The lowdown on knee tattoos

The lowdown on knee tattoos

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Have you heard that knee tattoos are super painful? Have you got leg tattoos but avoided your knee area? Whatever the reason you’ve not got a knee tattoo yet, we’re here to put your mind at ease.

Do knee tattoos hurt?

Most people you ask say knee tattoos are a pretty painful spot. There’s the boney kneecap and then the surprisingly sensitive parts surrounding it.

I’ve got one knee tattooed, and as far as I can remember it wasn’t that bad (my foot tattoo was way worse). Saying that, I haven’t rushed to get my other one done.

"The pain of tattoos varies from person to person but knee tattoos tend to be up there on the pain scale for most," says tattoo artist Hanah Elizabeth (@hanahelizabethtattoo). "From personally having my own done, I found it painfully uncomfortable to sit still for, but it wasn’t unbearable - it’s a unique experience I will say that!"

How long do knee tattoos take?

How long it takes to complete your tattoo depends on the design you’ve chosen and how much skin you want to get covered.

As a rule, blackwork tends to take less time than colour tattoos. For colour tattoos you might want to split it over two sessions, one for lines and one for colour with healing time in between. But, it all depends on the level of detail, the space you’re covering and how fast your tattoo artist is.

Thinking back to my own knee tattoo - a full colour pink peony by Hanah Elizabeth, it took roughly 4 hours with breaks.

I spoke to my tattooed friend Steph, who has a peony on her knee by Toby Gawler (@tattoosbytoby) which took roughly 5-6 hours over two sessions.

Knee tattoo by Toby Gawler

Knee tattoo by Toby Gawler.

How much do knee tattoos cost?

Knee tattoos can vary in price as some tattooers might charge per piece whereas others charge per hour. A rough hourly rate can be £70 to £100 an hour, so for a large scale knee tattoo you could be looking at around £200-£500.

Again this depends on the design, size and where your artist is located. Your tattoo artist will tell you how much your tattoo will be during your consultation or booking emails.

How to prepare for a new knee tattoo

As with any tattoos, preparation is key. For painful spots or long sessions it’s even more important. Our preparation guide has loads of helpful tips, plus Hanah explains what you can do to be ready for your knee tattoo.

"You can prepare the same way as you would with most other tattoos. Exfoliate the area beforehand as knees are notoriously dry and thick skinned, so any extra help you can give with skincare prior will help greatly," she says.

"Having a nice big breakfast, mentally preparing for the session and being realistic with the process expect it’s going to hurt a bit more than most others," adds Hanah.

Stories & Ink exfoliating body wash is a great choice for getting your skin ready to be tattooed. It can also be used on healed tattoos to help them stay bright.

Choosing your knee tattoo placement

When it comes to getting your knees tattoos there’s a few different ways you can do it. You may be incorporating your knee into your leg sleeve or treating it like it’s just another part of your leg. However, some people, me included, like to use the knee as more of a standalone space.

Knee cap tattoo

As you’ve guessed, a knee cap tattoo covers your knee cap. These tattoos tend to be in more of a traditional style and are usually a stand alone design. Think peony, bear head, rose, mandala or sacred heart.

Knee tattooKnee cap tattoo by Hanah Elizabeth.

Above knee tattoo

Sitting just above your knee cap, above the knee tattoos could almost be classed as lower thigh. This spot is perfect for a floral frame design that goes around your knee, other designs that could work are butterflies, cut out mandalas and barbed wire. Or I’ve seen a lot of people get a two word phrase that reads across both legs which look really cool.

Knee tattooAbove the knee tattoo by Hanah Elizabeth.

Under knee tattoo

Framing your knee cap from underneath, these tattoos are also called upper shin tattoos. Designs that suit this sort of shape and placement include horseshoes, chunky charm bracelets, flowers, floral bands, moths, and bats.

As with any tattoo, the design is your choice. If you have an idea in mind you can always ask your artist what they think would work as well. But remember, never get anything tattooed you’re not happy with.

How to heal your knee tattoo

Knees can be a tricky spot to heal. The skin stretches and moves when you walk and they’re prone to swelling. Hanah explains that "it’s tender and super swollen for a few days after so, if you can, take a few days off and rest as that will definitely help."

So you’ll want to do a few things to help your knee heal as well as it can:

  • Use a good aftercare cream
  • Avoid soaking your new tattoo in the bath
  • Don’t pick any scabs or scratch your tattoo
  • Elevate your leg if you can

Tattooist Hanah also shares her thoughts. "Every artist has their own aftercare guidance and ideal way of doing things. Personally, I prefer to wet heal knee tattoos. I found that helpful with my own knee to avoid dry cracking with the amount of movement it has," she says.

You should also follow the aftercare guidance given to you by your tattoo artist. 

Do knee tattoos fade?

Tattoos fading is one of any tattoo collectors’ greatest fears. Luckily there are things you can do to help your tattoo stay bright.

Hanah explains that "everyone’s skin heals differently but, as long as you're keeping your skin moisturised, there’s no reason why they should fade faster than others.

"People’s jobs and lifestyles will play a part in that - how often they’re on their knees or if their skin is open to the elements will affect the area like it would any other tattoo."

Stories & Ink Daily Moisturiser is packed with fade fighting ingredients to keep tattoos looking their best.

Can you get a knee tattoo after surgery?

Yeah, you can get a tattoo after knee surgery. If you’re feeling self conscious about any new scars a tattoo is a great way to boost your self esteem. Just make sure to wait until your knee and any scars are completely healed. You can ask your surgeon how long you should wait and ideally find a tattoo artist that specialises in tattooing over scars.

Our top 5 knee tattoo ideas

Knee mandala tattoo

Who doesn’t love a mandala tattoo? These ornamental tattoos look great on their own covering a knee cap or part of a sleeve. Like this one by @6rilink.

Knee spider web tattoo

Classic, cobweb tattoos look amazing anywhere, from top of ears to knees.

Knee tattooKnee tattoo by Tom Stals (@stalstattoo).

Floral knee tattoos

Flowers always make for great tattoos. I’m a huge fan of peonies, as their name suggests (peon-knee) they’re perfect for your knees. I even have a peo-knee tattoo myself, so I had to include them in this ideas list.

Knee tattooRosie's pink peony knee tattoo by Hanah Elizabeth.

Industrial knee tattoos

Chain locked fence tattoos have been making rounds in the tattoo world for a while. @lucyarbeit does a lot of it, we love these broken fence knee tattoos.

The bee’s knees

From the amount of bees on knees tattooed I’ve seen, I know I’m not the only one who loves a pun tattoo. Sitting under the knees, these bees are awesome.

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