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What is Tattoo Blowout and Can it be Fixed? [2020 Information Guide]

We’ve all seen it: tattoos that look smudged or blurry; lines that bleed into each other and can leave a tattoo looking unprofessional at best, and completely ruined at worst. This tattoo complication is known as “blowout” and it is no one’s friend.   

Read on to learn more about tattoo blowout, how it looks on skin and why it occurs. Explore options available to replace, repair, or remove the issue of tattoo blowout.  

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What is tattoo blowout?  

Blowout is when pieces look to have blurred, smudged, or ran, because the tattoo artist has used the tattoo machine in an improper or inefficient way. 

While anyone that has examined a friend’s DIY tattoos is probably familiar with what blowout looks like, many people are still unclear as to what causes this unsightly blurring in supposedly professionally applied tattoo ink.   

While there are numerous factors that can increase the odds of a blowout, inexperience is responsible for 90% of blown-out tattoos.   

This is not to say that an experienced tattoo artist is immune from blowouts, but they can greatly limit the risk of occurrence of a tattoo design ruined by blowout. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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What are the causes of tattoo blowout?   

Heavy hands or the wrong angle   

Pushing ink too deep into the skin is the leading cause of blowout. A heavy-handed artist may apply the ink using too much pressure which will lead to ink absorbing into unintended tissue and bleeding into neighboring areas.   

On the other end of the spectrum, if an artist doesn’t penetrate deep enough and the tattoo ink is applied to the upper layers of skin blowout can also occur, as the inks bleeds into the surrounding skin.   

An inexperienced artist (more often than not) may also apply the machine at the wrong angle, causing the ink to bleed into surrounding tissue and create a blowout. This happens more often with black ink than color. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Thin skin   

Another common cause of tattoo blowout—and one that is much harder to control—occurs when a design is applied to areas of the body where the skin is especially thin. This is because these parts of the body have less tissue beneath the skin which makes the needle much more likely to penetrate deeper than intended and cause a blowout.   

Areas like the top of the feet,hands, the wrists and ankles,toes or finger tattoos are especially susceptible to these kinds of blowouts. Once again, experienced artists are less likely to cause a blowout, but even talented artists can struggle with the skin of these thin areas.   

Overstretching   

When applying a tattoo, an artist will commonly stretch the client’s skin to ensure the area is flattened and that a design is properly proportioned. However, if the artist is a bit rough and overzealous when stretching the client’s skin, it can cause the needle to penetrate in odd angles and potentially inject ink into surrounding tissue and lead to a blowout.   

Most experienced artists understand how much elasticity a person’s skin has and how to stretch it properly to apply a tattoo without leading to a blowout, but sometimes it does still happen.   

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Can I fix a blowout?   

Unfortunately, once a blowout occurs there is very little that can be done to undo the process.  

The only real way to fix a blowout is to go to a tattoo artist—preferably not the same one that applied the original, botched piece—and consult with them about the possibility of a cover up. While this may not be the perfect solution for a small piece (a tattooist may recommend the use of white ink application for smaller problems with black ink or dark pigment) the final product will most likely look better than a blown-out design. 

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Laser tattoo removal   

If the ink experience that led to tattoo blowout has left you completely dissatisfied with tattoos, then laser removal may be your most effective treatment option.   

Laser removal works by utilizing the high energy light beams of a laser and blasting the tattoo with these charged light particles. The laser penetrates beneath the epidermis, where it slowly breaks up the ink into tiny particles that are then absorbed by the body.   

Previous technology regarding laser removal treatment would struggle to completely remove a blown-out tattoo, but these days a whole tattoo can often be fixed in as little as one or two sessions (depending on size and depth).   

Laser removal is a relatively quick process but can be expensive, especially for a larger tattoo or in comparison to cover up options. Click on the link below for our guide to the cost of laser tattoo removal and insights into pros and cons of laser treatment.   

How Much Does Tattoo Removal Cost? [2020 Information Guide] 

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How can I prevent tattoo blowout?   

The first and most important step in preventing this unsightly result is through research and due diligence when choosing your original tattoo. By finding an experienced artist and examining their portfolio a better idea of their skill and style can be gained and the risk of blowout reduced.   

It’s also important to be aware of risks in getting traditional tattoos in difficult locations. Areas such as the finger and hand are more prone to blowout and scarring, as they are thin areas with little flesh under the skin. Areas like the shoulder and inner arm – traditionally the most popular spots for a first tattoo – offer natural advantages against tattoo complication. 

Besides this, proper aftercare is essential. In the first couple days after a fresh tattoo is applied further stress or trauma on the area can cause a blowout after the fact. It is also important to be careful not to stretch, scar or bump the tattooed area until the skin is fully healed.   

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Modern tattoo machines   

While the technology used to apply tattoos has come a long way from the sharpened stick or single needle used in the past, tattoo machines have not evolved that much in the last hundred years. In fact, the general design is not all that different from the predecessor to modern tattoo machines, the electric pen that Edison patented way back in 1891.   

Since they are much more common this article will use coil machines in this brief analysis of how tattoo machines work.   

Every tattoo machine has a few essential elements that allow for the rapid injection of ink beneath the skin. At the heart of the coil machine is a set of coils, that work as electro-magnets which rapidly switch their current on an off, causing them to move.   

These coils are attached to a spring and an armature bar that moves up and down as the current passes through the magnets. The tattoo needle is attached to, and moves in conjunction with, the armature bar and when held to the skin creates hundreds of tiny perforations. These punctures are packed with ink and a permanent design is created.   

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Precision process tattooing   

 

 
 
 
 
 
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While scratching with a tattoo machine or single needle might seem easy, it’s a precise process taking years dedication to master. In years past, an aspiring artist would serve a tattoo apprenticeship, but these days more people take a different path. Regardless, one of the first, but most important skills a tattooist must acquire is learning to naturally find the perfect depth to apply the ink with the tattoo needle.   

It is the depth of application of ink that makes a tattoo permanent. For a fresh tattoo to stand up to the test of time the ink must be injected past the outer skin layer (epidermis) into the deeper layer (dermis). This is due to the body’s immune system and the fact that ink is viewed as a foreign intruder by the human body as it is healing.   

Thanks to the traumatic nature of tattoos, during the healing process the body is actively trying to push out and absorb the ink and any tattoos that aren’t applied deep enough will fade away as the body parts replace the epidermis through the natural process of cell regeneration.   

At the end of the day nobody wants a blown-out new tattoo, but the truth is they are part of the reality of getting inked and anyone with more than a few traditional tattoos probably has a piece that has suffered from a tattoo complication in one way or another. While they are not the prettiest and they can detract from the overall appeal of a piece, blowouts are not a death sentence.   

Worst case scenario they are an excuse to get back in the chair and come up with a bigger, bolder design for a cover up.  

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Tattoo Blowout FAQ 

What is Tattoo Blowout? 

Tattoo blowout is when pieces look to have blurred, smudged, or ran, because an artist has used the tattoo machine in an improper or inefficient way. 

How can I fix a blown-out tattoo? 

The only real way to fix a blowout is to go to a tattoo artist and consult with them about the possibility of a cover up. Another option to consider is laser treatment, however this may be too costly to achieve with larger tattoos. 

How can I prevent tattoo blowout?   

The first and most important step in preventing this unsightly result is through research and due diligence when choosing your original tattoo. It’s also important to be aware of risks in getting traditional tattoos in difficult locations, like the hand or finger. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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