Rib Tattoo Information and Ideas

Updated on February 3, 2016
Beautiful side-body cherry blossom tattoo.
Beautiful side-body cherry blossom tattoo. | Source

Do Rib Tattoos Hurt?

Rib tattoos have become popular in the last few years, but many still avoid getting them because of their reputation for being painful. There are some major differences between getting a tattoo on your ribcage versus your wrist or the small of your back. Since the area is all bone and little-to-no muscle tissue, the pain can be slight, like a sunburn, or severe, depending on your sensitivity.

  • The pain you experience will depend on a lot of factors, including your artist. An experienced tattoo artist likely should be able to help you experience as little pain as possible and give you breaks when you need them. Some amount of pain, though, is unavoidable.
  • Don't try to anticipate the pain by drinking alcohol or taking an over-the-counter painkiller before your appointment. These substances can act as blood-thinners, making the pain and healing worse.

What Makes a Good Side Tattoo?

Because of the pain, many opt for smaller pieces on this part of the body. This is a shame: The rib cage is a perfect canvass for large artwork. If you opt for a bigger piece, you can look forward to vibrant color and great detailing.

Rib tattoos come in all shapes and sizes and can portray almost anything. Some popular designs include:

  • Poems, lyrics, quotes, or any other text
  • Flowers
  • Stars
  • Hearts
  • Butterflies
  • Names
  • Birds
  • Pin-up girls
  • Knives

When designing a tattoo for you side body, consider something long, thin, and vertically-oriented.


Some special considerations for healing and aftercare:

  • Rib tattoos take the same amount of time to heal as any other tattoo: two weeks or so. However, you would be well-advised to keep cleaning and waiting for it to peel and heel for about an extra week. This is because, unless you plan on going shirtless for two weeks, your clothes in contact with your torso could not only alter it a bit but also send you screaming in pain because of the sensitivity.
  • Some women who get rib tattoos and then get pregnant find that though the tattoo stretches as the baby gets bigger, it might go back to the way it was after the kid is born. Unless you're constantly working out to get your pre-baby body back, though, it might take a while.

In the long run, rib tattoos are daring and unique. Most people enjoy seeing them on other people, and they're a great conversation starter. If you're considering getting one, I would think long and hard about it. If you're dedicated to it and do your homework, I believe that you won't be disappointed with the end result.


Bodhi tree rib tattoo.
Bodhi tree rib tattoo. | Source
Rumer Willis's "be present" rib tattoo.
Rumer Willis's "be present" rib tattoo.
Tattoo from L.A. Ink
Tattoo from L.A. Ink
Megan Fox's "broken heart" rib tattoo.
Megan Fox's "broken heart" rib tattoo.


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    • anyandall profile image

      Kerry 5 years ago from UK

      the tattoo of the helicopter scene is awesome!