Covering up Bad or Old Tattoos

No matter how many tattoos you have, there is a good chance that there is at least one that didn’t turn out exactly like it was intended. From unskilled tattoo artists to bad ink, poor aftercare leading to warped designs, to even no longer dating the person inscribed on your skin, there are just as many reasons for being unhappy with a design as there are for initially getting one.

We’ve all had regrets, however, unlike a simple hangover or memory, tattoos are typically forever. They remind you of your ink tragedy every time you change your clothes or look the mirror. Even as recently as 50 years ago, there was no solution to bad ink, you were stuck with it and many people lived with them unchanged their entire lives.

Today there are many amazing tattoo artists with colourful ink advances which enable customers to cover up old tattoos. Combine with innovative technology like tattoo removal machines, it is easier than ever to get a design you can be happy with.

Understanding how Tattoo Cover-ups Work

Tattoo ink is deposited around one millimetre below the surface skin, into the dermis. While a laser tattoo removal can help break up these ink particles, it still does not leave much room for your new tattoo. So instead of attempting to place the new ink over the top of your old design, your tattoo artist will mix your new pigmentation with the old colours. If you and your artist have chosen the right new ink, the new design’s colours should dominate the mixture, becoming darker or even changing colour. This is the secret of Tattoo Cover-ups and one of the reasons why many artists need to be trained or specialise in cover-ups to deliver quality results.

Black ink naturally dominates lesser colours, however, artists can also now use combinations of colours like red and blue to ultimately create a purple design under your skin.

What can be covered up?

Ultimately what can be done with your old design depends on how skilled your tattoo artist is. Talented cover-up artists will design around your old design, incorporating the shape and elements into the new tattoo. They will typically follow these three main steps when creating a cover-up design.

  • Trace your old design on tracing paper, with the major areas that need to be covered up as well as the depicting the different elements. This provides the main reference for the artist to work from when covering up a design.
  • Placing the outlines on a light table with a new piece of tracing paper which they can easily see through.
  • Begin designing the cover-up tattoo. Sometimes this has already been half made and the artist is attempting to combine the two different designs. Other times they are designing from scratch focusing on fitting the old design inside darker areas of the new design.

While challenging black old designs may never look like you had initially hoped, there are more options out there than simply unhappily tolerating an old tattoo. Take your time to find the right tattoo artist for you, like many professions, an expensive skilled quality artist is worth 10 backyard tats.


Image Credit: Hands

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