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Tattoo Uh-Oh’s, Cover-Up No-No’s, and Ways to Avoid Both

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tattoo cover up ideas

Many people who get tattoos experience this at least once in their lives. Sometimes, you have someone you know, or someone recommended by a friend or relative, draw up a custom design for a tattoo (or, if you’re an artist yourself, you draw up your own), and on paper (pun intended) it looks great. However, when the tattoo artist puts it on your skin, the finished product is warped, smudged, or flat-out terrible by comparison. Or, maybe you’re one of the people who got a tattoo that, at the time, was something you wanted more than anything or that sounded like it was a great idea, but you later realize it was one of the worst decisions of your life.

Whatever the reason for your tattoo regret, there are solutions to help you cover your butt (literally, in some cases)! Below, we’ve compiled lists of options to cover up your tattoo uh-oh, as well as tips on how to prevent mistakes before you ever walk into the tattoo shop.

solid black tattoo cover up

Avoiding Tattoo Regerts (Er, We Mean Regrets)!

  • Do plenty of research. No matter what design you want or choose, and no matter who draws it, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! We cannot count the times we’ve heard tattoo horror stories in which someone got a tattoo that they believed or were told meant one thing, but later (and usually after an embarrassing conversation with someone who KNEW what it was and shamed or aggressively confronted them) learned that it was, in fact, something else entirely.
  • Don’t get tats related to temporary people. Let us clarify!! Another of the biggest tat regrets we see involve names, zodiac signs, pet names, etc., of people’s boyfriends/girlfriends/best friends. In many cases (almost all of the ones we’ve heard), those relationships fall or drift apart, and then you’re left with this permanent reminder you wish you’d never gotten. In fact, this phenomenon is called “The Name Curse.” We can’t confirm that these tats seal the fate of these relationships, but we still strongly suggest you don’t tempt fate and get one!
  • Don’t get tatted by someone who’s under the influence. No matter how “in control” some people seem or feel when under the influence, the fact is that drugs and alcohol often alter depth perception, motor skills, judgment, etc. The “influenced” person may be cool, funny, entertaining, gentle, etc., while they work, but there IS an increased risk of them making unnecessary mistakes while tattooing you.
  • Don’t get home tats, ESPECIALLY with homemade guns. We know that at-home tats are often a cheaper alternative to going to a professional shop. However, in so many cases, you get what you pay for. Worse than that, however, the equipment is often less than sterile, the ink may be of cheaper (or even improper) quality, and you have little or no confirmation of the artist’s skills or professionalism.

how to choose a cover up tattoo

Cover-Up Do’s and Don’ts


  • Yes, we realize that we’re repeating ourselves a little, but we believe in thorough research for EVERYTHING. It’s important for cover-ups because not every design can adequately cover ANY design. Nor can ALL colors cover ANY color. Research cover-up success stories and find legit pics of finished, healed cover-ups before making a second mistake… on the same tattoo!
  • Go to the most experienced professional available. Tattooing itself requires great skill and lots of practice. We heart newbie and apprentice artists deeply and applaud their talent and dreams! However, cover-ups are often far more difficult than tattooing fresh, virgin skin. The artist must have extensive knowledge and experience with tattoo contours, colors, and how to work with (or against) the shapes and angles of tattoo designs and using the correct ones to cover old, unwanted tattoos. Whew, that was a mouthful!
  • Keep an open mind. You can ALWAYS go to a tat artist with an idea or drawing of what you’d LIKE to have covering your old tat. HOWEVER, it may or may not be possible to use your exact design or color scheme. For a successful cover-up, the artist may need to redraw or alter your original design or change up the colors. Allow him or her to make changes; he or she wants to give you what you want and should be willing to take the time to help you reach a compromise that fits both his/her skills and your tastes.

can you put color over a black tattoo


  • Get a cover-up before the original tat heals. Seriously, not only will this hurt like hell, it also increases the risk of infection and reactions to the ink.
  • Pay for a cover-up done by the original artist. Most tattoo artists offer free touch-ups on the tattoo they gave you, either for x number of months, or for the rest of your life. If they make a mistake on your original tat, especially one so major that it requires a cover-up, he or she should also be willing to do one for free. In some rare cases, this is not possible, but you should talk to them until the two of you reach a mutually beneficial compromise (i.e., a free new tattoo in a different spot and the arrangement of a discounted cover-up with another, more experienced artist, etc.).
  • Don’t settle. Although your tattoo artist may need to alter the cover-up idea you walked into the shop wanting, do NOT settle for something you don’t like. It may be a lengthy process and wait, but either keep reworking your design (or consider other designs you come across while researching) or consult with another artist. Settling out of frustration or impatience could result in the need for yet another cover-up or, if you’re very unlucky, a permanent smear of tattoo mistakes that can never be fixed.
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