How to Choose a Cover Up Tattoo (Everything You Need to Know)

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Thinking of getting some fresh ink to cover up that fading or embarrassing tattoo? This guide covers the process to help you choose the best cover up tattoo.

You’ve gone through the most challenging part of the process — you’ve decided it’s time to cover up your old tattoo. Maybe it reminds you of a time or decision you’d rather forget. Perhaps a previous tattoo artist didn’t capture your vision. Or maybe you’re just ready for a new piece of art. No matter the reason, you know it’s time to get something new. 

But this decision leads to a whole host of questions. Where do you get a cover up tattoo? How much will it cost? Do all tattoo artists do cover ups? Will they even be able to cover up your tattoo? 

Understanding how to choose a cover up tattoo can quickly become overwhelming. This guide gives you insight into:

  • Cover up tattoos
  • How they work
  • What sort of designs are most easily covered
  • Average costs

After reading, you’ll feel empowered, knowledgeable, and ready to book a cover up appointment. 

What Is A Cover Up Tattoo?

A cover up tattoo is a new design tattooed over the top of an existing tattoo so the old tattoo is no longer visible or is part of the new piece of art. Basically, you’re getting a tattoo over a tattoo. 

People Get To Cover Up Tattoos For Many Reasons, Including:

  • The original tattoo was poorly done
  • The tattoo is a reminder of a difficult time in a person’s life
  • The tattoo faded or looks dated
  • They realize that the tattoo is offensive 
  • They want to incorporate the tattoo in a new design

The reasons for wanting a cover up are as varied as the people who want them. Of course, the effectiveness of a cover up depends on the original tattoo and the cover up design. Old, faded tattoos in light colors like blues and greens are much easier to cover than a brand new all-black tattoo. Some tattoos are good candidates for a few laser tattoo removal sessions to fade the tattoo before getting a cover up. 

Before you decide the best method for getting rid of your unwanted tattoo, it’s essential to understand your options and the likelihood of a cover up tattoo working for your particular piece.

Tattoo Removal vs. Tattoo Cover Up

When you’re starting to think about getting rid of a tattoo that’s no longer “you,” your research will lead you to two options: tattoo removal or tattoo cover up. The option that works best depends on various factors, including the qualities of the original tattoo, your skin type and tone, and your goals for the end result. It’s essential to understand all the elements involved in either option before deciding.

Laser Tattoo Removal

Laser tattoo removal involves using a laser to enter into layers of the skin to target the ink of your unwanted tattoo. The laser breaks the layers of ink particles into smaller pieces, and your body’s white blood cells are then able to absorb the ink. Laser tattoo removal works over time with continued sessions. Most people require an average of 10-12 15-minute sessions to see complete removal results. Laser tattoo removal costs depend on elements such as the tattoo’s size, shape, ink color, ink type, placement, and skin type. 

For many people, laser tattoo removal leaves their skin without a trace of their old tattoo. For others, just a slight blush of color is visible at the old tattoo’s site. It’s usually so light that only someone who knew a tattoo was there can tell. 

Laser tattoo removal might work best for someone who wants no trace left of an old tattoo. An example might be a person who got a face tattoo in prison. This tattoo reminds the person of a decision they’d rather not remember every time they look in the mirror. It also may keep them from receiving or maintaining a job. A cover up tattoo wouldn’t work for this client’s end goal. They want no trace of a tattoo on their face. Laser tattoo removal is the best option in this scenario. 

If you have a hand, neck, or face tattoo from a difficult situation in your past, consider Removery’s INK-nitiative program. This community initiative provides safe, effective tattoo removal for those in need. Qualifying candidates include those who were incarcerated, were gang members, are survivors of human trafficking, or who wish to remove hate symbols or racist tattoos. 

Cover Up Tattoos After Laser Removal

Cover Up Tattoo 

Tattoo cover ups work by tattooing a new design over your original, unwanted tattoo. It utilizes elements of the original design to create something entirely new. 

A tattoo cover up would work well for someone ok with a tattoo in the same spot but wants a fresh new design or to hide the original. For example, someone who had their friend give them a stick and poke tattoo on their foot in high school might decide they’re ready for something more professional. They might work with a tattoo artist to design a beautiful new floral design that incorporates the black dye of the poke tattoo while completely hiding the original. 

A cover up tattoo may also be an excellent choice for someone simply looking to add a new piece to their body without the multiple sessions laser removal requires. For example, someone might have a faded sunflower tattoo on their back, but they dream about a large cosmos design. Working with a tattoo artist, they might utilize dark ink and a large design to cover up their original tattoo with new artwork. 

Remember that you can use laser tattoo removal in tandem with cover ups. In many cases, getting a few laser tattoo removal sessions to fade an original tattoo produces better results for covering the tattoo up and offers your tattoo artist more canvas opportunities. 

Other Ways to Cover Up a Tattoo

Other temporary options to cover up your tattoos include makeup or jewelry (like a bracelet over an unwanted wrist tattoo). Unfortunately, these options are short-term and are sometimes time-consuming to apply. Additionally, they’re not full proof — makeup is easy to rub or wash off.

