Yes, it hurts. 🙂
But of course there’s more to the story than that. While there’s no getting away from the fact that having your skin pierced with multiple needles a bazillion times a minute isn’t going to be pain free, there are many factors that influence how much it’s going to hurt.
In general, the closer the skin is to the bone at the tattoo site seems to make a big difference. (All this should be prefaced with “in general” because everyone’s response is different, of course.) The bonier areas of the body (ankles, wrists, base of the spine, back of the neck, etc) hurt more to tattoo. Men and women also seem to react a bit differently to ink placement. If this is your first tattoo, it might be worth considering having it done on a somewhat less painful area so you can ease into the “multicolored” experience.
The outline will likely hurt the most. The artist has to make those black lines solid and clear and long-lasting. I found it helpful to know that if I could get through the outline OK, the rest wouldn’t be nearly as bad. Actually, in my own experience with my first tattoo, the outline didn’t hurt as much as did the little multicolored “swoosh” dots the artist put in to surround the seven stars.
Do your best to relax. It’s natural to be nervous or downright scared, facing the needles for the first time. See if you can find something calming to listen to–New Age music, maybe–and put it on your music player of choice. You might want to consider wearing headphones that block out all or part of the buzzing sound of the needle as well. Tattoo needles are kind of like dentist’s drills. The sound is sometimes worse than the feeling.
If it hurts too much for too long, don’t hesitate to ask the artist if you can take a break. Being tensed up and flinching from the needle isn’t good for you or for the success of your design. After a while, the endorphin rush will start and you should be able to stand the pain a bit better. But don’t think you have to be like one of those cowboys biting bullets and carrying on no matter what.
After the inking is done, you should feel surprisingly good. But don’t be in too much of a hurry to get up and get going. You might want to just sit in the chair for a minute or two and regroup. If you feel at all lightheaded or unwell, don’t just head out the door and hop into your car–sit in a chair in the waiting area for as long as it takes to be sure you’re going to be OK.
Next up, why you shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to admire your new ink, either.I hope you'll submit my posts to your favorite social media sites. Just don't "submit" them to your own site pretending to be yours. Thanks!