Thursday, November 8, 2012

Article: Cover ups and Fix ups.

This time around I am going to do a bit of an article, covering a subject in tattooing that I think more people need a more honest assessment of – Cover ups. We’ll go over my own observations from why people get cover-ups and how to avoid this kind of tattoo, to how different approaches should be taken for different kinds of cover ups, including names and disaster tattoos.
Good ideas gone bad...

             I've been thinking about putting this article together for a while now, and I am hoping maybe I can provide some info and tips about how to go about getting the right cover up for someone out there, or maybe help a few people avoid this situation in the first place.
Collectors: Don't go for the cheapest "artist" with a "gun" you can find.

The three main reasons a person typically needs to get a tattoo covered or fixed are; 
1. They were too young to know better.
2. Too cheap to get it done right the first time. 
3. Got a lovers name on them that they don’t love anymore. 
Or a combination of these...

Her son's names, All fixed up.

The cover up design was by the Collector.

Here’s a tip: NEVER get a lovers name. EVER. I don’t care how much you love them, your relationship with that person can always change. The names of your children, parents, family, lost loved ones, your relationship with those people will not likely change, and those are good options for getting a tattoo. Tattoos are permanent and not easy to cover or remove (in case you’re not sure what permanent really means) so don’t get your tattoos on impulse, or for fashion or to prove anything to someone other than yourself. Tattoos are best as benchmarks to your life and expressions of your experience in this world and those things you cherish. Not for some passing fad. As many women with “tramps stamps” have now learned. –don’t get me wrong, if you come to me wanting your boyfriends name on your neck, or the Tasmanian Devil pissing on a Ford logo on your lower back, and I can’t talk you out of it, and you’re willing to pay the price, I will do it. My responsibility only goes so far. (as a note, I do refuse to tattoo images of hate, gang/biker/nazi/organized crime affiliation, but that’s pretty common in the professional tattoo industry)

Disguising that old design is the key.
In the world of tattooing, cover ups are one of the hardest and most complicated challenges we tattooists face. Often enough, the story goes as follows: “I got this tattoo, when I was 16 by my friend’s friend in their kitchen, and now that I am 30 I cant stand looking at it and want to cover it up” or the classic “I’m not with Alexander anymore, and I hate him, and I want to cover his name that is on my neck.” And from there, the artist has to figure out how to make an unwanted tattoo go away and make the new tattoo look good. These pieces can come with significant limitations as well such as “I don’t want it bigger than it already is” or “please don’t make it darker than it already is” It would be easy to be a dick and just tell them no, or an artist can rise to the challenge and help a person out that has made the same mistake that most of us with tattoos have made- getting a bad/stupid tattoo.

Artists: Don't start something you cant handle.

It's a difficult job.

There are many considerations before starting a cover up. One of the first things I need to know is what the collector would rather have in place of the old tattoo. If it was a good idea, bad tattoo, those can be pretty easy, just fixing and adjusting what is already there to make the original idea work may be all that is needed.
One of my Favorites.
            Often enough however, their design tends to be something the wearer wants to go away, typically, a name. Names tend to be more common, and more difficult to cover. And usually the collector comes into a shop without any real idea of what they want to do, or what they can do, aside from making the unwanted design go away. So it falls on the tattooist to identify options that would work for the cover up and provide the collector with a tattoo concept that they will enjoy. Cause no one wants to cover a tattoo they don’t want, with another tattoo they DON’T want.

On the wrist. They're going to see it anyway. So it might as well look bad ass!
Typically we provide standard options, Tribal, roses/flowers, skulls and smoke tend to be standard avenues of covering up a design, and we always make those options available. Without telling someone that the only thing they can get is tribal or roses. Usually we ask what they would prefer to have there and find a way to make idea work. Though there is always compromise in a cover up. The collector may not be able to get what they want as a cover, simply because the design doesn't cover the old tattoo, or it will end up in a confusing mess. Other factors play a part such as lighter inks cannot cover darker inks, and a cover up almost always has to go darker than the original design in order to disguise the previous work. So those bold black names make for tricky jobs that require the collector to get a larger, dark piece they may not have ever wanted in the first place.  
And the darker, or bolder the design, the more limited the options are to cover it. In these cases, a few laser removal treatments may help in lightening an area for more freedom in conceiving a cover concept.

Transforming the look of existing work can distract from it being crooked, slanted, or otherwise poorly placed.
In designing a cover up, I will take pictures of the design and surrounding areas, taking notes on the limitation of the space I can use. Then I’ll print those pictures and draw on them to work out a way I can make the desired cover work.
Quite a challenge this one. Can't wait to finish it when he gets back from deployment.
 Other tattoos that people want cover are the crappy amateur pieces done by kitchen scratchers. These are typically light and have irregular lines. Often they are done with homemade equipment and ink and tend be a general mess. Luckily, these pieces are easy to cover, as there isn’t much to them, and modern, factory made inks overpower any of this homemade junk that people put into their skin. Often, I don’t even consider the existing tattoo in these cases and just put whatever design they would rather have right over it.
Athletes: Don't get your Number either. it too can change.
Then sometimes there are the really tough situations; large, dark, heavily scarred tattoos that are usually the result of multiple failed cover up attempts, or possibly the work of a heavy handed artist. In these cases, the wearer tends to be open to whatever can make the design more appealing, or just wants a solid black shape over the area. Typically some custom drawn tribal, right on the body, can turn an embarrassing tattoo into something the collector can be satisfied with.

That "No Fear" was not easy to hide at all. 
The most important factors for any cover up tattoo are
1.                          The new design must disguise the older one. If you can see the old design through the new design, then it’s not a good cover up.
2.                          The new work must be bolder, darker, or more dominate than the older work, so that the design underneath doesn't show through.
3.                          The collector of the tattoo has to like the new design, as no one should cover an unwanted tattoo with another, unwanted tattoo.
4.                          The artist you choose must be a professional, and have some experience covering old tattoos.

When "it just needs something more"

Whew! So that’s what I've got. So far anyway. Any input, questions or comments can be sent directly to me by email. I would love to hear them!

And as always, thanks for reading!