I wanted to elaborate on the rose tattoo on my elbow that has been taking some time to complete. There are various parts of the body that most people tend to steer clear on. Whether its the arm pits, neck, palm, or elbow there is a reason you don’t see very many people with them.
Something I’ve noticed, when looking at most tattoo owner’s sleeves is that the design/flow of the sleeve avoids tattooing directly on the elbow.
I always wondered what it would be like to tattoo directly onto the elbow and aesthetically I didn’t like when elbows were avoided. If it is done correctly it generally looks okay, but a lot of peoples tattoos tend to look forced and blotchy and I wanted mine to have a flow and congruence within it’s style.
It didn’t take long for me to realize why most people tend avoid tattooing their elbows. It hurt more than any other body part I have had tattooed before. I like to think I have a high pain tolerance but there is a reason the photo above shows a half completed rose elbow tattoo. Yes, I do plan on finishing it but I must say that I was not expecting the difficulties that I encountered not only in getting the tattoo done but in the tattoo healing process after.
How Painful Is An Elbow Tattoo?
I think pain is different for everyone however when comparing body part pain across the board the elbow is the most painful of all stereotypical pain points I’ve had tattooed.
During the session your arm is straight to solidify a clean design and there is hardly any skin between the bone and the space being tattooed. Without having any tissue between the skin and bone you’re in for a painful experience. There is no way to relate it to something painful that you’ve experienced just take my word for it that it is quite uncomfortable.
Now there are a few things I learned throughout this process that I believe will provide you with quality information to take with you on your experience.
- Come mentally prepared – Hands down this was my first mistake, normally I’ll get excited and hyped up to add and develop my sleeve and my energy was just down and I wasn’t completely expecting to tattoo my elbow going into the session. Without the energy, my overall state was down and prone to negative thinking as the session went on and the pain got worse.
- Eat before your session – This goes hand in hand with preparation. You should always have had something to eat and drink prior to getting your tattoo. It’s quite easy to get light headed and dehydrated as the tattoo session goes on and the only thing worse than pain would be passing out and feeling nauseous. Remember to bring a bottle of water!
- Get comfortable – prior to your session make sure you are comfortable. Are you wearing the right clothes? Do you have headphones and a snack nearby? Making yourself comfortable and relaxed is the best thing you can do to get yourself mentally prepared.
- Breathe – When your tattoo session begins its pretty easy to forget about breathing and in fact start holding your breathe and tensing your body. Continue breathing! It’s free and it’ll do wonders for your state of mind and how you are feeling.
- Prepare for swelling – As the session went on the swelling continued. I have heard of people using ice to bring down some of the swelling experienced however I just held on and went without icing it.
- Take the tattoo healing process seriously – It’s not easy to stop movement of your arm for the few weeks after getting the tattoo. Be cautious and aware and do your best to provide the best aftercare possible.
How Do Your Elbows Look?
When I was going to get my rose tattoo on my elbow I had been advised by my tattoo artist that I needed to use lotion on them to ensure they weren’t dry. The reason your elbow can’t be dry is because it can interfere with the tattoo getting into the skin and appearing as intended.
What did I do?
It was fairly simple, my artist advised me to apply quality lotion to my elbow 2-3 times per day. Some days I would miss and some days I would over do it, the important thing was I was doing it mostly consistently over a period of about a month and half. By doing this my elbow was much softer and smoother. When it came time for the tattoo session I was good to go and the ink settled into the skin like any other body part I have had tattooed.
The tattoo aftercare for the rose tattoo on my elbow was more complicated that other areas I have had to heal. Because of the constant and habitual movement I do with my arms whether it’s taking a drink of water, picking something up, or driving my car the elbow never gets a chance to stop moving.
Consciously I was aware that I had to not bend my elbow as much as I normally do so I am sure that made a difference but there is no way to stop movement completely. I did my best to assist with the healing process and it turned out okay.
I did end my session early because I was feeling nauseous and didn’t feel like having my elbow drilled anymore. It’s not a big deal and we’ll pick it up next time.
There are generally two ways to learn, through your mistakes or others. Hopefully this prepares you for those painful tattoo sessions that are waiting for you in your future!