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How to Cover Up Old Tattoos With a New Tattoo Design

Updated on January 13, 2011
Old tattoo before cover up
Old tattoo before cover up
New tattoo that you can be proud of.
New tattoo that you can be proud of.

So you want to know how to cover up a tattoo with a new design.  This article will describe what to look for in a tattoo design to cover up an unwanted tattoo. You may have a tattoo that was done poorly, or one that doesn't fit with your current situation...ie a name, band logo, gang symbol etc. Or you may just want something else there. Contrary to some beliefs, you can't just put anything over it and expect the old one to not be visible and/or just ruin the looks of your new one, possibly making your situation worse than before.

First decide how big you are willing to go. Obviously the tattoo cover up will have to be bigger than the old tattoo but how much bigger will determine what kind of options you have. Larger= more options Smaller= fewer options. Take into account the location and darkness of your old tattoo. Bigger body parts will allow for bigger designs smaller areas might restrict the size.

Most cover-ups will need to be done with a tattoo that is solid color or solid black with no open spaces where your old one may show through and disrupt the new lines. Unless your old tattoo is very light or you are willing to go very large this will exclude most black and grey styles...but never say never...a good artist may be able to work out something with the right design.

To cover a tattoo up with black...you just need something that is as big as or larger than your old one with no open spaces that let the old one show through. This may be a solid black sun, moon, paw print, star tattoo, heart, cross or any other shape that covers it completely.
Tribal tattoo designs are another option. However keep in mind that the open spaces may let your old design show through and confuse the pattern of the new tattoo. Often the most effective and impressive tribal tattoo designs are custom pieces that are either planned out on paper or even drawn directly on the skin prior to being tattooed. For this you will want to be certain that your artist is both skilled and talented. A large poorly applied tribal design will ruin your day...really.


Color tattoo cover-ups are also effective with the right combination of design and artist. When choosing a design keep in mind that covering a tattoo is not like painting a wall...you can't just put a new color over an old color. With tattoos the darkest color will tend to show through...especially once it has been healed for a while. And colors put over each other will mix. For example if you try to put a bunch of green over a bunch of red you will usually get some kind of muddy mess as green+ red=brown (or some similar neutral tone).
One trick is to hide the old tattoo in some part of the new one. This can be done in areas with layers ... like rose petals, feathers in a wing, hair...or areas that are just dark enough to camouflage the old one. Another trick is to hide the old one in the background ... this works great for off center tattoos or when you are going big.


Stay away from flat objects and subjects that rely heavily on symmetry. These might be things like butterflies or faces (animal and human). Because anywhere the old tattoo is will need shading or heavy color and that, in many cases, will either throw off the design or allow the old tattoo to show through. And lettering to cover lettering will almost never work.

Keep in mind the placement of your new tattoo. If your old one is off center your artist will want to line up your new one correctly rather than place it off center creating an even bigger off center mess. This may mean going a little bigger in order to line up the new one while still covering the old one. This is often the problem with using a cross as a cover up. An artist will prefer a design that can be aligned properly while covering up the old one effectively. Some body parts are more forgiving than others so the possibilities will vary.


Seek out a talented AND experienced artist. With the popularity of tattoos today there is an influx of people whose abilities are as diverse as any other occupation. Some really are just better than others. Be willing to spend a little. Most cover ups are not ex' s names, they are usually poorly done tattoos done by less than talented individuals that often were the result of someone taking the cheap way out. In the end, you decide what your skin is worth.Stay away from people working out of their house, if you don't see the problem with that then this article is not for you. If they were that good there would be plenty of shops to work at where they would make much more money.Follow your artists advice, from application to aftercare. If you are paying them good money you should at least pay attention.

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      Michael 5 years ago

      How can I cover up a tattoo of a skull on my arm what the best tatto to cover it

    • profile image

      clare t 6 years ago

      i have 3 paw prints on the side of my belly any ideas of wot type of cover up????

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      megan theron 7 years ago

      hi , i have a very dark butterfly tattoo on my back and want to know if i make it biggewr will the tattoo look nicer with colour

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