Cover-Up Tattoos: A Quick Guide

Posted by Josh Melvin on

Have you ever regretted getting a tattoo? Maybe you didn’t like how it looked, or it wasn’t the right design for you. If that’s the case, don’t worry—there are ways to fix up your tattoo.

This quick guide will look at cover-up tattoos: what they are, how they work, and some tips for getting one. So if you’re thinking about covering up an old tattoo, keep reading!

What Are Cover-Up Tattoos?

Cover-up tattoos are, quite simply, tattoos designed to cover up other tattoos. You can use them to cover up small mistakes or bad decisions, or you can use them to completely transform an existing tattoo into something new and different. 

No matter the reason, they can be a great way to get the tattoo you want without starting from scratch.

How Do Cover-Up Tattoos Work?

A cover up tattoo done by The Fall from a fist to a forest

When you initially got your tattoo, the artist injected the ink approximately one millimeter beneath your skin into the dermis—a layer below the epidermis. During a cover-up, the artist re-deposits the ink in the same dermis where the previous tattoo’s ink is already visible.

The artist will design a new tattoo that is big enough to cover the old one, and then they’ll carefully place it over the existing tattoo. Sometimes, they may need to remove a piece of the old tattoo before adding the new one.

This artist will often spend quite a bit of time on the design, as there are many factors to consider, such as color, placement, size, and the actual incorporation of the previous tattoo. Therefore, you will often pay more for a cover-up tattoo. However, they are often more affordable than tattoo removals.

Let’s look at each of these factors in more detail.


Color is one of the most important things to consider when covering up a tattoo. The new tattoo must be dark enough to cover the old one completely. Black is often the best color to use, but very dark blues, greens, and browns can also work well.

The artist will often need to add more than one layer of ink, which means the tattoo may take longer to heal. Be patient and wait until it’s completely healed before deciding if you want to add more color.


The new tattoo replaces the old one, so you’ll need to decide where you want it. The old tattoo’s size and shape often determine this. Hence, you may need to remove part of the old tattoo before your artist can place the new one.


The size of the new tattoo is also an essential factor to consider. It must be big enough to cover the old tattoo but not so big that it looks out of proportion on your body.


Sometimes, you may want to incorporate parts of the old tattoo into the new one. This can be a great way to turn a lousy tattoo into something you love. The artist will need to be very skilled to pull this off, so it’s essential to research and find an artist you trust.

The Difference Between Cover-Ups And Reworked Tattoos

While cover-ups and reworked tattoos both involve modifying an existing tattoo, there is a big difference between the two. Cover-ups completely conceal the old tattoo, while reworked tattoos incorporate the entire old tattoo into the new design. Reworked tattoos can also be when you ask an artist to change or redo the color.

Most of the time, the same artist reworks a tattoo while a new tattoo artist does cover-ups.

What To Consider When Getting A Cover-Up Tattoo

A cover-up tattoo on someones forearm.

If you’re considering getting a cover-up tattoo, you should keep a few things in mind.

  • It’s crucial to find an experienced artist who you trust. They should be able to show you examples of their work, and they should be able to answer any questions you have.
  • You and your artist should design the tattoo specifically for you—don’t just pick something off the wall.
  • Be patient during the healing process as it may take longer than a regular tattoo.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re unsure what you want.

The Pros And Cons Of Cover-Up Tattoos

Like anything else, there are both benefits and drawbacks to getting a cover-up tattoo. Therefore, it’s essential to weigh all the factors before deciding.


  • They can turn a lousy tattoo into a good one.
  • It can cover up small mistakes.
  • You can use the new tattoo to change the meaning of a tattoo.
  • They are often more affordable than tattoo removals.


  • They are usually more expensive than a new tattoo.
  • The cover-up might not look as good as a new tattoo.
  • Finding an artist who can do a good job can be challenging.

How To Find A Good Tattoo Artist For A Cover-Up

An artist busy covering up a tattoo.

Finding a talented tattoo artist is one of the most critical factors in getting a good cover-up tattoo. Unfortunately, this can be tricky, as not all artists are equally skilled at doing cover-ups.

