The amount of pain experienced when getting a tattoo varies depending on one's threshold of pain, as well as on the location and size of the tattoo. What one person claims is painful will not necessarily hurt someone else in the same way. Tattoos have been described as a 'hot scratch' or just an annoying irritation.
The location of the potential tattoo is one variable that determines whether the tattoo will be painful. The most painful spots to get a tattoo include behind the ear, anywhere around the eye, the lip, top of the foot, the neck, anywhere near the rib cage, the knee, bikini area, ankle and the spine. The less fatty tissue and more bone the area has, the more painful the tattoo will probably prove to be. The needles used when getting a tattoo only go into the skin 1/16 inch, but all of the areas listed above are almost directly on bone, which can result in pain.
The size of the tattoo also helps determines the amount of pain one might feel. If the tattoo is small, the tattooing experience is short. Getting a big, detailed tattoo obviously takes more time and involves more needle exposure.