A tattoo cover-up can be a wonderful solution and a relief.  Unfortunately, we have seen too many tattoo cover-ups that ended up being worse than the original problem or at best just not satisfying.  It is never good to deal with one problem by creating another one.  Tattoos do not have to be forever but there are some important things you need to know.  This article will help you make a good choice when it is time for a cover-up.

Number 1: Tattoo Ink is See-Through

Putting one color of tattoo ink over another one does not “cover” the old ink, rather it adds a new color to the old one.  When the new ink is first put on it looks like it covers the old ink, but in a few weeks as the new ink begins to set in the old tattoo will bleed through.  One tattoo artist explained it by comparing cover-ups to stained glass.  You can put one color of stained glass over another one but you can still see the original color through the new one.  This means two things.  First, the darker the original tattoo, the more it will show through the new one and second, the colors of the new tattoo will blend with or be affected by the new colors.  A skilled cover-up artist understands this principle and uses good design and color theory to get the end result by knowing how the new colors will blend with the old ones.  This is never an easy task and requires an artist with good training and experience.  Not all good tattoo artists are good cover-up artists.  Cover up tattoo art is a specialized skill.

Number 2: The Darker The Original Tattoo, The More It Will Show Through The Cover-Up

These are two things that make a tattoo dark.  One is the color of the ink and the other is how much ink is used or the density of the ink.  Amateur artists tend to be heavy-handed or use a lot of ink to get the effects they want while more experienced artists know what is required and can use less ink to achieve the effects they want. Darker colors like black or dark blue will show through the tattoo much more than lighter colors like yellow or white.  However, if the original artist used a light color but used a lot of it (high density) even a light color can have a strong effect on a cover-up.

The age of the original tattoo matters too.  Tattoos tend to fade over time.  The ink slowly breaks down as the tattoo ages and is eliminated by your body. Light and bright colors like red and yellow tend to break down faster than dark ones like black or dark blue. If the tattoo is exposed to the sun it will break down faster than tattoos that are protected.  That is why using sunscreen is a must for keeping your tattoo fresh looking.  It is much easier to cover an old tattoo than a new one.  Old broken down tattoos bleed through much less than new ones.

Number 3: Design Matters

The art of tattoo requires several talents and skills.  Talents are what an artist is born with while skills are developed with training and experience.  When doing a cover up your artist needs to be a good designer which is a talent all of its own.  He or she must create a design that will incorporate the hard lines of the old tattoo into the new design so that it looks like the old tattoo never existed.  This is more of a challenge with long straight lines and lettering.  The more of these lines there are the more limited your artist will be with both design and color.  A skilled designer will find ways to create a new and pleasing design that incorporates the existing line while the amateur will simply end up with a very big and very dark tattoo.

We had a young man come into our laser tattoo removal clinic who had just gotten a cover-up on this forearm.  The cover-up was three very dark red roses that covered a mechanical tattoo with long lines that ran the length of his forearm.  The roses were very well done.  It looked great when he walked out of his artist’s studio, however, a few weeks later the dark straight lines had bleed through and could easily be seen in stark contrast to the curves of the floral design.  He was so disappointed with his and asked if we could help.  We could but the solution would be expensive and could have been prevented.  His artist was a very good tattoo artist, but he did not understand the art cover-up up.

One of the very best solutions to doing a good cover-up is to fade the hard and dark lines using laser tattoo removal before doing the cover-up.  Every good cover up artist knows the reputable tattoo removal clinics in your area and can refer you for treatment. While a complete tattoo removal can take may sessions and be very expensive, fading the hard lines of an old tattoo before a cover up usually only takes a few sessions and does not need to involve the whole tattoo which can save you a lot of money.

Technology has improved dramatically over the last ten years and tattoo removal lasers are much more effective.  The way lasers work is by using light that is absorbed by the color of the ink which is called a chromophore.  People sometimes believe that the laser burns the ink off the skin.  That’s not true.  The laser light passes harmlessly through the outer layer of skin (which has very little color) and is absorbed into the dark color of the tattoo ink (chromophore) and superheats the ink in millionths of a second pulses.  This process causes a tiny explosion which breaks down the ink into smaller particles that the body can absorb and eliminate.  The explosion from the ink can cause minor damage to the surrounding tissue.  This damage is mitigated by the fact that the pulse of light is so quick that the tissue cools before it can be damaged.  This is called thermal relaxation time.  In addition, most clinics use a cooling machine with the treatment to further protect the skin tissue.  It is extremely important to choose a reputable laser clinic because a good technician will achieve the results you need in the fewest sessions while maintaining your skin’s safety.  Once again it comes down to training and experience.  Don’t be impressed by clinics run by doctors.  Medical school does not prepare a physician to operate a laser and even at expensive dermatology clinics the procedures are done by trained and certified technicians, not doctors.  Clinics that specialize in tattoo removal often are less expensive and have more experienced technicians than clinics that do tummy tucks and breast implants and only a few tattoo removals a year.

The good news about laser tattoo removal is that with a few sessions your artist has many more options to design a cover-up tattoo that can be lighter, smaller and more colorful.  The chances of success are greatly improved.