What is the best ink for stick and poke tattoos?
This is the burning question on the minds of DIY tattooers around the world.
We’re all going a little stir crazy at home.
But hand poke tattoos are a traditional art.
You can honor the practice by protecting your health while creating beautiful body art.
Let’s talk about the safest and smartest ink to use for DIY tattoos.
Will stick and poke tattoos fade quickly?
Some people think that hand poke tattoos are semi-permanent.
This is false. At least, it’s not true if you use high-quality tattoo ink.
On the other hand, if you use Sharpie ink, pen ink, or even India ink, your tattoo is likely to fade faster.
But please, don’t stab yourself with a needle and marker ink– that’s a recipe for bad results.
Take the time to make a DIY tattoo you’re proud to show off. Use real tattoo ink for stick and poke art.
How to get the best results with stick and poke tattoos
You can spend time looking for attractive stick and poke tattoo ideas, but you need more than inspiration.
It’s a great idea to map out your drawing first, then use a stencil to transfer it to the skin.
At a minimum, you’ll need a needle, preferably a sterile tattoo needle.
You can also get a needle holder that resembles a pen. It makes it much easier to control (1).
Also, you’ll want tattoo ink. Get the kind professionals use. Check the reviews below for suggestions.
Next, keep things sanitary, even if you’re only working on yourself. Pour the ink into a sterile container, or use disposable ink cups made for tattoo artists.
Clean and shave the skin. While you’re working, wiping excess ink off with green soap can help prevent infection and promote healing.
Avoid blowouts by not pressing too deep and causing bleeding.
Remember, stick and poke art will take much longer than designs done with tattoo irons. Even small images require patience.
Finally, treat the new tattoo with care. Keep it clean and protected so that it heals quickly.
How to choose the best tattoo ink for stick n’ poke tattoos
The most popular inks are pre-dispersed and ready to use. Give them a good long shake before you pour them.
Tattoo inks are made up of a pigment and a carrier.
The pigments are vegetable, metal, or plastic-based (2).
Meanwhile, the carrier might be distilled water, alcohol, glycerine, propylene glycol, or witch hazel. The last ingredient is kind to the skin as it helps reduce redness and bleeding (3).
It’s common to do stick and poke tattoos with black ink, but there’s no reason why you can’t use other colors if you wish.
In summary, I’d recommend going with reputable ink manufacturers like the ones in the reviews below.
Best Ink for Stick and Poke
MOM’S Tattoo Ink – Black Onyx
Mom’s Black Onyx is based on carbon black, glycerin, and water. Therefore, it’s about as non-toxic as tattoo ink can be.
It’s made in the USA, which is an indicator that it’s manufactured according to strict standards. And fortunately, it’s an economical choice.
Each batch is consistently the same texture and color every time you purchase it.
Artists have commented that the highly pigmented color stays true after healing.
But notice that some reviewers say the color looks grayer than black in dark skin.
- Highly pigmented
- Color remains vibrant after healing
- Made in the USA
- Black Onyx may not be black enough to stand out on dark skin
Dynamic Black Tattoo Lining Tribal Shading Ink
If you want a deep black that’s fade-resistant, Dynamic’s ink is the go-to choice. Artists around the world depend on it.
It’s thinner than some brands as it’s based on isopropyl alcohol, carbon black, and acrylic resin. But the thin consistency is ideal for fine lines.
On the other hand, not everyone wants to put plastic (i.e., acrylic resin) under their skin.
This ink is widely used for lining, tribal work, and shading, as well as portraits. That’s because it blends well with washes.
- Deep black color that resists fading
- Trusted brand used by professional artists
- Thin texture mixes well for washes
- Thin consistency flows well from a tattoo iron but may be challenging to use for stick and poke
- Contains acrylic resin and alcohol which could irritate the skin
Intenze True Black Tattoo Ink
Those in the know love Intenze’s True Black for stick and poke tattoos. Let me tell you why this may be the best choice for you.
