Posted on March 04 2019
How To Stick And Poke
How to go about creating a “stick and poke tattoo” is often down to personal discretion, however many aspects of the hand poke tattooing technique are universal. What will follow, is an extremely detailed set of step by step instructions intended for any beginner to use in order to perform their first DIY stick and poke tattoo safely.
Obtain Appropriate Supplies and Correctly Prepare Your Body
The first and most crucial step, is to gather the appropriate tattoo supplies. Tattoo needles and ink are of obvious, vital importance. Furthermore, you’ll need several medical supplies to safely counteract the inevitable minor injuries inherent in all tattooing. Finally, it is crucial that you invest in the correct after care supplies, to avoid any risks of short- or long-term damage.
NOTE: It is of upmost importance that you obtain high quality equipment. A variety of tattoo materials, including inks, are not regulated by the FDA. This results in a lot of cheaply produced and unsanitary products being available. It is good to know what ink brands are the best.
In order to prepare for your body for a tattoo, you should plan to drink large amounts of fluids and abstain from any alcohol and drug use. The reasoning for this, is that it severely dehydrates your body and may have a detrimental effect on your tattoo. Try to be healthy and sober in preparation of your tattoo.
It is important to bear in mind that your skin is an organ that you will be literally repeatedly poking a sharp needle into! Your lymph nodes, which are a major part of your body’s immune system, will be working extra hard in reaction to the ink that you are injecting into your body. It is important to bear in mind that your skin will react differently with regards to your overall health and the location of the tattoo. Prepare yourself both mentally and physically.
You should spend a lot of time considering your design. Sketch the tattoo a few times in preparation and consider what is best for you. Spend some time looking at other tattoos by other beginners. Sleep on it. Remember, this is a permanent feature of your body! Once you’ve deliberated over what you want, make individual notes on your original design to remind yourself what details you want where, e.g. thicker line, colour, shading.
If you are aware of any allergies that you have to things, you should test an area of your skin by poking in some ink to see if you have a reaction.
Setting up the Tattoo Area
- Create a clean work space, ensuring that it has been completely disinfected. Thoroughly wash the hands of the person giving the tattoo and the area that will be tattooed with warm soapy water.
- Shave the area with a disposable razor, if necessary.
- Lay out all of the tattoo supplies. Open up the needle packages and unscrew the lid of the ink.
- Put on medical gloves
- Using an alcoholic pad, clean the area to be tattooed by rubbing the alcoholic pad firmly in circles.
- Apply the stencil on the skin using appropriate stencil transfer gel.
- Allow the stencil to dry for around 5-10 minutes. If the stencil has been applied incorrectly, quickly wipe it away and apply the same stencil again. You can reuse the same stencil several times.
- Pour the desired colour of ink into a sterile container, perhaps a mini glass jar or cap. You can mix ink colours, diluting inks for a lighter effect and so on.
With every tattoo that you perform, your experience will grow. This is key as you get into the hand-poking process. Regardless, there are many examples of beginner’s luck. Beautiful, well performed lines often come to those who have a natural artistic ability. Furthermore, skin that gracefully holds ink is a huge benefit.
It may be helpful to position your original sketch alongside the tattoo stencil, as a useful method to ensure you are correctly producing the right design. Often things can get a little messy whilst you are tattooing, therefore any notes about special effects (such as variation in needle sizes or changes in colour) on your drawing will help you remain focused and clear on what you intended to do.
- Dip the tip of the desired sized needle into the colour of desired ink so as to coat it above the cluster of needle tips. This will create an ink reserve and allow for a less frequent need to dip into the ink again.
- With extreme caution, start slowly and gently pressing the needle into the skin so that the ink begins to be deposited within the skin’s layers. It is crucial to remember that you are not trying to go fully through the skin, but just into the skin. You should start out lightly and assess how much the ink stays in the skin after you wipe it. There should be a slightly noticeable tug as you withdraw the needle. There should be minimal blood, although the skin will ooze a translucent plasma from the minor injury.
