Tattoo coverups (also known as redesigns or re-works) can be a very affordable option for hiding an unwanted tattoo. However, you do have to keep in mind that your coverup tattoo will probably have to be bigger and darker than the initial tattoo. If you’re cool with that, by all means, go for it!
Some people who plan on getting a tattoo coverup choose to have a couple of laser tattoo removal sessions first, in order for the initial tattoo to become lighter and more easily covered with a second tattoo. This isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s just a way to keep more options open in terms of your coverup.
Bottom line, take your time choosing the right design, choosing the right artist for yourself, and take the proper aftercare measures so that your tattoo heals properly. Remember…you don’t want to mess this up a second time!
Choosing the right design
Many people make the mistake of choosing a tattoo design according to fashion, instead of passion. Styles and trends may make your tattoo look really hip at the moment. But not only will these styles and trends change with time…your own interests will change with time too. Make sure you choose with your heart. Pick a design that means something to you emotionally, is tied to good memories, and represents something you’re passionate about. You need to picture yourself feeling the same way about this tattoo when you’ll be old and grey as you do today.
There are basically 2 different types of designs: custom and flash. Custom designs usually consist of some artwork ideas the customer brings in, which is then adapted by the tattoo artist. Flash designs are the stock illustrations you see on the walls of the tattoo shop. They can also come from online tattoo design galleries. Check out the video below and see why Miami Ink Tattoo Designs is one of the best things since sliced bread!
Disclosure: Tania Barbe has purchased these gallery subscriptions herself, and although she does make a referral commission from sales of the recommended gallery, she only recommends products and services she loves and has used herself.
Here’s an overview of what you’ll get by subscribing to Miami Ink Tattoo Designs:
- Comprehensive gallery where you can take your time browsing over 25,000 designs in 60 different categories
- High-quality images that you can print in the exact size you want, to bring to your tattoo artist
- Full access to a Learning Center, with a dozen downloadable tattoo-related e‑books
- Full access to a Video Library, with hundreds of videos on anything from aftercare, to infection prevention, to choosing the right tattoo artist
- Subscription to their blog, which will give you valuable advice and information
- Shopping cart where you can buy all your aftercare products
- 24-7 help and support
- 60-day money back guarantee
Choosing the right artist
Another very important factor you’ll want to carefully consider is your choice of the actual tattoo artist. Not all tattoo parlors offer tattoo coverups, and not all tattoo artists can do them well. Doing tattoo coverups takes a very specific type of skill. The artist must be able to visualize the initial tattoo getting lost in the second one, and be able to divert the focal point to another area.
You’ll also need to find an artist who has experience and talent with the type of design you’re looking for. For example, a certain artist may be better with black-only portraits, whereas another may be better with multicolored Japanese tattoos. Ask to see a portfolio of the tattoo artist’s work. Look carefully at the shading, the proportions of each element, the clarity of the details, etc. You’ll also need to describe to the tattoo artist what you have in mind for your own tattoo, including which colors you’d like in it. Tattoo artists are trained in color theory and understand how colors can complement one another and make your tattoo stand out. Make sure you bring with you any kind of reference artwork, whether it’s printed out, or on your phone. If you’re looking for an amazing online tattoo design gallery, check out Miami Ink Tattoo Designs. You can browse through thousands of designs on their website, and then print out the design you want, in the size you want, and bring it to your artist. Keep in mind that covering up old tattoos can sometimes limit you a bit in terms of which colors, proportions, and artistic elements you can have in your new tattoo. A good artist will always try to work with your vision, while being realistic about what can be done to achieve flawless tattoo coverups. Regardless of how close your end result will look compared to what you initially had in mind, the key is to clearly communicate your tattoo coverup vision to the artist. Tattoo artists are not psychics. And once that ink is in your skin, it’s too late for you to explain to them what you really had in mind.
You’ll also want to discuss prices with the tattoo artist upfront. Nobody likes a surprise in this kind of scenario. Some tattoo parlors will ask for a deposit upfront. This should be deducted off the total amount, so that you only need to bring the balance on the day of your tattooing session. It may be hard for the artist to give you a fixed price right away, especially if it’s a larger tattoo with a lot of detail that might need many tattooing sessions. But the tattoo artist should at least be able to give you an estimate of what the costs will be. Also, ask the artist if the price includes any touch-ups that might be needed over the following weeks. And most important of all, don’t try to negotiate the price of the tattoo with the artist! Many tattoo artists find this an absolute insult to their art. Plus, you could walk out of there with a giant penis tattooed on your arm...
Tattooing over scars
Some people end up getting tattoo coverups because they’ve had scarring caused by laser tattoo removal in the past. Laser tattoo removal can actually be a very effective way to remove tattoos, if done well and by a qualified professional. But for those who have had a bad experience with it, the unwanted tattoo becomes a double whammy: covering up a partially erased tattoo, and covering up scar tissue. It’s important to remember that scars don’t have the same tissue as regular skin does. Not only is scar tissue more sensitive than regular skin (some scars also have nerve damage, which makes them even more sensitive), but it doesn’t absorb ink as well as regular skin. If you plan on tattooing a scar, make sure it’s not red or infected, and it’s completely healed (the full healing process takes about 18 months). While your scar is still in its healing process, you can choose to hide your tattoo temporarily, either with tattoo cover up makeup, tattoo airbrush makeup, or cover sleeves. Older scars usually absorb the ink better than younger scars, so it’s worth waiting for a young scar to heal and improve.
