DIY Tattoos (Stick 'n' Poke)

The art of tattooing has been around for centuries with every major culture doing the process. In today's world tattooing is most of the time left to experts, resulting in very beautiful works. But what if you want to do your own? this instructable will cover the art of "Stick 'n' poke" tattoos that will enable you to safely add your own dermal embellishments.

WARNING: These tattoos, although light, are PERMANENT! Think about what you want on your body before you go through with it. ALSO it does hurt, and depending on your pain level it may hurt too much. Test without ink first to see if you want to spend 30 minutes poking your skin to get some cool stuff.

Lets get on with it.

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Step 2: Disinfecting Your Skin

The next step is to clean your skin, use a antibacterial soap or rubbing alcohol to clean the area you want to tattoo. This will make sure that the area is prepped for poking.

Step 3: Drawing Your Image

Then with a regular ball point pen you draw what you want to have your tattoo be. You will follow the lines your draw with the needle and ink later on.

Step 5: Inking The Needle

Next take the ink and put a little bit into a jar lid. The take the string wrapped needle and dip the tip into the ink getting a good amount on there. The string will act as a wick as well.
unicorn40462 months ago
Instead of lotion could you use aloe Vera?

does the ink spread?

i used pen ink oops
nightshade9717 months ago
would marker ink work i dont have any other ink
Eureika3 years ago
Higgins india ink is pretty serious stuff to be ingesting or introducing into your body in anyway.  I'd recommend saving up for a bottle of real tattoo ink if you intend on doing the work on your own.  The cost of the ink is offset by minimalising the risks to your self and your skin with using art ink.
frenzy (author)  Eureika3 years ago
Do you have a little bit more research and proof of this? I'v had lots of friends to tattoos this way with no ill effect.
All I can say is even with FDA approved dyes...  People can have bad reactions with dyes that are made for tattooing.  Pen ink has toxins in it and is not meant to be placed in your bloodstream(my bff in high school gave herself an ink tattoo and got blood poisoning from it).  Tattoo ink is not that expensive really.  Just make sure you never, ever put unused paint back into the container.  You risk blood borne illness doing that.  Also if you do decide to buy a tattooing kit...  Be careful where you buy the kits from...  Buy it straight from the dealer...  There are contaminated kits being sold on ebay and other outlets for cheap.  That's my two cents..  :)
I would avoid ballpoint ink, but there shouldn't be anything wrong with India ink. India ink is just a black pigment made from soot, mixed with water and gelatin.
stickandpo Kenton9 months ago
Our inks are vegan. Check out my kit.
For the record, most studios use India ink for their blacks. Pelican ink used to be preferred for outlining, but not so much any more. Talen's India and drawing inks are available at all of the best suppliers. Colored inks are another ball of wax. Ordering colors from a tattoo supply house is advisable.
well in fact tattoo ink is india ink it just has less alcohol in it thats all and yes i know this for a fact i work at a tattoo shop
meowzerz1 year ago
I bought some india ink but realize now that it's not waterproof. Is it okay to use or does it have to be waterproof? Thanks!
jadronx1 year ago
be careful with inks, try to use water-based ink, or calligraphy ink (higgans) if you use ink for a regular pen your body will reject the ink and for some people can be a very painful dangerous process...rotting flesh ect.

i have had great results with just the calligraphy ink used here. i highly recommend it.
AluraDankk1 year ago
Jeez I totally advise against this all the way! A friend of mine got a homemade tattoo similar to this and ended up contracting a staph infection. I know there really isn't much to tell anyone who has their minds set on doing something like this, but please PLEASE DON'T do this :(
Hey Guys im a tattoo artist and i really advise against this, Simple things such as these are probably not going to be clean and its actually an easy way to get Hep B. Dont be an idiot and be cheap and unsafe for something that is permanent and going to be on you until you go to an actual tattooist and get it covered up or somewhere to get it removed very painfully. Go to a reputable shop if you want work done. I cant tell you how many times ive seen people with crappy home made tattoos coming into fix it. Seriously, think before you act.
Yeah yeah, I've been tattooing professionally for twenty years now, and you can sing that song til you're blue in the face, but they're not going to listen. The best guidance is to tell them how to keep it clean: use new needles, sterile if possible, prep the skin before tattooing with good soaps, and wear gloves.

