When it comes to the tattoo business, one of the hardest tattoos to pull off is the cover-up. A good quality cover-up requires an artist of exceptional skill. One that has the ability to create a piece that fits well over the existing work—that will cover everything without creating a big black blob. Cover-ups require original artwork, as the art has to be crafted around the original piece, blending the lines and shades of the original into the newer work.
When contemplating a cover-up, it is important to find an artist who has experience in this field. Visit several shops, talk to several artists. Look at their portfolios, specifically asking to see shots of their previous cover-up work. If an artist has accomplished a decent cover-up piece, they’re most likely going to be thrilled to show it off, as it is considered one of the biggest accomplishments in the industry. So don’t be afraid to ask! More than likely, someone else in the shop has had a cover-up piece done by the artist in question that you can see in-person.
After finding your artist, you’ll need to be patient. Finding the artist is most likely going to be the fastest part of the project. Cover-ups take time. The custom artwork has to be drawn from scratch, based on the location, color, and size of the original work, and done over several sessions. During your consultation, it is best to listen to the artist’s suggestions. If they tell you something won’t work or that different colors need to be used—listen. They really do know best in this case. Trust in your artist. If you’re comfortable with your artist’s skill level—which you should be, if you’re letting them work on you—then let them work their magic.
Not every design is cover-up worthy, but your artist will know what will work and what will not. It’s often best to go in with an open mind and let your artist have a little free reign. As an artist, they’ve got a vivid imagination, and are much more likely to come up with something visually impressive on their own if they’re not tied down to set ideals. Of course, it is important that you are involved in the process of the design creation, as you don’t want to later regret your cover-up design, too. Just make sure to find a balance between your artist’s ideas and your tastes.
Another major fact to think about is color choices. When inking a cover-up, you need to understand that you can’t cover a dark grey or black design with light colors like yellow or lime green. It’s also important to understand how cover-ups work—you don’t color over the original tattoo ink, but rather you add color to the existing batch, so it’s vital to think about how the new and old colors will mix or blend together. Your artist will have a better understanding of which colors work well together in a cover-up piece, so keep your ears open. If they’re unsure, it’s probably best not to risk it. Listen to what they have to say and run with it.
Today’s artists have reached new skill levels with colors and techniques for cover-ups. It used to be that artists could really only use black to perform cover-ups, but luckily, with today’s inks, they’re able to utilize varying color ranges such as brown, orange, green, blue, red, and magentas in their cover-up pieces. These colors usually have to be heavily inked and brightly toned in order to truly work, though, so keep that in mind when discussing your new piece with your artist.
Your artist, if truly skilled, will most likely incorporate elements of the original design into the new one. For example, flourishes and scripting can be used to create vines on a rose or the tentacles of an octopus. Another important factor to keep in mind is that the new piece will need to be roughly about thirty to forty percent larger than the existing piece in order to integrate, cover, and blend the original piece into non-existence. This also gives the artist fresh skin—skin not previously inked—to work with a lighter color palette in order to avoid an overly dark tattoo.
Most importantly, when considering a cover-up tattoo, is to really love the piece you’re getting. Don’t settle when it comes to your artist. If the artist you want has a waiting list… Wait. You definitely don’t want to risk hating your cover-up! The artist can make or break the tattoo, so stick to your guns and find the artist that really fits you and your tastes. And remember, getting a cover-up tattoo is going to be much more costly than when you got the original, so don’t go in expecting the same price. Not only is a cover-up larger, but it is exceptionally more detailed, requiring a much longer thought process than an original piece would have done.