Knee Tattoos 101: What You Need to Know Before You Get Inked

Spiderweb Knee Tattoo @melmagicworld

Knee tattoos are on the more uncommon side of tattoo placement choices for a number of reasons. Namely, they’re painful, the aftercare process can be a challenge, and they tend to fade faster than other placements.

That being said, people opt for knee tattoos precisely because it’s a unique placement, and it’s often the final piece of a full-leg tattoo.

If you’re thinking about getting a knee tattoo, there are a few things you should know in order to reduce the pain and look after your ink properly so that you end up with a tattoo you’ll love for years. 

Chrysanthemum Knee Tattoo

What Are Knee Tattoos?

Knee tattoos are tattoos that are placed on or around the knee area. This includes the kneecap, the back of the knee or knee ditch, and the sides of the knee. 

“The rounded shape suits a certain type of design, which can be a standalone or incorporated into a large leg piece. The knee is also a workable and adaptable location to be tattooed. Large or small designs will work well on this area,”

Saved Tattoo
Patchwork Leg Sleeve Tattoo @kellyannshuman

Are Knee Tattoos Painful?

Yes! The knee is one of the most painful spots to get inked. This is because the skin around the knee is super thin and contains a lot of nerve endings. The thinner the skin, the less fat and muscle in the area, and the more nerve endings, the more getting inked here will hurt.

When the tattoo machine goes on the knee cap, due to the lack of cushioning, tattooees can experience uncomfortable vibrations and sharp, intense pain sensations. 

Getting a knee ditch tattoo isn’t any less painful,

“The area behind your knees has loose, stretchy skin with many nerve endings. These characteristics make this area very sensitive to tattoo needles,”


Plus, the knee itself is a complex structure! The network of bones, ligaments, and tendons can be a challenge to tattoo evenly. This can add even more discomfort to the tattoo experience. 

Moth Side Of The Knee Tattoo @raitattoos

Can You Make Knee Tattoos Less Painful? 

Getting a tattoo is painful – you’re essentially getting wounded. However, there are a few things you can do to make getting a tattoo more comfortable. 

Firstly, go to an experienced tattoo artist, preferably one who is well-versed in doing knee tattoos. For a knee tattoo, your artist will need to work around the curves of the placement.

Also, as the skin around the knee is thin, there’s a higher chance of tattoo blowout (where the ink travels away from where it’s supposed to be). Going to a professional tattooist reduces this risk significantly.

Below The Knee Tattoo @l0l0tate.ttt

You may think that having a drink to dull the senses and calm your nerves is the way to go, but it’s really not.

“Alcohol is a blood thinner, which means you will bleed more and the ink won’t take as easily. This, along with constant drunken movements, will most likely cause the tattoo process to take longer as well as agitate the skin and may even cause the piece to not come out as cleanly or well-saturated as it could,”

Inked Mag

Leading up to your tattoo appointment, drink lots of water. Hydrated skin equals a better tattoo experience as your skin will take the ink better. 

Lastly, bring on the calories! Getting tattooed is actually a tiring experience that causes a lot of energy to get burned up. Eat a large, calorie-rich meal before your tattoo appointment to increase your stamina.  

Plant Side Of The Knee Tattoo @lucidtattoos_canada

Is Knee Tattoo Aftercare Difficult?

Yes, the knee tattoo healing process is tough because it’s a flexible spot that bends a lot. The bending and the folding of the skin makes the aftercare process a challenge as every knee movement stretches the scabbing skin and ink.

For the first few days, you’re going to want to avoid moving your knee, so get your tattoo when you’re able to take some time off of work. 

Other than that, you’ll want to:

Clean The Tattoo Regularly 

Your tattoo artist will likely wrap your fresh ink in a bandage or plastic wrap to protect the tattoo from bacteria and prevent it from rubbing against your clothes. When you take it off, use mild soap to wash off the plasma, then wash your tattoo around three times a day until fully healed.

Always wash your hands before dealing with your tattoo and never use a washcloth – a washcloth is too rough and can displace the ink.

Wolf Knee Tattoo @natelauerman

Moisturize The Tattoo

After washing your knee tattoo, moisturize with a fragrance-free lotion to prevent drying out and to help your tattoo heal. 

Don’t Irritate Your Fresh Tattoo

There are a few things that can irritate your tattoo and prolong the healing process. Avoid swimming, hot tubs, sunlight, and tight pants that can rub against the tattoo. 

Above The Knee Butterfly Tattoo

Avoid The Gym

The back of the knee is a high sweat area. Intense sweating can prolong the healing process and cause infections.

“…when your body starts sweating excessively, the ability to trap the ink is hampered, potentially leading to blurry or discolored tattoos…it’s best to avoid excessive workouts after getting a fresh tat. And you may want to steer clear of gyms until your tattoo has healed as equipment can harbor bacteria,”

Stories & Ink

Be patient and follow your tattoo artist’s instructions. When you do, the healing process is quicker, you avoid infections, and the finished product looks amazing. 

Skeleton Hands Knee Tattoo @ruthredtattoo

Do Knee Tattoos Fade Fast? 

High-motion areas are prone to rapid fading, so knee tattoos do tend to fade faster than other areas. The constant bending and stretching of the skin around the knee can not only impact the healing process but also how your tattoo ages.

“…knees are constantly in motion and tattoos on this body part need thick lines and fully saturated color to stand the tests of time,”

Inked Mag

Besides opting for a bold tattoo design to avoid your knee tattoo from fading fast, there are a few other things you can do to keep your knee tattoo crisp:

  1. Follow aftercare instructions.
  2. Always put SPF on your healed tattoo to avoid the sun’s rays from aging your ink. 
  3. Make hydration and moisturizing part of your routine. Hydrated, moisturized skin holds tattoo ink better. 
Knee Ditch Tattoo @captainkattats

Despite their location on a joint that is constantly in motion, knee tattoos can be a unique and eye-catching body art choice.

Make sure you choose a skilled, professional tattooist – they’ll be able to help you design a tattoo that not only looks great on paper but can work well with this unconventional placement. 

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