What You Need To Know Before Getting Inked: Ditch Tattoos

Floral Elbow Ditch Tattoo @jay_derita_tattoos

There are so many places on your body to get a tattoo. Gone are the days where the most common places are the bicep, shoulder, and lower back. You can get practically any part of your body tattooed, including the inside of your mouth (inner lip tattoos are popular) and on your eyeball.

Other tattoo placements that help create distinctive designs are ditches. 

Ditch tattoos are often seen as the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to full sleeve tattoos and full leg tattoos. This tattoo placement is located on the inside of the elbow and behind the knee – the crease that bends when you move your knee or elbow.

However, this tattoo placement is not only for full sleeves, they can work as interesting stand alone designs, too. 

Elbow Ditch Tattoo @27sins

Before booking your appointment for a ditch tattoo, there are a few things you should know. They can cost more than other placement options, the aftercare process is no easy ride, and they do tend to be one of the most painful locations to get tattooed. 

Let’s find out more. 

What Are Ditch Tattoos?

These are tattoos created on the inner part of the elbows and back of the knees. The body naturally dips down in these areas, hence the name “ditch” tattoo. 

These areas come with their own unique challenges when it comes to getting tattoos here. Because they are tricky spots, pay the extra cost and go to a tattooist that is well-versed in ditch tattoos.

Due to the thin skin of the inner elbow and back of the knee, fine lines can blow out – this is when a tattoo artist injects ink too deeply into your skin beyond the top layer and into the fat below. This creates a distorted image. 

Eye And Spider Web Tattoo @gerfer_tattoo

“Fine line work, arguably the trendiest style of art for the ditch, is notorious for blowing out on the skin, meaning the lines were done too deeply and look blurry or fuzzy look over time,”

Ink Box

Go to a professional – you will definitely be happy you did in the long run. 

Are Ditch Tattoos Painful?

When it comes to tattoo pain, a good rule of thumb to follow is that the thinner the skin and closer to the bone or ligaments, the more getting a tattoo in this placement will hurt. 

Moth Ditch Tattoo @olive_ink_tattoo

The inside of the elbow and the back of the knee are super sensitive areas because of the thin skin, nerves, and ligament exposure.  

“The backs of the knees hurt a lot, largely because the skin there is soft and flexible without a muscle layer beneath the skin,”


About the inner elbow, Authority Tattoo explains,

“The inner part of the elbow is a pathway for two of the three arm nerves; unfortunately, the ditch provides about the least amount of padding. This means there could be some contact between the needle and either or both of these nerves, but only if the artist isn’t very experienced.”

A tattoo on these nerves can send an intense amount of pain down the rest of the body.

Behind The Knee Tattoo @darkcornerstattoo

Luckily, there are ways to lessen the pain of getting a ditch tattoo:

  1. Get tattooed by a licensed, experienced artist.
  2. Don’t get a tattoo when you are sick, as your body will be more sensitive. 
  3. Ask your tattooist for a numbing cream.
  4. Eat a healthy meal before your tattoo and bring snacks with you. 
  5. Stay hydrated – hydrated skin makes for a better canvas. 
  6. If the pain gets too much, take a break. 
  7. Get a good night’s sleep before your tattoo appointment. 
  8. Avoid alcohol, as it heightens pain sensitivity, dehydrates you, and thins your blood which results in a longer tattoo process.
Witch Ditch Tattoo @gigi_tats

How Much Do Ditch Tattoos Cost?

As the inner elbow and back of the knee placements come with a unique set of challenges, ditch tattoos can cost more compared with other placement choices. 

Also, the higher the skill level of your tattoo artist, generally the higher the price tag. And, you want a tattoo artist skilled in ditch tattoos. 

However, there is no industry set standard when it comes to tattoo pricing, so have a conversation with your chosen tattooist to find out exactly what your tattoo will cost. 

Sun Ditch Tattoo @house.o.pain

It is not just the placement that affects the cost of a tattoo, but also the level of detail involved in the design and the size of the design, too. 

Ulyana Nesheva, the owner and founder of 6:19 Tattoo Studio in Kyiv, Ukraine, explained to Byrdie,

“…a tattoo’s cost depends on the size, complexity of the design, and demand for the artist who is creating it. It’s hard to identify based on different regions of the world, but my minimum charge for this kind of tattoo starts at $400.”

What Is The Aftercare Process Like For A Ditch Tattoo?

Here’s the thing about tattoos: The design is only as good as the aftercare when everything has healed. This means that to end up with a tattoo that is crisp and clear after it is finished healing, you have to take care of your fresh ink. 

Behind The Knee Split Mandala And Flowers Tattoo @skwiddsinktattoo

Ditch tattoos are particularly tricky when it comes to the aftercare process, though, because the ditch areas are prone to moving often. Think about it: How often do you bend your elbows and knees? You can’t count, it happens all the time. 

The inner elbow and behind the knee tattoos generally take longer to heal than flat canvases (such as the forearm and thigh). It can be challenging, but for around 36 hours after you get your tattoo, try and keep your arm or leg as straight as possible. 

To help your tattoo heal quicker, Jes Valentine, owner and resident artist at Haven Studio in Brooklyn, recommended to Inside Out to not soak your tattoo,

“Soaking the wound lengthens the healing process, exposes you to infection – especially if you’re swimming in a public pool or outdoor body of water – and tends to leave the tattoo sticky which can make it easier to ruin.”

