The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Hand Tattoo

Updated 03/28/19
Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd/Getty Images

Hand and foot tattooing is a fine art—so fine, in fact, that many tattoo artists simply refuse to do hand and foot tattoos. These spots pose obvious challenges due to frequent use during the healing process. Plus, hands are uneven surfaces with delicate skin and bone structures, which makes tattooing them much more difficult than other body areas, even for the experienced tattooist.

Despite the difficulties, hand tattoos remain quite popular. Novelty and trendy design ideas such as a fingertip mustache or a Rihanna-inspired "Shhh..." on the index finger look fresh and expressive. Without proper knowledge of the challenges and aftercare of hand tattoos, however, a tattoo artist's final results can be poor and permanent.

What You Need to Know About Hand Tattoos

First, you should never decide hastily to tattoo this area. Ample thought, preparation, and a skilled artist are all necessities if you opt for a hand tattoo, along with consideration of your future. Many employers frown upon visible tattoos in the workplace; the U.S. military even has a ban on hand tattoos. Enlisting in the services or finding work in a career you love may prove difficult if not impossible with hand tattoos. Be sure to think long-term when considering tattoos and other body modifications.

Once you've decided to get a hand tattoo, don't just stumble into the first tattoo parlor you see on a whim. You need to plan how you'll function for a few days with limited hand capabilities. Taking a few days off from work or school gives your hand time to heal adequately and minimizes the risk of infection and pain.


Be aware that, after your hand tattoo is healed, you might need to go back and have it retouched. Artists usually won't retouch hand tattoos for free or assume any responsibility for wear and fading, especially in this location.

In fact, your tattoo may need to be touched up several times during the first year before it looks its best. How often depends on how well the tattoo heals the first time, along with the strength of the design and its exposure to wear and the elements. Over the lifetime of your hand tattoo, expect several more touchups to maintain the beauty of your body art. For these reasons, you'll need to factor tattoo maintenance into your budget.

Hand Tattoo Design Ideas

Design ideas for hand tattoos are endless. Some people opt for traditional, old-school designs such as sparrows. Others select fluid or organic tattoos that create effects upon movement, such as dots or waves. These types of tattoos are very artful and can have a spiritual theme to them.

Some people opt for simple finger tattoos. Wedding bands, words, and phrases are small but can be significant to the wearer. Although finger tattoos are now quite trendy, the sides of the fingers and the palms of the hand are very difficult to tattoo effectively. Your small expression of "Faith" on your palm could very easily fade within a few weeks, just from daily use and chores. The top of the hand or the knuckles are much better sites to consider if you're set on a finger tattoo.

Try Temporary Tattoos

If you're really serious about getting a hand tattoo, try temporary henna body painting just for fun; it's a no-commitment way to see what you like and where. Mehndi symbols are popular designs for henna tattoos; they represent the inner and outer sun and are said to awaken the spirit. Floral designs are also popular as dainty, unique options that might have some sentimental meaning for you. In addition to henna, you also can experiment with temporary water-based tattoos to play around with placement and design ideas.

Final Considerations

Following the face, hands are the second most visible place to tattoo. That means your choice of a tattoo artist is crucial. He or she should have a great deal of experience, confidence, and knowledge in tattooing the hand and be aware of the additional healing challenges and touch-ups you'll need. Ask friends and family for recommendations, and check reviews when available. Look at the artist's portfolio and ask to see photos of fully healed hand tattoos. Lastly, think about choosing a meaningful tattoo design.

Your hands serve as a greeting to the world, so think about what you want them to say.

Related Stories