Cover Up Tattoos

Cover Up Tattoos

To cover up a tattoo means to have another one take the place of one you have but don’t like. Perhaps you are not happy with the first artist’s work, it did not come out the way you hoped it would, you had it made when you were 16 on a holiday in Ayia Napa, or maybe it is a symbol/quote/name that no longer resonates with where you are in life. Or, perhaps your old tattoo has faded to the point of a blur. No matter why they are all perfectly good reasons. 

So how does a cover up tattoo work, and how does your artist go about creating a successful one? 

Consult and be prepared to be flexible

The first thing you want to do is to schedule an appointment for a consultation with your artist so that they can get a good look at what they have to work with. After you have done your research to find an artist that is comfortable and experienced with cover ups, that is. It is good to bring a couple of ideas and a close approximation of what you would like, but be prepared to be flexible.

Vendetta Mask Tattoo
Done as part of a cover up by Dorian from Vivid Ink Birmingham

Not everything is possible with cover ups, and not everything will look as good as it would have if the canvas was clean. It is really a negotiation between your ideal piece, and the already existing lines, shapes, colours and location. But collaborating with your artist you can definitely bring about a truly awesome design! 

In most cases, your new tattoo will need to be at least 30% larger than your old one. But honestly, when it comes to cover-ups, the bigger is usually the better. A larger piece over an older, smaller one also gives you more options in terms of motive to work with.

Colour choices are extremely important

When you had the initial tattoo done, the needle deposited the ink at least one millimetre under your skin, into the layer known as the dermis. When you get a cover up, although it may sound as if the new ink goes on top of the old, it actually goes into the exact same layer. This means that colour matters as two shades, the old and the new, will create a new colour. Darker ink will always dominate over lighter. This makes black one of the most efficient choices for a cover-up, but darker blues and browns also tend to work pretty well. Or, a darker shade of the colour that is already in the old tattoo.

Jason cover up tattoo
By Marius from Vivid Ink Birmingham

And of course, if it is a really tricky piece, there is always the impactful black-out. Or, you could opt for what is called a blast over. A blast over is a form of cover up that doesn’t completely cover up the old one below, creating a really cool layered effect. They are often bold blackwork designs using lots of negative space and lines. This is only an option if the old piece is not something you would rather forget, and you are prepared to have a truly unique stand-out piece which incorporates the original one rather than conceal it.

Lasering could give you more options

Oh, and as an add-on, just so you are not too surprised if it happens, your artist may suggest a couple of rounds of laser on your old tattoo before you start working on it together. This is because very heavily pigmented ink can be very hard to rework into something new. It could also give you a wider range of colours to work with for the new piece. While the laser might not get rid of it completely in a couple of rounds, it may break up the pigment enough for your artist to work some cover up magic. 


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