Tattooing is an art form with an interesting history that has spanned centuries, whilst techniques have evolved, certain parts of its past are experiencing a resurgence in popular culture, most notably stick and poke tattoos. Stick and poke tattoos were once only popular amongst certain groups, but that’s fast changing; even a brief search on social media reveals just how popular these tattoos have become in recent years. The stick and poke tattoos that can now be so often seen go back to the simplicity of more ancient tattooing techniques that formed the roots of tattooing as we know it today.

It’s true that the history of tattooing is as intricate as the designs that have resulted from it. The first tattoo machine wasn’t invented until 1891, leaving room for some quite creative means of embedding ink into the skin before the arrival of this invention. Whilst older hand poked tattoo techniques got left behind once the tattoo machine began to, quite literally, make its mark, stick and poke tattoos stuck around. The basic and minimal equipment that is needed to create a stick and poke tattoo is what kept this technique popular in settings such as schools and prisons, but what makes it so popular today? Let’s take a look at answering this question along with exploring how stick and poke tattoos are made and some things to be wary of along the way.


Creating Stick and Poke Tattoos

Stick and poke tattoos have quite a distinctive style that can be easily spotted, the technique lends itself to dot work and pieces with a unique type of gradient. This type of tattooing is pretty popular for smaller pieces that fit nicely onto areas like the ankle or wrist, but that’s not to say that larger pieces aren’t possible with stick and poke tattoos. In fact, some larger designs can create a serious impact. What’s safe to say here is that just like any other tattoo, taking the time to design each piece is essential to get the placement and end result just right.

This step isn’t the only similarity that stick and poke tattoos share with machine tattoos. Every reputable tattoo studio and artist understands the importance of hygiene, and stick and poke is no exception to the carefulness that should be put into practice each and every session. These practical considerations come into play throughout the whole process, from prepping the tattooing area right through to giving proper guidance on aftercare. Simply put, swapping the technique from machine to stick and poke should not mean sacrificing the safety of the client in the chair.

The main, unmissable difference between stick and poke and machine tattoos makes itself known when the inking begins. As we’ve already mentioned, stick and poke’s original popularity was thanks to the short list of tools that would need to be called upon to get the job done. The needle and thread technique that became a widely used means of going about stick and poke has clung on. This technique is based on using the humble sewing needle, a grip such as a pencil and something that resembles cotton to carry the ink. This method is still going strong, but others have come along that are a little more streamlined and use professional tattoo needles to work the ink into the skin.

Regardless of the method of stick and poke that is used, one thing that’s clear is that it’s an arduous job. Rather than many needles piercing the skin hundreds of times with a machine, stick and poke means that one needle will place one dot of ink at a time, and it will all be done by hand. This means one thing, setting out to complete a stick and poke tattoo will take time, and lots of it.


Where To Be Wary

The modern, younger version of stick and poke that we know today has truly taken off, and not without reason. It’s no secret that having a professional tattoo by an artist wielding a machine in a studio can be pricey, meaning that stick and poke can easily undercut machine tattoos by costing a minimal amount to achieve. However, this is where stick and poke can raise a red flag. Studios and professional artists are trained for years to master their craft and this kind of unsurpassable quality costs money. If a tattoo is costing pennies, it’s always worth questioning the skill of the person holding the needle. Given the simplistic nature of stick and poke tattoos, it’s not unbelievable that they have enabled DIY tattooing in homes. To really achieve a stick and poke tattoo that is both beautiful and safe, it’s important to head to a professional artist that understands their craft back to front.

Covering all of the bases on the safety front when having a tattoo is a consideration that can’t be emphasised enough. Once upon a time, the needle and thread method seemed to be a step up from the other crude tools that were used for stick and poke where any old object with a sharp point would do, but today this method is one to be careful of. Whether it’s because sewing needles are wider than tattoo needles and can damage the skin more or that thread isn’t the best carrier for ink, there are more than a few reasons to think twice about choosing this stick and poke method. Putting your trust in a professional stick and poke artist is the safest bet, they’ll use a tattoo needle that has been fully sterilised and is actually designed to tattoo the skin to keep discomfort and damage to a minimum and safety to a maximum.

Aside from taking the right precautions to stay safe when having a stick and poke tattoo, it’s also sensible to think about how the final piece will look. Stick and poke tattoos are notorious for fading and don’t tend to last as long as a machine tattoo. Some people prefer the fleeting nature of these tattoos, but if it’s longevity that you’re after for a tattoo that can be enjoyed long into the future, then stick and poke might not be the method to opt for.

Stick and poke has certainly evolved since it’s simple, makeshift beginnings. The safest way to have a stick and poke tattoo that will be strong in design and meet the mark when it comes to safety is to head to a professional stick and poke artist. We stock a large range of tattoo supplies for professional artists to build a toolkit that they can rely on as they produce their unique artwork for clients. Visit us at our Nottingham store or place your order online: