More and more people are choosing to get cover-up tattoos instead of just having tattoo removal treatments because of the consistency and quality which cover-up tattoos offer. We’ve written this post so that you can have a guide for how to get a cover up tattoo.
Trying to remove every trace of a tattoo is time consuming, expensive, and inconsistent. If you choose top of the line laser tattoo removal, currently the only effective method of tattoo removal, be prepared to spend thousands – if not tens of thousands – of dollars, undergo between 12 to 15 sessions, and wait between 1.5 to 2.5 years to even get close to your desired results.
Even after enduring all of these steps, there is no guarantee your tattoo will be removed. There often remains a dim trace of a tattoo no matter how many laser tattoo removal treatments you undergo.
To satisfy our clients and exceed their expectations, we recommend they consider a cover-up tattoo, since it’s the most consistent way to make sure your old tattoo is not visible.
A cover-up tattoo can be done over an existing tattoo of virtually any size, design, and colour, although certain designs and colours lend themselves more to a cover-up tattoo. A skilled tattoo artist can cover-up almost any tattoo and leave you with new ink that you’ll want to show off, not conceal.
How a cover up tattoo works
The term “cover-up tattoo,” is a bit of a misnomer, although it communicates the idea of what a cover-up tattoo does. “Cover-up” suggests that the new ink is inserted above the old ink, hiding it from view.
However, the ink of a tattoo does not function like paint on a canvas, where successive layers can conceal colour. Instead, a tattoo artist combines a particular set of skills including blending colour, shading, detailing, and depth of colour to produce a cover-up tattoo. The skills required for successful cover-up tattoos are commonly seen in other tattoo styles, especially in watercolour tattoos where colours need to be blended together.
Can my tattoo be covered up?
Any tattoo can be covered up, although it may need to be faded with laser tattoo removal first (usually only 2-3 sessions required). Even if you have a large, solid black tattoo, a good cover-up tattoo artist will work with you to create a strategy for covering it with a new design you can get excited about. However, there are limits if you don’t get the original tattoo faded beforehand. No matter how good the artist is, they won’t be able to cover up a large tattoo in the shape of a black box with a smaller butterfly tattoo.
Some tattoos lend themselves more to a cover-up than others, but something can be done to improve the aesthetics of almost any tattoo.
Factors that affect how to get a cover up tattoo
When considering a cover-up tattoo, the following factors will impact the process, the outcome, and ultimately, your satisfaction with the cover-up tattoo:
- Colour of the original tattoo. The lighter the colours and the softer the application of ink, the more leniency you will have when it comes to the colour and design of your cover-up tattoo. Darker tattoos with heavy use of ink are harder to cover up than softer-coloured tattoos with less ink. For example, it would be easier to do a cover-up of a tattoo done in the watercolour style than it would be to cover up a traditional style tattoo. In cases where stronger colours are used, your artist may recommend a fading first.
- How old and faded the original tattoo is. Faded tattoos are easier to cover-up because the ink has had some time to dissipate, leaving the artist with something closer to a blank canvas. Dimmer tattoos won’t require as many laser tattoo removal sessions before getting covered up.
- The design of the original tattoo. Tattoos with minimal colouration, no outlines, and gradiated colour covering a small surface area are the easiest to cover up.
- What you want the cover-up tattoo design to be. Getting a cover-up tattoo does not afford you the same leniency as getting a new tattoo. It’s the difference between drawing a picture on a blank canvas and having an existing drawing to re-work and draw over – however, you can fade the existing tattoo to provide more range in terms of the design of the cover-up tattoo. The more complex the cover up design, the more potential for your cover-up to turn out well.
- What if there are parts of the old tattoo which can be salvaged? Sometimes a cover-up tattoo doesn’t cover an existing tattoo, but builds upon it. Embellishing and adding to an existing tattoo can lead to some truly breathtaking designs which don’t require a single laser tattoo removal session.
- The size of the original tattoo. Be prepared for your new cover-up tattoo to be larger than the existing tattoo. Sometimes the tattoo artist will need to expand the size in order to cover up existing outlines or to create the best possible design.
