Tattoo Cover-Up: How Laser Tattoo Removal Can Help

Written by WD Staff, Skin Care Specialists on March 12, 2018 7 Comments

tattoo cover up

Nearly 45 million Americans currently have tattoos. An estimated 20% of these people would like to have their tattoos removed. Are you considering parting ways with an old tattoo?

Maybe you didn’t properly take care of the tattoo and over time it faded or became distorted. Or maybe you got a new job or a new significant other that doesn’t share your appreciation of the particular tattoo. Whatever the reason, there are two options to choose from: you could remove the tattoo or cover it up with a new one.

You could permanently remove your tattoo with laser tattoo removal. We’ve discussed this option in great depth in other articles (see factors that determine tattoo removal success, laser tattoo removal myths, and this post on frequently asked questions).

A second option would be to cover your old tattoo with a new one. Your old tattoo could either be completely covered by a new tattoo or it can be incorporated as part of the new design. Depending on the state of your old tattoo (i.e. what colors are used, how faded it is, and if its “salvageable”) and the subject of the new cover-up tattoo, you will want a skilled tattoo artist to work with you to suggest your best option.

Laser Tattoo Removal & Tattoo Cover-Up

Interestingly enough, laser tattoo removal can also assist you with the process of covering your tattoo, especially if the original tattoo is darkly-colored. Tattoo ink, unlike wall paint, cannot be covered up with a coat of primer. However, laser tattoo removal can be used to lighten the old tattoo before starting cover-up sessions.  This can help your old tattoo either completely disappear or better integrate into the new cover-up design.

The PiQo4 laser is so powerful that it may only take a session or two for even dark old tattoos to be ready for a cover-up.

Cover-Up Tips

  • Find a good tattoo artist with ample experience in doing cover-ups. Ask to see photos of their previous work.
  • Choose a cover-up design that will work with your old tattoo, but be open to potential modifications that may be necessary for the integration. Your tattoo artist should be able to help suggest possible designs.
  • Generally, more intricate designs with fine details and dark shading (like fish scales or overlapping flower petals) are better for cover-up.
  • Darker “colder” colors like black, blue, purple, and green cover better than warmer colors.
  • Your new tattoo design will need to be larger than your old tattoo, so that it provides more than sufficient coverage. Don’t be surprised if your tattoo artist recommends that your new tattoo be twice as big as your old one.
  • Getting a cover up may require multiple sessions, so plan accordingly.


WD Staff

A united group of skin care specialists from Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, Austin's leader in Dermatology and Plastic Surgery. Articles posted under WD staff are authored through combined contributions from our entire team, including Plastic Surgeons, Dermatologists, Aestheticians, Physician Assistants, Aesthetic Nurses, and Patient Coordinators.

7 Responses to “Tattoo Cover-Up: How Laser Tattoo Removal Can Help”

  1. Avatar Giselle says:

    Great tips, I have a fairly large tat on my foot that I got in collage. I absolutely hate it! Its faded and stretched out. However, its fairly big and I imagine getting it completely removed could take many treatments. So you’re saying i may be able to undergo a few laser treatments to lighten the tattoo? Then I can visit a tattoo artist to get it re-done?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Giselle, You have the right idea! Most people think of laser tattoo treatments as a way to completely remove a tattoo (which it can). However, it’s also a valuable tool for cover-ups. We can lighten your tattoo to a point that makes it easier for a tattoo artist to create a new piece.

      Thanks again for reading our post!

      WD Staff

  2. Avatar Amy says:

    I used a laser to lighten an old tattoo on my hip and then re-did it. Worked great, I just needed 3 or so sessions and was ready for new ink!

  3. Avatar Sabrina says:

    About 15 years ago, I got eyeliner tattooed on and now I want to get rid of it. Could I do laser tattoo removal in this area?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Sabrina,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your great question. In general, I would encourage you to come in for an in person consultation, its the only way to assess if laser tattoo removal is viable. That said, we are often able to remove permanent makeup including eyeliner. Fortunately eyeliner tends to be removed quicker than traditional tattoo, often in 2-3 sessions.

      Please give us a call if you would like to setup a consultation!

      WD Staff

  4. Avatar faten says:

    I’ve covered up my old tattoo but i didn’t like the new covered up tattoo is it easy to remove it know with laser or it will be more difficult

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi faten,

      All else equal, unfortunately it will probably be more difficult in that you will need more treatment sessions to fully remove the tattoo. This is due to the layering of ink.

      However full removal (or lightening the area for another cover up) is still possible, the process will probably just take longer than it would to just treat the original tattoo.

      Please let us know if you have any additional questions!

      WD Staff

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