Color Eye Tattoo @adrianevans528

Of course, no one is saying you should skip out on hygiene. It’s essential to wash your tattoo regularly with a gentle soap. Take showers, but not long ones. When drying yourself, pat your tattoo dry instead of rubbing it. Rubbing your tattoo can disrupt the ink especially when you are in the scabbing and peeling phases. 

And, keep your tattoo moisturized. You will know your tattoo is completely healed when it has gone back to a similar texture as your surrounding skin.

New York Magazine has put together a list of tattoo artist recommended products to help ​​preserve and protect tattoos. 

Flower Ditch Tattoo @gingerinkbpcl

How Long Do Ditch Tattoos Last?

There are certain parts of the body that are the best when it comes to tattoo longevity, and there are some that tend to not hold tattoos well. 

Two aspects that impact how your tattoo fades over time are crease lines and areas that rub against clothing. 

Leo Palomino, a tattoo artist at Atomic Tattoos in Florida, said to Bustle about tattoos along crease lines of the body.

“These spots are frequently stretching,”

“The constant pulling of the skin causes cracking of the tattoo, slowing the healing process.” 

Once the tattoo is fully healed, you are not out of the woods just yet. The constant movement of these areas of the body can cause a tattoo to warp. 

Areas that consistently rub against other body parts or against clothing also tend to fade quicker. 

All Seeing Eye Ditch Tattoo @lemirande

Another big player when it comes to tattoo longevity is the sun. 

“UVA rays tend to penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays, causing more long-lasting damage. These rays can cause skin to age prematurely, leading to wrinkles and sagging over tattooed areas,”


UVB rays burn the skin, which is never good, but especially when you have a new tattoo. A fresh tattoo is basically a wound, and getting a sunburn over your new ink will cause your tattoo to take longer to heal. 

The best ways to prevent sun damage so that your tattoo stays crisper for longer is to lather on the sunscreen whenever your tattoo is exposed, and to simply cover up your tattoo. 

Although all tattoo inks do fade over time, color ink and pastel shades do tend to fade faster than black ink. 

Bees And Flowers Ditch Tattoos @tattsmin

Why Get A Ditch Tattoo?

A sleeve tattoo can take up your whole arm. If you want a full sleeve, you can’t avoid getting a ditch tattoo. Leaving out the inner elbow can mean a floating blank space that can pull attention from the full sleeve theme. 

It’s the same for a full leg design – you’ve got to get a ditch tattoo if you want full coverage. 

Mandala Sleeve Tattoo @kenny7tattoo

However, you don’t need a full sleeve in order to get a ditch tattoo – they can be distinctive placements for a single piece of inked art. The movement of the elbow or knee can have an interesting effect on your tattoo design. 

What Designs Work Well As Ditch Tattoos?

If you want an individual ditch tattoo, there are a variety of tattoo designs that work well in this placement:

Below The Ditch Tattoo

You don’t need to go right into the crease if you don’t want to; you could get your design right below the bend of your elbow or knee. The ditch can be negative space.  

Side Elbow Fan Tattoo @land.of.sky

Side Ditch Tattoo

Another option for tattooees who don’t want to get tattooed directly in the ditch is a side ditch tattoo. This option works well on the side of the arm. As you can see in the above design, the classical fan looks incredible in this placement – the movement of the fan matches with the movement of the elbow. 

Dot Work Ditch Tattoo @gempintattoo

Mirror Image Tattoo

The tattoo on the top of the crease and below the crease can be mirror images of each other.

“Symmetry in art occurs when the various elements of a painting, drawing or sculpture are composed in such a way that they are perfectly balanced, creating an image that is aesthetically pleasing,”

Inked Mag
Solar Eclipse Ditch Tattoo @izadeeg

Centre Point Ditch Tattoo

The creases of the elbow and knee can be seen as the centers of the arm and leg. Your ditch tattoo can radiate out from the center point. An option for this is a sun tattoo

Eye Elbow Ditch Tattoo @chrisweimanntattoo

Eye Ditch Tattoo

Choosing a design that highlights the elongated shape of the inner elbow or back of the knee can be a great choice. A tattoo of an eye can work well here because of the shape.

“The most commonly understood meaning of the all-seeing eye tattoo is that it represents the omnipresent eye of god watching over humankind. Another popular interpretation is that it symbolizes benevolent guidance from a divine source, since the word ‘providence’ means ‘guidance’,”

Word Inner Elbow Tattoo @ashnicolepainterly

Word Tattoo

The elbow crease or the crease at the back of the knee can work as a perfect line to hold a single word tattoo or a quote tattoo. The words would be either at the top of the line of the elbow or knee or at the bottom. Another good option for people who don’t want to get inked directly in the ditch. 

Jaws Inner Elbow Tattoo @smile_you_sonuvabitch

Jaws Tattoo

No, not the movie. Jaws of a person or animal can work well in a ditch placement. The opening in the middle of the jaws can be the ditch, which can be left as negative space or an extra design can be inked here. 

There’s no getting around it: Getting a ditch tattoo is a complicated process, and the aftercare isn’t any easier. However, this placement can help create a super unique design whether it is part of a full sleeve tattoo or a single inking.

Butterfly Ditch Tattoo @katepenntattoos

Do your research and pick an artist who knows what they’re doing when it comes to ditch tattoos. 

For more important things to consider before getting inked, click here.

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