Can you tattoo white over black ink for a coverup?
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Can you tattoo white over black ink for a coverup?

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Tattooing white over black ink to get rid of an old tattoo looks like it should work. However the answer isn’t that simple so I find myself often answering the question, can you tattoo white over black ink for a coverup?

Sometimes you can use white ink to fade out a tattoo so that it can be covered up. However, it doesn’t work well for most tattoos. Alternatives are getting the old tattoo faded by laser or finding a tattoo artist skilled in cover-up design. Blackout tattoos with white ink can also work but may fade.

There are so many variables when covering or altering a tattoo with white ink that you really need to understand the tattoo process before embarking down this road.

Otherwise, you may end up with an expensive and ugly mess on your skin that you can’t change.

Blackout Tattoos can also look amazing in pictures when fresh but do they work as a method of covering up old tattoos? 

Read on to find out the details of tattooing white over black ink.

If you are just starting to learn to tattoo, you may find this post helpful. The Basics of Tattooing For Beginners

Can you tattoo white over black ink for a coverup?

Many people assume that if you put white tattoo ink over black ink it will cover it up. I wish it were that simple. It sounds like it could work and that you can just white out the old tattoo, giving you a clean slate to start a new tattoo over the top.

However, the major problem with this idea is that white tattoo ink just doesn’t behave like other tattoo ink. For a start, it is semi-translucent. This means that any darker colour underneath it will pretty much show through, especially after skin healing.

White tattoo ink also fades quickly, so this means that a cover-up that looked good initially could end up showing through on healing.

Find out more about white ink tattoos here. Healed White Tattoos : How Long Do White Tattoos Last

So, unfortunately, this means that you cant just tattoo white over black ink for a coverup.

However, there are some ways that you can use white ink to give you a little more freedom with your next tattoo as I will explain.

Tattooing white over black may lighten or “knock back” a small tattoo enough for a coverup in some cases.

One way that you can use white tattoo ink to cover black ink is in the case of partial lightening.

To cover an old tattoo you don’t need virgin skin. A skilled tattoo artist will work with the old tattoo to design something that will fit over the top and hide or disguise the original tattoo.

What makes this harder is if the old tattoo is very dark. The darker the old tattoo the more it will show through and the harder it is to cover.

It is possible to use a little bit of white to partially lighten the darker bits of the tattoo.

The success very much depends on the size of the tattoo and the quality of the cover-up design but it can work. The cover-up design needs to work well with the tattoo to be covered though.

You can’t just blast anything over the top or it will show through. It only really works well for smaller tattoos or small elements of a tattoo.

People also ask if its possible to cover up a tattoo or scar with skin colored ink? I wrote a post about this which you can read by clicking below.

Tattoo white over black ink case study

You can see how it can work here in this case study…

Tattoo white over black ink
An original tattoo that needs covering up. Will it show through?
Tattoo white over black ink plan
This is the tattoo design plan of how to cover up the old tattoo
Tattoo white over black ink coverup
White into the original tattoo blends it away and covers the old colour
Tattoo white over black ink final result
The final result. The original tattoo is covered and disguised by the white ink

Some drawbacks of partially lightening a tattoo with white tattoo ink

Whilst partial lightening of a tattoo can work, it can sometimes show through on healing.

This is because white ink does tend to fade away in time. The likelihood is that as the white ink fades, your original tattoo may come into view again.

You may be able to add more white later but depending on the design of the cover-up this may not be possible. It also saddles you with an upkeep cost as this may take quite a few sessions.

What are the alternatives to tattooing white over black for a coverup?

We’ve seen that putting white ink over black for a cover-up doesn’t always work. So what else can you do if you have an old tattoo that you want to get rid of?

Luckily you have quite a few alternatives to try. Talk to your tattoo artist to figure out which is the best way forward for you.

1 – Laser removal to cover up a tattoo

Getting laser removal is a really good way of lightening an old tattoo. It’s really important to understand that you do not need to fully remove the pre-existing tattoo. You can just lighten it up a bit so there are no really dark areas.

Lightening in this way will give your tattooist much more leeway with the design they put over the top.

Laser tattoo removal can be an expensive process. However, because you don’t need outright removal. You just need to lighten the tattoo so 2 or 3 sessions will probably do it and it shouldn’t be too expensive.

Check with a laser technician to find out exactly how easy your specific tattoo will be to remove and how much it will cost.

2 – A clever cover-up tattoo that disguises the original work

Black tattoo coverup disguised with butterfly
An old black tattoo can be covered up and disguised by a skilled cover up tattoo artist

Covering up old tattoos is an art form in itself. You don’t just drop any old design over the top of the old one. If you do that, once it heals, the original will grin though.

A professional tattooist skilled in coverups will take time to plan out a coverup scheme. This will take into account the shape and colours of the old tattoo.

They are disguising the old pigment within the new tattoo design.

A tattooist skilled in cover-ups can blend an old tattoo away even if it’s dark.

