Got my first tattoo at 18, then waited 32 years to get another. Meanwhile, I'm the editor of TatRing, a body art website.
Do You Really Want a Finger Tattoo?
Finger tattoos keep getting better and better. The fonts on those TRUE LOVE knuckle tatts get more interesting, those matching inken-in wedding rings more charming, and the option of white ink adds a whole new twist. The more finger tattoos we see, the more we want to see!
But first, we have questions:
- Is it true that a knuckle tattoo will "hurt hard" and "fade fast," and can anything be done to prevent this?
- What do I need to know about this placement ahead of time?
- What are alllll my design options, including "wedding" or relationship "rings" and four-letter words (one letter per finger)?
Below, you'll find answers, and a place to ask questions, too. You'll also find photos of some mighty fine examples of finger tattoos, in various different styles. Hopefully, you might even find answers to questions you didn't know you had.
Do Finger Tattoos Last?
This is the first question most people have about finger tattoos: Will they fade and how fast? Of course, there's no way to predict how each individual skin or ink or inking will hold, but it is certainly true that a tattoo on your hand will fade faster than a tattoo on any other part of your body (unless it was your foot). Here's why:
- Because we wash, expose, and work with our hands, the skin there is different and will take the ink differently as a result. The constant friction takes its toll.
- Because there are drastic variations in the skin on your hands and fingers (fat parts and bony parts, thin and thick), ink will behave differently and may blowout and fade in a spotty pattern.
- Because all of these variations cause a difference in how the ink sets in, so fading will happen quickly and irregularly.
When Will a Finger Tattoo Start to Blur and Fade?
Of course, the speed of deterioration depends on many individual factors, but within 6 to 8 months, you should expect to see your finger tattoo start to blur and fade.
How Often Will You Have to Do a Touch-Up?
More than any other placement, a finger tattoo will need to be touched up fairly often and regularly, maybe even every couple years. The ink will need refreshing and the lines will need to be redrawn time and again to keep it looking fresh. This means that even though a finger tattoo might not cost a lot up front, over time, maintenance will end up costing you quite a bit more. Also note that colored inks will fade more quickly, and black ink will spread out less and last longer. Although some tattoo artists offer free touch-ups, most won't do it for free for finger tattoos because they'd end up losing money in the long run. Some tattoo artists won't do finger tattoos for exactly this reason. A good artist will tell you up front: In the end, your finger tattoo will require quite an investment in time and money.
Which Lasts Longer: Black or Colored Ink?
Although color ink does not tend to last as long as black ink, color can look really good, even faded. But if you do choose color, you might consider taking a note or a photo of the make, name, and product number of the ink you use because you will likely be getting regular touch-ups, and if you need an exact match, you might as well know that product information yourself. Good shops will keep good records of these things, but it's best to also keep track of that information yourself.
Do You Care If It Blurs and Fades?
The easiest solution to this problem is to simply not let it bother you. If you decide to embrace the blowout and admire the fade, you will be much happier with your finger tattoo in the long run. They say this placement is definitely not for nit-pickers or neatniks, so if imperfection really bothers you, a finger tattoo probably isn't the best choice.
Pros and Cons of Finger Tattoos
They look so cool, even when they're a little faded.
They fade and blur very quickly.
They are usually relatively inexpensive.
Re-doing them will cost money and take time.
Perfect spot for simple, delicate designs.
Elaborate designs will not age well.
An eye-catching spot to showcase your artistic side.
They're always visible (unless you wear gloves or keep your hands in your pockets).
You will always be able to see and enjoy your own ink.
They're hard to hide.
Their impermanence might appeal to you.
They may disappear almost completely without maintenance.
A beautiful alternative or addition to jewelry.
Which Finger Is Best for a Tattoo?
Any finger is best and there's really no difference in terms of longevity or pain. It depends on what you're going for.
- Middle finger: For obvious reasons, this one can give you a lot of bang for your buck. A tattoo here will draw permanent attention to your middle finger. An exclamation point tattooed here would be very hard to miss!
- Ring Finger: An elegant choice, with or without jewelry, and one of the most common finger tattoos. Scroll down to read more about wedding ring tattoos, which are a popular alternative to the old gold band.
- Index Finger: A tattoo here will emphasize anything you point at. It's also common to see words tattooed on the side of this finger.
- Pinky: The perfect spot for a dainty or delicate design.
- Thumb: We've seen some really spectacular matching thumb tattoos where you hold both hands together to see the larger design.
Which Part of the Finger Tattoos Best?
- Top: The top of the finger hurts, but it's probably the part of your finger where the tattoo will last the longest.
- Bottom: The palm side of your fingers has thicker skin and more padding, but this skin won't hold the ink as long.
- Side: The skin at the sides of the fingers varies greatly, so movement and spotty fading should be expected.
