23 People With Tattoos Describe The Level Of Pain In Minute Detail

If you’re a complete tattoo virgin but itching to get inked in the near future – chances are the #1 question you have is “does it hurt”? I’m talking BEFORE you’ve even settled on who you want to create your tatt. We’re all big sooky babies at heart, and even those of us with high pain thresholds want at least a little inside info on what to expect.

Because 90% of the PEDESTRIAN.TV office has at least one (1) tattoo, and most of our mates are also complete ink demons, I decided to pool our knowledge for you – there’s everything from whole chest tatties to teeny, tiny wrist ones (me! That’s me!) so whether you’ve committed to a small rib tattoo already and are sussing the screaming pain of back ink, or you’re completely going in blind, we’ve got someone who’s been there before.


My little flower tatt took all of a few minutes, and was barely on the pain scale. It felt like someone scratching over my skin with an empty ballpoint pen – not the most fun time but completely bearable. I chatted the entire way through it. – Mel

I literally thought I was going to die getting my cat tattoo on my wrist. It’s the size of a 50 cent piece and is a line drawing of a cat face. It felt like the artist was digging a scalpel into my wrist, and I was scared she was going to pierce through my skin, into my vein and I’d bleed out on the floor. Never got another one. – Josie

I have a heart on my wrist that tickled and I laughed through the 2 mins it took to do it. – Morgan

My wrist tattoo was more irritating. I didn’t find it painful at all. – Cassie


I had one done around my belly button – I know, what was I thinking – when I graduated from high school. I still remember the pain. It was like my guts were being carved with a sharp knife, but reeeeeeeaaaaaaally slowly. Because the design had 3 parallel lines in it, the guy couldn’t stop half way and I wasn’t allowed to move. When I almost fainted, he gave me a Kit Kat and Coke. – Valeria

The one on my stomach took four hours. When they do anything on your belly you have to do a breathing exercise, like weird yoga shit, so that the tattooist can get a straight line. It wasn’t so much that it hurt but that you need energy. The key for me is to be well fed and well hydrated going in, because adrenaline will kick in after the ten minute mark and if you have the energy, you’ll get through it easy. Otherwise you might pass out. – Albert

The last tattoo I got was on the side of my ribs and abs. Funnily enough it hurt more on my abs than on my ribs. Definitely my most painful and least detailed tattoo. – Declan


I have a full sleeve tattoo, and everyone says the elbow hurts a lot, but for me it was fine. Pinch it – it’s like dead, rough skin. BUT, just around from your wenis on the inside of your arm is that little bone that, I guess, makes up part of your elbow. That zone fucking sucks. I’m no doctor, but I know that there’s a big fucking nerve that hangs around that part of your arm and it hates anything knocking on its door. Not only is the skin far more sensitive on the inside of your arm, which hurts like piss anyway, when you hit the nerve, you can feel the pain in your ribs. Double whammy pain is the worst kind. Matt

I’ve got a snake and a tulip on the back of my arm, a greek urn on the back of my other arm, and I’ve got a hand holding flowers on the inside of one arm (its uv and glows under a black light). I’ve also got a really shit eye tattoo where a galaxy is the iris (first tattoo) on the inside of the other arm. They were not too painful (within reason) but I really think the pain depends on the quality of small talk your having with your tattoo artist. Distraction goes a long way. Also after every tatt I swear adrenaline is released into your body, because all you want to do is get another tattoo straight away. – Simon

I’ve got a 7cm mango on the outside of a bicep, which was mildly painful, but the 15 cm line of cringe-worthy lyrics on the inside of my other bicep was tear-inducing the closer it got to the armpit. – James M

The cockatoo on the back of my arm took like ten minutes and I’d had a couple of wines at a wedding, so it was pretty easy. Minimal pain, almost forgot I’d gotten it. I also forget it’s there a lot, cos I don’t see it regularly. The big one on the front of my arm was kinda painful, more like a 7ish/10. As the artist worked toward the inside of my arm (the bit that is less exposed to the elements) it stung a bunch, but nothing that I couldn’t sit there and breathe through. It has a bit of fill in it, almost leaning into blackwork, which hurt a bit more – it’s hard work getting a solid black area to stick. All up it took about three-ish hours, so wasn’t too bad. – Courtney

My tattoo is on the inside of my forearm, At first it was just a bit painful but not too bad… then kind of like someone was burning a cigarette on me… but then the world morphs and suddenly 10 cats were on me taking out their pissyness about their position in the world’s political and social order out on my arm, scratching the shit out of me. Then it was over. – Rikki

I’ve got two tattoos and neither were particularly painful. One on the back of my left tricep and one on the inside of my right bicep. It’s like having someone scratch you over and over for a long period of time. I’d say it’s more annoying than painful. – Aaron


