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Covering Up a Bad Tattoo

I have lots of experience taking care of my tattoos—first to heal them and then to keep them looking good.

Call me crazy, but I thought South was below North.

Call me crazy, but I thought South was below North.

What to Do If You Got a Bad Tattoo

Bad tattoos can happen to good people, sad but true. If this is the case for you, you have three options.

  1. Live with it and be a walking lesson to other people–I’m looking at you people with barbed wire armbands.
  2. Laser it off–if you thought getting the tattoo hurt, you’re in for a painful surprise.
  3. Cover it.

If you’ve chosen to go the cover-up route, here are a few helpful tips to consider.

Find the Right Artist

Not just any tattoo artist can pull off a good cover-up job. Ask around for referrals and then ask to see their portfolio, I’d even go so far as to go and see some of their work in person, the only thing worse than a bad tattoo is a bad cover-up job.

Decide Whether You Want to Incorporate or Cover

How much do you hate your existing tattoo? Does it need to be completely covered or can it be reworked or incorporated into a new tattoo. Incorporating it into something new with a few subtle is the better option of the two if possible.

Awesome name cover up

Awesome name cover up

Be Flexible With Your Design Idea

Have a good idea of what design you’re hoping to use for your cover-up but don’t be married to the idea. Your artist may have to make a number of adjustments to make it work dependent on what your existing tattoo looks like.

Word to the wise, expect to have to go with darker colours. A light colour can’t cover a dark one, it’s ink people, not magic.

a beautiful rose to cover up a new tattoo

a beautiful rose to cover up a new tattoo

It May Not Be Perfect

Again, tattooing is not magic, some cover-ups do an amazing job, and there isn’t even a hint of the former tattoo, whereas others end up being a bit like a magic eye poster leaving the slightest trace of your former design.

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A good artist should be able to prepare you for the outcome so you know what to expect. If your tattoo was quite dark to begin, and you aren’t incorporating it, there may be some show through.

a tattoo cover-up

a tattoo cover-up

Never Make the Same Mistake Again

Now that you’ve masterfully disguised your bad decision from the past, don’t do it again. Put some thought into your next design and find a great artist. And for the love of Cheebus, do not put someone’s name on you. I don’t care if you’ve been in love forever and expect to be in love until the end of time. I’m sure I wouldn’t be off base in saying that the bulk of tattoo cover-ups are name related.

Happy inking!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Kim smith on October 25, 2018:

I have a black rose on my arm the name Terry under it. I want to keep the rose but I don't want to keep the name I can change it a word that means a variety of things or what could I do

Maggie on December 19, 2017:

I have Chinese letter on my lower back I want to do something over it what can I do

Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on July 23, 2012:

Thanks kitty! I need to have one of my less then favourite ones transformed or incorporated as well.

Kitty Fields from Summerland on July 23, 2012:

Love it. Great suggestions. I plan to get at least one of mine covered with something prettier. :) Thanks!

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