- Knuckles: Best to avoid the knuckles entirely if possible, as the wrinkles there will distort the design.
Ring Finger or Wedding Ring Tattoos
Whether they "officially" get "married" or not, more and more people are opting for relationship tattoos instead of rings to signify their commitment.
One thing to think about, however, is not taking the idea of a ring too seriously. Because there are so many variations in the flesh on your finger, a tattoo that spans the diameter of your finger is likely to fade irregularly, leaving you with a dotted line.
Relationship Finger Tattoo Design Ideas
each other's initial(s)
the word "love" (in any language)
a heart (symbolic or anatomical)
the gemstone of your choice
matching or unmatching designs
puzzle pieces that fit together
two halves of an image (like a left and right wing or each side of a face)
symbolic pairs (moon and sun, fire and ice, bow and arrow, lock and key)
date (date born, met, or married)
matching bands, in any color
matching four-letter words (or two four-letter words of one phrase)
Mrs. and Mr. (or Ms. and Ms. or Mr. and Mr.)
the words "I do"
K and Q of <3 (face card symbols)
matching dots or lines
a snake or ouroborus
What Style of Tattoo Works Best on a Finger?
- Less is more. Keep your design as small as possible.
- Simple designs work better and last longer than ornate ones. Instead of elaborate shapes, choose plain, bold lines.
- The plainer the lines and fewer the details, the better.
- Single initials work better than whole words or phrases. Instead of whole words or sentences, consider bold, single letters.
- Instead of filled-in designs, consider outlines.
- Black ink will last longer and blur less than colored inks.
- Even for a "ring" tattoo, it's recommended to only tattoo the top and sides of the finger. If you go all the way around, that part of the ring is likely to disappear.
- Choose a design that will look good even as it fades.
How to Heal a Finger Tattoo
- Just after tattooing, your artist will likely wrap your tattoo. After three hours or so, you can take off the bandage and wash with warm water and a mild, natural soap (like Dr. Bronner's).
- When washing, be careful to never rub or scrub the skin too hard. Gently pat dry and let it air dry.
- Apply a small amount of ointment or natural, unscented skin lotion (whichever your artist recommends)—just enough to keep the skin flexible and moist. Do this whenever your hand gets dry and at least three times a day.
- Refrain from using, dirtying, or immersing your hands as much as possible until the skin has healed.
- For the next few weeks, keep your hands as idle as possible and don't soak them in water. Avoid washing dishes or taking a bath.
- A thin scab should form. If it starts to flake, don't pick it off, or you may lose your ink. Just keep it clean and well-lotioned.
- It's hard to get the ink to sit right in the fingers. If after only a few weeks you notice gaps or movement in the design, contact your artist to see what likely caused this and if a touch-up is in order.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Yes, it's true what they say. A finger tattoo will hurt. There's not a lot of fat or muscle to cover the bone here, so the pain can get intense. Even on the thicker palm-side of the finger, you are going to feel the pain since the artist will have to really use the needle to penetrate that thicker skin (and will likely have to go over the line several times). Not only that, but your hands are equipped with thousands of nerve endings, designed to feel things, and this built-in sensitivity doesn't make for an easy tattoo.
How Much Do Finger Tattoos Cost?
Of course, it depends on your artist's average hourly rate and can range anywhere from $30 to $250. But since fingers are small and simple designs work best in this location, a tattoo here is usually done quickly and therefore won't cost as much.
However, do keep in mind that if you want to keep it looking fresh, you will have to pay to have it re-done every year or so, so this added cost for upkeep should be added to your overall cost.
What Could Go Wrong With a Finger Tattoo?
The fingers are a very difficult spot for tattooing. There is little room for error here, but many errors to be made.
- If the needle goes too deep, the ink will move and the lines will bleed out; if the needle goes too light, the tattoo will quickly disappear.
- Because there are so many variations of the skin and padding on the fingers, fading and spots are to be expected.
- Healing is tricky, too, because we use and wash our hands so much (and really shouldn't while healing).
- Forever afterward, you will want to be careful not to get cuts on your hands, to use lotion, and consider using sunscreen.
Four Letter Words or Phrases That Work Great for Knuckle Tattoos
Can You Hide a Finger Tattoo?
A finger tattoo is a pretty bold gesture. Unless you wear gloves or keep your hands in your pockets at all times, you are not going to be able to hide one. On the other hand, who would ever want to hide a tattoo, anyway? But if you did want to hide it, here are some ideas.
How to hide a finger tattoo:
- under a ring
- under a glove
- in a pocket
- choose a design that looks like a ring from a distance
- use white ink, or use a color that blends in with your skin tone (although colors fade faster).
Are Finger Tattoos a Good Idea?
The answer is yes, but only if you know all the facts before you do it. If you know that finger tattoos will fade, hurt, be tricky to heal, and need to be retouched (and cost extra as a result), then you will be much happier with the results.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.