The only surefire way to get rid of an unwanted tattoo is tattoo removal or cover up. 

How a Cover Up Tattoo Works

If you’ve decided a cover up tattoo is the way to go, your next question is probably, “How exactly does this work?” 

The science behind a cover up tattoo has to do with the layers of your skin. The ink from your old tattoo sits in the dermis, the layer underneath your top layers of skin (the epidermis). The new ink color also will be deposited in the dermis, where it will mix with the old ink. 

Because of this mixing, a tattoo artist must consider the old and new colors when they pick ink for your cover up. For example, tattooing over an old blue tattoo with red ink will create purple. 

It’s also important to remember that darker inks will dominate. An old black ink tattoo “covered” in hot pink will most likely remain primarily black. 

The Cover Up Journey Is A Process Involving Multiple Steps: 

  • Pick a Design. You probably already have lots of tattoo cover up ideas. Decide what sort of tattoo you’d like to use to cover up the old design. Consider size, color, design elements, and more. 
  • Meet with a Specialist. Work with a cover up specialist to determine if you’ll need any laser tattoo removal sessions to fade your original tattoo. 
  • Choose an Artist. After you’ve healed from your removal sessions, or if none are required, meet with your cover-up tattoo artist to discuss your design ideas. 
  • Get Your New Art! Get your cover up tattoo! It’s a great feeling to see your cover up tattoo ideas come to life.

Unsure how to choose a cover up tattoo? Don’t worry — read on for more ideas about the type of designs that will work best for you. 

Factors That Impact Covering a Tattoo 

As we mentioned previously, there are multiple factors to consider when covering up a tattoo. You’ll want to consider these when thinking about how to choose a cover up tattoo.


The size of your existing tattoo will determine the minimum size of your new tattoo. You’ll need something big enough to cover up the old piece. For example, if you have a full sleeve you’d like to cover up, your cover-up tattoo will likely need to be a full sleeve as well. If you have a skull and crossbones the size of your palm on your back, your cover up will need to be that size or likely larger. 


Faded tattoos are easier to cover than dark tattoos. But the cover-up artist needs to consider the color. The artist will determine whether the old color will show through. 

Additionally, having more colors in the original piece might make it more challenging to cover. For example, a colorful stained-glass window would be difficult to cover with a light blue sky unless you first receive extensive tattoo removal sessions to fade the original. 


Older tattoos typically have more faded ink and blown lines, making them easier to cover. For example, a large, colored tattoo on your ankle that you got 20 years ago might be easier to cover up than a smaller black tattoo you received last year. The older tattoo had more time to absorb, making it easier for the new ink to sink into your skin. 


The design of your old tattoo factors into the ability to cover it up. Detailed designs can be more difficult to cover than simpler ones. The cover up tattoo might need to be detailed too. It would be difficult to cover up a portrait of your pet with a simple line tribal tattoo, for example. Going the “opposite” direction, like incorporating a simple line tattoo into a new, detailed portrait is much easier!


Your tattoo artist’s experience level and specialties are critical elements to deciding who to work with to get your cover up. Even if you’ve found someone whose work you love, it’s essential to work with someone who has experience doing cover up tattoos specifically. 

You may have found an artist who does beautiful full-color floral designs and wants to work with them to cover up an ex’s name on your foot. But, if this artist hasn’t done cover ups before, they may not understand how to choose an ink composition and color that will effectively hide your old tattoo. You could end up with a beautiful garden that has a name showing through it!

5 Tips on How to Choose a Cover Up Tattoo 

Now that you know more about the process and factors that go into choosing a cover up tattoo, it’s time for the fun part — coming up with your dream design! Below are recommendations for how to choose a cover up tattoo.

1. Keep the Design Close to the Old Ink

Cover-up tattoos are the most successful when their design is similar to the old ink. For example, if you have a large Celtic knot on your foot, getting a cover up design that’s also Celtic would be much easier than attempting to do a new piece in a realist style. 

2. Consider Building on the Current Design 

You may be able to build on to your current design with something more your speed. This choice can include adding details, deepening colors, and enlarging the original tattoo. Consider incorporating the design into a beautiful peacock cover up piece if you have a single feather tattoo.

3. Be Prepared for a Bigger Size

Your cover up tattoo will need to be, at a minimum, the same size as the original. It likely will need to be bigger. Size is important to consider when determining your new design (and when deciding whether a cover up or laser tattoo removal might be suitable for you). 

4. Cover Up Tattoos May Mean More Maintenance

It may take up to three sessions to ensure the ink for your cover up tattoo saturates fully into the original design. Cover up tattoos can also be more prone to fading than “originals.” It’s essential to practice proper tattoo care, including moisturizing and sun protection. 

5. Research Experienced Cover Up Tattoo Artists 

It’s vital to work with someone with experience in cover up tattoos, specifically when beginning your cover up journey. These artists know how to work with you to ensure you choose a design that will effectively cover up your old tattoo. They can offer suggestions about style and color to ensure the old tattoo is fully covered. 

