Palm Black Tattoo Co.

Hand Poke Tattoo Techniques in the City

An edgy space in Gardens with offerings
from the conventional to the unique (hand poke).
Open Monday - Saturday: 10am - 6pm
115A Harrington Street | Gardens | Cape Town
[email protected]

Hand Poke Tattoo Techniques in the City

If it was good enough for the Romans, it’ll be good enough for you

Palm Black Tattoo Co. a tattoo studio in Gardens, offers clients an interesting alternative: hand poke. Different to the standard electric tattooing technique, hand poking is a method where the tattoo artists manually inserts the ink into a person’s skin using non-electrical needles.

This practice dates back as far as the Iron Age. Julius Caesar’s historians first recorded hand poke being done, the artform only falling away at the invention of electric tattoo machines in 1890. Not to be confused with irezumi (traditional Japanese tattoos done with bamboo), hand poke is art practised, exclusively, in the western world.

Tattoos, for the most part, are permanent. Once the tattoo artists gets the machine humming and that first succession of needles hits your skin, you’ve pretty much committed to a piece for the rest of your life. Apart from you inking over the tattoo or, at a push, going through the painful procedure of getting it removed, that mark will be part of your life for as long as you live. This is why tattoo artists stress that you need to be sure you like your design enough to see it all day, every day. Some even suggest drawing your desired tattoo on a piece of paper, pasting it on your bathroom wall so you see it every day. If by the seventh day, you haven’t gotten sick of the image, only then can you seriously consider getting the design tattooed.

If you’re going to be that thorough and intentional about what you’re getting tattooed on your body, would you not want to take the time to consider the way you get inked?

“I try not to mimic the machine,” Richard Moir of Palm Black begins, “If someone comes to me with a design that would work better with a machine, I’ll suggest it.” The experienced hand poke artists takes advantage of the medium to make sure his designs are a little bit different. Because he has control of every single poke, he can manipulate size, depth, tone and texture with the flick of his wrist.

Hand poke is believed to be less traumatic on the skin, reducing the recovery time. “For every poke Richard does the electric machine goes 50 to 100 times,” Palm Black tattoo artist Wesley von Blerk explains. Which begs the question, which is more painful? “Well it depends on which part of the body you are getting work done on and your pain threshold,” David Chaston, the third tattoo artists at the studio says. It would take longer to hand poke a design than it would using the electric machine, but as Richard explained, hand poking produces a tattoo that is noticeably different – to the trained eye. “It isn’t as stereotypically perfect and that highlights a particular type of beauty and artistry,” the passionate creative explains.


Richard has been inking willing customers for over five years and is one of the only hand poke artists in the city. Passion project turned profession, this Capetonian would tattoo friends as favours, never really taking it seriously, until Raoul Goetze invited him to pursue the art form at Palm Black. The owner of the laid back tattoo studio suggested Richard indulge his interest on a part-time basis. “One day a week turned into two days a week, turned into three days a week until it became an everyday thing,” Richard says.

“If you want something done, you’ll want your tattoo artist to enjoy it,” Raoul (below) shares. Every single artist at Palm Black Trading Co. is passionate about their craft. You can rest assured that you are in good hands

Raoul maintains that, “cheap tattoos aren’t good and good tattoos aren’t cheap.” If you hunt for discounts as opposed to finding a talented tattoo artist you feel comfortable inking your body, then you’ll get what you pay for. Remember this piece of art will stay on your body for the rest of your days, so rather invest in a piece you’re sure you’ll be happy with. The prices of tattoos vary depending on size, design and other factors. Contact Raoul and the guys from Palm Black for a consultation and quotation.  

Call them on +27 (0)21 461 0622 or email them [email protected]
Read more about getting inked at Palm Black Tattoo Co. Interested in tattoos but unsure of what your body art might say about you? Check out our piece about tattoo culture.

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