Whether it’s a tattoo of your cheating ex-boyfriend’s name, a poorly rendered mural of a shitty 90s punk band, or a word you thought meant ‘Peace’ in Chinese but actually means ‘Chicken Chowmein’, it’s understandable that you want to make it disappear for good. Cover-up tattoos are an easier alternative to having a tattoo permanently removed and are often the answer to people’s prayers, but there are also a few things to keep in mind before getting one done. Here’s the low down on cover-up tattoos and some advice to help you make a better decision the second time around.
Get an artist's input first
Firstly, it’s important to understand that the replacement tattoo you have in mind might not be possible. Skin isn’t paper, and it’s not as simple as ‘tipex-ing’ over the bad part to create something better. This is why it’s the best thing to discuss your ideas with an experienced and reputable tattoo artist before anything else. They will be able to tell you if your plan will work or not, how they can make it work, or alternatively provide you with another solution. Remember, a good artist will never put something on your body that they are not comfortable with or that they know won’t look good, work as a cover and last a lifetime.
Another factor you will need to consider is the size of your cover-up. Generally, you can expect the new piece to be at least double the size of the original tattoo to ensure you get complete coverage and end up with a good result. Keep in mind that the tattoo artist does not only have to hide your old tattoo using shading and contrasting techniques (among others) but will also have to take attention away from the original design by creating an entirely different focal object.
Colour me perfect
Sometimes your vision for your cover-up tattoo simply won’t work for obvious reasons. For example, a pitch-black Chinese symbol for ‘eternity’ can’t be covered up with a design that is lighter and more dainty, like a script or a frangipani flower. In that case, the artist will have to use deep, dark colours like blues, purples and greens to cover it up – warm colours like red and yellow aren’t always dark enough to offer a complete cover. Other factors like opacity and contrast also play a part when it comes to choosing the cover-up colour palette. In Jacques's case, he spent a gruelling 54 hours in total with Meghan-Ann to finish this incredible blackout sleeve and cover-up design.
It might sting a little
An old tattoo that may not have been done with the right amount of care or skill will probably be scarred or raised, and attempting to cover up that bad boy by inking over a piece of scar tissue might be more painful than the first time. On the plus side, we’ve seen a few cases where the raised skin actually returns to its original flatness once it’s been punctured with a needle, so your cover-up tattoo might even help reverse some damage.
You might not need a cover-up
In some cases, a cover-up isn’t necessary and all that needs to be done is a slight touch-up. In this case, the artist will just rework some of the dull areas, fix the lines and add some contrast. Depending on the circumstances, the artist might suggest one or two sessions of laser treatment to lighten up the tattooed area, which is more often the case with large areas of skin in need of a cover-up that is just too dark. However, laser treatment can be expensive and has a rather low success rate (in our opinion). If you do decide to get lasered, make sure you find a reputable, experienced therapist to do it for you to avoid scarring the tattooed area.
So, there it is the low down on cover-up tattoos. Take your time to find an artist who knows what they’re doing, save up to have it done properly, and you will walk away with a brilliant piece of art that will truly last a lifetime.