Everything You Need To Know About Getting A Neck Tattoo

Photographed by Beth Sacca.
We first started noticing them on Instagram, then Kanye West announced his plans to get one on Twitter, and now we're sure they're about to become a full-fledged trend: Even if the mere thought of bringing a buzzing needle that close to your ear makes your head spin, neck tattoos are officially happening. But before you book your appointment, there are a few things you should know.
So, what's the pain really like? Well, there are a few variables. First, the kind of art matters: Thinner lines might not sting as much as bold designs requiring a fill-in. Secondly, hand-poked art could make all the difference: Both Bruno Levy, co-owner of Brooklyn's Bandit Studio, and Montreal-based tattoo artist Romeo agree that, in their experience, hand-poke techniques cause less pain for their clients. As an added bonus, Romeo says since you're dealing with less equipment — no chords or machine — for hand-poked tattoos, the overall experience goes a little more smoothly.
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Still, Levy and Romeo say that pain is always subjective and not everyone's tolerance is exactly the same — but compared to more sensitive parts of the body, neck tattoos aren't actually the worst. And more so than the potential for pain, the most challenging aspect of getting a neck tattoo might be the positioning. Romeo explains that the artist has to put pressure on your neck in order to stretch the skin and make for the most precise line. You might find your head hanging upside down to get it right, but hey, a little aerobics is a lot better than excruciating pain.
Now that you know you won't leave the parlor in tears, it's time to brainstorm your next neck tattoo. Ahead, some of the coolest designs we've spotted from our favorite tattoo artists on Instagram lately...
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For some, placement is key. Levy explains that one design could offer up a whole different vibe depending on where you want it. "A single-needle rose on the front of the neck can be seen as a bit stronger or 'tougher' than on the back of the neck, or even side," he says. "I haven't noticed a specific popularity with one over the other, but they can express a different feel."
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Neck tattoos have plenty of celebrity fans: Halsey recently got JonBoy's signature script tattooed on the side of her neck...
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A post shared by ARTIVIST 333 (@kehlani) on

...and singer Kehlani has several tattoos encircling hers.
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Romeo does agree that script is quite popular for neck tattoos, but that often seems to be the case for a lot of visible body parts, like the face, finger, and hand. Why? "There’s an element of provocation with script," Romeo says. "It's a good way to provoke, or force, people to think. It grabs people’s attention, then they stop and start reading what’s written."
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A post shared by jess chen (@__jesschen__) on

When it comes to popular designs, Romeo explains that almost anything could work. But he stresses that because the neck is a spot where skin is distorted regularly, you might want to stay away from geometric shapes if that would be a personal concern.
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Sure, Instagram is loaded with arm tattoos, but neck tattoos still feel like spotting a unicorn. "Neck tattoos are still a bit more rare," Levy explains. And he says that, in his experience, they're not always influenced by trendy designs: "The neck tattoos I have done all had their own individual symbols or text they personally gravitated towards."
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Tattoos haven't always been a rad Instagram trend. In fact, once upon a time, requesting a neck tattoo was basically taboo — unless you had your entire body inked first. Romeo adds that, back in the day, you would see a lot of people with tattoos that stopped at their collar due to the stigma that existed in some traditional tattooing circles.
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BABY @sydneylcarlson #jonboytattoo handwritten by @bear 💖

A post shared by c/s ∴jon✞boy∴ p/v (@jonboytattoo) on

"Nowadays, we’re witnessing the exact opposite," Romeo says. "We get requests from people who have barely any tattoos and want to have their neck and hands covered. People are embracing this art and finding in it a way to express their various artistic sensibilities."
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If you're on the fence about getting a neck tattoo, take Levy's advice and sleep on it. "I would suggest that if you don’t have other neck tattoos, or are not covered in tattoos, take time to think and decide if it's right for you," he explains. "Tattoos can feel quite transformative and this is one that, unless turtlenecks are your thing, you might have a harder time covering up."
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