Stick and Poke Vs. Machine Tattoos: The Pros and Cons

Stick and poke tattoos are growing in popularity, but how do they match up to getting inked with a machine? Our team tells you the pros and cons of each one.

stick and poke tattoo line
Hand poked line armband done by a client with the stick and poke tattoo kit

The majority of people who get a tattoo don’t stop at one, which is the reason why they say it’s active. This type of artwork is a form of self-expression that has taken the world by storm. Now, more and more people are looking for new styles, techniques, and designs to acquire the most unique tattoos possible.

In the past few years, stick and poke tattoos have become increasingly popular alongside their machine counterparts.

With this in mind, homemade tattoos and machine tattoos are very different. From the healing process to the pain levels, and even the overall experience, both have their unique pros and cons.

Here’s a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of both stick and poke vs machine tattoos.

Safety First

When comparing stick and poke vs machine tattoo, the first thing you probably want to research is safety. Regardless of the style of tattoo you opt for, protecting your health should always be your number one priority.

Stick and poke tattoos are just as safe as machine ones. However, as with any type of body ink, you should make sure the person tattooing you is using a new and sterilized needle. You also want to ensure the person has cleaned the work surfaces, has washed his or her hands, and is wearing gloves, to name a few safety precautions.

If you are practicing tattooing at home, always use the correct equipment. A lot of people wanting DIY tattoos use a sewing needle, some thread, and craft ink. While these materials can provide you with some great results, they carry much greater health risks. Always look for professional equipment or check out some of the tattoo kits you now have at your disposal.

Hand poked finger ornaments done with the Stick and Poke Tattoo Kit

The Technique for Each Is Not the Same

The main difference between the two tattoo styles is how the ink is inserted into the skin. A stick and poke tattoo is created using a sterilized needle that’s attached to a grip. The needle is then dipped in ink and pushed into the skin manually.

On the other hand, a tattoo machine has a small motor that moves the needle up and down very quickly in a cyclic pattern. But, it’s worth noting that both inking techniques are permanent and allow you to create unique designs.

Pain Levels for Each

The debate surrounding stick and poke pain vs machine is never-ending. Some people say that stick and poke tattoos are more painful, others say less. While stick and poke tattoos still involve the piercing of the skin, some artists would argue that the process is less painful than with a machine because stick and poke tattoos involve fewer skin punctures per second.

If pain is an important factor for you, you should also consider the location of your next tattoo. Areas of the body where the skin is closer to the bone, for example, the ribs, hips, and spine, are far more painful to get a tattoo than more cushioned areas such as the arms and thighs. This is the case regardless of the tattooing technique you choose.

Done by Zoni Worker. source

Time is of the Essence

Stick and poke tattoos take considerably more time than machine tattoos, regardless of the complexity of the design. A tattoo that would take 15 minutes with a machine will take at least double or triple that with the stick and poke technique.

With a DIY tattoo, the tattooer needs to go over the same area multiple times to create precise lines with the same saturation levels. A machine can achieve this in one go, making it considerably faster.

A Different Overall Experience

Yes, stick and poke tattoos take a lot longer. But, this additional time doesn’t have to be a negative factor. Homemade tattoos are quieter, often less painful, and generally far more of a relaxing experience than machine ones.

The atmosphere when getting a stick and poke tattoo is completely different. Aside from the above, this tattooing technique does not come with the consistent scratching feeling or the noise of the machine. Moreover, there is a counterculture in stick and poking that is less about rebellion and more about the craft itself.

Wave tattoo on the thigh by Feliz Pokes. source

Does the Healing Process Differ?

While stick and poke vs machine tattoos both offer permanent results, the healing process does differ. Machine tattoos take anywhere between two and three weeks to heal. They also often come with a lot of scabbing and itching.

Stick and poke tattoos heal faster with far less discomfort. This is because there is less pressure applied to the skin and fewer needle punctures per second.

Remember, taking care of your tattoo is essential regardless of the technique you choose, so make sure you follow a strict aftercare regime.

The Type of Tattoo You Want

When it comes to choosing your preferred tattoo style, you should always consider size. While there are professional tattoo artists capable of creating a full back piece using the stick and poke technique, you’re going to want to start small if you’re creating yours at home. For this reason, DIY tattoos are typically smaller and have a simple design.

Additionally, you shouldn’t perform a machine tattoo on yourself. This is because machine tattoos are much faster and it is easier to make a big mistake in a short amount of time. DIY tattoos are slower and cover only a small area on the body, making it easier to tattoo yourself as long as you follow the right safety precautions.

Hand poked anatomical heart by Sharry. source

Stick and Poke Vs. Machine: The Verdict

When it comes to stick and poke vs machine tattoos, the technique you choose will depend entirely on your individual requirements. If you’re not that sensitive to pain and want your tattoo completed as quickly as possible, there is no doubt that the tattoo machine is the better option. However, if you’re looking for a more relaxing, sociable experience with a bigger focus on the craft, a stick and poke tattoo will tick all of the boxes.

Each process offers different strengths, challenges, and of course, styles. A tattoo machine can often produce better results for those wanting a full-color design that veers towards the side of realism. DIY tattoos focus more on smaller details, linear designs, and stipple shading.

If you’d like to create your own stick and poke tattoos at home, why not order a stick and poke kit? Visit our online store to find out more about the different products we have to offer!