Once again, choosing the right artist is crucial here. Not all artists have experience in tattooing over scars. Also, because not all scars will absorb ink well, and not all lines could be well defined, you need to discuss with your artist whether the price includes any touch-ups in the weeks following your tattooing session.
The day of your tattoo
Before leaving the house, make sure you’ve had a shower and that your skin is clean. Wear something loose that will be easy to take off or remove, and that won’t rub against the tattooed area. Have a light meal a couple of hours before getting to the tattoo parlor, to make sure you have enough sugar in your system to avoid passing out in case of stress and anxiety.
Getting inked can be a painful process because of the burning, scratching sensation of the needles on the skin. Try to book a morning appointment for your tattoo session, because that’s when pain tolerance is best, due to peak adrenaline levels in your body at that time. A long tattoo session can get aggravating, so you need to make sure your energy level is at its highest when you walk into the parlor. You can also take a non-aspirin pain reliever. Aspirin thins the blood and could make you bleed more, so make sure you choose a pain reliever with acetaminophen (a.k.a. Tylenol) for example. Some people prefer to apply a topical anesthetic containing lidocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine or prilocaine. These usually only bring the pain level down by about 50%, so it’s important to be realistic about your expectations concerning pain control. Plus, keep in mind that if you’ll be using a topical anesthetic, you’ll have to take certain precautions. First off, make sure you use a gel, such as Greencaine, and not a cream. A cream could make the tattoo needles slip on your skin, and many tattoo artists won’t want to tattoo you if you’re using a cream anesthetic. Also, there have been cases of adverse reactions and even deaths reported after people applied topical anesthetics before a procedure. In these cases, those people had applied and reapplied large quantities to their skin over a few hours, and wrapped the skin in plastic wrap to increase the numbing action. This caused toxicity in the bloodstream, which can result in seizures, irregular heartbeat, and even death. If you do choose to apply a topical anesthetic, you should talk to your doctor beforehand to make sure you’re not at risk of getting an adverse reaction. And the day of your tattoo, you should arrive at least a half-hour early at the tattoo parlor to apply it there.
Before starting the tattoo coverup, your tattoo artist will wipe off any anesthetic gel, disinfect your skin, and possibly have to shave the area (depending on your sasquatch factor of course). The artist will either draw an outline directly on you, or apply a stencil on your skin that has the tattoo outline drawn on it. This is a really important first step because it’ll allow you to see how big the tattoo will look on you, which angle and exact placement it’ll have, and how your body will move with the tattoo. Stencils are created by printing your chosen design on thermal paper. In terms of choosing amazing designs, check out Miami Ink Tattoo Designs. They’re an online tattoo gallery where you can take your time browsing through thousands of designs, and then print out the design you want, in the size you want. Keep in mind that covering up a tattoo with another one may mean that your artist will have to adapt your design a bit in order for the tattoo coverup to look flawless.
The artist will start by tattooing the outline of your tattoo, by using a liner needle. The outline is generally the most painful part of the tattoo, because the liner needle has very few needles. After the outline is done and the tattoo has been rinsed off of any excess ink and blood, the artist will move on to the shading of the tattoo. The shading needle has many needles, so it covers a larger area and isn’t usually as painful as the liner needle. If your tattoo has both black and color in it, the artist may schedule you for two separate sessions. The reason for this is that since your skin will have tiny perforations all over it, and that you’ll be bleeding a bit in the process, the black ink could risk getting into the colored areas and ruin your color.
Once your tattoo coverup is finished, the artist will gently clean your tattoo, and pat it dry. Although many artists still use the traditional method of covering up the tattoo with ointment, plastic wrap and tape, more and more artists and tattoo parlors are adopting a medical-grade sterile barrier film called Tatu-Derm. Because it’s available in a roll format, you can trim it with clean scissors to fit the size and shape of your tattoo area. Tatu-Derm is clear, waterproof, breathable and latex-free, it moves with your body, and you won’t need any irritating tape to make it stick. Ask the tattoo parlor when you go for your initial consultation if they plan on using Tatu-Derm to cover your tattoo after your tattooing session. If they don’t, feel free to bring in your own. This will optimize your healing way more than sticking a piece of plastic wrap on you.
Any competent tattoo artist should give you written aftercare instructions before letting you walk out the door. Remember that you’ll be walking out of there with an open wound that’s equivalent to a third-degree burn. Most tattoos, when properly cared for, take a couple of weeks to heal. During that time, you could experience a bit of soreness, bruising, itching, or the feeling of being sunburned; these are all normal.
