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10 things to know before creating your first stick and poke

Posted on July 16 2021

Whether it’s the intimate process or the mind blowing detail of stick and pokes that’s attracted you to them, you’ve come to the right place to learn everything you need to know. Here’s some things to consider before you go ahead.

 

Placement

The level of pain associated with areas of the body is usually a key factor for people when deciding where to place their tattoo. Because no one wants to experience high levels of pain, but where’s best? Generally speaking, areas where skin is close to the bone like hands, feet and ears, tend to be more painful than more fleshy areas of the body, such as thighs and triceps. At the end of the day, it depends on the personal pain threshold of the individual and what you’re willing to go through for your stick and poke tattoo.   

 

Design 

Stick and pokes are known for being more dainty compared to machine tattoos, due to the hand poked nature of them. They take much longer to create than machine tattoos, as there isn’t the aid of technology to speed up the process. Because of this, many people go for smaller, less complex designs when creating a stick and poke tattoo. That’s not to say that complicated designs can’t be achieved through hand poking, they just take a lot longer. Whatever design you go for, make sure you give it the same thought as you would with a machine tattoo. 

 

Will it last?

There’s a common misconception that all stick and poke tattoos fade over time and that the quality isn’t as good compared to a machine tattoo. But this isn’t completely true. With the correct technique and products used, stick and pokes should last a long time. For example, using good quality, professional ink and needles for your hand poked tattoo will help make it last - unlike a blunt sewing needle and pen ink. Your aftercare routine for your stick and poke also affects the longevity of it. Keeping the tattoo hydrated but not overly washing it is key. 

 

Does it hurt?

There isn’t really a right or wrong answer for this. When compared with machine tattoos, stick and pokes involve less needles at once but more time. This is because machine tattoos have lots of needles poking the skin at a very fast rate, due to the technology involved. Whereas stick and pokes involve just one needle being poked into the skin by the artist’s hand. This means there’s less trauma to the skin but the tattoo process takes much longer, so it just depends on the individual’s preference. Stick and pokes sometimes need going over again in the future if they fade a little, which is also something to consider with your pain threshold. 

 

Practice makes perfect

The thought of hand poking a tattoo on human skin for the first time can be daunting, which is why we recommend using our Practice Kits first. They contain practice ‘skins’, professional needles, ink and useful information so you can feel confident practicing your hand poke tattoo. This method will also help you get used to holding a professional needle and the movement of creating a stick and poke. If you want to take it to the next level, try wrapping your practice skin on a bottle to mimic the curves of a human body. 

 

Safety first

Just like with machine tattoos, sterilisation is the number one priority for making the stick and poke process safe. You should always use new, sterile, professional needles and dispose of them immediately after use. Definitely do not share your needles with anyone, as this can cause harmful diseases. As well as the needles being sterile, it’s important that the area you’re working in is clean, as well as your hands (or the hands of the artist). If you’re creating your stick and poke yourself, make sure you pour your ink into a disposable ink cup, so there’s no cross contamination in your ink bottles.

 

Professional products 

You’ve probably heard of people using a sewing needle and some pen ink to create a stick and poke tattoo. We don’t recommend this technique as pen ink isn’t sterile, not to mention it won’t last as long or look as clean as professional ink. Sewing needles are often blunt, whereas professional needles are sharp. Meaning you’ll get a much more precise, clean line. Let’s face it, you want your stick and poke to look the best it can be, so set yourself up for success with some professional products. We’ve got a range of needles and inks available on our website so to view them, click here

 

Poke technique

There’s no specific right or wrong way to create a stick and poke, generally you learn from experience and experimentation. But when you’re ready and have thoroughly washed your hands, dip the sharp end of the tattoo needle into the ink cap you want to use. You can now start poking into the skin repetitively with low pressure, wiping away excess ink with a tattoo wipe. Stick and poke enthusiasts have noted that poking the needle at an angle instead of straight down can often create a cleaner line. The aim is to only penetrate the top few layers of skin so if you start to bleed, this means you’re going too deep and you should apply less pressure. 

 

Equipment disposal

If you’re creating your stick and poke yourself, it’s super important to dispose of your equipment correctly. Needles should be disposed of in a sharps bin, so they can be moved to a sharps disposal facility and taken care of. You should also take off your gloves by turning them inside out, making sure you don’t come into contact with the outside layer. Make sure you put all of your used items into a wastage box and label it ‘biohazard’ to notify whoever collects it of its contents. Finally, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and sanitise the area used. 

 

Aftercare

Aftercare is the last and potentially most important step of the process for creating a long lasting tattoo. We recommend you immediately bandage your tattoo up with a dressing for two to six hours, as it’s technically an open wound. After this time, thoroughly wash your hands before carefully taking off your bandage. Then clean the area with warm water and antibacterial soap. Next, pat the area dry with a clean towel, let it air dry and be careful not to rub your tattoo as this can be abrasive and cause damage. After washing, apply a thin layer of moisturiser and salve to keep the skin hydrated. You should continue this three to four times a day for seven to ten days. If you need to top up your aftercare supplies, we have a range available which you can view here. Or if you’d like to read more about aftercare, click here to read our full blog post on this topic. 


We love to see what you guys create with our products, so make sure you tag @singleneedletattoo in your designs on Instagram and we can feature you on our page. 

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