Is it hard to tattoo yourself?
If you’re wondering whether it is hard to tattoo yourself, the answer is a resounding YES!
Tattooing yourself is one of the most complex and dangerous things to try, as you could end up drawing a horrible tattoo and having the risk of infections.
But most aspiring tattoo artists do start by tattooing themselves. I will answer how to do it safely and more in this article. Read more!
Table of Contents
- Tattooing yourself isn’t easy, mainly if you use crude equipment.
- It could be illegal to tattoo yourself, especially if you are a minor.
- If you want to tattoo yourself, pay attention to proper sanitary practices to ward off infections.
- Aspiring tattoo artists tattoo themselves as a rite of passage.
Can I Tattoo Myself?
Yes, it is possible to tattoo yourself. But you must use only the proper tools and follow sound sanitation practices. Home tattooing is fraught with health risks since there’s no way to guarantee intense sanitary practices.
Austin-based tattoo artist Jack Ervin says it’s never a good idea to tattoo yourself with homemade tattoo equipment (1).
That means avoiding using tools such as pen ink, sewing needles, or even hand soap. Those are the go-to DIY tattoo implements for many daredevil tattoo drawers.
Such tools are a bad idea and could also be a recipe for bad tattoos. If you want to tattoo yourself, have the right tools and exceptional sanitary practices.
You could use beginner tattoo machines if you want to tattoo yourself. But even to use them, you need to have special tattooing skills.
If not, it’s better not to risk it and visit an actual tattoo shop where an experienced tattoo artist can offer you the service.
The tattoo process at most studios uses sophisticated equipment, unlikely to cause any harm to your body.
Professional artists also use intense hygienic methods that are less likely to cause allergic reactions or skin infections.
The Georgian Institute of Technology developed a self-administered and painless tattooing process (2). It sure would be the perfect way to make some nice lines of body art.
Is It Legal To Tattoo Yourself?
In the U.S., it could be illegal to tattoo yourself if you’re under 18 years.
Most U.S. states require tattoo artists to have licenses before tattooing anyone (3).
But the body art laws aren’t as clear about someone tattooing themselves. They don’t mention anything about someone making any drawings on themselves unless it falls under the rule of self-harm.
If the tattoo harms you in any way, it could fall under self-inflicted harm and thus be outright illegal.
So is it legal to tattoo yourself if you’re a licensed tattoo artist? Licensed tattoo artists can tattoo themselves if they want to. They do it all the time.
But it’s worth noticing that even if they tattoo themselves, they already have the authorization to do it on human skin.
In most states (38 to be precise), even licensed professional tattoo artists can’t tattoo a minor without express parental permission (3).
Given most 16-year-old minors could consider getting a tattoo a rite of passage, many don’t wait for permission to arrive (4).
You can tattoo yourself without anyone knowing. But the dangers involved make it an illegal option to try, especially if you’re a minor.
Does that make it okay if you’re of legal age? No, it doesn’t. You won’t have a license to draw a single tattoo line on anyone’s body, let alone yours.
Most people in the tattoo community will confess to having started by drawing on themselves with crude home tools. They could have been performing that illegally, though.
Also, according to licensing regulations, tattoo artists must have completed a specific period of apprenticeship before getting a license.
A more experienced artist must supervise apprentice tattoo artists before getting the certification to tattoo anyone.
So if you want to tattoo yourself, there’s the chance you could be committing a crime.
How Hard Is It To Tattoo Yourself?
So is it hard to tattoo yourself? The truth is that DIY tattoos are tough to pull off. Even with the best tattoo machine for a beginner, it will take considerable skill to avoid hurting yourself.
That’s because of the complicated tattooing process of getting a proper tattoo. Sure, there are some simple designs you could try. But it will require you to have lots of experience and skills to avoid drawing bad tattoos.
Even so, you’ll struggle to get consistent lines depending on the part of your body you want to tattoo.
Most beginner tattoo artists drawing themselves do it on their legs, as this video mentions.
See how he has the shakes as he draws? Those are some things you’ll have to deal with when tattooing yourself.
Add that to the perseverance you’ll need for the pain, and this isn’t so easy to pull off. So it’s not all about knowing how to hold a tattoo gun while tattooing.
Of course, with consistent practice, anyone can get to tattoo themselves easily. But I recommend trying it after lots of practice on artificial skin or different other things to practice tattooing on.
Tips for Tattooing Yourself
You’ve heard of all the risks and decided you still want to tattoo yourself like the guy in this video.