In terms of products that can help heal and soothe your freshly-tattooed skin, one of the best products on the market is the Rose Tattoo Aftercare Liquid Serum. It’s USDA certified organic, 100% vegan, and comes in a spray bottle for easy application. It would be wise to purchase the serum in advance, so that you have it on hand once you get home after your tattoo cover-up session. Some people prefer to apply A & D ointment, but this sometimes contains zinc oxide, which actually draws color out. Plus, A & D ointment can contain petroleum, which also draws out color, raises the skin temperature, and harbors bacteria. For these reasons, any petroleum-based ointment should be avoided as part of your aftercare routine. Also, you should always read the ingredients of any ointment you’re considering using, to make sure you have no allergies to any of them.
After getting home, you’ll need to start following a specific aftercare routine, so you can prevent infection. If, even after taking the most careful and sterile measures, you notice signs of infection, increased bleeding, or swelling, you should contact your doctor right away.
Here are the basic aftercare measures you’ll need to take once you get home, and over the next few days:
- Make sure your hands are clean before touching the tattoo area. Also, make sure to have clean paper towels on hand. Avoid using fabric towels because these can harbor bacteria.
- If the tattoo artist only used plastic wrap to cover your tattoo, remove the plastic wrap 3–5 hours after your session. Gently wash your tattoo with your hands (no wash cloth), lukewarm water, and an antibacterial/antimicrobial soap such as Dial. Carefully dry the area with the paper towel, by using small patting motions (no rubbing).
- If the tattoo artist used the Tatu-Derm sterile film to cover your tattoo, keep this barrier film in place for 12 to 24 hours, judging on how much fluid buildup has accumulated. To remove the Tatu-Derm film, start from an edge or corner, and peel it back slowly over itself, not away from the body. Gently wash your tattoo with your hands (no wash cloth), lukewarm water, and an antibacterial/antimicrobial soap such as Dial. Carefully dry the area with the paper towel, by using small patting motions (no rubbing).
- Your tattoo will probably still be oozing plasma at this point, so you’ll need to keep it covered, to keep the bacteria off of your healing skin, and to keep your plasma off of everything around you. This is especially important if you sleep naked on your bed sheets. The last thing you want is to be stuck to your sheets in the morning…not only will this hurt like hell, but you’ll rip the color right out of your tattoo. Once again, the best thing to use is Tatu-Derm, a medical-grade sterile film that you can trim to fit the size and shape of your tattoo area. This beats most traditional bandages because you don’t need to use irritating tape to hold Tatu-Derm in place, it’s clear, breathable and latex-free, it moves with your body, and it’s waterproof. It’s designed to stick to dry skin only, meaning that it won’t stick to your freshly-tattooed oozing skin and won’t affect your color. Your second Tatu-Derm application can be kept in place for a couple of days, depending on how much fluid is accumulating.
- Keep the tattoo covered as long as it’s still oozing plasma. If it’s not leaking, it’s best to let the tattoo breathe from that point on (depending on whether your daily activities allow you to do that, of course). Keep washing the tattooed area with antibacterial/antimicrobial soap such as Dial a couple of times a day. After patting it dry, spray some Rose Tattoo Aftercare Liquid Serum on the tattoo to keep it hydrated and to soothe the skin.
- After 4–5 days, you’ll see the skin starting to peel. The reason for this is that the outer layers of your skin were pretty much destroyed when you got the tattoo. Don’t pick at the scab or peeling skin…you’re not 6 years-old anymore, for crying out loud! If you pick at it, you’ll also pick some of your color away with it. Keep applying the Rose Tattoo Aftercare Liquid Serum as necessary. As the skin peels, you could see a shine to the new skin. This should disappear within a few days.
- General things to consider:
- No drinking alcohol within 24 hours BEFORE or AFTER getting the tattoo. Don’t worry, you’ll get through it. Alcohol thins the blood and you could end up bleeding out some of the color of your tattoo.
- Unless your tattoo’s protected by Tatu-Derm waterproof barrier film, don’t go soaking it in water for too long, whether by swimming or taking baths. Showers are fine, as long as the water isn’t beating down too hard on your tattoo.
- Try not to scratch the scab (even though it will probably be itchy and torment the hell out of you). Applying a gentle, slight pressure to the area can bring a bit of relief. Avoid anti-itch creams.
- Some of your friends will probably want to see this thing and put their dirty, filthy hands all over you. Tell them to keep their hands to themselves, because you need to make sure your new tattoo doesn’t get infected! Once it’s all healed up, then you can let your friends put their dirty, filthy hands all over you.
- No direct sunlight on the tattoo as it’s fully healing during the first couple of months. Be careful if you’re out in the sun and your tattoo is under light-colored clothing, as the sun could still have an effect on the skin underneath. Choose dark, color-absorbing clothing instead. Once the tattoo is fully healed and you want to show it off in the beautiful glory of the sunlight, make sure you apply a good sunblock. If you want a sunblock with a high SPF that’s waterproof, sweatproof, and non-comedogenic, Neutrogena makes a great SPF70.