Hand Poke vs Machine Tattoo: What’s Their Difference?

Getting a tattoo is a big decision, so it’s essential to make sure you’re making the right choice when getting inked.

Two of the most common ways to get a tattoo are by hand poke or via machine. Both methods involve introducing pigment into the skin, but they are slightly different in terms of the equipment and process used.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of both methods to help you decide whether hand poke vs machine tattoo is right for you.

Key Takeaways

  • The difference between hand poked and machine tattooing is in the method used to create the tattoo.
  • They are also differentiated by how deep the pigment is inserted into the skin.
  • The healing process for hand pokes and machine tattoos is generally similar, but how you follow aftercare instructions can affect the results.

History and Origins: Hand Poke vs. Machine Tattoo

Tattooing has been around for centuries and was used by VARIOUS cultures for both aesthetic purposes and spiritual rituals.

The EARLIEST tattoos were done using hand poked methods, also called stick and poke tattoos, in which needles are attached to a wooden or bone handle and pushed manually into the skin [1].

hand poke vs machine tattoo on hand but what's looking best

This method has been used in Asia, Africa, South America, and Polynesia for centuries.

Modern machine tattooing was introduced in the late 19th century and REVOLUTIONIZED the art form.

Machines use electric motors to move the needle rapidly up and down, allowing for more PRECISE designs than traditional hand poke methods.

The machine method is more widely used today due to its effectiveness and efficiency.

Process of Creation: Hand Poke vs Machine Tattoo

Hand-poked tattoos are created by the artist MANUALLY pushing ink into the skin with a handheld tool.

The design is freehanded on the skin and each line or dot requires multiple passes to fully implant the pigment in the desired area.

This method is often SLOWER than machine tattooing, but some artists prefer it as they can easily adjust their lines while working to create intricate designs.

Machine tattooing utilizes an electric MOTOR to rapidly push needles up and down into the skin, making designs faster and more precise.

men doing machine tattooing on hand

This method has become increasingly POPULAR over time due to its effectiveness and efficiency in creating large-scale projects or complex artwork.

However, it does require a skillful technique to ensure the needles are correctly positioned and that the tattoo is even.

Pain Factor: Hand Poke vs Machine Tattoo

The pain factor associated with each method of tattooing also differs slightly.

In general, stick and poke tattoos tend to be MORE painful due to the manual tool being pushed into the skin repeatedly without assistance from a machine [2].

Due to this process, it may take longer to complete designs, causing some people to feel discomfort or pain for an EXTENDED period.

Machine tattoos are often LESS painful than hand poke methods as the needles penetrate quickly and move on before pain can settle in.

However, the speed at which the needles move can also cause discomfort for some people.

women feeling pain while getting tattoo

Pro Tip: It’s essential to communicate your level of comfort with your tattoo artist before they start any procedures to ensure you feel safe and comfortable throughout the process.

Healing Time: Hand Poke vs Machine Tattoo

The healing time between a hand poke and a machine tattoo is also quite different.

Stick and poke tattoos generally take LONGER to heal due to the increased trauma caused by the manual tool, which requires multiple passes to implant the pigment in the skin.

This method usually takes around 1-2 weeks for a full recovery.

Machine tattoos heal much FASTER than hand poke methods as the electric motor causes less trauma and quickly pushes ink into the skin.

Typically, these types of tattoos take around 5-7 days to heal fully.

Pro Tip: Always follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions to ensure your tattoo heals properly.

Differences in Technique

The tools and techniques are the most significant differences between a hand poke and a machine tattoo.

Stick and poke tattoos REQUIRE more skill from the artist due to the manual tool being pushed into the skin repeatedly.

In contrast, machine tattoos involve an electric motor that rapidly pushes needles up and down for a more precise design.

Furthermore, it takes longer to complete designs with hand-poked tattoos as each line, or dot requires multiple passes to implant the pigment in the desired area FULLY.

In contrast, large-scale projects or complex artwork can be completed much faster with machine tattooing.

Ultimately, both methods create beautiful art pieces; however, clients need to consider their desired outcome and level of comfort before deciding which technique is right for them.

Health and Safety Measures

Always consider the health and safety of both the client and artist when getting a tattoo.

For hand poke tattoos, the artist needs to use a single-use sterilized tattoo needle and equipment that has been properly STERILIZED.

With machine tattooing, autoclave sterilization is recommended with all machine tattoo kits.

In addition, gloves should be worn by both the artist and client at all times during the process.

women getting tattoo on hand

Furthermore, the studio should provide proper aftercare instructions to maintain a SAFE healing environment.

Finally, clients should make sure they feel comfortable with their chosen studio before getting a tattoo, as this will help reduce any potential risks or hazards associated with the procedure.

Pro Tip: Do your research and choose a reputable tattoo artist knowledgeable about hand poke and machine tattooing techniques.



Which Tattoo Method Costs More? Hand Poke or Machine?

Generally, a machine tattoo costs more than a stick-and-poke tattoo since it requires a power source and involves multiple passes to complete the design.

Can I Mix Techniques?

Yes, you can mix techniques when getting a tattoo. However, consult your artist beforehand to ensure they are comfortable combining these two methods.

What Type Of Needles Should Be Used For Both Methods?

Round liners or magnums are typically used for a stick and poke tattoo, whereas flat shaders and curved magnums are commonly used for tattoo machine tattoos.

Can I Use A Sewing Needle For Stick And Poke Tattoos?

No, sewing needles are not recommended for tattooing as they are not specifically made for the procedure and could cause more harm than good.

Do Machine Tattoos Last Longer Than Hand Poke Tattoos?

When done correctly, machine and hand poke tattoos can last long. However, the longevity of any tattoo will depend on various factors such as skin type, aftercare routine, and placement.


So, now you know the difference between hand poke vs machine tattooing. Remember, deciding which tattoo is right depends on your preferences and style.

If you want a more personalized experience, opt for a hand poked tattoo. If you’re looking for a faster process, go for a machine tattoo.

Whichever type of tattoo you choose, do your research and find an experienced artist who can give you the desired results.

tattoo hand poking

So, which type are you going to choose? Let us know in the comments section!


  • Woods T. The intimacy, culture, and experience of “Stick n’ Poke Tattoos” – Global Comment. Global Comment – Where the world thinks out loud. Published January 9, 2019. Accessed November 22, 2022. https://globalcomment.com/the-intimacy-culture-and-experience-of-stick-n-poke-tattoos/
  • Lichtenstein I. The Complete Stick-and-Poke Tattoo Guide for Newbies. Byrdie. Published 2020. Accessed November 22, 2022. https://www.byrdie.com/stick-and-poke-tattoo-4776093

About Edith Russo

Edith is a self-made entrepreneur with a keen business sense that others admire and a total “can-do” attitude. She’s always coming up with new ideas to anticipate her readers’ needs and help solve all their toughest beauty and skincare problems. READ HER LATEST ARTICLES. FOLLOW HER on Linkedin and Twitter. Learn more about her HERE.

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