I got a rose tattoo on 7/13/2015. Started the tattoo around 1 and got out around 5:30. Don't expect your tattoo to take this long- it really does depend on what you're getting and the size of what you're getting. I had been so nervous about it the previous week but by the time I arrived at the tattoo parlor I was fine... and then the tattoo started.
Generally, you need to be lying down when getting your elbow tattooed, but that's not always the case. I was lying down for my elbow tattoo and my artist started working on it. It was fine at first... sure, it hurt, but it was only about a 6/10. She had to do the outline first and that was done pretty quickly. By the end of the outline, I was regretting my choice- would I be able to go several more hours to finish the color/shading?
I took 3 breaks total. I wish I had taken more, but that would have just slowed down the process. The pain level finally reached a whopping ten the final 2 hours. There were so many moments when I wanted to quit, but I didn't. Who wants a half finished tattoo? I sucked it up and finally my tattoo artist finished. I had been on my phone playing a game, trying to get my mind off everything. Lemme tell you, it's incredibly hard to think of anything other than the pain you're going through.
Please keep in mind that everyone's pain tolerance is different.
First full day- The pain was ROUGH. My elbow and forearm were incredibly swollen and my entire arm hurt so much. I basically immobilized my arm and did everything with my left arm (NOT my dominant arm). I was desperately trying to search how to hold my arm, if that makes any sense. Do I lay it flat against my side? Give it a slight bend? I had to figure it out myself. A straight arm felt... wrong. Generally, when you stretch your arm out straight, your elbow is a bit wrinkled- you DON'T want that. I always held my arm SLIGHTLY bent at the elbow. Your elbow will tell you what feels right. I felt tightness when I straightened my arm, but felt fine when it was very slightly bent.
Sleeping Tip: I like to use a soft, thin sheet as a barrier from my tattoo and other things like the mattress, my pajamas, and even my hands. Sleeping position I found most comfortable were were the Trunk, Nostalgic, Soldier (using the sheet as a barrier), and my favorite- the Free Fall (with arms way less bent!). Warning: Days 3 and 4 had me with a achy shoulder, which I think is because of the Trunk or Nostalgic sleeping position- it was pretty uncomfortable for my body, but it might be different for yours!
Days 2 through 4- Arm is still swollen. I'm starting to worry- the swelling for my other tattoos went down the following day, so why hadn't my elbow gone down? DON'T WORRY! Everything's fine, Because your elbow was tattooed for hours on end, it's pretty pissed at you. Swelling should go down within the first week.
Washing/Lotion I use: My tattoo artist was very impressed with how my tattoos have healed up, which I was flattered by. I use the h2O Ocean Foaming Soap from Amazon and Lubriderm. You're best going as "natural" as you can with what you use to wash and lotion your skin- anti-bacterial
with NO scent and lotion with no scent. I honestly love Lubriderm and highly recommend it. Another soap I use is the one at my job, an unscented anti-microbial soap. It makes sense they have it because I work at a health clinic!
Day 4 through 7- Beginning on day 4 something odd started happening... my skin was beginning to peel! I was concerned, once again, since peeling didn't start so early with my other tattoos. This, again, is normal. Because you move our elbow so much, even when you try not to, you loosen up the skin faster. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. In my case, the healing process was just going a lot faster but the tattoo still looked great.
The itching isn't too bad, but it's still a part of your body you can't scratch and that's always irritating. The skin fell off very quickly.
By day 6 the swelling had gone completely down. By day 7, a full week after I first got the tattoo (7/20), most of the skin had fallen off. My tattoo has had zero color fall out so far!
Tip: Please cover your tattoo and don't let the sun hit it. If it's Summer and hot (like it is as I type this), suck it up. Your tattoo will burn like a bitch and fade if you expose it to the sun. I'm also pretty sure you're not supposed to but sunscreen on it until it's healed, so be mindful of that. Cover it up and just wait the 1-2 weeks for it to heal.
TLDR: Just get through the pain, once it's done it is DONE. Don't mess up the tattoo that put you through so much pain by being lazy and not being mindful that your elbow was just tattooed. Everyone's pain tolerance is different, be mindful of that. Use Lubriderm, it's awesome. Your elbow will be swollen and hurting but it'll pass.
I hoped this helped anyone getting an elbow tattoo! Lemme know!