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Tattoo Cover-Up Guide


Do you have a tattoo that you want gone? From being tired of a faded tattoo, to going through a breakup, to just having a change of heart on a piece, there are many reasons why you may not want to see a certain tattoo anymore. The solution doesn’t necessarily have to be removal, especially if you still want body art.

Luckily, certain styles and designs allow an artist to layer a new tattoo on top of a piece you no longer want, essentially completely hiding the previous tattoo. This is a fantastic way to maintain a tattooed lifestyle, but still be able to correct decisions of your past. Follow along as we investigate different cover-up approaches to find one that suits your cover up goals.

Factors to Consider Before a Tattoo Cover-Up

Your current tattoo plays a large role in what you can do; some tattoos require a clever artist to almost magically hide the lines that were once there. A key piece to keep in mind is that your new tattoo will have to be bigger and badder than the one you’re covering:


Cover-ups are generally not small, you have to cover an entire tattoo with only a part of the new one


Some cover-ups may require full color saturation to cover everything below


Getting a cover-up requires flexibility, the artist will need to work with the lines you already have

Your skin needs to be considered and prioritized. Generally, you have one shot at a cover-up tattoo. A third time over is generally not possible given the damage and ink already in that skin; laser tattoo removal is usually the path should you want to remove a cover-up.

It is important to work closely with your artist on cover-ups. These designs tend to need flexibility to work with previous tattooing. Plus, with a second cover-up generally not being an option, getting the tattoo right is quite important. Proper planning and design is the best way to prevent needing a cover-up in the first place.

Tattoo Styles Suitable for Cover-Ups

Some styles are superior when you need to cover-up an older tattoo.

Trash Polka

Trash polka tattoos feature a lot of deep reds and blacks, usually with dramatic imagery. Due to their bold, saturated colors and vibrant style, the trash polka style excels at covering-up old tattoos!

Again, proper planning is key to success here. Luckily, trash polka tattoos tend to be large anyways, making them easy to dwarf your previous art, should you want this. However, trash polka designs usually work with your skin and those negative spaces between lines. You’ll have to plan to have more saturation in areas where you’re covering.


Neo-traditional pieces are known for their outstanding color. This style is an evolution from traditional styles that packs a lot of color into creative imagery. These features make for a great style to use in cover-up tattoos.

The size and saturation of neo-traditional pieces makes them easy to use as cover-ups for most tattoos. Still take the time to work with your artist, so they can inspect and work with your old tattoo and ensure that the previous tattoo is completely hidden.

Black and Grey

Black and grey tattoos are a style that works on the grayscale, with a total lack of color, but with strong, saturated lines. This style can work for cover-ups, but will require solid planning and a lot of surface area.

You can easily get black and gray tattoos in smaller sizes, but this won’t work for the purpose of a cover-up. Size is usually king; expect dark outlines and filling. To hide the old tattoos, a lot of black is used to swallow it up, which is just what some people are looking for!

Tattoo Styles with Limitations for Cover-Ups

Water Color Tattoos

Water color tattoos tend to reflect their painting counterparts, which makes for beautiful tattoos but not always great cover-ups. If the old tattoo has harsh, dark saturation, you will likely be able to see those lines underneath a new water color piece, which might lack the deep saturation needed to cover.


Abstract tattoos can take so many shapes and forms; at the end of the day, you need to heavily consult with your artist on this style for a cover-up. A lot of abstract designs don’t have the size or saturation to effectively cover old pieces.

Color Realism

The flexibility required when covering-up a tattoo is usually crucial to its success, making color realism not always the best choice. These color realistic tattoos tend to be more rigid in their design, and would take proper planning and design to make sure a specific color realistic design could work for you.

Tattoo Styles Unsuitable for Direct Cover-Ups

Fine Line Tattoos

The delicate, soft nature of fine line tattoos makes for a bad style to use in cover-ups. Fine line designs lack the size and saturation to over-power previous ink. On the other hand, fine line tattoos tend to be easy to cover-up due to these same factors.

Anime Tattoos

Generally speaking, many artists struggle to capture and portray the emotions and larger-than-life aspects that are key to a great anime tattoo in the scope of a cover-up. The flexibility that is usually called for when covering-up previous ink can prove to be a problem in many covers.

Come to First Class Tattoo for Your Next Cover Up

At the end of the day, working closely with a skilled tattoo artist to plan and design a cover-up tattoo is the best way to go. These professionals know how to work with that preexisting ink to make it not only disappear, but give you a great tattoo in the process. These artists will direct you towards the styles that work best for your cover-up, and can also aid in design choices to make you happy with your tattoos again!

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