Updated date:

How to Survive a Chest Tattoo

Heather has several tattoos and years of experience taking care of her chest tattoo.

Female with chest tattoo

Female with chest tattoo

How Painful Are Chest Tattoos?

Imagine an array of colors splashed across a canvas, swirling and spinning, forming a beautiful piece of art in the shape of butterflies and vines and tribal swirls. Now, imagine that canvas is skin and that skin is stretched across your chest. One word pops into mind: ouch.

It's true that beauty has a cost, but is the beauty worth the pain? That is a question that only you can answer, but this article will help you make an informed decision! Here are some pros and cons of chest tattoos.

Tips for Getting Inked on Your Chest

  1. Start small. Especially, if this is your first tattoo. You may even want to think about putting off your massive chest piece dream until you've done something small somewhere it will hurt less so you get a taste of the tattoo experience. Speaking from experience, the chest is one of the most painful areas to get a tattoo (after the foot), especially as you get closer to the breast bone.
  2. Allow plenty of time for it to heal. Plan on at least five days and up to two weeks. You might not realize just how much you move the skin over your chest in day-to-day functions until it hurts every time you move your arms!
  3. Know what you want. Find your design and go to an artist you trust, because it is very hard to hide chest tattoos if something goes wrong. People will see pieces of it revealed by the neckline of a shirt or just plain see it through a shirt if it's a thin material.
  4. Plan ahead. If you are thinking about getting a sleeve or even another smaller piece anywhere near your planned chest piece, make sure it will look good together. Remember, most people will see the tattoos on the front of your body before they see other areas (duh, right?) and nobody wants to look like they have a few missing puzzle pieces.
  5. Think carefully about how it will affect your daily life. If you have to look professional at work, are you willing to always wear high necked shirts because the company has a no-tattoo policy? Or do you want all of the guys at the country club to see your tattoo of a heart with the kick-butt barbed wire with "Mom" in the middle? You are the only one who should be able to judge yourself but we all know that isn't the case in today's world, so take a few minutes to think about the backlash of a prospective tattoo. If you can, take a permanent marker and play with the design or placement of a tattoo and see if it fits in a place that will make the tattoo less of a conflict with your professional life.
  6. Look carefully for the right tattoo artist. If you just want someone to ink your skin, then settle for the first Joe Shmoe that gives you a price on a tattoo. But if you are looking for a true artist, go to every shop you have to until you find the perfect artist for you. I promise you there is someone out there that knows exactly what you are trying to describe and is willing to help you.
  7. Visit the artist in person. Don't just rely on websites (although I do recommend reading reviews posted by others about prospective shops and artists) for your final judgement. Check the places out in person and talk to the artists if possible. Most will give you a quote on the spot plus you can check out the shop (don't ever trust a dirty tattoo shop. EVER!!!) Just remember, this piece of art is going to be with you for the rest of your life. Don't trust it to just anyone!
  8. Have fun!! Tattoos are an artistic expression with no creative bounds! Express yourself however you want!

Don't let any of these scare you away from a tattoo! Use these tips to make an informed decision. I love my tattoos but I do wish I had known then what I know now so take them or leave them, these are tried and true! Don't be afraid to take a friend, or an entire entourage, along for your tattoo experience. Who knows, you might even start a trend! Best wishes!!

Comments

Jax R on December 25, 2019:

HeatherMarie628- Thank you, it wasn't bad at all really. Tattooing had always been a rite of passage. I began in 1991 for me and honestly some if has hurt, most of it has not been all that bad. Without the help of the design and my artist, I would not have become the man I am today without her (and his) help. I've always felt the pain is something you need to go trough in order to grow spiritually. Ryan Murray of Black Veil Tattoo did this one and is one of the most significant pieces I have to date- he did an absolutely incredible job of it. I couldn't be happier with it. It's on his Instagram, if you're interested in seeing it. It's a crescent moon with over 14K views.

Yes, tattoos are fantastic means of self expression. Ink up! :)

heathermarie628 (author) from fresno, ca on December 25, 2019:

Jax R that's great to hear (except the pain part!). Tattoos are such a fantastic expression and very much worth the pain of the needle, especially when the meaning is more than skin deep (couldn't help the pun, sorry).

