Tattoos are a permanent expression of your individual self that can add to your overall image, represent held ideals, or remind you of sentimental moments you would rather not forget.
Though not every tattoo represents an unchanging idea.
Often mistakes can be made, the name of an ex-girlfriend, a provocative image not suitable in the workplace, or just a tattoo you outgrew all are enough to make you scramble for ways to cover up and hide your old ink.
When looking to get some new cover-up ink it is important to bear in mind that for a cover-up to truly work it usually has to be much darker than what is currently residing beneath your skin. A small tattoo of old lovers name can easily be hidden below the countenance of a rose or lotus blossom that is fully shaded in though the larger and darker the piece, the more difficult it can be to cover.
Fading the unwanted tattoo into the background of a larger piece works rather well on dark tattoos on the arms, what was once an embarrassing reminder becomes the backdrop to a new half or full sleeve.
The use of fully shaded tattoos is especially effective at hiding old ink and allows for the artist to go darker without sacrificing any aesthetic appeal. Though sometimes several sessions may be necessary to completely conceal old ink below a shaded tree-line or blacked our feather. Sometimes the best course is just directly completely inking over the old tattoo and using negative space to create a new piece.
Tattoo Cover Up Ideas
The most effective cover up tattoo ideas are the ones that leave no trace of the previous work, instead leaving behind a beautiful new image. This angel is one such example, the shading and detail in the piece cover up any traces that there was a tattoo that came before it.
This inner arm bicep cover up is effective. Gone are the words and slightly faded shading of the previous piece to be replaced by a skilfully executed wing of feathers. Feathers make for popular cover ups employing black and gray. As this work demonstrates, the artist utilizes a variety of shades and patterns to make the new work look good right over the top of the piece.
From the looks of things this was either an old barbed wire tattoo or Celtic band of some description. To cover it up, the artist used a sing needle and painstaking solid black work. After the healing and aftercare is finished this tattoo may need some touch up work to ensure no trace of the old tattoo can be found underneath.
This is the epitome of making the best of a bad situation. The old piece would have been a detailed, heavy shadowed bit of tattooing that obviously left the artist only one choice; get blacker. The cool thing is though that this one has been made into a nice ink splatter new wave concept tattoo rather than a hard to miss wall of black without any theme.
Quality cover ups take real skill and commitment from both the artist and subject getting funky trying to find the right fix. This tattoo now looks like a fantastic mix of realism and abstract new wave to show off a beautiful raven. Traces of the old work are gone bar for a couple of sweeps from previous shading that have been folded seamlessly into the new work.
This piece utilizes negative space in the geometric design to help create variety in the old tattoo’s cover up. The key here is being able package weird shapes of black into something new by turning lines of untattooed flesh into a more artistic shape.
This Celtic cover up does a great job eliminating three tired and worn tattoos to make a deftly executed pair of new designs. The use of shading and color makes for nice pieces. Note how white ink is incorporated in the second tattoo to give it depth and shade while simultaneously lightening the image to one that first with the more colorful top tattoo.
Always be careful getting a significant others’ tattoo on your skin, because measures need to be taken if things go poorly. This man must have had a wedding band style tiny tattoo, and then tried to scratch it off. Eventually he opted to get it covered over with a Celtic knot which works well to eliminate the previous writing.
This brilliantly designed leg cover up shows that you needn’t have to go black when fixing up a worn out old tattoo. The brilliantly rendered fish in this tattoo are exquisitely inked in different shades of blue. Great cover ups don’t need to be a stop gap or last resort, they can be a complete tattoo regeneration.
Nobody needs to know what’s underneath this cover up. It’s a fantastic piece utilizing the combination of a timepiece with the baptismal elements to create a beautiful religious themes artwork. The lower part of the action is balanced by epic line and shade work at the top of the tattoo.
Go big or go home. This ambitious cover up tattoo idea navigates its way from an old Celtic cross and unrelated geographical tattoo into a fully realized map as part of a whole sleeve. Rather than get rid of the older line work of the original map, it’s refreshed and accurately updated to make it seem like a completely new piece. The mapwork is complemented by the detailed compass and sextant blended in with expert shading.
Whatever the previous tattoo was has been improved upon ten-fold. This artwork is a lovely mixture of pin up portraiture combined with abstract new wave elements to create an awesome half sleeve. The use of contrasting gray inks and highlights of white ink in the girl’s hair give her real beauty.
Say goodbye to some average tribal work. The artist here has created a gas-masked shooter worthy of a Tom Clancy 3D video game. The subtly blurred shading of the hands and weapon create an image of tremendous depth from a flat black combination of stripes. This is top drawer!
This tattoo used a heroic amount of detail to cover up the previous tattoo. In this piece the geometry of the cover up is used in combination with the Asian theme to make a complete full back piece. You need to look closely on the mid left of this tattoo to see faint vestiges of the original work under the gray, or peeking out from amongst the petals.
The original tattoo was a poorly conceived tribal image that looks like some sort of mangled squid (maybe). Now it’s an epic half sleeve across the upper arm and shoulder depicting a beautifully worked maritime scene. The artist successfully utilized the ship’s hull in dark gray, aided by nice detail to replace the original, then built on that by skilfully crafting water, land, and sky linked together by a lighthouse. Sometimes, the cover up tattoo idea is just a jumping off point for epic expression.
