Uncovering Cover-Up Tattoos
So we all make mistakes. Maybe you thought that a relationship would last forever when you got your tattoo. Or if you’re like me, your tastes, along with trends, can change. The Japanese symbol on my lower back has been referred to (much to my annoyance) as a ‘tramp stamp’. I mean, a Japanese guy in a bar walked up to me and said that my tattoo literally meant “sexually strong”- even though I thought it meant “spirit and vitality”. But no matter what the reason, if you just aren’t loving your tattoo anymore, it may be time to consider a cover-up.
I interviewed Tattoo Goo Hall of Fame Artists Trudy Lines and Mike Evans to see how you can take your old tattoo from ‘ick’ to ‘siiick’ by getting freshly inked. Find out the answers to questions many of us have about cover-up tattoos below.
How much bigger can you expect a cover-up tattoo to get?
A cover-up tattoo will likely be at least 2x the size of the original tattoo. According to Mike, they can sometimes be up to 3x larger depending on the design and orientation of the tattoo you are trying to cover.
How should you select the tattoo artist to do your cover-up?
Do your research. Check to see if the artist you are considering has cover-up tattoos in their portfolio. Some artists actually won’t do cover-up tattoos because of the unique challenges they present. Also, keep in mind that cover-up tattoos often cost more per hour than regular tattoos. On average they are $25-$50 more per hour. And if you can call an artist and get in right away, it may be a sign that they don’t have as much experience. You usually have to book in advance to get in with the real pros.
How should you go about designing your cover-up tattoo?
It is best to go to your tattoo artist with a general idea or theme for what you want your cover-up tattoo to look like but work closely with them to actually design it. The artist will often give you several options of designs that might work for you to choose from. For example, you can say that you want a flower or a portrait tattoo, but the artist will have to design the tattoo in a unique way to cover the old. The color will need to have enough contrast to mask the old ink. Darker colors will need to be used over black or blue ink. Trudy gives the example that if you are trying to cover a butterfly with a portrait, you might position the butterfly in the dark hair of a portrait.
Mike also recommends that your cover-up tattoo should be very dimensional in order to trick the eyes into not seeing the old image below. For example, he did a skull cover-up that was set at an angle to help mask out the tattoo that was being covered.
How will the new tattoo look after healing?
Trudy warns cover-up tattoo seekers to not believe everything they see on the Internet. Some people post brightly colored tattoos that covered old dark tattoos. These photos are usually taken before the tattoos have healed and will look much different after a few weeks. The color generally fades a bit and if the cover-up was not designed well, the old dark color will show through. Trudy usually recommends that customers come back in after 4-6 weeks so that she can confirm the tattoo healed correctly and everything looks good. Mike warns that cover-up tattoos can be harder to heal since the skin below has already been damaged. You need to make sure you are working with an artist that understands the skin and knows what they are doing. Aftercare products like Tattoo Goo Salve can also help the healing process and keep cover-ups looking vibrant.