Tattooing colour over black tattoos

If you are a part of various social networks there’s a good chance that today you saw this crazy coverup by Tim Beck of Freedom Ink Tattoo Co in Peoria, IL as it went viral today. This isn’t surprising, because most people would assume that you couldn’t do a tattoo this bright — and this light — over solid black. There’s been some debate on how this is going to look healed, with some people saying it’s going to disappear completely, even though Tim swears he’s done others and although they do darken a little, overall he feels that he can successfully tattoo new art over solid black.


Steve Truitt of Ascension in Albuquerquer, who is no stranger to ModBlog had one of those typical “piercer arms” tattooed solid black. However, instead of scarring over it or leaving it all black like many do, he had Roman tattoo a bold biomech piece over the solid black, with no laser removal or other preparation in advance. Here is how it looked right after they tattooed it.


And here it is healed, a month later. As you can see, it did get a bit darker, but overall it is still bright and bold, and you’d never know that it was over black. Now, I should point out one important thing — tattooing over solid black is very different than tattooing over a tattoo image. When it’s solid black, you have a regular canvas — the way the inks combine across the tattoo is going to be consistent, rather than having to compensate for the variations below it. So the counter-intuitive truth may be that in some cases it’s actually easier to tattoo over solid black, rather than doing a “normal” coverup!


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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

36 thoughts on “Tattooing colour over black tattoos

  1. I REALLY enjoyed seeing this. I think that the tattoo industry has plenty of room for experimentation like this. I’m excited to see that someone has being toying with techniques for this sort of application- I’d imagine you can’t approach it quite the same as a “from scratch” tattoo. I’m sure the artist doesn’t want to give up all his “secrets”, but I would LOVE to know more about the pigments and how he is using them/ choosing them to get the desired result. It almost looks like he was mixing with some whites to brighten this?

  2. This actually doesn’t surprise me. Painters have been doing the same thing (working lighter over a black or dark toned canvas) for ages with dramatic effects. As long as the pigments are opaque (or mostly so) not transparent and the inks are being deposited above the layer of black it should work fine. This is different than working on dark skin because the black is at tattoo depth and not part of the surface of the skin like melanin is.

  3. Skin takes up to 6 months to digest ink, I’ll be interested to see all the over black ink tattoo cover-up heal after 6month-1 year period.

  4. According the the wearer’s facebook, the black foot tattoo was a hastily done home coverup done in Jordan. There’s a chance it wasn’t done with modern or stable tattoo ink and the black pigment may continue to lighten or fade. Just a thought.

  5. Noadi – But painters do it with opaque paint over top, not translucent ink mixed in at the same depth as the other ink. This is much more remarkable.

    I’ll post a few more examples of this in the next while.

  6. WOW, that really surprises me, I thought the way was finished when you have solid black (except scars) but now my Idea of getting a black arm gets some new boost..

  7. Nice to see some fresh and healed photos too. Coverups have been sene for years, it’s good to see thereare other possiblities after blackwork is done. I have some small blackwork on my arm and have thought about changing it, this gives me some new ideas on how extensive those changes could actually be.

  8. Is this Roman Abrego’s work for the biomechanical sleeve coverup? It just looks amazing knowing it was all black before, I have the same black arm from shoulder to wrist, no laser, no scarring, and have always been wondering is something like that could ever be done, it’s really great news for me. Now I’m hoping I will find a tattoo artist in France who thinks he has the skill to do the same kind of work

  9. It will heal a little darker like Roman’s coverup pictured above…..BUTTTTT……’ll be so much nicer than a big old blob of Illinois on her foot, and not to mention, I will hit some of the color again. I was lucky that it wasn’t solid black…it had a lot of wholes in it as you can tell in the before picture.

    thanks for posting this!
    I use Eternal and some starbrite pigments.

  10. Thanks again for posting this Shannon, is it possible to know who exactly is the tattoo artist who did the biomech coverup is and how to contact him, his full name and tattoo shop where he’s working, since I would be willing to fly over from France just to get tattooed over my full black arm by this man..

