Placement and Pain

Written by IYNK

So you have found the design that perfectly reflects who you are, and how you are feeling at this time of your life… but where do you place it on your body, and what size should it be?

The same tattoo may have meanings if you place it on your chest versus your leg, or could have a different impact if placed on your neck or your forearm or bicep. Size is also important: a small tattoo could get lost on an empty back, surrounded by negative space. Letterings or quotes can look cramped if too small, and a minimal tattoo could seem stretched and unnatural if too big.

Luckily, we have come up with a little guide to help you decide what is best for your ink, we have also included a handy little pain rating, so there should be no nasty surprises.

Neck & Face

This tattoo will visible at all times. A tattoo placed anywhere from the neck up indicates bravery and that you’re not afraid of risk. You know people are going to see your tattoos and maybe you enjoy that thought. You might assume that some of those people will judge you for your tattoo choices, but that doesn’t bother you. Face tattoos are traditionally very simple in design, whereas the neck would be more detailed, geometric patterns, lettering, and realistic tattoos all look great here.

Pain rating: Both 7. The face is not as painful as some people think, the detail and position on the face will cause a difference in pain. The front of the neck is the most sensitive part and healing on the neck will be a bit more uncomfortable than usual due to the likelihood of rubbing and brushing against the tattoo.


The collarbone is a great place to put a small tattoo that you want to be seen. This area tends to be very feminine, deliberately directing the eye to a sensual part of the female body.

Pain rating: 8. The collarbone is a sensitive area to get a tattoo due to the lack of fatty tissues. Collarbone tattoos, depending on where exactly you get them, can also be directly on the bone, which can cause some discomfort.

Chest & Ribs

A tattoo on your chest could celebrate your love for someone or something that’s important to you. Since the chest is close to the heart, tattoos placed here honor that love. Ribs are an extremely popular place to get a tattoo, like the chest, a piece here is deeply sentimental and personal. Yes, they can be hidden, but rather than reflecting a desire for safety, they more closely reflect a desire for privacy.

Pain rating: Chest 6. Typically, this area is more painful for a man as there is less padding than a woman. Rib 9. The rib is a notoriously painful place to get a tattoo, mostly due to the lack of fat separating the needle and the bone. Painful, but well worth the soreness.


Tattoos placed on, above, or near the breast are great for women who want a peek-a-boo effect and a symbol of attractiveness. A Sternum tattoo is inked on the breastbone for men and often follows the curve underneath of the breast for women to create such a feminine and charming look. A mandala would look awesome here.

Pain rating: 7. Quite painful, with a very uncomfortable healing process.

Upper arm & thighs

Individuals who get very personal tattoos tend to choose similar locations to those frequented by cautious first-timers. These areas are easily hidden, yes, but rather than reflecting a desire for safety in this case, they more closely reflect a desire for privacy. The surface area of these pieces can be large so the piece can be far more creative and intricate than in other places. A tattoo very high up the thigh can be very sexualized and personal, often for the benefit of the recipient’s partner.

Pain rating: 4. Minimal pain, great for first-timers wanting to experience the sensation of getting a tattoo. The thigh inner thigh can creep to a 7 in certain places due to some major nerves in the leg.


A very popular place for first-timers. A tattoo here generally indicates strength or toughness. This tattoo is highly visible so a great place to show off your favorite piece.

Pain rating: 3. One of the least painful places to get a tattoo.


A stomach tattoo tells the world that you’re confident and that you embrace your body. A tattoo here will gain attention, so people tend to make them as original as possible. One thing to remember is that your body shape will change here as you age or carry a child. Strait, vertical lines will give the perception of length (and flatness).

Pain rating: 5. A lot of padding and no bones make this a relatively comfortable place to get a tattoo.


Backs are the largest canvas for an artist, so if you are looking for a huge, intricate piece, look no further. A back tattoo could give the impression that a person is mysterious or somewhat shy. Some people also choose to get a tattoo on their backs at the ending of phases in their lives or relationships to symbolize that they have put these parts of their lives behind them. Spiritual tattoos are commonly seen on the top of the back/back of the shoulder blade, so are a great place for some symbology. A shout out to the “tramp stamp”. This tattoo has a bad rep in today’s society, but done properly a tattoo here is sexy and alluring.

Pain rating: Spine 9, extremely painful, no fat, and plenty of nerve endings. The rest of the back is a 5-6 depending on the area.


Calf tattoos tend to be a little bit more common among men than women, but among women, it's definitely catching on. Calf tattoos are often used by the most sporting among us, as athletes usually wear shorts. Long vertical tattoos look great here.

Pain rating: 6. Not the worse until you venture on to the shin or up to behind the knee.

Wrist, Ankle & Finger

If you decide to get a tattoo in one of these places, you are basically having a permanent accessory. You are keen on visual representations of the self, likely into fashion and trends. Wrist tattoos can be very meaningful, this is a sensitive area and therefore people often get tattoos here are very thoughtful and intimate.

Pain Rating: 9. These are very delicate places to tattoo and therefore are likely to cause a fair bit of pain.

Honorable mentions to hands, feet & ears.

These areas are less common places to get tattoos but can look great with the right designs. A foot tattoo typically represents the more introverted among us, whereas the hand is usually reserved for the more rebellious characters. Because the ears are responsible for hearing, many tattoo artists use this space in order to commemorate music, animals, and people they hold dear. Tattoos in these places can be painful due to lack of the lack of fat and closeness of needle to the bone.

These are just some examples of tattoo meanings. Sometimes your tattoo placement doesn’t say anything about you. If you’re covered in tattoos, for example, you’ll probably put a new design wherever it fits.

Check out our app for more placement inspo and email us on [email protected] if you have any questions about where to put your tattoo.