When you’re looking for tattoo artists to work with, don’t be afraid to ask for cover up examples from their portfolios, so you can see the work they’ve done. Also, think of questions you’ll ask beforehand to ensure they’re a good fit.

These questions may include: 

  • What’s your philosophy about covering up old tattoos? 
  • How many cover ups have you done? 
  • What should I keep in mind when I’m healing from a cover up tattoo? 
  • Do you have any before and after photos of cover ups you’ve done? 

6. Consider Laser Tattoo Removal 

If your tattoo is dark, saturated with color, or new, it will likely be necessary to have at least one or two laser tattoo removal sessions to get a faded enough surface to apply your new tattoo. Even lighter or older tattoos can often benefit from removal sessions to allow a more faded surface for the cover up. Make sure to consider this when deciding on a timeline and budget for your tattoo cover up process. 

7. Be Realistic 

While it’s great to have a goal tattoo in mind, make sure you’re being realistic now, so you don’t get disappointed in the future. You won’t be able to cover up an incredibly detailed dark portrait with a cloudless blue sky unless you have many tattoo removal sessions. 

This reality is another reason it’s essential to work with experts early in the process, so you can let them know your desired outcome, and they can tell you the most effective way to get there. 

Jon Mesa Talks Tattoo Cover Ups

See more about tattoo cover ups from tattoo artist, Jon Mesa.

Common Questions about Choosing a Cover Up Tattoo

We hope this guide answered your questions about how to choose a cover up tattoo and helped you understand what steps to take next. Below are some other commonly asked questions.

Can You Cover Up a Black Tattoo with Color? 

It is difficult to cover up a black tattoo with any color other than black. Other dark tones like navy or brown might work, but lighter colors won’t be effective in covering up an original black tattoo. If you want to get bright new colors in your new tattoo, you may be a good candidate for laser tattoo removal to fade your original black design. 

How Soon Can a Tattoo be Covered Up? 

If you’ve got a new tattoo that looks nothing like what you imagined, you may want to run immediately to the nearest cover up artist. Unfortunately, you’ll need to wait until your tattoo has fully healed before arranging a cover up design. New tattoos are open wounds, and while the top layer of skin will heal in two to three weeks, you may need to wait months before your tattoo heals fully at all skin depths. 

To be safe, work with an experienced cover up tattoo artist if you’re thinking of covering up a newer tattoo. They can help ensure you’re healed and ready for your new piece. 

How Do You Care for a Cover Up Tattoo? 

Taking care of your new cover up tattoo is similar to taking care of a “fresh” tattoo. 

The most important care elements include: 

  • Cover your new tattoo with the bandage for as long as your tattoo artist suggests
  • Clean your new tattoo with clean water and fragrance-free soap
  • Apply moisturizer as directed by your tattoo artist
  • Be sure to keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight
  • Avoid scratching or picking at your cover up piece

What Colors Can Be Used to Cover Up a Tattoo? 

Artists can use many colors to cover up tattoos. The right colors for you depend on the existing tattoo’s color and the eventual design you want to achieve. For example, they can use darker versions of the same color in a cover up. 

You could cover up a formerly hot pink tattoo with a red one. They also can mix different colored inks with the ink already there to create a new color. For example, blue ink combined with a red tattoo will create purple. 

While artists can use many colors, the ink that will work best for a tattoo cover up is often black. Work with your tattoo artist to discuss your color goals and what’s possible given the colors and designs of your original tattoo. 

How Much Does a Cover Up Tattoo Cost? 

A cover up tattoo’s cost varies as much as the cost of “normal” tattoos. Cost depends on various factors, including the desired tattoo size and color, level of detail, and the artist’s experience level. 

Keep in mind that a cover up tattoo might cost more than the same design on a fresh patch of skin. This cost is because the artist will need to strategically plan the design and the types of ink they used based on the original tattoo, which will take more labor and more time. 

Book A Cover Up Consultation With The Removery Team

Have an old tattoo that doesn’t suit you anymore? A cover up might be the perfect opportunity to hide your old tattoo and get a new artwork that you love! 

As this guide has shown, the most important thing to remember when considering a cover up tattoo is a thorough understanding of your old tattoo and what kind of cover ups may work. But, if your old piece is getting in the way of your dream piece, you have options. Getting laser tattoo removal and fading your original tattoo can make it easier to get the cover up you’ve been thinking of. 

Experienced cover up experts can work with you to determine exactly the right plan for your needs. Book a cover up consultation with the Removery team today to learn more about how to begin your cover up journey. 

Additional Laser Tattoo Removal Resources

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What Is The Best Laser Tattoo Removal Aftercare?
How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Assist With Tattoo Cover-Ups?
Tattoo Removal Case Studies: Results Speak For Themselves
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What To Know About Tattoo Lightening
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Are There Alternative Tattoo Removal Methods?

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