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Tattoo Placement: The Best Place on Your Body for Your First Tattoo

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The upper arm is one of the least painful spots to get a tattoo.

The upper arm is one of the least painful spots to get a tattoo.

Tattoos Hurt!

One of my favorite questions from folks who see my tattoos and haven't gotten any themselves is "Doesn't it hurt to get tattooed?"

YES! It hurts a lot actually, but it's not the sort of unbearable pain that cannot be pushed through. I'd say it's worse than getting torn up by a cat but not as bad as an infected tooth. That's just my frame of reference though, as there are many others out there. Now, that being said, just because the pain is bearable doesn't mean there aren't ways to lessen the amount of pain you might experience.

No, you're never going to get out of all of the pain unless you have lost all feeling for some reason, and since that's not true for most of us, there's going to be some amount of pain with your tattoo. Now, there are several ways to lessen the pain of a tattoo, but the first thing to consider is choosing where on your body you will get your tattoo, since some areas will hurt more than others.

More Fat and Muscle = Less Pain

If you are worried about pain, then you will want to know how to choose the site for your tattoo wisely. Some areas on your body have more fat and muscle, and those are the places you should opt for if you're worried. The less padding you have means the closer to the bones those needles will go and the more pain you will feel.

Knowing that, you can choose an area that has more cushion to it, especially if this is going to be your first tattoo. It's way better to get your first tattoo on a spot on your body that doesn't hurt as badly. Later, when you decide on another killer design in a place that can be more painful, you'll have a better idea of what the pain will be like.

9 Most Pain-Free Placements for a First Tattoo

  1. Upper arm
  2. Thigh
  3. Forearm
  4. Calf
  5. Fingernail
  6. Earlobe
  7. Shoulders
  8. Ear Cartilage
  9. Butt

1. Upper Arm Tattoo

Aside from being super easy to show off, upper arm tattoos are also majorly popular because they are an area of the body that tends to have more muscle and fat, allowing first-timers to get good coverage without as much pain as they would from say, a back tattoo.

This is an absolutely fabulous location if you're looking to minimize the pain of your tattoo, even if this isn't your first time around the block. The reason it's so fabulous isn't only because of the lowered pain level though, it's because your upper arm is a decent-sized canvas and can allow your tattooist to really bring out their inner artist and make that tattoo stand out.

2. Outer Thigh Tattoo

You can't show off a thigh tattoo in any weather, but the thigh is another area of the body that tends to have more fat and muscle to cushion the bones and nerves from those needles. The inner thighs should be avoided, but the outer thighs usually have enough padding to pad the pain. On the thigh, you'll get about three times as much canvas as you would on the upper arm, which means you can really go big if you want to.

Thigh tattoos don't hurt as much because there is a lot of muscle and fat in the area.

Thigh tattoos don't hurt as much because there is a lot of muscle and fat in the area.

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3. Forearm Tattoo

On your forearm, the needles will get closer to the nerves and bones than the previous two options, but because it is often exposed, the skin on your forearms tends to be a bit thicker and tougher than other areas, which can give you a bit more cushion as well. This placement is ideal for anyone looking to lessen the pain but still be able to show off that ink whenever they want.

4. Calf Tattoo

As with a forearm tattoo, when you choose a calf tattoo, the needles will definitely get closer to the bones than in meatier areas. That being said, you'll likely have more cushion with a calf tattoo than you would with a forearm tattoo. Just make sure that you choose an artist with proper tattoo furniture, as it will hurt more if you have to twist your back and legs into crazy positions while you sit, which will totally defeat the purpose of choosing this area to avoid discomfort.

The masses of muscles on the backs of the calves protect the bone, so that spot is less painful for tattoos.

The masses of muscles on the backs of the calves protect the bone, so that spot is less painful for tattoos.

5. Fingernail Tattoos

Fingernail tattoos, unlike fingernail bed tattoos, are considered to be the only truly pain-free placement. This is when the tattooist puts the ink right onto the fingernail's hard surface. The only complication with this is that they will eventually fade into oblivion, usually within a year.

6. Earlobe Tattoos

Getting the earlobe tattooed is no worse than getting it pierced, and will likely hurt less since you're not completely puncturing. The only real downside is that earlobe tattoos tend to wear out sooner than other less-exposed areas of skin.

7. Shoulders

The more muscles you have here, the less likely you'll feel the most intense levels of pain.

8. Ear Cartilage

This area is a good choice for a tattoo because it's so small you can only get a small tattoo, so you won't have to sit very long.

9. Butt

That's right: The body's biggest muscle, the gluteus maximus, is a lower-pain spot. There's a lot of padding there to protect you.

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Lindsay Langstaff on August 07, 2017:

I will keep these in mind when deciding where to place my next tattoo! I actually got my first one on my shoulder, which wasn't too bad. I would say the pain isn't what makes it difficult, but rather the nausea and feeling light-headed for me. I've definitely been looking into getting a thigh tattoo though.

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