Elbow Tattoos: Inky Glory!

"little burny"
"little burny" | Source

Oh the elbow tattoo, of all the places I've been tattooed, this was the most painful by far. I liken it to having fire ants eat my flesh from the inside out. Only the diehard ink aficionados, or the crazy get their elbows tattooed. I wish I could say that I was hardcore and took it like a trooper, but I came pretty close to passing out more than once. In my defense I hadn’t planned on getting my elbow tattooed. I was going for a swirl of leaves around my elbow, my tattoo artist talked me into putting one on the tip. Seeing as I’ve had the tops of both of my feet done, as well as my inner forearms close to the ditch he figured I could handle it. So wrong. That leaf now goes by the nickname “little burny,” cause that’s what she felt like.

So if you’re crazy enough to do the tip here are a few rockin’ designs and important tips to help you get through the Armageddon of pain that you’ll be visiting upon yourself.


The Spider Web

The spider web on the elbow is the all time classic in the world of tattoos. Once relegated to prison inmates and gang members, it has gone more mainstream now and can be prettied up with lady bugs, dragonflies, caterpillars and of course a kickass spider. Be aware though that this tattoo still carries the stigma of a prison tattoo. If you opt to get one, you may be sending a message to people you hadn’t intended.

The Swirl

The best tattoos for this area take into account the circular shape of this body part. And because it’s on a joint the right design can look like it's moving with your body. Cool! I have seen some extraordinary tattoos of crashing waves with dancing fish that have been so beautiful they have almost convinced me to get my other elbow done…almost. As always, be aware that if you go the colour route you are going to need to take some extra care of your inky creation and either avoid the sun, wear a lot of sunscreen and long shirts or accept the fade and revisit the needle every few years. I for one will be slathering myself in sunscreen to avoid the needle at all costs.

The Flower

Some people choose to cover their entire elbow with an intricate design like a flower, which I give them mad props for because it must be a hell like none I can possibly imagine. Something with a prominent centre like a daisy or sunflower would work well on an elbow, using the tip of the elbow as the centre of the flower.


The Mouth

I’m sure you have seen at least one of these before, someone who has cleverly placed an animal’s or demon's face with its open mouth on the tip of their elbow. Although I am not a huge fan of novelty tattoos like this I can see the comedic value in it. I just think I would get pretty tired of people asking me to bend and extend my elbow over and over again so it looks my tattoo of an open mouthed bear is eating their cheeto.


It hurts, it really hurts. No amount of ibuprofen and/or numbing cream will help you here. If you’re getting it done, be prepared to suck it up buttercup. And because of the lack of flesh on this particular part of your anatomy you get the added bonus of actually feeling your bone vibrate as the artist is tattooing you. What starts off as an intense but bearable feeling quickly morphs into and “oh my god, please make it stop,” sensation. My only advice is to breathe and find an artist who can work at convention speed. Avoid taking too many breaks if possible, especially if you’re a sweller like me. Just power though.

Healing Issues

Elbow tattoos take longer than most tattoos to heal because of the location. Expect some pretty serious swelling and lack of mobility for a few days. These tattoos seem to hurt more as they heal simpley because they are on a part of your body that inevitably has to move which keeps irritating it. From past experience, most of my tattoos are pretty tender on the day after I’m tattooed, but start healing on day two or three. However, my elbow was an unexpected solid week of puffiness and pain. It hurt to do even the most basic things like sleep and move a fork towards my mouth for nourishment. And driving was out of the question. By day five I seriously considered going to the hospital, fortunately things took a turn for the better on day six and I no longer felt an amputation was necessary. The bottom line is that elbow tattoos hurt like the dickens and take a long time to heal.

I did it, I did it! 5 bees, a flower and a whole lot of pain to commemorate my 40th.
I did it, I did it! 5 bees, a flower and a whole lot of pain to commemorate my 40th. | Source

End Game

Elbow tattoos rock, they look awesome and show your dedication to ink as an art form and way of life, but they are incredibly painful and take forever and a day to heal. Still despite all my protestations throughout this hub I actually think I might get my other elbow done. I have a forearm filled with butterflies that could really use a swarm of bees circling the elbow. Maybe this time I’ll avoid the tip..okay maybe just one little bee.

More by this Author

Comments 9 comments

nmdonders profile image

nmdonders 4 years ago

Nice pics and good information.

Dj 4 years ago

This is a pretty funny article. I'm on day 3 of a solid red and black Red Hot Chili Peppers asterisk on my "swelbow"... I relate to everything said here. I have tattoos in every painful place imagined and nothing compares to this. I understand Fire ants, swelling, praying for amputation! But now that I know this is some pretty normal side effects I feel much better.

Tess45 profile image

Tess45 3 years ago from South Carolina

My daughter fell asleep when she got her elbows done. Both times. Needle on bone doesn't bother her. I am working on my sleeves and I don't want too look like a wuss and have a bare elbow and the rest of my arm covered, so I guess I am going to have to suck it up. I am leaving it to last, however. Might tattoo my knuckles on my birthday. All tattoos hurt. Just some more than others.

Joe 3 years ago

Wish i had read this before i went in and got my first tattoo on my elbow lol. it was not simple or small and it took about 4 hours. not that being told it would hurt wouldve changed my mind. but it would have been nice to be able to prepare myself a little bit. it sure as hell did not feel good hahaha. Props to your daughter Tess45, there were only passing moments were i could close my eyes and relax, that's one tough girl.

Roxanne 3 years ago

Just had my elbow done and was expecting it to hurt much more .. Must say It did burn though and it's a b**** to stretch afterward .. Overall worth it

cody simpson 3 years ago

I just got a huge traditional rose on my elbow today , it covers my entire elbow, with 6 colors of shading Outline actually wasn't too bad , and shading did suck but all tattoos are painful , but its all worth it in the end a few days of pain for a lifetime of art . Over all on a 1-10 pain scale ill give the elbow a solid 7.5 hurts but not too bad.

juju77 2 years ago

I had my elbow tattooed with a web two days ago and I feel like hacking my arm off it hurts so much! I almost gave up after the lining but my tattooist ( Paul Priestley) told me to nut up and get on with it, good job he's a mate or he would have got a slap. The shading was a lot easier and the whole thing was over in 90 mins and now I have a kick ass web, but won't be getting the other one done just yet!

jamej 2 years ago

just got a cool star on one elbow ,its big and bold .once its healed im gettin other one done. it did hurt but i love pain.arrrrrr

Josh 5 months ago

This article made me feel better. I'm going on 36 hours after my elbow (part of the sleeve) was tattooed and all of a sudden my elbow feels stiff, achy and is keeping me from sleeping. Was thinking to myself, do I have an infection? The skin looks and feels fine. It's the bone or the muscle that feels like there is pain. I guess it's just swelling. Thanks.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article