Pros And Cons Of Dotwork Tattoos

Flowers And Bear Dotwork Tattoo @siscotattoos

Dotwork is a style of tattoos made up of – yes, you guessed it – dots. Small dots are tattooed together to create a design. This is a step away from other styles of tattoos that are made with bold lines, saturated colors, and solid shadings. 

Dotwork tattoos can be completely created with dots, or this style can be incorporated as shading in a different style of tattoo. 

From mandalas and small moon tattoos, to larger full sleeve tattoos, there are many types of designs that can be made in the dotwork style. 

Sun And Moon Dotwork Tattoo

As with every style and placement of tattoo, there are pros and cons to dotwork tattoos. Keep reading to gain a better understanding of dotwork tattoos and what you can expect from the tattoo experience compared with solid tattoos.

First off, you can get a dotwork tattoo done with a tattoo machine or via stick and poke. 

Penguin Dotwork Tattoo @pinarleclair

Machine Done Vs Stick And Poke Dotwork Tattoos

Stick and poke, also known as hand poking technique, can be seen as a more personal and traditional style of tattooing. It’s done with a needle attached to a grip and the artist manually inserts the ink into the skin.

A tattoo machine has a small motor that moves the needle up and down fast to add the ink to the skin. 

Single Needle Flower Tattoo @mesh.mashed

One of the big differences between these two methods is time. Stick and Poke Tattoo explains,

“Stick and poke tattoos take considerably more time than machine tattoos, regardless of the complexity of the design. A tattoo that would take 15 minutes with a machine will take at least double or triple that with the stick and poke technique.”

Also, a stick and poke tattoo artist may have to go over the tattoo a few times to get the same level of saturation as a machine done tattoo. 

Stick and poke dotwork tattoos have a long history. 

Hand Poked Tiny Tattoo @saaehae

For more about Hand Poked Tattoos, click here.

The History Of Dotwork Tattoos

The popularity of dotwork tattoos may have ramped up in recent years, but there is nothing new about this style. 

Tattoos done with dots have been around for thousands of years. Mummies have been found in ancient Egypt with dotwork tattoos,

“The mummified remains of women in Egypt shows tattoos dating back to 2000 B.C. In addition, engraved and painted figures in tomb reliefs and small carved figurines depicting women with tattoos date back to 4000-3500 B.C. In both cases, the tattoos were a series of dots, often applied like a protective net across a woman’s abdomen,”

The Conversation

For more about Egyptian Tattoos, click here.

Dotwork Mandala Tattoo @simetricatattoo

Tattoos can date back even further with Ötzi the prehistoric iceman. He was found with 61 tattoos, including lines and dots. 

The Smithsonian Magazine points out that the random placements of these tattoos could mean that the designs weren’t done for artistic reasons, but instead for medical,

“…the distribution of the tattooed dots and small crosses on his lower spine and right knee and ankle joints correspond to areas of strain-induced degeneration, with the suggestion that they may have been applied to alleviate joint pain and were therefore essentially therapeutic.”

Sword And Butterfly Dotwork Tattoo @g.bul_tattoo

Pros Of Dotwork Tattoos

Less Pain

One of the biggest pros of dotwork tattoos to a lot of people is that it tends to hurt less.

“The soft shading and light dotting are actually considered to be one of the least painful tattoo techniques…What most people mention when describing a dotwork tattoo is that the pain is very localized. Meaning, you feel it where the dot is being done, whereas, with regular tattoos, the pain will usually radiate throughout the area,”

Authority Tattoo
Dotwork Snake Sternum Tattoo @nikitattooing

Of course, another huge factor when it comes to tattoo pain is where you get your tattoo. Areas with thin skin and not a lot of muscle and fat (ribs, ankle, spin, hips) tend to be more painful tattoo placements compared to the forearm and bicep, for example. 

Dotwork Works Well With Sacred Geometry Tattoos

Sacred geometry is the study of the underlying patterns that are found in nature, and makes for incredible inspiration for body art. 

Sacred geometry tattoos, such as mandalas, are particularly eye-catching in the dotwork style, as Vivid Ink Tattoos explains,

“Dotwork can be applied to construct intricate patterns, shading, or entire motives. Often it is used to make ornate mandalas or repetitive symbols known as sacred geometry. The latter is usually made up by the ‘flower of life’ symbol, chambered nautilus cells or mathematical patterns, and it lends itself very well to the meditative repetition of dotworking.”

For more about Geometric Tattoos, click here

Geometric Tattoo @allesink

Cons Of Dotwork Tattoos

They Take More Time

Dotwork tattoos can take longer to do compared with tattoos that are made up with large blocks of color and solid lines. This is because the dotwork tattoo artist needs to make a ton of tiny dots to create the image – way more time consuming compared to just doing straight lines or full shadings. 

This can get uncomfortable. Even if the process isn’t that painful, you should still ask for breaks if the discomfort gets too much. You don’t want squirming to interfere with the process. 


One of the biggest factors that contributes to the cost of a tattoo is time. The longer a tattoo takes, the more it will cost. So, dotwork tattoos can be more on the expensive side of the scale. 

Another piece of the tattoo monetary puzzle is the detail involved in your design – the more intricate, the more it will probably cost. 

Foot Tattoo @bortoli13

When it comes to the longevity of your tattoo, so much depends on how you look after your new ink. Dotwork tattoo aftercare is the same as most other tattoo styles: Don’t scratch your fresh tattoo, wash it regularly (and wash your hands before touching your tattoo), keep it out of the sun, and moisturize it often. 

One of the best things you can do when getting a tattoo is to choose a tattoo artist that is skilled in the style you want. Dotwork tattoos require immense patience and attention to detail. Take your time, look through portfolios, and go with a tattoo artist who has dotwork experience.

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