Tattoo Changes: touch up, removal or cover up?

Is your tattoo tired? Are the lines blurred? Have the colors faded? Is the style outdated for you?  Are you just not happy with a certain tattoo? 

Tattoos change over time.  Changes can be caused by things like how you take care of your tattoo, environmental factors, and even the quality of the work when you got the tattoo.  Tattoos can distort when ink spreads under the skin, line work becomes blurred, and words become too difficult to read.  Aging can fade and distort your tattoos. While, aging cannot be avoided, there are causes you can work to avoid. Exposure to the sun is one of the most common ways to age or even damage your tattoo.  Another thing to consider is the fit of clothing or footwear for certain tattoo placements and how it will rub against your tattoo causing possible ‘wearing away’ of your tattoo.

Even with taking precautions, sometimes your tattoos need a boost or just a change!

Touch ups

tattoo touch up before and after

One of the most common ways to bring your tattoos back to life is with a touch up. A touch up can include going over the color to brighten it up or going over detail work to sharpen lines or both. This is especially good for portraits and faces. If your lines and details still look nice, you may just need to touch up the colors in your tattoo and bring them back to their former glory. This is also the time to correct errors or anything you aren’t in love with. Some artists specialize in color rejuvenation and working with new brighter inks.  

Many artists offer touch ups.  If you are no longer able to work with your original artist, seek out another artist with experience in touch ups and bringing tattoos back to their bright, original state. Do your research. Ask for  recommendations from inked friends who have had touch ups done.
tattoo touch up butterfly

Tattoo lightening or removal

Sometimes a touch up isn’t quite enough. There are procedures to lighten or remove a tattoo. Be warned; these procedures can be painful and expensive, especially for larger pieces. Each tattoo is unique in its saturation, heaviness of lines, and level of shading so the process of lightening or removal can take time. 

Lightening does not remove a tattoo – it only lightens dark inks and lessens brightness in color inks. This can also be a step towards a cover up, as lightening can offer an “almost” blank canvas to work with. Some thick black lines or blocks of color can be difficult to cover up without lightening first.

Tattoo removal helps to create a blank canvas on the skin or eliminate the tattoo. One of the most common methods is laser removal. Removal works best on older inks. Removing a tattoo does offer the opportunity to do a quality cover up over the old tattoo without being able to detect the old ink under the new ink.

Tattoo removal can also be expensive and time consuming. Consult with a tattoo artist on what they think can be removed and what can be worked with through a cover up. Artists with experience in cover ups will have an insight into the process and if lightening or removal is necessary.

Cover ups

tattoo cover up after and before rose

Once your tattoo is past of point of retouching or you just aren’t happy with the tattoo anymore, a cover up may be in order. In older work, lines can bleed into colors and create a washed out look. The other option is a completely new design over the area that was removed or has faded.  

If you are working with a different artist than your original artist, you may have a slightly different look since each artist has their own style. Some artists are inspired by older ink and the designs of mentors and artists before them. They can use modern techniques and inks to rejuvenate.  

When it comes to bringing new life to your tattoos, these are some of ways to accomplish that. Whether you are looking for just a touch up on a tattoo you love or a complete cover up with a new design, there are plenty of experienced artists out there that can offer you beautiful work over an existing tattoo.

tattoo cover up before and after mandala
Tattoo art work credits: 
 Freddy Kruger touch up by Pro-team Artist Larry McDaniel 
Butterfly touchup by Pro-team Artist  Xavier "X-ray" Ray
Rose cover up by  Pro-team Artist Xavier "X-ray" Ray
Mandala cover up by Pro-team Artist  Nicolette "Nic" Ferreira