Hand stuck tattooing is a skill unto itself, and with the right practitioner, can be every bit as beautiful as an electric tattoo. Japanese tebori being a great example. Oscillating relay machines haven't been around that long, and in many parts of the world, hand application is still regularly practiced. Plus, I wouldn't get tattooed at 70 % of the studios I've visited. Too many blowhards who lack the skills to apply proper work who pretend they can. Everybody starts somewhere, and I have yet to meet an artist who doesn't have a raft of terrible work from their old days which haunts them. Even the mighty Ed Hardy, a giant in his day, spent a few years tattooing under an alias in Vancouver Canada before returning to the US. One can only assume it was to grind out the duds as far away from home as possible.
Some examination gloves sure couldn't hurt. Same with a good chlorhexadine soap to wash your hands to the elbows with, as well as the area to be tattooed. Other than that, poke away. Before 1891 this is how tattoos were applied.
Thanks! I have a cute lightning bolt on my wrist :) Great tutorial, easy to follow
zayc1231 year ago
is this safe jw im getting one today just wanted to knnw if it is safe and does the ink actually go into your blood stream
awesome instrcutable. as an idiotic teenager, I had the ill advised idea of just slicing my skin open (i think i burned it actually...) and pour ink into it. needless to say it was pretty stupid and the ink didn't stick. now, as a slightly less idiotic 20-something I will try this method :) thanks!
m4k34rt2 years ago
Okay, yeah professionals do it better yadda yadda yadda, they fade, yadda yadda.

Me and a friend have been doing this for a long time; approx. 4 years. In fact we have gotten very good at it to the point where we are doing more detailed things with just "pricking"(i.e. octopus, cartoony dog faces, etc) and recieve well review, I was even praised by a professional artist when showing him some of my work (we both are certified med. asst. and phlebotomy techs. furthering our studies to become professional tattoo artist ourselves.). It's all about how well and cautiously you are at doing it.

Then of course there are risks, no matter how you look at it ther is always a risk with the prick method and a needle gun. Don't let someone tell you one is greater than the other. They both boil down to nothing but skill, concentration and hard work.

Not to mention, I have did my homework, there are loads of cultures that still use the prick method to this day, also a few "famous" celebs have recieved such. All in all, what I am trying to say is if you want to do it, go for it, just do it safely and practice first on some type of skin-like canvas. Go nuts. :)
imoshroom2 years ago
i did it, and it thanks for tutorial and good luck with your own tattoo...
Boowiggins2 years ago
Yes, yes, warnings etc. Well worth heeding! Research the Tebori - I'm sure you can make a better implement, if you don't buy one. I think it's pretty hardcore TIY, but since you're serious check out on youtube "tattoo machine geometry"... If you watch that video before you ever buy a machine when you do you'll make the best decision!

I got started on my own skin - never used citrus or pig or fake skin.
zubikov2 years ago

it is very, very dangerous for your health. I am a professional tattoo artist for many years and corrects work to make homemade equipment. Not always can be corrected. See photo at my web tattoo gallery

is it hole side up
oh my question was already answered.. :)
does it come out good with color? because the tattoo i'm planning on doing has some color.
Would it be possible to add a close up of the sewing needle wraped in string?
Taii3 years ago

Is it bad for you to tattoo yourself with pen ink?

onrust Taii3 years ago
BAD? In prison, the "best ink" is the suit from burnt hair grease. Your also not putting it in your blood stream.
peterrojo Taii3 years ago
DNMEBOY3 years ago
Ok so heres my two cents, or four. Im feeling a little rich today.