  11. “piercer arms”? A term used to denote a tattoo shop employee who has been used as a pin cushion or human sketch pad by the shop’s tattoo artists??

  12. I always was under the impression that like Lucky Diamond Rich you had to first add layers of white over the black, I wonder how well different areas of the body heal such as hands with this.So basically you dont need to ligthen the black up, Wow this is the way to go for coverups, this article gives me alot of hope for some poorly done work I need covered.Can we get an interview with this guy? I would love to hear more on this subject… Thanks Shannon!

  13. I’d be very interested to see pictures after 6+ months healed. Long story short, I had a “lightly” blacked out arm and had an experienced, reputable artist tattoo over it with opaque colors. Obviously at first, it was bright and vibrant. It darkened considerably after about a month and a half, but was still clearly visible. However, by the 6th month mark, it was a patchy blob and very little was recognisable. This is even with one touch-up done after a month of healing.

    In my research and studies of ink and skin, I have found that to have success and longevity of tattooing over black ink, is to use a design of just line art with HEAVY line work. Low detail, simple and no color packing. Then come back and hit/line everything in black. This will create a nice, visible contrast for the eye.

  14. Wow! Just stumbled across this and needless to say very cool to see this type of work being done. Lots of potential here…

  15. This is good news, for the next level I would like to see a simple uv outline tattoo done over black work.

  16. woo!! I hade a tribal tatoo in my arm, so i made a cover up of a big blak crow. Can i made another thing over the crow, in color?


  17. This gives me good vibes all over, I got a piece that was done 20 years ago on my left arm; after 20 years of tattooists telling me I’d have to get derma-abrasion and laser removal which may cause more scarring to the point my skin wouldn’t be able to take the ink effectively anyway; this brings a smile to my face, seeing that there are Tattooists out there that have the tenacity to show they can overcome large obstacles in their craft!

  18. maybe i’m wrong but looking at the biomechanical design, it looks like the lower arm was black and remained that way while the mid-forearm to shoulder had all the actual work completed. i obviously wasn’t there to see it but that’s how it appears. it really looks like nothing was actually covered.

  19. yes i agree, i wasnt there either but it looks like it was solid black, indian ink probably from the elbow to wrist and the bio work done above then blended/faded into the remaining black? maybe it was just a whole messy arm with patchy talons ink tho like my arm. lol cool whatever! amazing what good pigments and machines aswell as technique can do.

  20. This is awesome. I mean, anyone that understands contrast and color mixing could PROBABLY do this. But the respect factor, for me, comes from how clean and how saturated it is. Look at the Biomech piece, you can clearly see he’s making the colors stick out by really hammering the blacks in and forcing the eye to pick up on the blue tones. And the blue is relatively strong over black anyway, as most artists who do cover-ups probably know already…

    This is some bad ass tattoo work, regardless of the wow factor, that client had to have taken a beating.

  21. can you do this with a white base on dark skin?
    you know how colour tattoos don’t really show up well on dark skin, i was wondering if its possible to do this same concept with white under to make the colours pop more.
    kind of like when you’re painting a room and need a white base coat first to get the true colour of the room.

  22. Hi there, I have five black coloured stars travelling down my upper arm diagonally.. but I am wanting to get rosses and maybe scrolls over the top. is this possible?

  23. I wound hope tat artist would share their experiences and techniques to help other artist incorporate style and methodology into their repertoire. It’s also good for the industry like open source is to software.

  24. I had no idea this was possible! I’ve been seeing tons of blacked out tattoos over the last year and am thinking this could explain an alternate as to why. I’m already brainstorming some options for my shoulder tattoo too, thanks BME!

  25. Hi Guys can any one help i have had SMP done to my scalp and it has gone to dark is there anyway to fade it and make it not look like i am wearing a cap

  26. hi I have a slight dark eagle tattoo on my arm and want it coloured in can this be done over my dark black tattoo

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