Cover-up Tattoos: Should You Remove or Fade Your Tattoo Before Covering It?

At Eraser Clinic, we refer to ourselves as the laser tattoo removal experts, but we also help with tattoo fading. Not all of our clients want their tattoo 100% removed, they want it removed or faded just enough that it can be covered up with another tattoo.

A tattoo cover-up is basically what it sounds like: an old or unwanted tattoo is replaced (‘covered up’) with a new tattoo by carefully overlaying the right combination of new tattoo inks to hide the old tattoo.

Though it may sound simple enough, a cover-up tattoo is more complicated than simply inserting new ink on top of old ink. Instead, a tattoo artist has to combine different skills, including color blending, shading, detailing, and depth of color to create a tattoo cover-up.

The new ink in a cover-up tattoo blends with the existing ink to create a new color, and the darker color often dominates.

As such, a tattoo that is faded, lighter, or smaller can be covered up more effectively than one that is larger or has darker ink. This is where laser tattoo removal can come in handy to help fade or partially remove particularly dark or hard-to-cover colors.

Keep in mind that the cover-up tattoo will most likely be larger – often around 30% larger – than the original one and may require a few touch-up sessions to complete the work.

In many cases, experienced tattoo artists recommend using laser tattoo removal to fade out the existing ink before laying on new ink for an easy tattoo cover-up. Here’s why:

  • More ink is needed. If you try to cover up an existing tattoo without first fading it, the tattoo artist will have to use more ink that is darker and bolder than the original design, limiting the color choice and design that is available to you. It’s important to consider that using more ink can also increase the cost of the tattoo.
  • More time is needed. Compared to a tattoo faded by laser, covering up an un-lasered one requires more time and work because it has to be significantly larger than the original. As such, it typically requires more sessions and costs more.
  • Darker ink is needed. No matter how talented a tattoo artist is, a tattoo that has not been treated with a laser requires more ink in darker pigments than the original so it doesn’t show through the new design. This not only limits the artist’s creativity, but it also limits your choice of colors and design.

Whatever your reason for covering up a tattoo, laser tattoo removal provides an effective way to fade out an undesired or substandard tattoo so you can create space for a new and better one.


Before getting a cover-up tattoo, take the following steps to improve the outcome:

  • Find a design that you love. Gather some tattoo cover-up ideas for inspiration to make sure you’re getting a new tattoo that you’ll absolutely love.
  • Talk to an expert tattoo artist. Take your cover-up design ideas to a reputable tattoo artist. Discuss what you want and have your existing tattoo evaluated to see how its age, density, and color may affect the procedure.
  • Explore laser tattoo removal with your tattoo artist. Work with them to find the best tattoo cover-up option by assessing the balance of time, cost, and desired result. For example, laser tattoo removal may increase the amount of time spent on the process, but it gives the artist a clean slate so you can get the design you want and reduce the cost of the new tattoo.

Laser tattoo removal is particularly effective for fading areas that are tough to cover up with new ink. By fading or removing your tattoo, you can significantly increase the range of colors and designs to choose from, as well as avoiding oversaturating the old tattoo with new ink. Generally speaking, the cleaner the slate, the better the results for a cover-up tattoo.

Not all laser tattoo removal services are equal. You should choose a tattoo removal clinic that has extensive experience and expertise tailoring treatments to help you achieve the best cover-up tattoo result possible. Interested in getting a cover-up? Book a free consultation at an Eraser Clinic location near you to find out your best options for fading, partial, and full laser tattoo removals.