[Edited: August 16, 2023]
Thinking about getting your digits tattooed? Finger tattoos are big – actually, most are pretty small – rather, popular choices among the trendy, the young and anyone looking for something a little different. Some finger tattoo ideas are original and unique; others, not so much.
Finger and hand tattoos are the latest crazes to hit the local fashion scene, with loads of trendy young people rushing to their nearest tattoo shops hoping to get their digits tattooed.
From the knuckle tattoos dressing an MMA fighter’s fists to the hardly-noticeable words running along the graceful pinky of your favourite Hollywood actress, celebs love finger tattoos, not to mention sports stars, artists and anyone with a high pain threshold.
While finger tattoos may seem an attractive prospect for your next piece of body art, like with any other tattoo, it’s important to give proper thought to what getting this type of tattoo means before going under the needle at your favourite tattoo shop.
Many tattoo shops have seen an influx of people requesting finger and hand tattoo pieces in the past year alone. Most find themselves giving the same advice to every excited young baggy-pants-wearing teen and twenty-something that walks through the door: Think before you ink.
So, in the interest of saving both the artist’s and yours’ time while helping you make an informed finger tattoo decision, we’ve picked five very important things to consider before getting that finger tattoo. But first, let’s look at what getting those phalanges tattooed is all about.
Finger tattoo basics
Finger tattoos are exactly that – tattoos that go on fingers. But fingers aren’t backs, arms, tummies, or legs. They’re complex body parts and are used more than any other surface. So why do people get them tattooed? Well, for many different reasons.
Some people choose to try their first tattoo out on their hand, while others have run out of space everywhere else. Some think finger tattoos look cool; others always want to see it. And some people simply enjoy watching a tattoo artist curse and struggle to nail the artwork.
But why is getting a finger tattoo not everyone’s first choice?
The problem with fingers
Fingers live in a different ballpark when it comes to tattooing. The skin covering the delicate fingerbones has evolved to take more punishment than, for example, the flesh covering your backside or legs. Fingers and hands are almost always in action; they bend, fold and twist constantly, and they’re not exactly the flattest surface on the body.
Many are sprouting hair, and they’re always exposed to the environment. From daily washing (including your hands, body and hair) to near-constant exposure to UV light, getting fatty foods, dirt and who-knows-what-else on them and using them all the time, fingers aren’t exactly the first place a tattoo artist would recommend getting tattooed.
Preparing to get a finger tattoo
So before committing to bad finger tattoo ideas that done-to-death
heartbeat line needled into your index, or if you’re thinking of getting a five-letter word printed onto your knuckles (please God, spell it right), here are a few things to consider before pulling into one of your local tattoo shops and asking for one.
What to Consider before getting your Finger Tattoo
Getting a finger tattoo comes with a few red flags. So before you dive in, here are some things to consider before getting one.
- Finger tattoos are hard to hide from bosses, parents & the judging world
Finger and hand tattoos can be tricky to hide – especially if you’re living somewhere gloves aren’t the year-round norm. Some people opt to cover their tattoos with makeup; others find more innovative ways to shield their art from the world. But why even bother getting tattooed if you're planning on hiding it?
Hands are almost always exposed to the outside world, and finger tattoos will usually be on display wherever you go. Yet, tattoo discrimination is a real thing.
Maybe you’re hoping to one day pursue a career in the corporate world, or perhaps you’d like to become a preschool teacher responsible for moulding impressionable young minds. Unfortunately, many jobs insist that you cover or hide your tattoos, especially in places where having a visible tattoo could impact your clients’ (or future boss’) perception of you.
It's important to understand that having a visible tattoo might affect your chances of landing that job. While this may seem stupid and unfair, it’s a fact of life and something you should consider before getting tattooed on a body part as difficult to hide as your hands.
Unlike arm and shoulder tattoos, finger tattoos are always visible, and if you don’t plan on working in an environment as relaxed and tattoo friendly as ours, you may want to spend some time rethinking that decision.
- Like innocence, finger tattoos fade
The skin on your hands is very thin and sensitive, and – we’ve already mentioned fingers constantly coming into contact with water, chemicals and abrasive materials – finger and hand tattoos tend to fade quickly.
Similarly, tattoos exposed to direct sunlight almost every day are likely to fade twice as fast as any other tattoo. People are lazy and less likely to regularly apply sunblock to their hands throughout the day too. And UV light equals fading – it’s just nature.
