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What To Do With a Bad Tattoo - Cover it? Remove it? Why not reinvent it?!

Updated on February 09, 2016
butterfly before. I happen to think this is a cute tattoo. But it is definitely faded and blurry.
butterfly before. I happen to think this is a cute tattoo. But it is definitely faded and blurry.
butterfly after. the same concept but bigger and bolder
butterfly after. the same concept but bigger and bolder
tiger before. I guess a tiger going for a swim seemed like a good idea at the time.
tiger before. I guess a tiger going for a swim seemed like a good idea at the time.
tiger after. now this cat commands attention!
tiger after. now this cat commands attention!
skull before. Definitely faded. And a little odd, but to each his own I guess.
skull before. Definitely faded. And a little odd, but to each his own I guess.
skull after. You can see the original design retouched along with some extra added. Still very unique, but much more impressive
skull after. You can see the original design retouched along with some extra added. Still very unique, but much more impressive
clown before. Another one that could use some extra color
clown before. Another one that could use some extra color
clown after. the original clown was retouched and they could have stopped there, but more was added for a more dramatic look
clown after. the original clown was retouched and they could have stopped there, but more was added for a more dramatic look
fairy before. Cute idea. Not the best quality
fairy before. Cute idea. Not the best quality
fairy after. a complete departure from the original fairy design!
fairy after. a complete departure from the original fairy design!

There have been plenty of hubs written lately about how to decide about getting a tattoo and what tattoo design to choose. They offer some great advice. And I hope people out there are following it. But what if it's too late! What do you do if you already made the bad decision? Or what if what was a good decision at the time isn't any longer?

With age comes beauty. Or not!

Some things do age beautifully. Bronze for example. The statue of liberty wasn't always green folks. That lovely color even has a lovely name, patina. And removing it from artifacts by polishing can actually reduce their value! Unfortunately, many tattoos do not fare so well with age. I have seen a tattoo that looked new after ten years. And I have seen butterflies that now look more like a moth that met with a fly swatter. It happens. And when it does, what do you do? Or even if that twenty year old ink still looks new, perhaps it isn't really the look you want any longer. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it's just not the same. Tastes change, lifestyles change. Tattoos on the other hand are forever. Or are they?

You fell out of love with your ink. Now What?

If you fall into any of the categories above, or have another reason you are less than in love with your ink, what do you do? Well, you can live with it. A lot of people do. I see them everywhere. And now that summer is approaching they are sure to be out in force! Well, if you are one of these folks, you don't have to be. You can do something about it. There are many options available today.

Hide It!

There are a number of very good tattoo cover-ups on the market for those that need to temporarily hide their ink. They come in the form of makeup or in clothing of sorts. Be careful what you buy. And don't skimp on the cost. A cheap cover-up can leave things looking worse than the tattoo itself. Getting the right stuff can save the day. I know. I was recently in my sister's wedding wearing a bridesmaid dress that left a very large tattoo of a skull exposed. I promised her that it would be covered. I researched a long list of products online, read reviews, and went to a few cosmetic stores. I finally settled on ColorTraition and bought a sample kit that included several shades. That was enough to cover my tattoo for the wedding and I figured once I knew which shade I was, I could buy a full size bottle if I wanted. It worked great and even stayed on through the reception, crazy dancing and all. It also works great to cover blemishes!

Laser Removal

I am sure many of you have heard of laser removal as an option for tattoo removal. I have even heard people considering tattoos say something like - well now there is laser removal and I can have it taken off. It is out there and does work. But it is not to be taken lightly. It works by burning the ink. This means it is painful. Even more than getting the tattoo in most cases. And it can leave scars. So you might be rid of the ink but you also might not look like new. A third thing to consider is the cost. It can take many treatments and they are not cheap and not covered by insurance. That being said, sometimes that is the best way to go. I know a gentleman that had two full sleeves almost completely removed for personal reasons. All he kept was a portrait of his wife. His arms look fantastic. You would never know what had been there. He also endured months of painful treatments and spent thousand upon thousands of dollars. So those of you reading this that are still getting tattoos or are considering their first, don't think there is a quick fix out there if you decide you want it taken off.

