ‘Silence’ tattoo by professional tattoo artist Belladona Hurricane.

Stick and Poke Aftercare

Like all other tattoos, stick and pokes require a strict aftercare regime. However, handmade tattoos are more gentle than machines, so your skin may not get as irritated during the tattooing procedure. Whichever the case may be, make sure to follow a comprehensive aftercare plan that includes frequent washing, air drying, and moisturizing.

Stick and poke tattoos are an affordable and practical way to get tattooed, but you can still end up with amazing designs — as long as you have the right tools. If you are interested in getting a stick and poke tattoo kit and getting some DIY ink, visit our online store

Hand poked tattoo by professional tattoo artist Lara M.J.