First, it’s based on non-toxic ingredients like carbon black, distilled water, glycerin, and witch hazel. There are two benefits to this blend.
Not only does it resist drying out while working on a big project, but it’s also kind to the skin. The witch hazel calms redness and swelling.
Also, this is a vegan-friendly formula. (Contrary to some reviews, glycerin can also come from vegetal sources).
Second, the ink is sterilized under control laboratory conditions, then packaged in a tamper-proof bottle. All you need to do to prevent infection is to use a sterile needle and keep your workspace and the skin clean.
Finally, the rich black color is perfect for both lining and shading.
- Vibrant black color works well for shading and lining
- Won’t dry out while you’re working
- Sterile ink made with non-toxic ingredients that reduce irritation
- Purchase only authentic Intenze ink from a reputable source or the quality won’t be the same
Bloodline Tattoo Ink All Purpose Black
Bloodline’s All-Purpose Black ink is thick.
It’s a blend of organic pigment, sterile water, propylene glycol, and alcohol.
For lining with an iron, they recommend cutting it down 3 parts ink to 1 part witch hazel or distilled water. (Yes, you can use Listerine, too.)
Therefore, your mileage may vary if you use it to create fine lines for stick and poke.
If your heart is set on this ink, please try it out on practice skin first. Once you get a feel for the consistency, you can decide whether to dilute it.
Users say that the ink stays vibrant and fade-free for years to come.
- Organic pigment
- Fade-free color stays sharp
- Can be cut with witch hazel, water, or Listerine
- Thick consistency, may need to be diluted
Tattoo Ink – BLACK TRIBAL – VIKING INK USA
Viking Ink is made in the USA, but it also meets European standards for safety and purity.
The Black Tribal is a vegan color that won’t fade to green or blue like some black inks do.
The ultra-fine milled pigment is combined with diluents like witch hazel and aloe vera. These carriers soothe the skin to prevent swelling, bleeding, and inflammation.
The thin texture is perfect for filling large areas.
Users say that this shade of black isn’t the deepest they’ve ever seen, but it goes easy into the skin.
- Diluents prevent inflammation
- Enters the skin easily
- Color won’t fade to green or blue
- Thin consistency, so take care to avoid blowouts
Kuro Sumi Tattoo Ink, Outlining
Don’t be fooled by the brown label – it indicates that this is an authentic Kuro Sumi ink bottle. (Black and white labels are fakes.)
This outlining ink is a deep black shade that resists fading for years.
It’s vegan and organic, plus it’s made in the USA.
Although more costly than some brands, many artists swear by Kuro Sumi and refuse to use anything else.
One artist who’s done stick and poke tattoos for years say that it’s the only ink they use for it. Moreover, they’ve never had to do touch-ups if it wasn’t on the hands.
- Used by professionals worldwide
- Made in the USA with organic and vegan ingredients
- Dark color is very resistant to fading
- Be careful to avoid fake inks as this brand is frequently copied
Starbrite Sterilized Tattoo Ink Jet Black Outliner
Starbrite ink is made in Connecticut, then sterilized and tested for safety and quality.
The vegan-friendly formula is free of nickel and iron to make it safer for sensitive skin.
Users say that this outliner ink may not be the blackest available, but offers good value for the price.
Be careful with the unique bottle design. Some users say that it’s prone to leaking and could lead to contamination of the ink inside.
- Sterile ink that’s free of iron and nickel
- Made in the USA
- Quirky bottle design could leak
- Not the blackest black
World Famous Tattoo Ink – Pitch Black
Have you ever gotten to the bottom of the ink bottle without realizing it? It’s no fun to run out of tattoo ink before you finish the piece.
World Famous ink comes in a transparent bottle. The lid is tamper-proof and the label is waterproof.
The ink has been thoroughly sterilized with gamma rays.
Furthermore, it’s vegan and cruelty-free.
