Can Tattoos Smudge?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on December 8, 2019
    Last Updated: October 13, 2021

Are you thinking about getting a tattoo? Would you like it to keep its clarity and color for many years to come? Taking a look at your tattoo and seeing that it looks smudged and blurry can be extremely disconcerting.

Yes, tattoos can look smudged, and several factors can cause it. That being said, smudged-looking tattoos aren’t all that common, and you can reduce the likelihood of it happening by following a few simple steps and taking certain precautions. Choosing an experienced artist should be your primary focus.

What Might Cause a Tattoo to Look Smudged?

First of all, you should understand that tattoos can’t actually smudge in the truest sense of the word. The ink is set in place in the dermis layer of skin, and won’t move or smudge like undried ink on a piece of paper would if you firmly moved your thump over it, for example.

However, there are several ways in which a tattoo can look smudged if you’re not careful.

The following factors can cause a tattoo to look smudged or blurry.

Artist Skill Level

For a tattoo to keep looking vivid and colorful for many years to come requires a certain amount of skill on the part of the tattoo artist. A skilled artist knows how deep to go with the needle to ensure the correct placement of the ink.

An inexperienced tattoo artist could quite easily insert ink at the wrong angle or depth, leading to what is known as a tattoo blowout, which is where the ink bleeds throughout the wrong layers of skin, giving it the effect of being smudged.

Ink Quality

Always choose a tattoo artist that uses high-quality ink. Ink of good quality won’t fade and blur as much over time when compared to lower-quality counterparts.

Tattoo Location

The wrist, hand, ankle or feet are places where a tattoo is most likely to smudge or fade. This is because it exposes the tattoo to more wear and tear than anywhere else. It’ll also be more exposed to water or other liquids either from washing or sweating, which can also cause them to fade quicker, giving them a smudged look.  

Proper Care is Just as Important as the Tattoo

To keep your tattoo looking its best for as long as possible requires the correct care, both before and after. If you don’t take care of your skin, it’s more likely to blur and fade.

When your tattoo is new, make sure you wash it regularly and apply lotion frequently to stop the area drying out and cracking.

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Top Tips for Taking Care of Your Tattoo

It makes sense to do everything you can to keep your ink looking vibrant for as long as possible:

  • Aftercare: Follow the artist’s aftercare instructions
  • Scabs: Don’t pick or peel any scabs that might form
  • Sleeping: Try to avoid sleeping on it, although that’s easier said than done
  • Swimming: Avoid submerging the tattoo in water for long periods
  • Keep it covered: You’ll leave the tattoo parlor with your new tattoo covered with plastic wrap, but don’t leave this protective layer on for too long
  • Direct sunlight: Avoid showing off your new ink in the sun for a few weeks 
  • Sunscreen: When your tattoo is properly healed, you can expose it to the sun, but remember to use an effective sunscreen
  • Scratching: It may itch for a while, but avoid scratching it at all costs
  • Aging: There’s not an awful lot you can do about the aging process, but you can choose a location for your tattoo that’s less likely to lose elasticity and sag


A smudging effect can happen on a tattoo. Even so, there are steps you can take to reduce or even prevent it. The correct aftercare is crucial, as is finding the best tattoo artist for the job. Also, too much moisture isn’t good for a fresh tattoo, and neither is sunlight.

This might sound like a lot of work, but don’t let your concerns put you off from having a stunning piece of artwork added to your body.

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