How to Hand Poke Tattoo Safely


Hand poke tattoos, also known as stick-and-poke tattoos, have been around for thousands of years. No electricity is necessary to make hand poke tattoos - the basic tools needed are ink, a needle, and a willing subject to receive the tattoo. In the 1970s, hand poke tattoos rose in popularity among the punk and underground scene when people would use household objects to give themselves and their friends DIY tattoos – sometimes backstage at concerts or in a basement.


Although hand poke tattoos can be done by anyone with a needle and some ink, that doesn’t mean that they should. To quote Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn​'t stop to think if they should.”


It might sound enticing to DIY a tattoo, but they should always be administered by a professional who understands how to tattoo safely.


Check out these tips for tattooing hand poke tattoos safely. These will be helpful to tattoo artists as well as their clients, so they know what safety measures to look out for when going in for a hand poke tattoo appointment


  1. Choose the design and placement of your hand poke tattoo

The design of any tattoo will largely be left up to the recipient, but any good artist will weigh in on what they think will look best for their client. There are certain placements and skin types that might require a little bit of tweaking to a design, or just a little bit of perfecting so the tattoo looks great.


The placement will also be up to the client, but it should be chosen carefully. Remember that tattoos are a permanent decision! You don’t want to make a snap decision to get a tattoo on your hand if you’re going to struggle to cover it up later on down the line. Great hand poke tattoo artists will also weigh in here to make sure their client’s tattoo will look the best on their body.


  1. Make sure everything is sterilized

From your work area to equipment to the skin that’s being tattooed – everything should be sterilized.


  • The artist should wash their hands with antibacterial soap and warm water, then cover their hands in medical grade gloves.
  • Disinfect your work area with a cleaning solution made to kill germs. A disinfectant solution can easily be made with household bleach and water at a 1:9 ratio.
  • Make sure the sterile packaging around the needle that will be used doesn’t have any holes or tears in it before it’s opened. If the packaging it damaged, that needle should be disposed of properly and a new one should be used.
  1. Prepare the work area

When preparing your work area for a hand poke tattoo, an artist should have their tattoo ink on hand, as well as rubbing alcohol and small containers to hold the ink.


  • Shake the tattoo ink for about one minute.
  • Fill one ink container with ink, and another with rubbing alcohol.
  • Remove the rubbing alcohol and ink containers from work area to prevent cross-contamination.


  1. Prepare the skin

First, the skin that’s going to be tattooed should be washed with soapy water. If there is noticeable hair on the skin, that should be removed with a simple razor. Razors should never be used on two different people, even if they are meant to be “reusable.” The best practice is to use a cheap disposable razor and change them out between clients. Once the skin is clean and free of hair, it’s time to sterilize it with rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad.


  1. Apply the outline

This step is optional, as some tattoo artists will freehand hand poke tattoos. If a stencil is to be applied, it should be done with a tattoo pen or tattoo design transfer sheets.


  1. Begin the tattoo

Remove the needle from the packaging and secure it into the hand poke tattoo tool. Hand poke tattoo tools will give the artist greater control over the needle so an accurate design can be executed.


  • Dip the tattoo needle into the ink.
  • Poke the needle into the skin along the design lines that are on the skin.
  • If there is excessive bleeding during a hand poke tattoo, the needle might be driven too far into the skin.
  • Refill the needle with ink every 1-3 pokes
  • Use a paper towel soaked with a green soap solution that was made to remove blood and protein soil from the skin to remove excess ink as the skin is hand poked.


  1. Clean up the finished tattoo

The best way to clean up a fresh hand poke tattoo is to wipe away the excess ink with fresh paper towels, and then clean the area with the green soap solution that was used along the way. Once all of the excess ink has been removed, and the skin has been sterilized, the fresh hand poke tattoo should be covered with a sealed bandage, like Saniderm. Plastic wrap and tape can also be effective.


  1. Hand poke tattoo aftercare

Hand poke tattoos are essentially open wounds and should be treated as such. If Saniderm was used, it should remain in place for at least three-days. Plastic wrap can be removed after a few hours.


  • Wash fresh hand poke tattoos with warm (not hot) water and a very mild soap. Baby soap usually works well, as long as it is unscented.
  • Dry the tattooed are with a fresh paper towel – cloth towels can harbor harmful bacteria.
  • Keep the tattoo moisturized with an unscented lotion or skin balm. Products that are made from natural ingredients work well with most skin types.


Purchase everything you need from The Looney Zoo

Here at The Looney Zoo, we have a Hand Poke Tattoo Kit that has everything you need from needles to tattoo ink, a hand poke needle tool, medical grade cloth sheets and more! Artists, get yours today and start safely tattooing beautiful hand poke tattoos on your clients – or yourselves!

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