At Cardinal Tattoo cover-ups have become a staple of our business. You see, there used to be a time when, if you wanted a good tattoo, all you had to do was go to a shop. If you wanted to save a buck, you got tattooed by your uncle Ricky in his garage or kitchen or barn or, whatever. The industry was small and protected by a tight-knit group of artists who wouldn't let just anyone get into the business. While there will always be those artists who shine above the rest, the limited number of shops and tattooers helped keep quality standards high. Those who couldn't cut it quickly found themselves without a job and would be forced to make a career change.
Unfortunately, with the advent of tattoo TV shows the popularity of tattoo skyrocketed and while it's improved tattoo acceptance socially, it's also opened a floodgate of new tattoo shops and less-than-well-trained artists to fill them. More people are getting tattooed than ever before and more people are doing tattoos than ever before. So many people have entered an industry they don't understand, for all the wrong reasons, and they know just enough to be convincing to the uninitiated. Talk about tattoo nightmares.
The result of this influx of tattoo pretenders is that you can't trust the 'Any shop is a good shop' mentality. Our business here at Cardinal Tattoo is fully 25% cover-ups and re-works. It's an astounding number really, and alarming too. Cover-ups pose their own special challenges and in some of the more severe cases can make getting the tattoo you want, where you wanted it, impossible. Here are some things to consider if you've decided to finally fix up that old clunker uncle Ricky did for you:
1. You may not be able to get what you want. The single most important thing for a cover-up is that it covers the original piece without looking like a horrible blob in the process, so don't hold too tightly to any single idea. Your artist will help you determine what will work best and you must be willing to defer to their greater expertise in the matter. Communicate ideas and possibilities back and forth with your artist until you find something you both can be happy with. Trying to force a design on your artist will only lead to frustration for both parties and could end up with you getting a less-than-stellar cover-up.
2. Cover-ups by their nature will be larger than the original piece. Think 3 times larger as a general rule. Things that make cover-ups more difficult include their location on the body, a cover-up on a neck or wrist can only go in certain directions, limited by the area; darkness of the original, lighter colors or faded black is easier to cover that super dark lettering or tribal for instance; texture, if your tattoo's scarred even packing solid black over it won't help since the texture of the original will still be visible, you'll want to go with a busier, more organic design instead.. If you're forced to stay small you'll want to give your artist even more freedom with the subject matter to make sure it's a nice job once all's said and done.
3. Covering up tattoos is an additive process. Simply put, we can't take pigment out of your skin. It may seem silly to many reading this, but then you'd be amazed to hear how many people come into the shop and ask us to cover lettering with lettering, as if the old tattoo wouldn't show through making the new one completely illegible.