Removal Products

There are products on the market that claim when applied to tattoos, they will cause the tattoo to fade and ultimately disappear. I do not have any personal experience with these products, nor do I know anyone that does. A quick online search for reviews met with mixed results. They seem to take quite a while to work and are not a good idea for those with sensitive skin. At the very least they might be worth a shot for someone with a small tattoo and a lot of patience. As always, and I can't say this enough, do your research.

Reinvent it!

Maybe eliminating your ink isn't necessary at all. You might even be getting more. But what about that one tattoo that you have and are less than in love with. Maybe it's faded. Maybe it was a bad decision. Maybe it isn't quite the masterpiece you wanted but it was all you could afford at the time. Instead of living with the bad ink, or getting yet another new piece, why not do something about that old one? Get it retouched. Or get it redone completely. There are good tattoo artists that can take your drunken mistake, or blurry rose, and turn it into a work of art, Why live with something you aren't happy with or something substandard. Do something about it. You might even be happier with the results than if you got something brand new.

If you are going to get your tattoo retouched or covered with another, the same rules apply as getting a new tattoo. Do not rush into it. You don't want to turn a small mistake into a bigger one! Do not skimp on the cost. Tattoos are expensive. There is no way around that. If you are short on cash now, save up. Consider it as an investment in a work of art, and in yourself. Shop around. You definitely want to go to an artist who has done plenty of coverup work and retouching. Look at some of their work. And by all means, talk to them. Discuss your goal and your concerns. If you are at all unhappy with their answers or personality, do not let them touch you. There's plenty of competition out there and if they are not going to suit your needs you can go to someone else. You want this to be a good experience. A good artist will work with you on the design. If you want minimal size and change, that can be done. If you really want to go for it, the sky is the limit. Get something spectacular.

PHOTOS: The photos in this hub are courtesy of my tattoo artist, Steve. I would let him doodle on me if he wanted. And that is what I mean by picking the right artist. Steve works out of Primal Inc. 1955 Central Ave Albany NY (Facebook: Primalgraphics Tatooinc / Primal Tattooinc).

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    • timmathisen profile image

      timmathisen 5 years ago from the Land of Lincoln

      Nice hub. It's amazing how a good tattoo artist can take a botched job and tweak it into something new.

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      you're right. it is amazing. that is why i really wish a lot of people with bad ink would get it redone instead of getting new stuff!

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      Great hub and amazing cover-ups or should I say re-inventions. You have a great artist working on you!

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Thundermama - Thanks for the compiments. And I will pass them on to Digger as well. Can you believe he only does the tattoo thing part time?! You can see my 2 tats here. The one with the Lilies he designed for me. I am dying to add to it!.. See you around the hubs! https://hubpages.com/literature/Yes-it-hurt-And-so...

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What an incredible difference in the before and after pictures. I have never had a tattoo but they do fascinate me and the quality of the artwork is not to be scoffed at. Thanks for giving me a greater appreciation of the art.

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Bill, thanks for being among those that can see the artistry of tattoos. too many people still regard it as something only thugs do. i never would have thought it possible to change a tattoo so dramatically until i saw these photos. i just wish my words could express it as well as the pics. i wll get there!

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Great hub. I have a tattoo which I hate. It was poorly done and most people ask me what it is supposed to be. My partner on the other hand has a perfect cherry blossom tree 'growing' up his back (the photo is on my cherry blossom hub).

      The difference is I was young when I had mine done and didn't think about what I wanted. I just went out one day with friends and picked any thing. My OH researched what he wanted and where to go, and it looks perfect.

      I have considered getting mine redone and reinvented - it looks so good! Thanks for the ideas :)

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      It sounds like you did exactly what I was afraid I would do. And that is why I didn't get a tattoo until I was 30! And I love it. It is the skull pictured in my hub about getting tattooed while pregnant... you should look into getting yours touched up or redone. Be sure to go to an excellent artist. Re-doing takes a lot more skill. Maybe ask you rhubby for some advice :)

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Emma - do you mind if I ask what your tattoo is? You didn't pick the random butterfly out of the catalog did you?!

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      He wanted to avoid doing that too and he was 32 when he got his. Mine is of a mermaid, done in black, although it is a bit abstract! I would like it if it looked okay - it's really faded, almost blue looking.

      It also doesn't mean anything to me. It's nice to have something of some meaning. I thought maybe one day I could get it removed and then something else, but I might just get it re-done - as you said. It's on my side so no one really sees it anyway!

