How to Draft and Design a Cover up Tattoo

Cover up tattoo - a tattoo artist doing tattoo on the forearm.

A recent study found that more than a quarter of people regret at least one of their tattoos.

When a client wants to cover up an old tattoo, you need to know how to craft a successful cover-up. Designing a cover up tattoo requires careful planning and consideration to effectively conceal or transform an existing tattoo.

Let’s go through the tips you need to know to draft and design a cover-up tattoo.

Assess the Existing Tattoo

Examine the size, shape, color, and placement of the client’s current tattoo. Determine if it’s possible to cover or incorporate the existing tattoo into a new design.

Note any elements that should be preserved or worked around. That’s part of what takes skill as a tattoo artist. Determine if the existing tattoo is large enough to be covered effectively without distorting the new design.

Evaluate the colors used in the tattoo and their saturation level. Lighter and faded colors are easier to cover than dark, heavily saturated ones.

Consider the location of the tattoo and how it interacts with the surrounding body parts. Determine if the cover-up design should integrate with the existing tattoo or completely mask it.

Assess the quality of the existing tattoo, including any fading, blurring, or uneven lines. This will affect the cover up design’s potential to effectively conceal the original tattoo.

Consultation with the Client

Discuss everything with your client to understand their goals, preferences, and expectations for the cover up tattoo.

Explore the client’s personal style, interests, and aesthetic preferences. Ask them about their favorite colors, themes, or imagery they would like to incorporate into the new design.

Discuss their desired outcome. They may want the tattoo completely covered, or they may be okay with some aspects of the old design being integrated.

Present your portfolio or a collection of cover up designs you have done in the past. This will help the client visualize what is possible and spark inspiration for their own cover up. Point out specific examples that show off techniques or styles that could work well for their situation.

Manage the client’s expectations by explaining the potential challenges of covering up tattoos. Point out any limitations imposed by the existing design. Discuss the number of sessions required, potential costs, and the healing process.

Brainstorm design concepts together. Tale into consideration the client’s preferences, the existing tattoo, and your artistic expertise.

Sketch rough ideas or use visual references to convey different possibilities. Discuss how elements of the existing tattoo can be incorporated or transformed into the new design.

Gather Information

Collect as much information as possible about the existing tattoo. Take clear, well-lit photos from different angles. This allows you to accurately capture its details, colors, and potential challenges.

Analyze the Tattoo’s Limitations

Identify any limitations or challenges that the existing tattoo may present.

The size and placement of the existing tattoo can affect the cover-up options. If the tattoo is too large, it might be challenging to find a design that conceals it without distorting the new tattoo. The tattoo placement on the body may also limit the available canvas for the cover-up design.

The colors used in the existing tattoo can pose limitations for cover-ups. Dark and heavily saturated tattoos can be more difficult to cover effectively. Lighter or more intricate designs may struggle to conceal the underlying colors.

Faded or lighter tattoos provide more flexibility for cover-up options. The complexity of the existing tattoo design can affect the cover up process.

Intricate and detailed tattoos may require more effort to cover. It can be challenging to design a new tattoo that integrates with or conceals the existing design elements.

Consider the style and imagery of the existing tattoo. Some tattoo styles or specific imagery might be more challenging to cover up or incorporate into a new design. For example, heavily shaded or tribal-style tattoos may require specific approaches to achieve successful cover-ups.

Research and Inspiration

Conduct research to find inspiration for the cover up design. Look through your own portfolio or previous works to find cover-up tattoos you have done in the past.

Identify techniques, styles, and approaches that worked well in those cases.

Explore online platforms to gather inspiration. This could include resources like social media, tattoo artist websites, and online galleries.

Look for cover up tattoos created by other artists. Pay attention to designs that effectively hide or incorporate existing tattoos. Look for tattoos with similarities to your client’s situation or preferences.

Create a collaborative design board with the client. Create a collaborative design board with the client. Encourage them to bring visual references. Options include images, sketches, or tattoos they find inspiring.

Discuss and analyze these references together. Use the discussion to come up with elements that could work well for the cover-up design.

Color and Shading Considerations

Evaluate the colors and shading of the existing tattoo. Determine if any specific color schemes or shading techniques are needed to effectively hide or blend the tattoo.

Consider using techniques like blackwork or negative space. You can also incorporate strategic elements to divert attention from the existing tattoo. Depending on the existing tattoo, there are specific strategies you can try for an effective cover-up.


Incorporation is one common strategy when covering up tattoo mistakes. Create a new design that transforms the existing tattoo into a different image or concept.

This allows you to use parts of the old tattoo as building blocks for the new design. That way, they’ll become part of a fresh and cohesive composition.

Find creative ways to incorporate the existing tattoo into the cover-up design. You can use the existing tattoo as a background or foundation for the new design.

Add new elements to enhance the original concept. Or, use what you’re adding to change it entirely.