Research your local tattooists and find the right person who does a lot of coverups and speak to them to see what they suggest.

They will be able to come up with some tattoo ideas and explain the kinds of tattoo styles which will work.

3 – You could get a darker tattoo to cover up the original

If you have a small old tattoo your artist could hide it within a darker area of your new tattoo.

For example, a small black ink name can easily be hidden in a dark area.

For example within the dark leaf of a rose or in the black wing feathers of a raven

4 – A Blackout Tattoo

Blackout tattoos have become extremely popular recently. Basically, you use black ink to completely blackout and cover the old tattoo.

Often blackout will be used over a whole limb such as the arm. Some people have blackout tattoos over a large percentage of their body if they have a lot of old work to cover.

Negative shapes can be left within the black ink.

Although you may think that colouring the skin black is a simple task for a tattooist, like many things in tattooing, it isn’t. Getting the black tattoo fully saturated and smooth requires practice and good technique.

Always make sure you go to a studio and tattooist who is practised in creating a black tattoo and has a good portfolio of work demonstrating this.

Can you tattoo white ink into a blackout tattoo?

You can just tattoo over the old tattoo with plain black but a dramatic new trend is to then tattoo white ink over the black tattoo to create a reversed out negative design.

While blackout with white ink looks amazing in the photos there are some issues with this technique.

As we discussed at the beginning, white ink is translucent. It can never fully cover a darker colour. it also tends to fade away during the healing process over a few months.

This happens with any white ink tattoo. So basically, the white may look great to start with but it’s going to gradually fade out.

You are going to need a good few sessions to build it up over the black and get it to a point where it is saturated enough to cover it.

white on black tattoo geometric
White on Black Tattoo by Nathan Mould {source}

If you are going to get a tattoo like this you absolutely need to go to a tattooist who is practised in reverse blackwork tattoos.  Tattooist Nathan Mould in Pittsburg PA has specialised in this technique and creates some beautiful work.

Are blackout tattoos with white ink expensive?

Blackout tattoos should be priced like any other tattoo. However, there are a few factors that make them much more expensive than a normal tattoo.

  1. You will need to go to an specialist experienced artist. This means they will probably be charging more per hour adding to the cost of the tattoo.
  2. You will need up to five separate sessions get the white ink saturated. This will mean it will take much longer to fully complete the tattoo, meaning higher costs.

The greater amount of time spent will mean that a blackout tattoo with white ink will end up costing you more.

Do blackout tattoos with white ink fade?

As we discussed earlier, white is the most transient of tattoo colours. It tends to fade away over time.

You will likely need to keep going over the white every few years or so to keep the tattoo looking good.

White over black tattoo before and after

To give you more of an idea of how these tattoos work when healed, let’s look at before and after pictures.

Tattooist Esther Garcia has specialised in white over black tattoos. She has documented experiments with blackout tattoos to show how the white heals.

blackout tattoo with white ink before and after
Blackout Tattoo with white ink – freshly done {source}
blackout tattoo with white ink before and after
Blackout Tattoo with white ink – healed {source}

The healed white almost has a subtle chalk board effect.



Can color ink go over black ink tattoos?

If you put color ink over a black ink tattoo the black ink will probably show through. This is because tattoo ink is transparent so the darker ink will be visible. It may look covered initially but as the colored tattoo heals the black ink will show through.

Can you tattoo a lighter color over a darker color?

If you tattoo a lighter colour over a darker colour, the darker shade will show through. Tattoo ink is transparent so anything darker underneath will show through. The lighter the colour the more it will show. Even if it looks covered initially the black will show through on healing.

Can you lighten a black tattoo?

You can’t lighten a black tattoo by putting white or skin coloured tattoo ink over it. The black ink will show through the color tattoo. The best way to lighten a black tattoo is by getting laser tattoo removal. A few sessions may lighten it enough to be covered up with another tattoo.

Can you cover a tattoo with skin colored ink?

You can’t cover a tattoo with skin coloured ink. Unfortunately, the tattoo underneath will eventually show through the skin coloured ink and look worse than it did originally. It’s also hard to match the natural skin tone. A better alternative is to lighten or remove the tattoo with a laser.

Can you tattoo white ink into black skin? Will it show?

Unfortunately white tattoo ink or lighter ink color doesn’t show very well on darker skin tones. The natural colour of dark skin will show through the white ink and render it pretty much invisible, especially after it has healed. Darker tattoo ink shows better on this skin type.

How hard do you press when tattooing?

Wondering how hard you should press when tattooing? I wrote a detailed post which you can read here. How hard do I press when Tattooing? How do I know?

Conclusion | Can you tattoo white over black ink for a coverup?

I hope this post has explained the complexities involved with using white ink to cover black or darker tattoo inks. If you understand how it works you can avoid getting a bad coverup. A bad coverup often can’t be fixed so this is crucial.

White ink may be able to help you fix or cover a tattoo in some situations but it may be better to look at alternative ways of doing this which will give you more options.

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