Stick and poke tattoos: what are they and how are they done?

CREDIT: Flickr

HANDPOKE or stick and poke tattoos are making their way into modern tattoo studios that want to bring back the traditional methods.

This technique, done by hand rather than by machine, is the ancient way of making designs on the skin.

It is done by pushing a sterilized needle by hand into the first and second layer of the skin. The repetition of the puncture of the needle slowly creates the design of the tattoo. The needle makes a dot, putting dots close together can make lines and shading. The tattoo artist can use smaller or larger needles to create different sized dots.

Handpoke tattoos take longer than machine tattoos, even though they are generally smaller, and they are less painful.

They also tend to heal quicker because there is less damage caused to the skin. In general, they should take about two weeks to heal properly.


If you go to a reputable tattoo artist, the price of a stick and poke tattoo will be pretty much the same as one done with a machine, as it takes the same or more effort. If it’s very cheap, then you can probably assume that the person isn’t very experienced. This is OK, as everyone needs to build up their portfolio, just as long as their using the right sterilising procedures.

If you would like to try this technique for your next tattoo, make sure you find a tattoo artist who is talented, experienced and works in a safe environment.

Not temporary

Stick and poke tattoos should last just as long as a machine tattoo if they are done by a reputable artist. However, they can fade faster, especially in a spot that gets cleaned frequently. If you want to keep them, then get an artist to go over the lines. If you’ve grown less fond of it, then leave it to fade. In any case, it can last up to 10 years, so it is by no means temporary.

Before you get it done, make sure the area is shaved.

Aftercare is important

Taking care of your handpoke tattoo properly is just as important as with a machine tattoo.

Remember, it is an open wound which if not cared for properly can get infected.

Cover it with a bandage and leave this on for between two and five hours before removing carefully and gently washing the tattoo with warm water and liquid soap.

Leave the bandage off so it can breath and keep it clean, but don’t wash too often (three to five times a day initially) and be gentle. When not washing it, make sure it remains dry and do not soak it in water (pools, baths) for at least a month. It is OK to shower carefully though!

When you have dried it, apply a thin layer of moisturiser. There are special lotions and balms that you can buy to keep your tattoo properly hydrated. Avoid Vaseline as it clogs the pores.

Make sure that you wear loose-fitting clothes that won’t rub the tattoo, especially in the first few days, and use breathable fabrics.

Itching is normal

It is normal for the skin around stick and poke tattoos to peel, but do not pick at the area and allow the scabs to fall off on their own, otherwise it can lead to colour loss and infection. If the area itches, tap it, but don’t scratch it. Don’t shave the area, avoid direct sunlight and be careful with your pets around your tattoo.

If the swelling doesn’t go down, it itches too much, feels hot, stays red and is bleeding or oozing, go to the see a doctor.

Getting it to last

To ensure your stick and poke tattoo lasts longer, its best to get it somewhere that won’t be frequently washed, rubbed or exposed to the sun, so hands, fingers and feet are not great places. It is best t get them in places where the skin is thicker and less sensitive.

If you want to get a tattoo or body piercing on the Costa del Sol and you are looking for a reputable studio to advise you and do great work, then check out Jaganath Tattoos and Piercing, Calle Ramon y Cajal 42, Fuengirola

Jaganath tattoos and piercing Costa del Sol

See designs by Jaganath Tattoos on Facebook and Instagram.

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Written by

Jennifer Leighfield

Jennifer Leighfield, born in Salisbury, UK; resident in Malaga, Spain since 1989. Degree in Translation and Interpreting in Spanish, French and English from Malaga University (2005), specialising in Crime, Forensic Medicine and Genetics. Published translations include three books by Richard Handscombe. Worked with Euro Weekly News since November 2006. Well-travelled throughout Spain and the rest of the world, fan of Harry Potter and most things ‘geek’.


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