- Continually repeat steps 9. and 10. as you poke along the stencilled line. It is optional to take a break. Any exposed ink left on the needle or in the jar may dry out. If this happens, you can add distilled water to re-hydrate.
As You Tattoo
The area and stencil line will inevitably become obscured with ink and plasma. Ensure that you wipe this away using a sanitary or sterile cloth. Please note that professional artists use blue mechanic shop towels, however we can strongly recommend a sterile multi-fibre cloth, for maximum absorption and hygeine. You can also use witch hazel as an astringent and skin cooler to wipe and keep the area clean as you go. A further option that many people use, is tattoo Green Soap and alcohol alongside wipes. If the stencil is a quality one that has been applied correctly, then it should remain with no issue.
TIP: After each time that you wipe, apply a thin layer of aftercare balm onto the tattoo in order to keep the area clear for longer, it does a good job of containing the mess for a few more pokes.
It is crucial to check that the depth of your poking is correct. It is unavoidable that the skin will weep, however it should not bleed any more than a few drops of blood in total. The stick and poke, (or hand poke) method is much easier on the skin than a regular tattoo machine (something that stabs into your skin several times per second and can be known to tear up the skin), however it is possible that you may overdo it when using the stick and poke method as well. In order to avoid this, try to avoid going over the same small area too many times with a several pointed needle (like a 5MS or 5RL and up).
- Finish of your desired tattoo, to the extent that pain and skin inflammation allows. Remember, you can always allow it time to heal and then revisit the tattoo to fill in any gaps and make any adjustments. It is fairly common for ink to “fall out” of the skin unexpectedly and a later touch-up session on the tattoo is often necessary.
WARNING: If the skin of the person receiving the tattoo becomes very puffy or changes colour, it may be possible that you are having a bad reaction. Stop immediately and consult your doctor.
- Cleaning up the equipment carefully and hygienically is crucial. Human blood that has been left on a needle can be extremely dangerous. Please ensure that you put your needle in a sharps box, or a plastic bottle with a screwed-on top for safe travel to a needle disposal site. Make doubly sure to place all of your materials, wipes, ink jar, gloves, etc. into one seal-able bag (or box) and attach a label to this that states; “HAZARDOUS WASTE.” Clean your work space with a bleach-water solution and thoroughly wash your hands with warm soapy water. Blood borne pathogens like HIV and Hepatitis C are real killers, that can easily spread with an accidental or unintended needle poke.
After You Have Finished
Tattoo aftercare is incredibly important for any tattoo that you wish to heal correctly and look the best that it can. Consider your skin as a frame or canvas for your new work of art – it has to heal nicely in order to truly display your new art work correctly. The following 2 days after the tattoo is a vigorous battle against bacteria, however if you follow these steps and are a healthy adult human, you most likely to prevail.
- Wipe the tattooed area with green soap or wash with warm, soapy water. You should then begin to wipe it with an alcoholic pad. Beware, this will sting. You should then allow the area to dry. Finally, apply a soaker pad.
- After five hours, remove the soaker pad and thoroughly wash the tattoo area with unscented liquid soap and hot water.
- Gently and carefully pat dry the tattoo with a clean towel or paper towel. You should then apply aftercare balm. Repeat the process of cleaning and aftercare until it has fully healed. Any dense or larger tattoos will take longer time to heal.
Until healed: Ensure that you wear loose clothing over the area that has been tattooed, or alternatively keep on a breathable plaster. It is likely that you will want to keep it out of the sun wherever possible, furthermore, try and keep it out of bodies of water. This means no swimming or bathing, it must remain clean and dry.
WARNING: If you notice that the area is becoming hot, swollen, turning red or another colour, bleeding or weeping puss, you must call your physician immediately.
After You Heal
Be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen on it anytime that you’re in the sun. We also recommend applying a good aftercare product.