Tattoo Cover-Ups

Everyone makes mistakes. You lock your keys in your car minutes before you need to be somewhere important. You forget to pay a bill. Maybe you hit ‘Forward All’ on that e-mail meant only for your friend. These things can be reconciled easily, but a tattoo mistake is a bit more difficult to correct. Luckily, quite a few tattoo artists have created a business for themselves by becoming ‘cover-up’ artists, and inking new tattoos over the top of existing ones that the collector no longer wants. Since laser removal can be costly, painful and drawn out, cover-ups are a much friendlier alternative for someone who still wants ink done, just done over existing pieces.


Because there is ink already under the skin, choosing a design that uses the same colors is a good idea. For example, if you’re fretting over your ex’s name scrawled in bright orange letters on your shoulder, a larger, more vibrant koi fish may be an excellent cover-up option. The more closely the colors relate, the higher the odds are of a successful cover-up. Feel like you’ve outgrown that cutesy cartoon character you got as your first tattoo? Opt for something a little more subtle and detailed to show you’ve matured in taste and style.


Not only can colors be carried forward from the old design to the new, but also so can the shapes. Circles, squares, floral shapes, and even tribal designs can all be incorporated into the new artwork, to varying degrees of success depending on the artist. The trick is finding something that appeals to you and is the right size and shape to hide the original tattoo. Have your artist draw your existing tattoo, and then overlay that with some of the designs you are considering, one at a time. Use a light table to look at the various overlays and decide which one you think would work best.


The best cover-up tattoos often involve several sessions. This obviously increases both the time commitment and the cost, but the end result can be quite wonderful, especially if you’re particularly eager to get that former painful reminder or eyesore out of the equation. In addition, even adding white ink at every session will not completely eliminate a prior design; the only way to accomplish total cover-up is through a new design that completely covers the old one, and this will, invariably, leave you with a larger tattoo. If you’re not ready to deal with a larger portion of your body covered in ink, you should start considering the more expensive avenue of tattoo removal.


Cover-up tattoo artists are very skilled, but those skills do not come cheap. Know roughly what you want as an end result before agreeing to the procedure, and make sure you and your tattoo artist both have the same artwork, size, and detail in mind. At the same time, you need to understand that your idea will only serve as a template, a set of guidelines for the artist to work within. A successful cover-up requires adaptability and a willingness to bend to circumstance. Each cover-up is tailored according to the clients taste and desire, the existing tattoo, and the artist’s application of skill and creativity. If you do your research, find the right artist, develop an idea you’re willing to modify and understand what a cover-up entails, you will walk away much happier with your new body art when it is something you actually enjoy seeing every day.


images courtesy of ragz1138 via flickr