Cover Up Tattoos 101 - Everything you need to know to make your unwanted Tattoo disappear!

Cover Up tattoos are a very common request I get nearly daily in my tattoo shop. Now that tattoos become more arty and of higher quality, people look at their old tattoos and just want them to disappear or make them look better.

To define this, covering up a tattoo is where you replace an unwanted tattoo with a new one.

There are basically three different types of cover-ups.

  1. Refresh old tattoo

One where the customer just wishes to refresh the old tattoo, make the lines clearer and just give it new life.

Refresh old tattoo Cover up
Refresh old tattoo Cover up

  1. Replace old tattoo

The customer wishes to make the tattoo dissapear completely and cover it up with a different design. That is what I will mostly look at in this blog. However the principles apply to both types.

Replace old tattoo Cover up
Replace old tattoo Cover up

  1. Hide / Cover Up scar

The wish it to cover up an old scar. Covering up a scar is different to covering up an old tattoo, I will look at this in another blog post, but wanted to include it in this list for completion purposes.

Cover up scar

How do Cover Up Tattoos work?

Like with every tattoo, the ink was deposited at least one millimeter beneath your skin, into the dermis, which is the second layer of the skin. In the process of the cover-up the ink is deposited again into the same layer where the ink from the previous tattoo is already present.

What does that mean?
You have to understand, that the new ink does not go “on top” of the old ink, rather these two ink pigments mix during the healing process, and create a new colour. Often the darker ink will dominate. That’s why most artists will cover up black with black only, as it is the darkest pigment and is considered the most effective for covering up anything.

Replace old tattoo Cover up

The artistic process for a cover-up tattoo

Here I will explain my personal process. Artists work in different ways and its always good to ask yours about the way they approach cover-ups.

For a cover-up it’s usually necessary for you to come for a consultation. It’s good for me to see the old tattoo in person, to assess age, exact placement on the body etc.

During the consultation we will then discuss what is possible design wise and how it can be done. I will then take a photo of the tattoo. Now, I can start the sketch for the design digitally.

A few things that we have to consider for the new design:

  1. Tattoo Size
    The new cover up design will always be bigger in size. Often, it is bigger than the customer wishes, but in order to hide the old design, often we need to create something a lot bigger and draw the attention away from the unwanted tattoo.

  2. Dark tattoos
    If your tattoo is dark, some of the old ink might shine through the cover up. I always try to adjust the new design as best as possible to fit over the existing one. But sometimes it is unavoidable. Blue, black and brown will cover up better than shades of lighter colours.

  3. Tattoo Age
    The older the tattoo, the easier it is to cover up, as often older tattoos are more faded. This is possible because the ink pigments break down as time passes and the new pigments take up the place beneath the skin.

Are you thinking of covering up your tattoo or do you have more questions?
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