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September 24, 2011

Lasered Bio Coverup Sleeve Tattoo

I get a lot of requests for large coverup tattoo projects, particularly full biomech sleeve coverup projects. Each of these requests comes with its own set of challenges, but fortunately in many cases the client has already had a number of laser removal treatments to lighten the old tattoo before proceeding with the new coverup. Although the laser is by no means a perfect removal method- as of now, there is no such thing- it can lighten the offending tattoo enough to allow for far more options with the new piece, plus an overall look that is far less dark and dense than a typical coverup tattoo. This past week I got a chance to finish a full sleeve laser coverup project, and wanted to share it with you. The client had his arm mostly just outlined, plus about half of his forearm filled in from an earlier attempt at covering the unwanted outline... so there was plenty of stuff there to begin with. However,he was diligent about having the piece lightened, and by the time I got to it the arm had been hit almost a dozen times in its darkest parts, providing me with an almost empty canvas.

laser tattoo removal and coverup

The laser has its limitations- very dark or thick outlines can be hard to remove entirely, and certain colors- particularly purples and blues- can be especially reluctant to come out. That's where his arm was when we began, with the old outlines lightened as far as they would go and a stain of old turquoise on his inner forearm. With coverup projects, it's really no big deal to absorb old patches of color into the new piece- just a matter of taking those old colors into consideration when executing the new piece. It's a lot harder to cover old outlines, which have direction and purpose and can run counter to the direction the new piece is trying to take. That's why it was so nice to have the old stuff lightened to the extent it was. The remaining bits of pigment, forming a peppery stain over parts of the arm, just served to provide the new piece with an extra degree of texture and character- it's just a matter of working it in.

bio coverup sleeve tattoo

This client had the additional challenge of being very freckly- but with the old laser stuff showing through, the freckles simply added another degree of detail to the piece; I simply worked carefully to make sure every freckle, spot or stain on the arm was worked into the new piece. The key with coverup projects is to remember that you really can't cover the old stuff- you have to incorporate it into the new piece. Attempts to cover or bury the old work inevitable create dark tattoos; the last thing your client needs to hear from strangers on the street is, "nice cover-up".

bio half sleeve coverup tattoo

I also recommend working carefully to create balance through the whole piece- dark vs light areas, detailed vs smooth areas, brightly colored vs subdued areas... the balance between these elements should be maintained through the whole sleeve, not just the coverup zones.


A coverup doesn't have to look like a coverup; it just needs the right approach to begin with. A little lightening with the laser never hurts- at least, it doesn't hurt the project. As far as hurting the client, that's another story entirely. For more information on the techniques used to do this piece, check out my mammoth instructional package Reinventing The Tattoo; you can also see more of my coverup work at the Hyperspace Studios coverup gallery.


Stay tuned for more tattoos, information and educational products!

Guy Aitchison