Although made in America, it also meets European standards for quality.
Although the Pitch Black color is bold, a minority of reviewers doing stick and poke say that it only lasts as long as India ink in the skin.
- Made in the USA
- Sterilized and packaged in a tamper-proof bottle
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- Might not resist fading when used for stick and poke
Stigma Tattoo Ink (Dark Black) TI952-4OZ-D
Stigma is a new tattoo ink brand that manufactures in the USA. They sterilize their products with gamma rays.
The carriers for the pigment include water, glycerin, and witch hazel. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find their website or MSDS sheets online.
The highly-pigmented Dark Black color is good for lining and shading, as well as stick and poke. Users say that the color takes well.
Moreover, they sell directly through Amazon and offer a satisfaction guarantee.
- Non-toxic carriers like water and witch hazel reduce skin irritation
- Dark pigment is suitable for stick and poke
- Comes with the offer of a refund if you’re not satisfied
- New brand with no online presence
Allegory Premium Lining & Shading Tattoo Ink Blak
The BLAK ink is classified as non-hazardous on its safety data sheet. It lists carbon black, water, and isopropyl alcohol as ingredients. As such, it’s vegan.
It’s also 100% made in the USA.
Of course, you really want to know if it’s a good ink for stick and poke.
It turns out that the silky texture packs into the skin like butter. If you use it with a tattoo iron, it’s ideal for lining and shading.
Inside the bottle is a glass marble so that when you shake it, the ink comes out smooth.
Artists say that tattoos done with this ink stay looking fresh and sharp long after they heal.
But a few reviewers said that it caused an adverse skin reaction.
- Smooth texture, easy to use
- Colorfast and vibrant
- Vegan and made in the USA
- May cause an allergic reaction
Nighthawk Black Tattoo Ink — Element Tattoo Supply
One highlight of this black ink is that it plays well with other brands. You can mix it with other pigments.
It was created in California by a professional tattoo artist. The deep black is suitable for tribal tats, outlining, and shading.
It’s also excellent as a standalone color for stick and poke.
The blend of natural and organic ingredients promotes quick healing.
There are zero solvents or acrylic in it. It’s a formula that protects the skin and slows down drying time, which is superb for completing large pieces.
Choose from 1, 2, 4, or 8-ounce bottles.
- Non-toxic, non-irritating ink
- No solvents or acrylic in the bottle
- Deep black color suitable for stick and poke, outlining, and tribal tats
- Slow dry time, which is good for beginners or large images
- Available in a variety of sizes
- Thin consistency may be difficult for beginners
Dragonhawk Hand Poke and Stick Tattoo Pen
Use this 3-D-printed pen to hold the tattoo needle for stick and poke.
It meets FDA guidelines for Skin Surface Devices.
Artists love it as it makes hand poke tattoos feel like drawing with a pen.
Cosco Tincture of Green Soap
Keep things safe and sanitary when you cleanse your tools and skin with green soap.
It’s excellent for wiping off excess ink and blood while you work. The formula helps minimize swelling and bleeding.
This tincture of green soap is made with lavender oil and glycerin, plus it’s biodegradable.
Dilute it with 9 parts water for cleaning and applying stencils.
Stick and poke tattoos are easier to do when you use real tattoo ink.
They remain fresh, vibrant, and beautiful for longer.
Go with the ink used by experienced artists when you do hand poke tattoos.
1. https://www.glamour.com/story/guide-to-stick-and-poke-tattoos by Sarah Wu, published April 23, 2020, accessed August 17, 2020
2. https://www.thoughtco.com/tattoo-ink-chemistry-606170 by AnneMarie Helmenstine, Ph.D, published November 4, 2019, accessed August 17, 2020
3. https://www.thoughtco.com/tattoo-ink-carrier-chemistry-608403 by AnneMarie Helmenstine, Ph.D, published February 8, 2020, accessed August 17, 2020