Tattoo Cover Up: 5 Tips To Erase the Past

Tattoo Cover Up: 5 Tips To Erase the Past

Nov 02, 2022 | Bridget Reed

Sometimes we learn lessons the hard way. You may have a bad tattoo, a tattoo of something you don’t like anymore, or a tattoo that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget. It’s time for that tattoo to go. So, what are your options?

If you want to rid your body of a tattoo you hate, you can have your tattoo removed or get a cover-up. Sometimes, a combination of both methods will produce the best results. Here’s what you need to know before you get started.

Should You Cover Up Your Tattoo or Remove It?

If your tattoo is big and dark, you might be unable to cover it up with anything other than a blackout tattoo. A giant blackout tattoo can be just as hard to live with as a tattoo you hate. Removing your tattoo might be a better option.

Laser tattoo removal is the most effective method, but it definitely isn’t simple. You’ll get your tattoo removed by a laser in multiple sessions, each spaced at least four weeks apart. 

The laser destroys the ink in the tattoo, and your body eventually breaks down and carries away the damaged ink particles. Larger tattoos sometimes take years to remove.

Laser removal can be expensive and painful, but it’s ultimately worth it if you’d rather have the tattoo gone. There’s no sense in covering up a tattoo you don’t like with another tattoo you might not like. 

If you can't get a cover-up tattoo you'd feel comfortable committing to, you don’t want to find yourself in the same position again in a few years. 

Tip #1: Remove Your Tattoo a Little

In some cases, it might be helpful to have a few laser removal sessions before you get your cover-up tattoo. You don’t necessarily need to get the old tattoo fully removed. Laser tattoo removal works very well on black ink, which is the hardest color to cover up. 

Reducing the concentration of black ink can make it easier for a tattoo artist to design a cover-up you’ll love. They’ll have fewer restrictions around what they can do and how they can do it.

There are also tattoo removal creams, but they tend to work slowly. Their results aren’t comparable to the results of a laser, and they’re very expensive. 

It’s probably a better idea to go for one or two sessions of laser removal than using a cream every day for a year. It will likely cost a similar amount. 

Tip #2: Have a Vague Idea, but Don’t Get Too Committed

Almost anything is possible when you’re getting a tattoo on bare skin. The canvas is blank. All the artist needs to do is make the design fit your body. 

If you’re getting a coverup, you’re tattooing over something else. You can’t tattoo over an old tattoo and make it disappear. That ink is still there and will be part of the finished cover-up.

You can tell your tattoo artist a few things you’d like, and they’ll have to figure out a way to make it possible to tattoo your new idea over your old idea. This might involve making some compromises. 

Cover-up tattoos generally have to use darker and more concentrated colors to disguise the tattoo completely. You definitely can’t get a pastel watercolor flower tattoo to cover up a black and gray skull tattoo.

You might be able to get a deep jewel-toned bouquet of flowers with a black outline. Adjust your expectations according to what’s possible.

Tip #3: Incorporate Your Tattoo Into Another Tattoo

Hiding a bad tattoo in plain sight is often easier than covering it up completely. Adding new words or changing the tattoo's context might help your artist create a cover-up that looks a lot more like an intentional tattoo. 

Think of tattoo artist Lindsay Baker’s legendary viral Pikachu cover-up tattoo. The original terrible Pikachu tattoo is still there, but a much better Pikachu is drunkenly painting him onto a canvas. 

It turned a bad tattoo into something kitschy and funny. If you’re down to give your bad tattoo new life, you might be able to use a similar strategy.

Your tattoo might be a mix of things you don’t want and things you’re still okay with. If there are parts of your bad tattoo that you want thrown into oblivion, you can always make sure they’re gone.

If you have someone’s name next to a flower, it might be easier to cover the name and keep it as part of a new tattoo. If you would be open to preserving any elements of your tattoo, let your tattoo artist know.

Tip #4: Choose an Artist Experienced With Tattoo Cover Ups

Doing a cover-up tattoo is not the same as starting a tattoo from scratch. It’s a very difficult feat to achieve. 

It requires a lot of experience and a thorough understanding of how tattoo inks can be layered. It also requires highly refined artistic skill and some out-of-the-box creativity to hide the tattoo beneath.

Don’t shop your cover-up idea to a tattoo artist who doesn’t have a lot of experience in giving cover-ups. You don’t want to hate the cover-up as much or even more than the tattoo you have now. 

Since your options for a cover-up tattoo will naturally be more limited, it’s a good idea to ask several different cover-up artists what they think is possible. They’ll all have different strategies and techniques they can use to disguise your tattoo. 

Their imaginations may look at your tattoo and see unique possibilities. The more opinions you get, the more options you’ll be able to consider. 

Tip #5: Tattoo Artists Help People With Offensive Tattoos

If your tattoo indicates that you were affiliated with a group or an organization that could be considered a hate group, it’s understandable that you’d want to cover it up. If you’ve changed and become a better person, you don’t want a constant reminder of something harmful for all the world to see.

Some tattoo artists will offer free or reduced-price cover-ups for tattoos that fall under this category. Redemption Ink is a registered non-profit charity network of tattoo artists that will help you erase a bad past and start a future filled with love and acceptance. 

Their artists aren’t here to judge you or make you feel guilty about poor decisions you’ve made in your past. They just want to help erase the hate in the world. 

Redemption Ink also covers up tattoos and brands on survivors of human trafficking. If your tattoo was placed on you without your consent, you could also receive their help.

Are You Ready To Right Your Tattoo Wrongs?

Don’t rush into getting a cover-up. Rushing probably resulted in the tattoo you’re trying to get rid of, and you don’t want to make the same mistake twice. 

Carefully consider what you’re going to do. In the meantime, consider getting a few tattoo removal sessions to make a cover-up tattoo a little easier. Hush is here for you after you get your cover-up tattoo. 

Our tattoo aftercare set contains everything you need to cleanse, moisturize, and protect your tattoo and skin while healing. Our aftercare spray even helps to take some of the burning, itching sensation from the healing process. 


Laser Tattoo Removal: A Clinical Update | PMC

The Demographics and Rates of Tattoo Complications, Regret, and Unsafe Tattooing Practices: A Cross-Sectional Study | PMC



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