Strategically place design elements, shading, or focal points. This can help distract from the existing tattoo. By diverting the viewer’s focus to other areas of the cover-up design, you can minimize the visibility of the original tattoo.


You may also try transformation when creating a tattoo cover-up. This strategy involves modifying the original tattoo design to obscure or alter its appearance completely.

Look for design elements, shapes, or themes within the existing tattoo that can be transformed into something new. For example, if the tattoo has a flower, it could be turned into a larger floral composition. Or, you could merge it with other elements to create a larger scene.

Integrate the elements from the existing tattoo into the new design concept. This can be done by incorporating the existing lines, shapes, or colors into the overall composition. Or, you could modify them to fit seamlessly within the new design.


Another common tattoo cover-up strategy is camouflage. Use clever design techniques and shading to blend the existing tattoo into the new design. This strategy works best when the existing tattoo is relatively light. That way, you can shade over it properly.

Introduce visually captivating elements or focal points within the cover-up design. This can be achieved through the addition of detailed images or vibrant colors. You can also add intricate patterns that capture the viewer’s focus.

Utilize negative space cleverly to create an effective cover-up. By leaving certain areas of the design blank, you can create a contrast that helps conceal or minimize the old tattoo’s visibility.

Incorporate geometric shapes and patterns into the cover-up design. These designs can camouflage the existing tattoo by visually breaking it up. Or, you can use optical illusions that divert attention away from it.

If your client is a nature lover, there are lots of options for you. Add natural elements like leaves, vines, or flowers into the cover-up design to blend with the existing tattoo. By incorporating these elements, you can camouflage the old tattoo.

Try using blackwork or abstract designs to cover up the existing tattoo. These styles often involve bold, solid black linework and shapes that can effectively conceal the previous tattoo and create a new visual aesthetic.

Use color blending and gradient techniques to merge the existing tattoo with the new design elements seamlessly. By skillfully blending colors, you can create a smooth transition that minimizes the visibility of the old tattoo.

Design Sketches

Use the gathered information, client preferences, and inspiration to create preliminary design sketches. Experiment with compositions and placements to find a strategy that hides the existing tattoo.

Present Your Design

Schedule a follow-up consultation with the client to present your design options. Explain the rationale behind each design and how it addresses their goals and concerns.

Offer variations or alternatives if they don’t like aspects of the initial design.

Collaboration and Revisions

After presenting your initial design sketches to the client, encourage them to provide their feedback. You want to ensure that your client is satisfied with the final product. You don’t want them to be paying for another cover-up in a few years!

Actively listen to the client’s feedback. Pay attention to their specific requests and preferences. Take notes and seek clarification if needed. This will help ensure that you really understand their desired modifications.

Engage in a collaborative discussion with the client about the proposed revisions. Offer your professional insights and suggestions. But, balance your thoughts with the technical and aesthetic aspects of the design. Explore alternative options that address the client’s concerns while maintaining the overall vision.

Based on the client’s feedback and your discussion, make the necessary revisions to the design sketches. Create new sketches or modify existing ones to reflect the desired changes. Consider elements such as composition, placement, color, and integration of the existing tattoo.

Share the revised sketches with the client. Explain the changes you’ve made and how they align with their feedback. Discuss how the revisions address their concerns and enhance the overall cover-up design.

Continue the process of revising and refining the design based on further feedback from the client. Encourage them to provide more input or suggest further modifications if needed. Keep collaborating and making adjustments until the client is satisfied with the design.

Throughout the revision process, maintain clear and open communication with the client. Clearly explain the reasoning behind design choices.

Provide professional advice when necessary. Make sure that you and your tattoo client are both happy with the design you come up with.

Finalize the Design

Once the client is happy with the tattoo design, finalize the details and obtain their approval. Ensure they have a clear understanding of how the cover-up tattoo will look on their skin. Address any final questions or concerns.

Document all the final details of the cover-up design. This includes things like the imagery, placement, size, colors, and any other specific instructions. Make sure both you and the client have a copy of this documentation for reference.

Discuss and schedule the tattoo sessions needed to complete the cover-up. Consider the number of sessions required and estimated session durations. You’ll also want to consider any necessary healing and touch-up appointments.

Share comprehensive aftercare instructions with the client. This helps ensure the cover-up tattoo will heal properly.

Include details on cleaning, moisturizing, and avoiding sun exposure. There may also be other specific aftercare requirements depending on the tattoo placement.

Have the client sign any necessary consent forms and waivers. This helps ensure they understand the risks associated with getting a tattoo. Discuss the payment arrangements and ensure both parties are in agreement.

With the design finalized and all the necessary preparations in place, it’s time to execute. Make sure you follow the agreed-upon design and client preferences.

Designing a Cover-up Tattoo: Start Today

Designing a cover-up tattoo that works for your client can take a lot of time and effort. But with enough experience and hard work, you’ll come up with something they’ll be sure to love.

Are you looking to get into the world of tattoo design? Contact Florida Tattoo Academy today to get the education you need.