One of the most popular requests we get at Lighthouse Tattoo is the covering of old tattoos. The art of the coverup is a delicate one and can go wrong in many ways, so it is deeply important to find an artist who is knowledgeable and well versed in performing these tattoos. Here is step-by-step process for how to get a coverup that will effectively erase your tattoo from sight (and not need to be covered up, itself).
Deciding to cover your tattoo
This can also be called the “moment of clarity”. It happens at different times for everyone, sometimes even years before a coverup appointment is made! Basically, you look at your tattoo, realize you absolutely do not like it, and begin troubleshooting where to go from there. The only options to pick from, realistically, are to cover the tattoo or get it lasered off. It is not uncommon to require laser treatment on a tattoo before you even cover it!
2. Deciding what to cover it with
This one can be a toughie. Some subject matters work much better as coverups than others, so some flexibility is required on behalf of the client here. Typically, we recommend organic, non-portrait imagery so that light sources may be played with, proportions skewed, and colors catered to cover what is already there. It’s a good idea to look up other coverups online and see which tattoos you like so you have a few ideas before you consult with an artist. (Subject matters we recommend for covering other pieces are: birds, flowers, snakes, dragons, fish, or other naturally occuring imagery, done in a boldly outlined, brightly-colored style.)
3. Finding an artist
Find out how many tattoo shops there are in your area and LOOK AT PORTFOLIOS! You will want to pick an artist based on their quality of work, so you’ll have to do some leg work ahead of time. This can include looking online at an artist’s portfolio/Instagram account, looking at tattoos your buddies have gotten from local artists, and even physically going to a shop and talking to a tattooer about your piece. You may have to travel a bit to get your piece done by the artist you want.
Once you have found an artist whose work you like, you’ll probably want to talk with them ahead of time about your tattoo and what you want to do with it. This is where the artist tells you if your ideas for the coverup will be effective or not, offer alternative design suggestions, and tell you a figure for how much money the tattoo will cost. Coverups tend to be more expensive than the tattoo being covered because they require much more work on the front end and in the tattoo chair. Being prepared for this ensures that you will not have to sacrifice quality for financial security.
5. Getting the coverup
This is the easy part! You basically just have to sit/lay there while the artist does all the hard work. You may have to sit for multiple long sessions before the coverup looks complete, so always bring snacks, drinks, and something to entertain yourself!
6. Your new life
Huzzah, the old tattoo is gone!!! You’ve made it through the arduous journey of living with a bad tattoo and then fixing it! You’ve likely ended up with a piece of work that you’ll be proud to show off instead of one that you cringe when people ask about. You should be proud.
FAQs and Problems We Run Into
Why does it cost so much?
The industry standard for tattoo artists to charge is around $100/hour. This covers supplies, time tattooing you, and the time drawing the piece ahead of time. A whole lot goes into doing this job, and we like to compensate our artists for their hard work. For coverups, they require more time, effort, and drawing, so they tend to cost more than your average tattoo.
Why can’t I cover this tattoo with a portrait?
The long and short of it is that with all the tweaking and readjusting of your image you have to do when performing a coverup, a portrait would end up looking ridiculous. The human brain is trained to recognize a face wherever one could be. This is why when you look at whorls in a wooden door or at a funny shaped cloud, you see faces more often than not. This same mechanism helps us to recognize when a face looks malformed or wrong. A portrait is not idea for a coverup because it would be SUPER noticeable that the face is altered somehow, and your friends would never let you hear the end of it.
If you can’t do the tattoo for me today, I’ll just go somewhere else and let them do it.
This mentality could be part of the reason people end up needing coverups in the first place. Whether an artist has time slots open for clients or not, getting a same-day coverup is unlilkely. The amount of preparation that goes into covering a tattoo is nothing to turn your nose at, and it often requires extracurricular working hours from the artist. You’ll want time for a consultation ahead of time, as well, so you can make sure you like the drawing you’ve been shown and make changes ahead of time. Expecting this amount of work to be done in a single day is unrealistic. If someone says they can do such an involved piece mere hours after you’ve requested it, you may want to look at the other work they’re turning out. Rushing the process is no way to get a good tattoo!
The original tattoo was $50, why is it so much money to cover it?
Coverups generally need to be at least 3x the size of the original tattoo to be effective. This provides you with enough surface area to introduce a new focal point to the piece, effectively “distracting” viewers from noticing it is a coverup. Coverups require color gradients, shadows, highlights, and color schemes that can take much longer than your original tattoo. Tattooers charge according to how long a piece takes. If it takes hours, you’ll be charged accordingly.
Can’t you just black it out?
We can. But we won’t. That is going to look ridiculous and lazy, and we don’t want our reputation to include any of those words.
We hope this was a helpful read! Coverups can be overwhelming to consider getting without a little preliminary information, and we like to help make the tattoo process as smooth as possible. We are extremely big on discretion here, and we think you should be, too! Tattoos are one of the most permanent decisions you can ever make, and you want to make the right choice. Even if you didn’t the first time.
If you are looking for a coverup in the Nashville area, check us out! Lighthouse Tattoo is home to wonderful artists, and we even have an artist who specializes in trickier coverups. If you wanna come ask us about your tattoo, swing on by! We’re located at 328 North Cumberland Street in beautiful Lebanon, Tennessee, and are open Tuesday-Saturday, 12:00-10:00.