Tattoo Blowout: What Are The Causes & Can You Fix It?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on May 29, 2023
    Last Updated: May 29, 2023

Have you ever seen a tattoo where the lines are blurry or where various colors of ink have unintentionally bled into each other, making the area look messy and smudged? Tattoo Blowout doesn’t look very nice and can potentially spoil the effect of a whole tattoo if it’s severe.

If you think your tattoo might be suffering from a tattoo blowout and want to know what can be done, keep reading.

What Is a Tattoo Blowout?

A tattoo blowout is a symptom that results from a tattoo artist’s heavy-handedness or inexperience with the needle. This misuse of the tattooing needle causes the ink to insert deeper into the skin than it should. A tattoo blowout will cause the ink to look blurry and smudged on the skin’s surface.

What Causes It?

If pushed too deeply into the skin, tattoo ink can spread out into surrounding layers of fat. This produces the blurring effect often associated with a tattoo blowout. Tissue biopsies taken from people with tattoo blowouts have proven that the ink travels much deeper below the skin than is necessary during a tattooing procedure.

The difference in pressure and cell structure in this deeper layer of fat causes the ink to disperse along undesired and unpredictable paths throughout the skin’s layers.

Tattoo Blowout

While most tattoo blowouts are noticeable shortly after the needle has injected ink into the wrong layer of skin, it can sometimes take up to a few weeks for the blown-out ink to disperse throughout the layer enough for it to become noticeable on the surface.

While there are multiple reasons why a tattoo blowout may occur, below are the most common:

Needles Inserted Too Deep or at the Wrong Angle

This is the most common cause of tattoo blowout. Being too rough and pushing the needles too deep will disperse the ink into a layer of skin that shouldn’t have been involved in the process. This can also be quite painful.

Tattoo artists can also press the needles in at the wrong angle, which can cause them to disperse ink into neighboring tissue, causing a blowout effect.

While more experienced tattoo artists can usually eliminate most of the risk when it comes to causing blowouts, it can be hard to prevent it entirely on certain areas of skin, and you shouldn’t always jump to the conclusion that your artist has made a mistake. It can sometimes happen to the most experienced of professionals.

However, the more inexperienced an artist is, the more likely they are to make an error of judgment and potentially overwork the area and cause a blowout.

The Tattoo Is Being Drawn on Very Thin Skin

Parts of the body that contain only a thin layer of skin are delicate, and the likelihood of a blowout in these areas is much higher.

The needles are much more likely to protrude into the lower layers where the skin is thinner, and thus the risk of blowout increases. Areas more prone to blowouts include wrists, ankles, fingers, toes, and the tops of hands/feet.

Tattoos can also be more prone to blowouts if performed around a joint, such as behind the knee or inside the elbow. Again, a professional and experienced artist will be much less likely to puncture too far into these delicate areas when compared to a novice – but it can still happen.

The Tattoo Artist Is Stretching and Pulling at the Skin Too Much

To insert the ink at exactly the right location, tattoo artists must stretch and tighten the skin to ensure it’s flat and evenly distributed.

However, if the artist pulls too tightly, especially on a more delicate and thin area of skin, this can cause the needle to protrude at strange angles due to how the skin is stretched. In rare instances, this can lead to a tattoo blowout.

What Does a Tattoo Blowout Look Like?

Tattoo blowouts can appear in several different forms and can be mild or extremely noticeable. Sometimes, regular healing can be mistaken for a tattoo blowout.

In most instances, a tattoo blowout manifests as blurred or streaky lines on the tattoo, with the ink typically extending beyond the intended boundaries, thus distorting the desired design.

Think of when you accidentally color outside the lines inside a coloring book – this is effectively what many tattoo blowout cases look like. And while the tattoo ink may look like it’s been smudged, this isn’t exactly what’s happening.

See below for some tattoo blowout image examples:

Tattoo Blowout Example
What Is Tattoo Blowout
Tattoo Blowout Causes

Body Parts Prone to Tattoo Blowouts

Due to skin thinness or body part movement, some areas of the body are more prone than others when it comes to developing a tattoo blowout.

For example, the fingers are a common area to develop a blowout because the skin is so thin here, meaning it’s much easier for the tattoo artist to accidentally protrude too deeply into the tissue.

Areas like the wrist are also quite susceptible due to their frequent movement. If a joint is moved too much when a tattoo is very fresh, the movement can dislodge or put pressure on the ink, pushing it out into adjacent areas.