- The maintenance of the cover-up tattoo. Depending on the original tattoo and the cover-up, you may need up to three touch-up sessions before your new tattoo is complete. Although your cover-up tattoo may look great when you leave the tattoo shop, the original design may peek through once the ink is settled. If this problem arises, a few touch up sessions are all you need to get the tattoo you want.
How to get the best cover-up tattoo
For a cover-up tattoo which will exceed your expectations, you must make the right decisions before, after, and during the cover-up tattoo session. Following the measures outlined below will help you get the best possible cover-up tattoo.
Collect visual inspiration
Start by putting together ideas for a design for the tattoo you want. Compile images you like into a scrapbook or folder on your computer. Even if you don’t land on an exact design, you will begin to see a trend in your interests as you gather more images which speak to you. Bring your collection to the tattoo artist you decide to work with and together the two of you will decide on a design you can be proud of.
Find a good artist
Don’t start your cover-up tattoo until you find an artist whom you genuinely trust. Ask for recommendations from friends, people with tattoos similar to the design you want, or your local tattoo shop. Once you’ve narrowed it down to the artists you are considering, ask to see a portfolio of their work and ask about their qualifications. Don’t rush the decision. Wait until you are certain and confident before booking an appointment.
Book a consultation with your artist
Get together with your chosen tattoo artist to start planning the tattoo and settle on a design. Ask which ideas will work best for cover up. Work together to find a design that you like which is suitable for a coverup. Listen to your artist when they provide feedback. If they think that a certain design is not possible, it’s based on their experience and expertise.
It’s your tattoo, so be firm about what you want and don’t take decisions lightly. However, if you picked an artist you trust and you’ve seen a portfolio which suggests they are capable, don’t demand that things be done your way. An artist will tell you what they can and cannot do, depending on the scale of the cover up. You may find solutions to some of the obstacles they note – for example fading a tattoo with laser tattoo removal – but keep an open mind and don’t consider the project a failure if every detail isn’t exactly as you imagined.
Getting overly fixated on one detail and not being open to suggestions could leave you with a tattoo you aren’t happy with. Establish realistic expectations before getting the cover-up tattoo.
If you’ve chosen a good artist, their priority will be your satisfaction, not their artistic vision. Your artist will tell you the limitations caused by the existing tattoo design. The reality is that artists are limited in what they can do because they aren’t working with a blank canvas.
You can still have a fantastic tattoo that you love even if every single aspect of the design isn’t done exactly according to your specifications.
Trust your tattoo artist
Tattoo artists spend years perfecting their craft. If you can’t trust them to realize your vision, you’ll never be satisfied. Some doubt is natural, even healthy, but you have to trust your tattoo artist if the two of you are going to successfully collaborate and produce an incredible cover-up tattoo.
Work with your tattoo artist to choose a tattoo design which will work well as a cover-up. Although every tattoo is different, there are a few consistent design considerations which will help ensure your cover-up tattoo looks great with minimal or no touch-ups.
Choose a design with plenty of thick, dark colours, shading, and plenty of fine detail. It’s easier to conceal an existing tattoo by covering it with an intricate design because it gives the artist options for covering up the tattoo.
Get laser tattoo removal
Get at least a few sessions of laser tattoo removal to fade your existing tattoo. The difference between a faded tattoo and a full, boldly-coloured tattoo makes an enormous difference for the tattoo artist. Before you go, however, talk to a tattoo artist and decide on a design. That way, your artist will be able to tell you exactly what you need to get faded so you won’t have to spend a dollar more than you have to.
If you have your tattoo faded, you can have more of a range in terms of the colour and design of your new tattoo.
Getting a cover-up tattoo is a big decision, especially if you are jaded about a previous tattoo. No matter what your reason for getting a cover-up tattoo is, if you follow the right steps, find the right artist, and pick the right design, it’s likely you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
Take a look at the below images. See if you can tell which ones are cover-ups and which ones are fresh tattoos. You’ll find the answers at the bottom:
Answer: They are all cover-ups! Now see if you can spot the original tattoos that were covered up!