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How To Give Yourself A Stick And Poke Tattoo At Home


Jason Wang |

If you've been on social media at any point in the past year, you've probably seen a few homemade sticks and poke tattoos. Whether it's regaining a sense of control amid COVID isolation woes, apocalyptic impulse behavior in the face of uncertainty, or simply a new daily habit, stick and poke tattoos are becoming very popular among people stuck at home. With a quick browse online, you can find DIY tattoo kits that include everything you need to start a stick and poke adventure (needles, gloves, stencils) - home tattooing has probably never been more convenient. I, like many others, recently decided to dip my toe into this trend. I had a friend who was disappointed by creating some homemade tattoos and watched a few YouTube tutorials before he started poking. Admittedly, it wasn't my best idea. Our tattoos have proven to be a grim reminder of our artistic limitations - misplaced little black dots striving to form something we can't in good conscience. So, in search of some professional advice to make my next DIY tattoo a little less miserable, I spoke to three professional tattoo artists who offered tips for beginners to help them understand some of the sticking and poking motions. ezgifcom-gif-maker

What is a stick prick tattoo?

Also known as a hand poke tattoo, stick and poke tattoos are created by dipping a needle into ink and poking the skin with it manually. While the technique is certainly more suitable for beginners than machine tattoos, that doesn't mean it's any less legitimate - they're just as permanent and have a style all their own. Icon, a 31-year-old part-time tattoo artist in the USA, told me: "I do think hand-prick tattoos look just as good as machine tattoos." Last year, when the country was under embargo, she got her hands dirty and recently opened her studio. Icon likens hand-stamped tattoos to 'drawing on a piece of paper' and machine tattoos to 'drawing on an iPad'. While machine tattoos may give a cleaner look, she believes that both offer different effects. What are the best design for the first DIY stick and poke tattoo? "I think anything is easy," says Icon, whose first DIY stick and poke was a little lightning bolt. "I think it was a really good idea for the first one because it very clean lines. There's not a lot of detail." 29-year-old Malaysian tattooist Chua Yi Min drew a kitten on her inner thigh, her first DIY stick and poke. However, she advises beginners to opt for small, simple designs consisting of straight lines. "A word is always good," says Patrick, a 29-year-old London-based tattoo artist who writes on Instagram @european.son.420. The first tattoo he gave himself was a small "X". "When you first start, you want to take your time, especially if you're not very familiar with the technique," says Icon. "Since hand tattoos already take much longer than machine tattoos, start small." Where on your body should you put a stick and poke the tattoo? "It depends on your priorities," says Icon, who suggests using the forearms and thighs to reduce the pain. Finding an area where the skin has been stretched works well for the first tattoo, and Vivien says she did her first tattoo on her ankle, although it was a "very painful spot" simply because that part of the stretched skin was easier to poke through. Patrick also recommends getting a thigh. "If they get a tattoo on their arm, they only have one hand and it's hard to tattoo with one hand. So if they just want to get a tattoo, they should try it on their thigh," he said.

How safe are stick tattoos?

Tattooing yourself at home poses considerable safety risks - from staph infections to bloodborne illnesses. That's why if you do want to DIY, it's important to keep things clean (read: never reuse your needles). Not having professional hygiene advice is no excuse for sticking and poking a beginner. "These are things you can Google," says Patrick, adding that tattoo equipment should be completely sterile. OK, so how do you stick and poke? Start with a sketch. Emin says it's important to keep your body relaxed and natural when sketching a tattoo design with a pen. That way the sketch will look like it should on your body. Next, it's important to stretch the skin over the tattoo area. "That's the most important ," says Patrick. "You need to have a really good stretch." While one hand pokes, the other hand is responsible for stretching the skin. When piercing the skin, the dip needle is usually at a 45-degree angle - although there is no hard and fast rule on this. This is because it is more difficult to be precise if the needle is pierced perpendicular to the skin. The direction in which you poke is also important. "If there's a straight line ...... I'll start at the bottom and slowly pull upwards," explains Icon. According to her, it's easier to draw the line that way. Now comes the tricky part: how deep should you go? Poke too shallowly and the ink might fall out rather than stay under the skin. But go too deep and the ink may spread - this is known as a welling-up, which can cause the tattoo to look a bit blurry. According to the three tattoo artists, knowing how deep to go is something that comes with practice. But they generally agree that it's best to start with light. "You can always go back and add ink ...... but you can't remove the ink from your skin," says Vivian, who adds that she will "poke and prod" her clients more to get them to do it again, rather than over-poke them and end up with too thick a line. It's also important to note that everyone's skin is different. This means adjusting the timing of your tattoo to your skin's reaction. Emin says she usually checks the tattoo at least twice to fill in the gaps, but no more than four times. "Too many tattoos can damage the skin. The tattooed part will swell up," she explains. If your skin becomes very red and bumpy, it's best to save the tattoo for the next session. If there are spaces between the dots, don't worry too much. Don't rush to retouch it and give your new tattoo a little time - over the next few weeks the ink may spread a little under the skin, filling in those little spaces.

What is the best aftercare for stick tattoos?

Cover the tattoo with cling film for at least five hours after it is finished. Patrick recommends keeping the tattoo fresh for two to three days while avoiding baths, pools, and sunlight during the healing process. After all, "a tattoo is a wound," he says. It is normal for tattoos to itch and flake says Eminence. If you notice any gaps between the hand-poked spots to be filled in, she recommends waiting two to four weeks before touching up. This will give the skin enough time to heal and be ready for the next tattoo. During this time, she recommends avoiding activities that will irritate or distort the newly tattooed skin.