6 Stick and Poke Ink Alternatives (And Why You Shouldn’t use Them)

Stick and poke tattoos have become super popular in the past few years. For those who don’t know, stick and poke tattoos are handmade, machine-free tattoos done using simply the tattoo needle or similar sharp object, as well as tattoo ink. They’re also referred to as hand-poked tattoos, and they can be done either by professional tattoo artists or someone similarly experienced in DIY-ing their tattoos.

These tattoos definitely look handmade, even when done by a professional, but they have a special place in the tattoo community nevertheless. Because of their appearance and the way in which they’ve done, stick and poke tattoos allow for certain creative expression and allow for the design to have some more character and uniqueness.

So, now that we have a clearer vision of what stick and poke tattoos are, it is time to discuss the main topic of this article, and that is ink alternatives for stick and poke tattoos. Sure enough, stick and poke tattoos are done using real tattoo ink, but is there a way to avoid tattoo ink and use something else, with the effect? We’ll discuss that in the following paragraphs so let’s keep on scrolling and reading!

Tattoo Ink Alternatives for Stick and Pokes Tattoos

Before we continue, we would like to simply emphasize that we DO NOT RECOMMEND you use any of the following tattoo ink alternatives for your hand-poked tattoos. People do use these ink alternatives, but the outcome of those uses varies and no one can truly say whether the ink alternatives can pose any harm to your skin and to your health.

Generally, some of the following ink alternatives are known to be toxic and potentially harmful in the sense of causing serious skin irritation, tissue damage as well as a skin infection. Moreover, hand-poking your own skin in an unsterilized environment, without professional training, can also lead to potential contamination and infection of the tattoo.

The best way to do a stick and poke tattoo is professional, with tattoo ink, and the following paragraphs will discuss the alternative just for information purposes.

1. India Ink

India ink is probably the most popular tattoo ink alternative for stick and poke style tattoos. The main reason for this is that Indian ink is super cheap, but it is also considered non-toxic, which is always a plus. Indian ink is affordable, accessible, and most importantly, it does the job. Will it do as good of a job as the regular tattoo ink? Definitely not, but it will be a completely suitable alternative.

We do have to point out that other people using Indian ink means you should use it as well because there are some downsides to this alternative. First of all, it fades; your stick and poke tattoo is done with India ink will not be permanent. There might be issues with the application as well, especially if it’s your first time doing stick and poke tattoos.

Note: If you’re looking to buy India ink, we’d recommend you check out the Speedball Super Black India Ink. It has an excellent payoff and, out of all India inks, it withstands fading to a certain degree.

2. Pen Ink

Using pen ink to do stick and poke tattoos has become super popular lately. This alternative is definitely for the DIY approach to tattooing. Do we think it’s a good idea to use pen ink and poke it into your skin? No, definitely not!

The reason for that is, first, pen ink can be super toxic for people, especially when poked into the skin. Moreover, pen ink isn’t produced in a sterile environment, so there is always the notion of potential contamination and infection of the ‘poking’ tattoo site.

And finally, by using pen ink to tattoo yourself, you’re risking serious tissue damage as well. Pen ink is often used in prison as an ink alternative, and there are cases where people have used it in other circumstances without any issues. But, we do NOT recommend this alternative regardless!

Read More: Can You Use Pen Ink For Stick-and-Poke Tattoo?

3. Sharpie Ink

Now, using a sharpie or sharpie ink to create tattoos, mostly non-permanent, has always been popular. No one can say that as kids they haven’t tried drawing something on their arms and hands using a sharpie marker. But, does sharpie ink work for stick and poke tattoos? Many claims that it does work and that the payoff is actually super decent.

But, would we recommend it as an alternative to regular ink? No, we would not. Sharpie ink, just like any of the alternatives inks (apart from India ink) is considered toxic to some extent, especially when pushed into the skin.

Moreover, if the toxicity doesn’t sound like an issue, which it should, there is also the issue of sharpie ink fading out rather quickly, the detail retention is terrible, and there isn’t really much to it other than the tattoo looks like it’s done, well, with a sharpie.

4. Pencil Graphite

Another prison popular ink alternative for tattoos is the trick of using pencil graphite. We do have to state right away that using graphite and pushing it into the skin is never a good idea. Sure, there is always the issue of the tattoo looking terrible, the color not showing up, or the fact that the skin rejects most of the graphite.

However, our major concern with this alternative is definitely the graphite toxicity when within the skin, as well as the fact that you can actually never get rid of it once under the skin. For example, laser tattoo removal doesn’t work if your tattoo is done with graphite; the laser cannot break down graphite and make it dissipate within skin tissue.

Once done with graphite, a tattoo can never be removed. So, before you go on and use your pencil for tattooing, bear this in mind. And of course, we’re far from recommending this ink alternative as well.

5. Food Coloring

This is one of the rarely used stick and poke ink alternatives, but we had to include it since more and more people seem to be trying it out. We don’t think that it is a good idea to use food coloring as ink for the following reasons; food coloring won’t stick around in the skin and show properly as a tattoo (since it will mostly get rejected by your body).

There is also the issue of detail retention, if any, like the fact that food coloring isn’t the safest thing for you overall. The problem is that there is no conclusive evidence showing the extent to which food dyes are dangerous or toxic, but medical professionals around the world urge their patients to stay away from food dyes, nevertheless.

There is proof that food coloring contains controversial ‘ingredients’, which has raised safety concerns in the medical community. Food dyes have been proved to have adverse effects on laboratory animals, and are generally inadequately tested.

So, should you go grab your favorite food coloring and start putting it into your skin? Definitely not! Do yourself and your body a favor and find a professional tattoo artist who will do your tattoo properly, in no time.

6. Eyeliner

And the final ink alternative on this list, which you most definitely shouldn’t use is the eyeliner. Makeup products seem to be the main alternative to regular ink, or even to the aforementioned alternative inks. Something about being accessible, pigmented, and ink-like makes people think that eyeliner is perfect for stick and poke tattoos. However, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

First of all, your body will reject the eyeliner from the skin, without a doubt. The rejection rate is super high, especially once the tattoo starts scabbing. So, once the body rejects most of the eyeliner, the final tattoo design will be completely messed up, so bear that in mind. The detail retention is pretty terrible as well, and there is always the issue of toxicity, despite the fact that eyeliners are considered safe for external use (no information regarding internal, within-the-skin use).

Final Thoughts

And that’s it; these are the potential alternatives for ink when it comes to stick and poke tattoos. Now, we have to, yet again, point out and emphasize that we DO NOT recommend you use any of the aforementioned ink alternatives. They can be potentially harmful to your health; there is the issue of toxicity, tissue damage, skin damage, irritation, and infection. Some of them can be hard to get rid of well, while others will be rejected by the body.

So, if you’re thinking about getting a stick and poke tattoo, we always recommend people get their tattoos done by a professional, even when it comes to hand-poked tattoos. Professionals work in a sterilized, controlled environment, with sterilized tools, and they KNOW what they’re doing. This minimizes any potential health risks and ensures your tattoo actually looks good and lasts you a lifetime.

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