In all seriousness, I'm glad you took that leap and got something so close to your heart. It sounds like a gorgeous design. Thank you for your comment!

Jax R on December 25, 2019:

Really well done article! Great points mentined for peopel to think about. Just had my entire left pec done a week ago and have to say, I wa nervos going in but it was a pretty easy spot for me. It's a custom blackwork crescent moon; starts over my collar bone, extends almost to my armpit (that part SUCKED), stops 2 CM abouve my nipple and just shy of 4 CM before my sternum. The ONLY area that was painfiul was near my armpit. I was surprised I was able to concentrate on breathing and had a great conversation and laughs with the artist. Session lasted 4 hours and 10 minutes tho it felt MUCH MUCH shorter. It was getting raw towards the end, but it was tolerable. Just thought I'd throw that out there in case anyone was considering it but letting fear of pain get in the way. You can live through the pain and it really wasn't bad. My forearms hurt more than my chest. The piece is also DEEPLY meaningful to me on a spiritual level so that could have helped as well.

heathermarie628 (author) from fresno, ca on April 03, 2017:

Yasly i suppose you can but honestly the pain is bearable and it can tell you if the artist is doing the tat right. My first tattoo was done wrong and it felt like the artist was dragging a dull, hot knife through my skin. The rest of my tats felt like tiny needles dragging along the top layer of my skin (which is exactly what it is!). It will burn and pinch but shouldn't feel like it's going too deep.

Yasly on April 02, 2017:

Could I use a pill to not feel pain in getting tattooed

heathermarie628 (author) from fresno, ca on May 24, 2016:

Darkladyv, congrats! Healing can be a stressful time especially once your tat is done and you realize exactly how much that area moves suddenly! I recommend keeping it hydrated with whatever healing ointment you prefer at all times. Keep cloth away from it as much as possible but if it is unavoidable, wear loose fitting, light fabrics, nothing heavy and scratchy. Keep movement to a minimum and don't scratch it once it starts to itch!! It will be healed before you know it!

Darkladyv on May 24, 2016:

I've just had my chest piece tattoo finished and it looked incredible! I've had a full day's work split into 2 half days already, then had a full day tattooing done 2 days ago. After about 5.5 hours, my pain threshold had totally disappeared and it really really hurt. Especially on the sternum omg.. any tips on healing it? I find it is soo tight and you're right, it hurts every time I move my arms and I am finding wearing clothes on it difficult although it's not always professional to bear my chest at work! So happy with it though.

Catherine Taylor from Canada on September 15, 2012:

This was a very well done hub with some really insightful tips. I have a lot of tattoos, but have shied away from the chest area for some of the considerations you mention above. A worthwhile red for anyone considering getting work done in this area.

AlaskaInspired from Alaska on November 05, 2010:

i have to agree with this because yet i love my tattoo (the big dipper on my ribs) It was a home tat. I am not discrimgrating(sp?) against home tattoo artists, but i happen to be a jumper. tattoo artists know what that means, it means i may feel like i am laying completely still but my body is reacting with uncontrollable spasms, some i happen to be completely unaware of. this condition is the worst for tattoo artists. they avoid jumpers, regardless how much your willing to pay and how sentimental your tat may be... they will most likely reject an uncontrollable jumper. i love tattoos.. i would paint my whole body with the most respected artists independent creations if my body would allow it... but im still so proud of the one i have! i didn't cry and its on my state flag. not to mention, we see it all year round here in AK! plus the northern lights, which will be eventually my next, in a less sensitive place.

heathermarie628 (author) from fresno, ca on July 31, 2010:

Thanks Springboard!! My favorite thing about tattoos is that they make each of us more unique. Besides, as an artist, I love the idea of being a walking canvas!!

Springboard from Wisconsin on July 31, 2010:

Tattoos seem to me to be a fairly painful undertaking, but there are some very interesting tattoos out there to be sure. My wife has a couple of small ones. One on her ankle and the other on her arm. Not sure if I'd want her to have one on her chest...

But that's just me. Informative article.