So what are you supposed to know before doing that? Here are some tips to remember when tattooing yourself.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice
Consistent practice will help you draw the perfect tattoo if you plan on tattooing yourself for the first time.
Most beginner tattoo designs will understandably be horrible. So why not perfect your techniques on pig skin and other artificial skin first?
Besides, the practice will give you ideas on how to tattoo yourself safely.
2. Select an Easily Accessible Body Area to Tattoo
If you are tattooing yourself for the first time, you can’t expect to do it on your arms or neck.
The best body area to try is the top of your thighs. That part of the thighs is easily accessible and is easy to hold in position for a long time.
3. Use the Right Equipment
As I mentioned earlier, trying to tattoo yourself with home equipment, such as sewing needles or pens, is dangerous. Only use the right equipment for tattooing if you want clean lines on your body.
4. Pick a Simple Design
Since this will be your first time, choose a simple design. A complicated design increases the chances of getting a horrible tattoo, besides being difficult to pull off for a beginner.
5. Know the Correct Needle Depth
The needle depth determines the pain and quality of the tattoo you draw. So it’s worth paying attention to it.
Since you’re tattooing yourself, don’t give in to the temptation of going too deep or not deep enough with the tattoo.
6. Prepare Your Body
Tattoos aren’t the easiest thing for your body. So it makes sense to prepare your body well enough for the procedure. Drink lots of water, eat well, and get plenty of rest before you tattoo yourself.
You’d also tell a client these things before you can tattoo them.
7. Shaking From the Pain Is Normal
There will be a lot of body shaking as you draw the tattoo. That’s down to the pain you feel as you draw. It is akin to hurting yourself, and the body responds to the pain by shaking.
So you’ll have to be careful the shaking doesn’t interfere with your tattooing.
What Do You Need To Start Tattooing Yourself?
You’ll need several things for a safe, self-administered tattoo procedure.
1. Correct Tattoo Equipment and Materials
For a self-administered tattoo, you’ll need the below safe tools:
- Tattoo machine.
- Distilled water: This is because distilled water has no contaminants like tap water.
- Stencil paper.
- Clean paper towels.
- Tattoo ink.
- Stencil stuff.
- Tattoo ink cups.
- A pair of gloves.
- Tongue depressor.
- Green soap.
- Plastic wrap.
- Grip tape.
- LED lighting: The room’s light will probably not be enough.
2. A Clean Work Station
You’ll probably be tattooing yourself at home. So avoid dirty areas such as the bathroom or the kitchen when tattooing yourself.
These places could increase the chances of blood-borne infection due to cross-contamination.
Prepare a proper workstation with all the equipment in a clean state to prevent infections.
How hard do I press when tattooing?
Hard enough. Remember, the needles must get through the upper dermal layer and deep into the skin for a lasting tattoo.
How deep do I go with the tattoo needle?
Most tattoo artists go 1/16th of an inch. Since you’re tattooing yourself, you’ll have to choose a needle depth you feel works for you.
What is the hardest part about tattooing myself?
Each person will have a different approach to the tattooing process. But one of the most complex parts is keeping your body relaxed. Your body will shake because of the pain when tattooing yourself.
Be as relaxed as possible.
Is it hard to tattoo yourself? Oh yes, it is! But with lots of practice on fake skin or paper, you can learn to tattoo yourself with time.
Pain is a significant part of why it will be challenging to tattoo yourself. If you know how to tattoo well and can easily withstand the pain, there’s no way you’d fail to draw a beautiful tattoo on your skin.
Self-administered tattoos are a rite of passage for many aspiring tattoo artists. The thinking is that your skin is the only one you can afford to damage with a lousy practice tattoo without any consequences.
Do you agree with that assessment? Tell us all about it in the comments down below.
- 1. Denton-Hurst T. How to (Safely and Hygienically) Tattoo Yourself, According to Tattoo Artists [Internet]. The Strategist. 2020. Available from: https://nymag.com/strategist/article/how-to-tattoo-yourself.html
- 2. Researchers develop painless tattoos that can be self-administered [Internet]. ScienceDaily. 2022. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/09/220914141006.htm
- 3. National Conference of State Legislatures. Tattooing and Body Piercing | State Laws, Statutes and Regulations [Internet]. www.ncsl.org. 2019. Available from: https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/tattooing-and-body-piercing.aspx
- 4. Mohr L. Perspective | The conversation to have with teens who want tattoos. Washington Post [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2022 Oct 27]; Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2018/02/02/the-conversation-to-have-with-teens-who-want-tattoos/