Hand poke is a manual job of applying tattoos without using a machine. The history of this type of tattooing is literally as old as times. Egyptian pharaohs has tattoos on their bodies, which were made by using wooden sticks. Even historians, who studied the life of Julius Caesar, wrote about tattooed Britons and Picts, who lived in Britain. Some tribes put a paint derived from plants seeds under the skin by using sharp bones, they even do something similar to modern scarification, this is also a hand poke tattoo. Traditional Japanese tattoo is also made with bamboo sticks (tebori). The art of tattooing has been developing over the centuries, each culture contributed to the art of tattooing. First tattoo machines were made only in the 1890s.
Some people imagine modern hand pokes only as a type of a home tattoo, and it is not like that. Artists use this technique because of its opportunities. The advantage of hand poking is an ability to darken tattoos. Tattoo artists, who work with this technique, often say that machines create too dense color, while hand poking technique allows using dots to create very soft color transition.
An artist can also create very clear lines by using dots. Some parts of the skin can be left untouched. As a dotwork technique, hand poking is perfectly suitable for abstractions with a lot of dots, and not only for that. Portraits made by using this technique look interesting and unusual. The ability to work out small parts is also a benefit of hand poking.
For lettering it is better to use a machine.
It seems that, comparing to using machines for tattooing, the process of making hand poke tattoos is very painful. Although, it's not like that. Machines produce the same process of piercing the skin and filing the wound with inks, the difference is that a machine makes it several times per second, that causes pain. The main difference between a machine and a needle is that a machine's needle is hidden from a client. It is psychologically difficult to watch the process of hand poking, because a client sees every puncture in the skin. Clients should be ready for a long-term appointment, usually hand poke tattooing takes much more time than machine tattooing.
Some artists don't use machines for tattooing in principle, for example Colin Dale. He founded a tattoo studio in Copenhagen, where artists don't use modern technique. There are some young artists in post-soviet countries who call themselves machine free. Konstantin Chernyshov, an artist from Saint Petersburg, creates fantastic works without using machines.
Ilya Medved, an artist from Minsk, is able to create perfect lines. Who can now be sure, that hand poke tattoo is a home tattoo?
Yaroslav Putyata from Kiev makes colorful hand poke tattoos. He often mixes colors, that's why his tattoos look so cheerful.
Boff Konkerz, a well-known tattoo artist, works mainly in hand Poke style. He calls himself machine free. This artist currently lives in Iceland. The world famous hand poke tattoo artist is Ferank Manseed. He prefers the sacred motifs and geometric ornaments in tattooing. Currently he has suspended work due to a disease that doesn't allow him to move. His friends tattoo artists founded a crowdfunding platform to raise costs of his treatment.