I wouldnt suggest using a ball point pen to draw on your skin and then use a needle afterwards to ink over it for the tatt. ball point pen ink is not something you want in your skin or blood.

Also these type of tatts end up looking terrible and fade wicked over time. I have a few on my leg that I would love gone but after removing one on my hand I will never burn another tatt of myself again. I wold much sooner attempt to build my own laser removal system. I have a nice scar on my hand from a tatt I burned off that a buddy convinced me to do.

After a while more than likely you will want your jailhouse tattoo removed or covered. I now have professional tatts on my body and will never do another myself with this method. An actual tattoo needle is made of several tiny needles and does a much better job at filling in your design. The ink looks much darker and stays that way as well. None of my tattoos have begun to fade yet aside form the self done ones.

This stuff is just a dumb idea unless you are 14 and stoned. Some day you wont be high and you wont like the tatts so much anymore.

Oh and once I used non toxic glow in the dark paint to make a tatt. Its invisible and only shows under a black light or in the dark but it only glows for a few seconds. Its been there since I was 20.

Not to give anyone any ideas, just thought I would share that.

runfromnuke3 years ago
 I'm a little confused about wrapping the needle with thread.  Do you tie it to both ends, or do you run it through the eye and then wrap?

Also, will this method work with different colours if you keep changing the needles and thread for different colours?
frenzy (author)  runfromnuke3 years ago
You start wrapping at the base and follow up the needle and back down, then tie it off. If you wrap it tight enough it will be good

As long as you can find the different ink, you could do it.
jtobako3 years ago
I've read that the Mouri(?) would use a beater stick to strike the stick holding the needle-a kind-of human powered tattoo gun.
nomnomdom3 years ago
This will work, but I would really suggest spending a few dollars more to make it just a little safer.

Use a few sterile hypodermic needles instead of the pin.  You can get them online for under a dollar a needle, or at some drug stores. A candle isn't actually hot enough to actually sterilize a needle,  so this will reduce your chances of infection. 

You might want to use more than one needle.  Your skin is quite tough, and after about fifteen pokes the needle will get noticeably duller and more painful.

Don't use rubbing alcohol to clean the skin.  Alcohol doesn't kill anything, it just moves the dirt around.  Pick up an antimicrobial viruscide from the drug store, and read the instructions.  Remember to wait a couple of minutes after cleaning the skin to allow the antibiotic to work before getting started.

GLOVES.  For the love of God, wear some gloves while doing this.  They don't even need to be sterile.  Otherwise you might end up with blood everywhere.

Be careful where you choose to pierce, and make sure you don't go too deep over tendons, blood vessels, your spine, or joints.  I would suggest staying away from your face, neck, armpits, inner arms, and inner thighs until you are more comfy doing this.

Be aware that there is a chance that something will go horribly wrong. Just be calm, take a deep breath, and then deal with it.  Seconds don't count... minutes count.  

It sounds dumb, but the most common disaster I've seen is people poking themselves with the needle.  Needle sticks can be serious, so be careful.

You also might want to draw your design out first on a stencil, and then transfer the image to the skin before you start.  Just google "tattoo speed stick" for instructions.

<CYA>I am not a medical professional.  Don't take my word for anything.   Do your own research before trying anything like this.  Yada yada yada</CYA>


Did my first homemade tat when I was 14. I am 52 now. Of several only one remains. The rest faded over the years. I have over 30 professional ones and would never do another homemade one again. They look sloppy unless they have some sort of electronic needle used to draw them. The one shown here with the arrows on the feet looks like a series of dots to form the lines. My remaining homemade one was a small heart and it actually wound up being rather thickly drawn so you don't see the series of dots. All in all, I say save up for a pro one!
dont you get like hepatitis or something if you stick yourself twice with the same needle?
Only if the person using it before you has hep...


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