Fortunately, the vast majority of tattoos in these areas turn out absolutely fine, so make sure you choose a good artist and your risks will be greatly minimized.

Can You Fix a Tattoo Blowout?

Unfortunately, a blowout generally cannot be reversed once it has occurred. Sometimes if only a little ink has been blown out, it can disperse across a wide enough area to not be very noticeable over time.

Luckily, there are a couple of ways to reduce the effect of a blowout faster than just waiting to see if it begins to fade. While none of these methods provide a surefire solution, they could prove beneficial depending on the specific circumstances.

Getting a Tattoo Correction

The cheapest, easiest, and quickest way to fix a tattoo blowout is by camouflaging the problematic areas with a new tattoo, also known as a cover up.

While you’ll have to generally wait a few weeks to get tattooed over a previous one to allow the area to heal, the main advantage of getting a cover up is that you can maintain the look of your tattoo while at the same time successfully hiding the blowout.

If the blowout is severe, then you may need a darker cover up over the area to correct the tattoo. Make sure you look for an artist experienced in cover-ups, and their creativity should enable them to do a great job with the re-work.

Laser Correction

An alternative solution is laser therapy. Q-switched lasers can fire energy waves at problematic ink particles, diffusing them further into the skin to make them much less noticeable.

While this method can be an effective solution at removing the blowout and leaving little trace of there ever being a problem, it’s generally perceived to be more painful than getting a tattoo, and it doesn’t come cheap, with the average treatment cost coming in at around $500. You may also need more than one session, depending on the severity of your blowout.

Surgical tattoo removal

This should be seen as a last resort. Surgical tattoo removal is an invasive procedure that involves a surgeon removing your tattooed skin and stitching the surrounding areas back together.

While this is the only guaranteed way to remove a tattoo blowout completely, you will be left with long recovery times, varying amounts of scarring, and higher chances of infection.

How To Avoid Tattoo Blowout

While a blowout is sometimes completely unavoidable, you can avoid most potential issues by using a highly experienced tattoo artist.

You can eliminate the risk further by opting out of getting a tattoo on fragile areas of skin.

Finally, avoid any sudden or extreme stretching, pulling or twisting of the skin once your tattoo has been completed. This should lower the risk of ink being unintentionally dispersed or forced throughout the wrong layers.

Remember, however, that what you might think is a blowout may turn out to be something minor, like a bruise or regular tattoo redness.

tattoo redness
Tattoo redness that looks like a blowout, but is not

All of these effects can look very similar to one another, so if you’re concerned or confused as to what the problem may be, go and see your artist.​

Although this looks very much like a bruise, it is actually tattoo blowout

A good way to distinguish between these conditions, however, is that bruising or redness should slowly disappear throughout the space of a week, while the appearance of a tattoo blowout generally stays the same.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take for a Tattoo Blowout to Become Noticeable on the Skin’s Surface?

Tattoo blowout is often noticeable within a few days after the tattooing session. As your skin heals and the excess ink disperses in the dermis, the blur or smudge characteristic of a blowout becomes more visible. It’s important to note that many tattoos will appear blurry while healing due to bruising, swelling and the presence of extra ink and plasma on the skin’s surface. It’s only after this initial healing phase (typically a week or so) that a blowout can be definitively identified.

What Should I Do if I Suspect My Tattoo Artist Has Caused a Blowout During the Tattooing Process?

If you suspect that your tattoo artist has caused a blowout, it is best to talk to them about your concerns immediately. Remember that a blowout can happen even with experienced tattoo artists. A good professional will acknowledge the issue and offer potential solutions or suggestions for correction. It might also be a good idea to consult with another tattoo artist for a second opinion.

Can a Blowout Occur Even After the Tattoo Has Fully Healed?

A blowout typically occurs during the tattooing process or shortly after. It’s caused by the ink being pushed too deep into the skin. However, it is most noticeable once the tattoo starts healing. Once a tattoo is fully healed, a blowout cannot occur, as it is not related to the body’s natural healing process but rather to the method of ink application.

Are There Any Long-Term Health Effects Associated with Tattoo Blowouts?

Tattoo blowouts themselves do not pose any significant health risks. This is generally a cosmetic concern and not a medical one.


There are several reasons why tattoo blowouts can occur, and most blowouts can be avoided by using an experienced tattoo artist.

Unfortunately, it’s very hard to fix a prominent blowout once the damage has been done, but again, a good artist might be able to cover it up for you, depending on the size and location.

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