Are Rotary Tattoo Machines Less Painful?

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Tattoos are one of the common body decorations in the world. A 2021 survey found that about 38% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 had at least 1 tattoo in their lives. A common question everyone asks is, “Is tattooing painful?” You will always get a complicated answer because most people will say – yes, while others feel less pain.

At the same time, another buzzing question is – are rotary tattoo machines less painful? In this article, we will go through an in-depth discussion on the topic – tattooing pain. We will learn the most and least painful areas of the human body, factors that affect pain, tips to avoid tattooing pain.

Through the whole discussion, we will get the answer to the above 2 questions.

Are Rotary Tattoo Machines less painful?

Most Painful Areas

Tattooing is the most painful if you have many nerve endings on any part of your body, near thin bones, or where your skin is too thin. A person can feel high to severe pain in those areas.

Let’s look at the most painful areas of the human body.


Wearing a tattoo on the armpit is the most painful, undoubtedly. If you decide to wear a tattoo in this area, be remindful that you will get severe pain. However, most professional tattoo artists discourage people from wearing tattoos at the armpit.

Rib Cage

The 2nd most painful areas of the human body are the rib cage. Pain in this area is also severe. The truth is, around the rib cage, the skin is too thin. Also, fat is less in that area. 

Moreover, the rib cage and its above skin move every time we breathe. So wearing a tattoo in the rib cage area can become more intense.

Ankles and Shin

The human ankle and shin bones are positioned just underneath the thin skin. Tattooing in those areas will become the utmost painful. Tattooing over ankles and shin will give you a similar pain level as tattooing on the rib cage.


The skin around the lips has many endings of nerves. Additionally, lips skin is much thinner than other areas of the human body. It is advisable not to wear the tattoo in this area because bleeding, bruising, swelling is common if you wear a tattoo on lips. Also, you will have a tough time in the healing process.

The inner bicep, stomach, kneecap, etc. are the other areas where tattooing is painful.

Least Painful Areas

The least painful areas are padded with fat, tight skin, less nerve endings, and not-so-close bones. However, you will feel pain in those areas after tattooing, but the pain level will be low to moderate. Below are the least painful areas.

Upper Outer Thigh

Fewer nerve endings and the presence of fat makes this area a suitable place for tattooing. Most people feel low to moderate pain after wearing tattoos on the upper outer thigh.


Forearms have thick skin and are full of muscle; nerve endings are not there. Tattooing at forearms will cause less pain.

Outer Shoulder

Many people love to wear the tattoo on the outer shoulder. It is because outer shoulder skin is tight, very few nerve endings are there. You will feel less pain in this area while tattooing for sure.

Some other less painful areas are the outer bicep, calves, outer and lower back.

Factors that Affect Pain

Every person doesn’t feel the same pain during and after tattooing. Tattooing pain depends on a few factors.



Studies have shown that men experience pain less intensely than women. It may happen because of the difference between men and women’s bodies, physically and chemically.

Another study showed that women could bear more tattooing pain than men.

However, no detailed research has been done on women’s more patience while tattooing than men.


Many people wear several tattoos on their bodies. And studies have shown that people who get tattoos may bear more tattooing pressure than those who never wear a tattoo.

Age & Weight

Younger skin is capable enough to withstand more pain than older skin. Although it is not proven by research that age and weight can make a tattooing session more or less painful.

A tattoo is more sensitive to loose skin, and bulky people may feel more pain because of that. In contrast, people with less weight also face problems while tattooing. 

Tips to Avoid Tattooing Pain

Tips to Avoid Tattooing Pain
Tips to Avoid Tattooing Pain

With a few tips, you can have a pleasant and as painless tattooing session as possible. Follow the below information.

1. Be Sober

Be Sober
Be Sober

Avoid drinking alcohol 24 hours before your tattooing session. If you drink alcohol, your blood will get thin, and in the tattooing session, you will lose more blood due to this. Then you will regret later for the decision to drink alcohol. 

2. Eat Healthy Food

Healthy Food
Healthy Food

You might have heard that players eat healthy foods before a game. You will also need to eat healthy food before the tattooing session. Healthy foods will give you the stamina to withstand tattooing pain. Load your belly with carb foods because calories will get burn during your tattooing session. Carb foods will ensure that you will have enough energy to pass through your tattooing session.

3. Drink Much Water

Drink Much Water
Drink Much Water

This is the tip that you have to follow meticulously. Before your tattooing appointment, drink more water than usual. Thus, you will have a comfortable session.

4. Take Necessary Rest

After donating blood, everyone feels tired, don’t they? The tattooing process is similar to donating blood. So, after wearing a tattoo, get proper rest. Otherwise, you will feel dizziness, which will lead you to more pain.

5. Consider the Location

The tolerance level varies from person to person. Tattooing pain is tolerable indeed. But some areas of the human body are prone to pain. The most painful areas are the armpit, rib cage, lips, etc. The forearm, upper outer arm, etc. are the least painful areas. So, choose the least painful places to wear tattoos. If you want to get less pain during a tattooing session, considering the location is essential.