I have one on the side of my ribcage… it was paaaainful because the needle was pressing into the bone. It’s probably 10cm x 4cm in size. It was one of those things where it would feel fine, then you’d remember to breathe and it would stop feeling fine, haha. But still not as painful as I thought it was going to be, no tears just discomfort! – Kath

My ribcage tattoo is the size of a small highlighter. It was ridiculously painful at first, but then kind of went numb after the first hour. When I lay down on the chair, I stupidly asked “where is the most painful place to get a tattoo?” and they guy replied, “do you really want me to tell you right now?” So I knew what was coming… – Felicity

The one on my back is about the size of my hand and hurt when they went over the rib cage. It’s kind of a nice pain though, just feels like something dragging over you and you adjust to the feeling pretty fast. – Kylie

My first tattoo was on my ribs, and I think I somehow sent myself into mild shock from being incredibly terrified about having a needle jabbed into me thousands of times that it didn’t really hurt. Toward the fleshier part of my ribs/abdomen stung a bit to the point where I gritted my teeth, but that was over so quickly. The shading was like a methodical repetition of someone scraping the scratchy end of a pen lid across my skin over and over, an almost hypnotic feeling that left me lulled with my eyes closed, breathing rhythmically. I think the main thing is that it’s such a temporary pain. As soon as the needle is lifted off the skin, the pain subsides significantly. Bigger pieces kinda bruised a bit – my left arm definitely did – but the pain stops just as quickly as it starts. – Courtney


I found my tattoo not so much painful, more irritating…like you want to punch the artist after hour 4. The worst is over the spine…you’re whole skeleton vibrates, feels like an inside earthquake. – Marley


My biggest tattoo is a shoulder-cap piece of flowers on my left shoulder, that reaches over onto my collarbone, down my shoulder blade, and drapes down the top of my arm. Because it’s so large and intricate, it took two three-hour sessions to get done, first was the outline, and the second was colour and shading. The outline wasn’t very painful at all, more just a hot feeling like a pen’s being scratched across your skin. The only sore bits were when it was right on the bone – when she went over my collarbone area the nerves and the vibration against the bone felt like she was tattooing UP MY NECK – and when she hit spots that are usually sheltered from sun etc. But the colour and shading was a different game. Because of the way the colour is, it felt like the artist was going over the same spot over and over. It was painful at times, like colouring in the gum blossoms right on the cap of my shoulder, and I bled a lot. I was reading a book and just trying to breathe through it all, and took a couple of short breaks to have some time to walk around and take loo breaks. – Courtney

My shoulder ones were relaxing, no pain except near the underarm, that feels like an internal biopsy of your soul. – Anne-Marie


Christ al-fucking-mighty, I was not prepared for this. Having had my entire arm tattooed, I figured this would be a similar flavour of pain, but I would say it’s at least ten times worse. From the first line, it was like a searing hot screwdriver being dragged across my chest. Every minute felt like an hour, and I was there for 3 long hours each session. I was counting the roof tiles as a weird kind of coping mechanism, but man, nothing worked.  The pain was worse towards my solar plexus because obviously there’s more nerves sitting there. There’s also a bit towards my stomach which wasn’t great, either. There’s one big line that flies past my nipple and as that was being etched into my skin, I swear to dog I could see through time. But there’s nothing more rewarding than coming out of a session that painful. It feels like you’ve crossed a threshold you never knew you were capable of. – Matt


I have a ‘GRL PWR’ tattoo on my ankle, and while the artist warned it would hurt a little more than my wrist tattoo (which felt like someone scratching at my skin pretty hard but didn’t actually HURT), it wasn’t too bad. Maybe a 4 on the pain scale, sometimes a 6 when it got close to the ankle bone. That’s when it started to sting. It was over in a couple minutes and the adrenaline (and alcohol) was flooding through my body the entire time so you know, it fine.  – Alex

I have a very small Japanese symbol on my ankle. The pain from that 17 odd minutes of scraping back and forth to create the outline has stayed with me longer (I was 25) than childbirth! – Pippa

The third tattoo I got is the size of a 50c piece on my ankle which didn’t really hurt at all! It was just like a hard scratch. It took about 15 minutes. – Declan

I have my son’s name on my right ankle. It took about 45 minutes, and the pain was more scratching and digging pain, but it burned. – Simone

The one on the top of my foot felt like I was being stabbed by a draggy stabbing killer knife of pain. Also I bit a hole in my hand during that one.  It also healed like I’d been at my foot with a cheese grater. – Anne-Marie


I have a tattoo that covers my knee cap, and a shin piece that takes up 80% of my shin, as well as one on my calf that’s about 20cm. The larger pieces I didn’t sit for longer than 3 hours, I set myself a limit on how long I want to be there. Tattoos don’t really hurt, they more so are annoying in my opinion.- Cat