Do Calf Tattoos Hurt?

March 7, 2022
Max Stevens
do calf tattoos hurt

You may be a newbie or a tattoo master, but if this is your first tattoo on your calf, then you’re rightfully asking the questions – “do calf tattoos hurt”? 

If you go into your calf tattoo session, especially if it’s your first time, and don’t know what pain to expect, then you may: 

  • Panic and leave the tattoo chair halfway through the session 
  • Have a negative experience 

We don’t want that to happen, so that’s why we prepared a guide for you to know if calf tattoos hurt, how much it hurts, and how should you care for a newly-tattooed calf. Read on!

Calf Tattoos & The Calf Anatomy

Calf Anatomy
The anatomy of the calves.

As you can see in the image above, the calves are made entirely of big and powerful muscles that enable us to walk, jog, run, and jump. These muscles are responsible for maintaining proper balance and coordination as well.

When people decide to get tattoos, they often choose the calves as they can be easily concealed, especially in a society where having a tattoo means you have difficulties getting accepted for work. Workplace tattoo discrimination is real, and we understand people trying to play the tattoo game safely. 
Back to the anatomy, since the calves are full of muscles, the majority of the people who have a tattoo on their calf say it only moderately hurts. The reason for that is that the calf muscles act as a shock absorber, and we all know that shock absorbers need to be soft and squishy so impacts are dissipated. Other tattoo body areas like the ankles and foot will probably hurt more because the tip of the tattoo pen directly impacts the bones.

The problem here is, while people acknowledge that calf tattoos only hurt mildly or moderately, some people say their calf tattooing session hurts like hell.

Does Getting A Calf Tattoo Hurt?

Calf Tattoos with Tribal Print
Calves with beautiful tattoo patterns.

Pain is a highly subjective experience, and while calf tattoos usually don’t hurt too much for some, there are others where it is painful. Anatomy says the pain you should feel in a calf tattooing session should be minimal, but many different factors are at play when talking about calf tattoos and tattoos in general. The following factors may influence your individual pain experience:


It is widely thought that age directly impacts our ability to feel pain. Some studies are conducted about whether our pain threshold increases as we age or if our brains reduce our ability to feel pain. While these studies are still inconclusive, it still serves as a factor that will influence whether your calf tattoo will hurt or not so much.


We always think women have higher pain thresholds than men because they are subjected to monthly bouts of pain because of their periods. Studies prove otherwise, and researchers link women to having low pain thresholds and higher pain sensitivity that will negatively influence their calf tattoo experience. For men, calf tattoos usually aren’t too painful because of their higher pain tolerance.

Initial Expectations

Our minds are powerful, so powerful that if we think about something negatively before actually doing it, it turns out to be true. This is especially true for people who wish to have tattoos. If you constantly think that your tattooing session will be painful, it will most likely be painful. In psychology, this is called catastrophising. People who have been tattooed before will most likely have positive expectations than first-timers.


Weight can also play a role in your pain sensitivity. People with weight problems are common to have medical conditions which make their tattoo experience bad. For example, overweight and underweight people are at risk of immune performance-reducing conditions like thyroid problems.

When the immune system’s function is bad, wound healing can be affected, and your tattoo might heal longer than usual.

Calf Muscle Density

As we mentioned earlier, our calf muscles act like a trampoline that absorbs impact, resulting in milder pain in the tattoo place. On one side, if you have little calf muscle density, your bone may be absorbing the impact, which ultimately leads to higher pain. If your calf muscles are good and dense, you may enjoy milder pain from your tattoo.

How to Reduce Pain Before & During Your Tattoo Session? 

Good question. You can do many things to reduce the amount of pain you will have with your calf tattoo. Here are some: 

  • Only get your tattoos from professionals. Getting tattooed by a pro artist can give you a sense of security and trust, which may help calm your mind. 
  • Try an oral or topical analgesic. Do this at least 30 minutes before your tattooing session to help reduce the pain. A tattoo artist may apply topical anaesthetics at their discretion.
  • Keep away from alcohol. You may think being under the influence of alcohol somehow increases your pain tolerance, but it’s the opposite
  • Be sure to have a healthy night of sleep before the day. Sleep deprivation impacts our immune system and can potentially increase pain. Sleep healthy and enjoy quicker healing and lower pain in the tattoo site. 

How To Reduce Calf Tattoo Pain After Your Tattoo Session? 

After you get your calf tattoo, it will sting after a couple of minutes. Here are tips you can do to reduce your calf tattoo pain after your tattoo session: 

Immediate Tattoo Care

  • Wash the site with mild soap and dry with paper towels afterwards. Remember: mild soap only as strong soaps will sting a lot. Dry the area afterwards by dabbing and tapping. 
  • When pain kicks in, use topical anaesthetic cream or gels. Spread the medicine around the site generously to reduce pain. 
  • If pain is excessive even after several hours, take an oral painkiller. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen works fine, but be sure to avoid ibuprofen if you have GI problems.

Long-Term Tattoo Care

  • Avoid the sun and don’t swim for about two weeks. The sun can further damage the tattoo site, while pools and the sea can wreak havoc on the ink of your tattoo. 
  • Don’t wear loose clothing that will stick to the tattoo. Do wear shorts and avoid pants and trousers as much as possible so faster healing can occur.
  • To prolong the vibrance of your tattoo, use sunblock. Go for SPF 45 and up sunblocks to prevent premature fading of your tattoo. Using sunblock is a small cost to pay to prolong your tattoo. 

If you notice unusual symptoms such as blood oozing from your tattoo, pus developing, or prolonged healing, see your GP for medical advice. 

How Long Do Calf Tattoos Heal?

Calf tattoos heal around two to three weeks in the surface area. While it takes approximately three months to heal from the inside out fully. Healing times can differ from person to person, and some factors affect how long your tattoo heals: 


If your tattoo wound is infected, it would take a long time to heal. Infection arises when bacteria, viruses, or fungi enter the wound site. You can prevent this by applying topical antibacterial ointment and regular cleaning of the tattoo site. 

Blood Circulation

Proper circulation is vital to the wound healing process. When poor circulation is present, the cells take too much time to repair the wound. Exercising regularly and making sure you drink the daily recommended water intake will improve your blood circulation. 


Cells depend on nutrients to work correctly, and when cells aren’t fed well, they don’t work efficiently. This leads to a prolonged wound healing process. To promote faster healing, do eat nutritious amounts of vegetables, fruits, lean meat, and other healthy food options in place of processed meat, sugary foods, and high-fat oils.


In summary, calf tattoos hurt; the real deal is whether or not the pain is mild, average, or severe. People are different, and we all have various pain thresholds and pain sensitivities. Someone might only feel a substantial sting while someone might cry all session long because of the pain. So if you’re scared, it’s best not to get a tattoo. If you’re up and ready to go, be sure to heed some pain-reducing tips we’ve listed above, so you get to enjoy your tattooing session with not much pain for your calves. Enjoy your tattoo! 



Max Stevens

You might also like

do calf tattoos hurt
Max Stevens

Do Calf Tattoos Hurt?

You may be a newbie or a tattoo master, but if this is your first tattoo on your calf, then you’re rightfully asking the questions

Read More »