Here are a few tips for finding a good artist for your cover-up:

  • Ask around for recommendations. Talk to friends, family, and other tattooed people to see if they know of any good artists in your area.
  • Look at before and after photos. When looking at an artist’s portfolio, pay attention to the cover-up tattoos they’ve done. Make sure you like how the new tattoo looks compared to the old one.
  • Read reviews. Look for online reviews of tattoo artists in your area. Be sure to pay attention to reviews specifically for cover-up tattoos.

By following these simple tips, you will find a fantastic tattoo artist in no time. 

Reasons You Would Get A Cover-Up Tattoo

There are plenty of reasons why someone might want a cover-up tattoo. Maybe you got a tattoo when you were younger, and it’s not something you’re proud of now. Or perhaps you had a change of heart about the design, or the artist didn’t entirely execute it the way you wanted. Whatever the reason, a cover-up can give you a chance to start fresh with a new tattoo.

Another reason to get a cover-up is if your tattoo started fading. That’s because it can be challenging to see a fading tattoo, meaning it might not look how you want it to.

Designing A New Tattoo

A cover-up tattoo done by Geoff Funk at The Fall from a lizard to the cosmos.

Before you get a cover-up tattoo, you’ll need to develop a new one. This can be tricky, especially if you’re unsure what you want. But it’s essential to take your time and find a design you’re happy with. Once you’ve found a design, show it to your artist and see if they can recreate it.

If you’re not sure what you want, there are a few things you can do to get some inspiration. You can look at tattoo magazines or online galleries or talk to your artist about your ideas.

Ideas for cover-ups

If you’re not sure what you want your cover-up tattoo to be, here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • A nature scene: If you have a small tattoo, you could cover it up with a larger tattoo of a nature scene. This could include a landscape, flowers, or even animals.
  • A quote: If you have a tattoo in a foreign language, you could cover it up with a quote in English. It could be something meaningful to you or something just fun to say.
  • A geometric design: If you have a tribal tattoo, you could cover it with a geometric design. This could be anything from a simple pattern to a more complex structure.
  • A portrait: If you have a tattoo of someone’s name, you could cover it up with a picture of them. It could be a photo or a drawing.

No matter what you choose, make sure you’re happy with it. After all, it will be on your body for a long time.

Healing A Cover-Up Tattoo

Be patient while your cover-up tattoo heals, as it can take longer to heal than a regular tattoo. This is because the cover-up is done over an existing tattoo, making your healing process more difficult.

You should follow your artist’s instructions for taking care of your tattoo. It will help it heal properly and prevent any complications.

Some people might experience some itching during the healing process. It’s normal, but resisting the urge to scratch is essential. Scratching can cause the tattoo to become irritated or even infected.

Overall, the healing process will be similar to your previous tattoo. You can find more information in this tattoo aftercare guide:

Reasons To Avoid Getting A Cover-Up Tattoo

There are a few reasons why you might want to avoid getting a cover-up tattoo.

  • As mentioned, they’re usually more expensive than regular tattoos.
  • They can be more challenging to heal.
  • They might not always turn out the way you want them to.

If you’re not sure if a cover-up is right for you, it’s best to consult with a professional. They’ll be able to help you decide if a cover-up is the best option for your tattoo.

Color Tattoo Cover-Up

If you’re considering getting a color tattoo, you should know that they can be more difficult to cover up. That’s because the color of your previous tattoo will mix with the new ink to create a new color. Therefore, your artist needs to perfect the color matching to transform your old tattoo into something spectacular. If they don’t, you might have a new tattoo that’s a different color than you wanted.

Laser Removal

If you’re not interested in getting a cover-up tattoo, you could always get your tattoo removed. Studios or institutions can do this with lasers, which break up the ink so the body can absorb it.

Laser removal is usually more expensive than getting a cover-up tattoo, but it’s worth it if you’re unhappy with it.

Control Your Cover-Up

Cover-up tattoos are a great way to fix a mistake, cover up an embarrassing tattoo, or add more meaning to an existing tattoo. But, if you’re thinking of getting a cover-up tattoo, there are some things you need to know first.

Our team at The Fall Tattooing in Vancouver can help you get the perfect design and find a talented artist who will make your new tattoo look amazing. Contact us today for a consultation.

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