In this piece the cover up is almost incidental. The geometric style of the main work is a real showstopper and done with great precision and clarity. At the very end of the work the artist opted to use some heavy kohl shading to eliminate the ugliness of the previous barbed wire tattoo. It is likely some more work will go into that section of the piece to complete it.
This mandala style tattoo cover up idea is somewhat unusual in that part of the original tattoo’s color and shade is central to the new art. The artist uses fine black line work over the top to create the middle of the flower, then moves outward with symmetrical detail to finish it off.
It seems the popularity of thick, black tribal tattoos have worn off considerably over time. The good thing is they can be replaced and transformed by a premier artist into spectacular new works such as this elephant. The old tattoo is just a memory as the skin of the elephant is created with brilliant shading technique and pattern work to create unforgettable skin. The new tattoo would spark conversations of a far different kind to the old piece.
Can’t help but think that the owner of this piece is trying to tell us something about Jean’s nature. Gone is the simple name tattoo over his heart, replaced by a well worked scorpion. The darkness of the black ink is softened somewhat by good shading to give the reptile it’s edges and clarity across the whole shape.
The worn and faded original portrait has been completely replaced by Star Wars fandom. The artist uses a very deep red and bronze black at times to create a new wave element to the piece, while the detail put into the fighter jet is exquisite.
This nicely drawn wolf in the forest tattoo more than covers for the loss of the original little weird bug type thing. The artist has down a good job in creating unique gray shading to emphasize the canine’s fur, particularly across the top of its head, and around the ears.
Not a bad new wave half sleeve. The garish green shades layered into the tentacles are an eye catcher, effectively covering the heavily faded black original piece.
It looks like the original Norse imagery of the top tattoo has been built on and updated to create a stylized axe head. From there, the artist has used different shade techniques to create a more balanced image that effectively contrasts with the detailed roaring bear below.
You will be unlikely to find tattoo artwork as good as this anywhere. You can even make the argument that this isn’t a cover up with the original big cat disappearing into the darkness of the new Samurai tatt effortlessly. It really looks like it was never there because the complexity and depth of the black work shading moves the samurai from being a great piece to an epic, with the spookily drawn skull providing a counterpoint to warrrior’s detail just below the main image. This art gets a gold star!
In this piece Jesus and the eternal heart effectively cover up an old, awkwardly drawn hammerhead shark. These two images are quite interestingly divergent tattoo ideas. Where the new image excels is putting extra highlighting efforts into Jesus’ beard and making it a focal point for the entire tattoo.
This is a funky absurdist new wave tattoo covering an old black blob of a fedora wearing cat. It’s like the owner overhauled the irony levels as well as the imagery. The use of great inks in this piece give the crazy idea of a pilot dinosaur real teeth. The clarity of the colors, particularly the gray plane complemented by the sharp black linework makes the fuselage an interesting part of the tattoo.
Replacing a poorly drawn alien with an exceptional koi is a definite upgrade cover up tattoo. This piece goes from oh no to whoa through the artist’s beautiful use of blackwork scales. The almost shiny black is heightened in detail through exceptional placement of white ink – the armor like layers look like they’ve been drawn individually on the skin.
Tattoo Cover Up FAQs
What are some good tattoo cover up ideas?
There are numerous tattoo cover up ideas you can employ to replace unwanted previous work.
Often, your choice of cover up art will be a collaboration with your new artist to best replace it. The color detail, strength of image, degree of shading and body placement will all be factors to consider when choosing new work.
Can any tattoo be covered up?
Some of the best tattoo cover up artists work solely in this field and have spent their career fixing body art mistakes, while other artists choose not to do cover ups as a matter of principle or personal choice.
While technically speaking any tattoo can be covered, there are often pieces that may not be helped. When all else fails they are replaced by a swatch of heavy black ink applied in a similar fashion to a massive, thick sharpie.
The key factor for cover up success is that the new image must be significantly darker in tone than the old one.
Can you tattoo color over black ink?
If the black ink is tired and faded it can be easily colored over – the Japanese Irezumi style for example is often employed to great success in covering tattoos due to its use of cartoonish quality cover, garish hues, and ‘thick’ imagery. Traditional themes in Irezumi – such as waves, flowers, koi – provide opportunities for pieces to be augmented, updated or eliminated effectively.
Other tattoo styles can also be effective in covering black work, but it’s best to consult with your tattooist about possible options before committing to any piece.
How much do cover up tattoos cost?
Cover up tattoos tend to be more expensive than those working on unblemished skin. The process of completing the work takes longer, there can sometimes be impediments to work with in the underlying image, and touch ups may be required to get the new image just right.
Specialist cover up tattooists can command upwards of $300 per hour, while other studios may do a per piece estimate or add a premium of $20-$50 per hour over their usual pricing when engaged to work on a cover up piece.
The alternative to cover up tattoos is laser removal, which runs at a minimum of $200 per 15-minute session and often requires five or more treatments to finalize treatment of an affected area.