So, unless you’re planning on never going outside into the glorious sunlight, are a vampire or are happy to apply SFP 50 sunscreen to your hands day-in-day-out, maybe reconsider your next finger tattoo. Click here for our comprehensive guide on taking care of your tattoos.
- Finger tattoos hurt… a lot
All tattoos hurt, and some hurt more than others. But fingers have a special place on the pain spectrum. Jammed full of tendons and bone, boasting thin skin and more nerve endings per square inch than anywhere else on the body, asking a tattoo artist to jam dozens of needles into your flesh isn’t for the faint-hearted. Unless, of course, you’re a pain junkie.
While the same goes for other body surfaces where the skin’s thickness determines the pain level, for finger tattoos, it’s just different. Now, for some people, the pain of getting a tattoo etched alongside a knuckle or around that fingernail can be quite pleasurable and even ‘addictive’. If that’s one of the reasons you can’t seem to get enough of the good ol’ ink stain, then good for you.
For reference - check out this tattoo pain chart for the low down on where the body hurts most under the needle.
But, if you know you have a lower pain threshold than the average kid, maybe it’s a good idea to opt for a tattoo on another, less sensitive part of the body - like the fleshy part of your shoulder or your calf muscle. Because nobody wants to see an incomplete piece on your middle finger because you couldn’t handle it, not to mention the judging looks you’ll earn from most tattoo shops.
Plus, you’ll never get to flip off anyone again and not have them laugh at you.
- Medic! Healing a finger tattoo is hell
Some tattoos heal quickly; some take a while. But finger tattoos? They’re a real nightmare on the healing front. Think about it. A cut to the arm or belly can be cleaned, patched up and left to heal. But a cut to the hand is another issue. Besides putting your most important tool out of action for an extended period, even the simplest bump, knock or use can open the wound up all over again.
From soaping up in the shower to changing gears in traffic, we use our hands for practically everything. However, finger tattoos need a good few weeks to heal completely, and all those mundane day-to-day tasks are the reason why they take ages to heal. You won’t even know it when you’re applying pressure or using your fingers to do something. When healing takes time, the likelihood of infection increases too.
So bear in mind that you’ll need to be extra careful when it comes to thinking about your new hand and finger tattoo ideas. This means a tattoo aftercare and wrap healing routine, including protecting your tattoo from moisture, chemicals and any irritants as much as possible, keeping your hands away from anything that could damage the skin and keeping things covered for longer than usual.
On the plus side, that also means you don’t have to do the dishes for a while.
- Your tattoo artist just might say no (before popping you in the lip)
Tattoo Artists are patient people, usually. They can spend hundreds of hours creating, designing and tattooing the most complex works of art imaginable. But ask any artist worth their salt, and they’ll tell you they prefer nice flat, two-dimensional surfaces.
Da Vinci painted the last supper on a large wall in a church, Michaelangelo created his fresco on The sprawling Sistine Chapel ceiling and Van Gogh on flat canvases. Artists love flat. They despise curves, folds, wrinkles and joints. It makes life difficult and complicates the image. Customers visiting tattoo shops pay artists more for bigger pieces on backs, legs and arms. They have more room to perfect their work, and they won’t have to contend with the time-space continuum-like complexities that finger flesh presents.
So don’t be surprised to find a tattoo artist resistant to your totally awesome finger tattoo ideas. You’ll likely have your dreams shot down and dashed by a tattoo artist who flat-out refuses to do yet another god-damn finger tattoo.
In the tattoo universe, finger tattoos are like the One Direction of the music world – annoyingly trendy and pretty damn boring to look at. Aside from the general hate and disgust for cutesy finger tattoos, many tattoo artists (believe it or not) have their client's best interests at heart – and they’re not afraid to tell you that finger tattoos don’t trump other types. Plus, nobody wants to end up with a tattoo fail on their hand, either.
To finger tattoo or not to finger tattoo?
You’re probably not in the mood for a finger tattoo anymore, right? Well, that’s just how it is. That doesn’t mean don’t go and get one; it just means that they ain’t as great as you think they are.
Some people may want a finger tattoo for personal reasons. Others, because they’ve run out of room everywhere else. We just want you to know the truth about them before rushing out to get one.
Ultimately, it’s up to you whether to get a finger tattoo or not. But remember there are countless other options for the discerning tattoo recipient, not to mention various piercings and other body art creations that professional tattoo shops and studios would recommend over hand tattoos and finger tattoos.
Chat to us and we’ll give you the low down on your next tattoo – just don’t expect us to recommend getting one on your finger.