6. Avoid Wearing Tight Clothes

Avoid Wearing Tight Clothes
Avoid Wearing Tight Clothes

Wear less, thin, and lose clothes, mostly if the tattooing area is covered. Feeling comfortable in a tattooing appointment is significantly essential. If you decide to wear a tattoo on your upper shoulder, it would be best to wear tank tops or a sleeveless dress. Or if the tattoo place is in the thigh, wear loose skirts.

7. Ensure Following the Aftercare Advice

After every tattooing session, the tattoo artist shares aftercare instructions. Without fail, it has to be followed meticulously. General instructions are- avoid exposing the tattooing area to the sun, keeping the area clean, using the best tattoo numbing cream, etc. These instructions will help you feel comfortable after a tattooing session.

8. Use the Right Equipment

In order to get a pain-free, stunning tat, the usage of the right equipment is a must. Like the best tattoo machine for beginnersthe right equipment will allow you to feel less pain without any doubt.

9. Choose a Professional Tattoo Artist

Choose a Professional Tattoo Artist
Choose a Professional Tattoo Artist

Many people choose novice and beginner tattoo artists to save a few bucks. Since they are inexperienced and less skilled, they can’t ensure the safety of your skin. While a professional tattoo artist knows how to work with different skin types and depending on the skin type, the artist proceeds to the work. Also, they are well-aware of ensuring the safety of the customer.

No confusion that session with a professional tattoo artist will be faster and pain-free.

Which Tattoo Machine is Less Painful – Rotary or Coil Tattoo Machine

In order to get the answer to this question, we will need to learn the differences between rotary and coil tattoo machines.



R. Jordan shares in his “Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo” book that rotary tattoo machines are much lighter than coil tattoo machines.

It is because the rotary tattoo machine doesn’t contain electromagnetic copper-wound coils in it. On the other hand, a coil tattoo machine has this component in it. These coils make a coil tattoo machine bulkier than a rotary tattoo machine.

The lightweight feature means a tattoo artist can work with the machine for an extended period without having hand fatigue. Thus, a tattoo artist will make fewer mistakes, concentrate on the work, and deliver a smooth tattooing result.


A rotary tattoo machine can be used as both a liner or shader. All you need to do is, choose the right type of needle – according to Alayon. As a result, a tattoo artist can accomplish a whole tattoo design without changing the machine. On the other side, the coil tattoo machine comes with either liner or shader characteristics, but not both.

Coil tattoo machines consist of thick barrels and bulky coil, so additional pressure is required to apply tattoo ink on skin. This way, a tattoo wearer feels pain and uncomfortable. But with a rotary tattoo machine, this concern is not there since it is lightweight.


The coil tattoo machine generates loud noise due to electromagnetic switching. For the first time in life, customers who are wearing a tattoo will hesitate to wear a tattoo with a coil tattoo machine. Due to the loud noise, a customer gets a psychological perception that the coil tattoo machine is much more painful than the rotary tattoo machine. 

And because of the lightweight feature, a rotary tattoo machine is less painful.

Famous tattoo artist Erick Alayon shared his personal opinion regarding this and said, “rotary tattoo machines are soundless, and this is why people think that tattooing with it is less painful.”

There is no straightforward answer to the question, “are rotary tattoo machines less painful”? The answer depends on several factors. 

Many professional tattoo artists prefer rotary tattoo machines over the coil because of the above rotary machine benefits. Customers should feel comfortable during a tattooing session, and a rotary tattoo machine ensures it.

Frequently Asked Question

Do tattoo machines hurt?

Some will tell you tattoo machines hurt; some will answer the opposite. Generally, you will have an uncomfortable session if you wear tattooing in the most painful place. So, to enjoy the tattooing session ensure wearing tattoos on the least painful areas.

How hard should I push the tattoo needle into the skin?

You can’t push a tattoo needle into a skin hardly. The needle is designed in such a way so that it can avoid it from happening. Although the needle needs to go deep enough into the skin – a few millimeters are an excellent choice.

Does the coil tattoo machine hurt more?

Coil tattoo machine creates noise and vibration while working. As a result, a customer assumes that the device will cause much pain during a tattooing session.

I am a fat guy. Will I get less pain while wearing a tattoo?

Fat Guy
Fat Guy

The general factor is, areas with high fat, fewer nerve endings, etc. are the least painful areas. So, for fat guys, wearing a tattoo is less painful.

How long is tattoo pain?

If you follow the aftercare instructions precisely, generally, tattoo pain lasts for 3 – 7 days.

Bottom Line

You will hardly find a person who will tell you that the tattooing process is 100% pain-free. Depending on a few factors, getting inked becomes pain-free. 

It is essential to keep knowledge about pain, complications during a tattooing session. This way, you can keep yourself ready for the process.

Hopefully, you have learned a lot today about tattooing pain. Where did you wear a tattoo? Thanks for reading this guide.