Tattoos are an important part of alternative culture, and even though it’s fairly mainstream now, there are still unpopular methods of acquiring one. I have a few hand poked tattoos myself, and I definitely want more.
The best part about it? You have complete control over what goes on your body. If you’re the one doing it, that is. Since I have experience with this, and love the process, I’ve decided to post about it.
What is a stick and poke tattoo?
Essentially, it’s a tattoo created by repeatedly stabbing an ink covered needle into the skin by hand. Some say it hurts more than your standard tattoo, but that’s completely based on the individual receiving. I gave two of my friends tattoos, both in sensitive areas. One took it extremely well, and the other had to stop 1/3 the way through. I think she still has that unfinished tattoo to this day.
Hand tattooing is an incredibly intimate experience. It’s painful, precise, and time-consuming. There is something spiritual about permanently marking your body in a natural and organic way. I create all of my tattoos to protect and guide me through life. I use them as life markers to remember key lessons and moments.
The stick and poke aesthetic
Depending on the artist and intention, a stick and poke can look primal or refined. I like mine in the middle, so they look human, but not amateur. In my opinion, how they look doesn’t matter as much as the intention and meaning behind them (and that’s coming from someone who has been drawing intricately for years).
Stick and pokes are known for their personal handmade look. They are usually done with black ink, and typically there’s no shading, just linework. The ones that do have added color and shading look neat though.
Okay, so what supplies do I need?
Definitely not an unsterilized sewing needle and ink from a pen. We don’t want a nasty infection. And that’ll cost more money to take care of than just buying the proper tools in the first place.
There are professional kits put together all across the internet if you look for them.
If you want to create your own kit, here’s a basic list of supplies:
- professional tattoo needles
- professional tattoo ink
- distilled water (to water down ink that’s too thick)
- small glass ink jar (to hold ink for dipping needle into)
- cotton balls (to wipe skin with alcohol)
- rubbing alcohol
- plastic wrap (to cover fresh tattoo)
- organic unrefined coconut oil (for aftercare)
All of these can be found online fairly easily. You won’t find tattoo needles, ink, and an ink jar in stores, but the rest you can probably find at your local supermarket or grocery store.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? It is, but the most important part is to make sure EVERYTHING IS STERILE.
Wash hands with soap and hot water. Wipe the hard surface you’re using for your supplies with rubbing alcohol. Rinse the ink jar out with alcohol and let dry. Don’t eat or drink while in progress. Be in a clean dry place. Prepare the area of skin by washing it, and wiping it with an alcohol soaked cotton ball.
The ink tends to get messy and it can become difficult to see what you’re doing. So, to check your work, keep wiping it off the skin with distilled water and occasionally alcohol. If your skin becomes red, irritated, swollen, or dry during the process, rub a small amount of coconut oil on the area and give it a 15-30 minute rest period.
If you want a stencil for a cleaner look, get yourself some tattoo stencil paper and stencil gel.
It’s always good to do one dot as a test the day before to see if you may be allergic.
You want to start out light, and simple. Better to have a tattoo that’s too light than one you can’t undo or cover up.
Dip the needle into the ink deep enough to cover the needle cluster of the professional tattoo needle.
Press gently into the skin, and go slow so the ink is distributed evenly. The needle should hold on a little as you withdraw it. Your skin will begin to leak plasma and a small amount of blood.
Wipe the area as needed to keep clean and clear. Coat with a thin layer of coconut oil now and then when your skin dries out from all the wiping. Tip: If your ink dries and becomes too thick, mix it with a small amount of distilled water.
The healing process
The better your skin heals, the better your tattoo will look.
Wash the skin when you are finished, and wipe again with alcohol. Coat with the coconut oil, and cover that with a layer of plastic wrap for the first day. Clean and reapply the coconut oil often. Be gentle. Wear clean light clothing that won’t cause too much friction. Be mindful of what you allow to touch it. Don’t let others touch it until it is completely healed.
The reason I’m suggesting you use coconut oil is it’s antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, keeps your skin moisturized, and the oil creates a breathable yet protective layer. And, it’s not too expensive. It also has tons of uses after you’re done using it for your tattoo.
Keep it out of direct sunlight, and do not enter water in public places like pools or lakes. If your tattoo is in an area covered by clothing that causes frequent friction, cover with a band-aid or gauze patch.
this is only a rough guideline on how to perform stick and pokes. Always use common sense with open wounds, even small ones. I’ve seen some grotesque pictures of infected tattoos.
If you hadn’t heard of this until now, leave a comment and tell me what you think of it. 🙂 If you like the idea of stick and pokes and want to try it for yourself (awesome btw), please do further research and acquire the proper materials.
Do you or someone you know have one of these wonderful pieces of body art? Send me a pic at firstname.lastname@example.org! You can contact me there if you have any questions or concerns as well.
Thanks for reading this one, and have an epic day.