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      oooh! I can understand the urge to do something about it. I hope you go through with it and get something you are happy with. Good Luck!

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Haha, thanks x

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I have only two tattoos, but the oldest one is starting to fade a bit. I was warned that yellow and white could fade, but I did it anyway. Oh well. I still like it. Perhaps I will get it touched up and add more to it one day. Thanks for sharing and great hub! Voted up!

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Jeanieinabottle - I was amazed by these cover up photos when I saw them on my friend's website. I would love to watch him do one. Maybe he will let me sometime.

      I am glad you still like your faded tat. That is the most important thing afterall, isn't it?

      Thanks for the vote up!

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      I like tattoos a lot and plan to get mine (a sun) retouched into a moon soon as it's been 14 years already and I'm ready for a change. Great hub, and thanks for the tip about ColorTraition! Voted useful.

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      theclevercat - I love the idea of going from a sun to a moon! One of my tats is designed to be added to. I am sure over the years it will need retouching too. I can't wait to see what it turns into as it develops.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      I love my tattoo, it's a dreamcatcher. this is great, and what a good idea to reinvent it, or change it. I may just get another one now! lol! voted up!

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Nell Rose - I have seen some great add-ons to existing tattoos. For example, a plain tribal band with flowers later added in. The end result was gorgeous. If you come up with an idea you like, go for it!

      Thanks for the vote up!

    • Heather Says profile image

      Heather Rode 4 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona

      I also have a lily in my immaculate heart of the virgin Mary tattoo on my arm. And I agree, some people should really get their work redone, but the problem is that I don't think they realize how terrible it is to begin with. It's probably pretty golden to them.

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Heather - I am afraid you might be right. Some people might still be in live with that faded distorted whatever-it-is they are sporting. Good fo rthem! Not so good for us onlookers.

      There is a concert venue near me (Saratoga Performing Arts Ceter - SPACC) that has grat rock shows and a really nice lawn area. One of my favorite parts of summer is to hang out on the lawn, listen to the music, and look at everyone's tattoos. :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Nice artwork! I'm tat-free and intend to stay that way. I'm a fan of tattoo's on others and admire them often. Excellent hub advice!!!

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Linda - Thanks for reading. There are as many opinions out there about tattoos as there are people. I really appreciate people like you that know that aren;t fo rthem, but can still appreciate them as artwork and means of expression.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 4 years ago from UK

      Nice one Dana. If I ever get a 'bad' tattoo I know what to do. Actually I know what to do now, ie., not to get one. simples. eh? Highly creative hub here with plenty of useful ideas from the tattooed wonder. yeah, you. up/shared.

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Docmo - Thank you for the compliments. No tattoos? Ever? Or just no bad ones? I bet I could change your mind; might take a whole buncha booze though. :) Thanks for the vote and share.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, creative too. If I do get a tattoo and it goes haywire I know what to do. Thanks for sharing.

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      Vellur - thank you so much for giving this a read. Hopefully, if you do ever decide to get inked, you wont need any revisions. Tattoos aren't quite as easy to edit as our writing! :

    • ShaydeShaffer profile image

      Shayde Shaffer 4 years ago from Morrisville, VT

      I love this Hub! My dad was at tattoo artist and when he passed away, I got a tattoo in memory of him, but the artist did it wicked light-handed because I was 13, I am now almost 20 and it's really beginning to fade, I think I may take your idea to heart! Thank you, so much for this! I was just going to get it touched up, but this, I love this.

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      ShaydeShaffer - I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your dad. Tattoo or not, he is with you every day and will always be a part of you.... I hope you do decide to have something great done with your tattoo. It should always be omething that makes you feel good when you look at it. Take your time with the decision.... I had no idea how much could be done to an existing tattoo until I saw my friends work, Amazing!.... Wishing you all the very best.

    • profile image

      sonia 4 months ago

      l have terrible professionally done tattoo a flag mainly in blue about the size of a matchbox can this be successfully cover

    • DanaTeresa profile image
      Author

      Dana Strang 2 months ago from Ohio

      If it is that small, absolutely YES. Shop around to a few places though and look at their work. With something like that I see alot of bad artists just cover over it with black and try to work it in a bigger design. You will end up with big blob!.... If it is very dark there are a number of creams you can use to lighten it first. A good artist will work with you to het it right.

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