Tattoo Touch Up Guide

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 8, 2019
    Last Updated: March 12, 2022

Touching up a tattoo is a very common practice, and it’s something you might need even if you were tattooed at a reputable studio by a trained and experienced artist.

If your tattoo has healed and doesn’t look quite right, or if you have an older tattoo that has faded over time, you might need to get it touched up.

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know before deciding whether or not a touch up will be the right thing to do for you and your ink.

What Is a Tattoo Touch Up?

The details of a tattoo are extremely important. The vibrancy of the colors, the precise line work, and the countless tiny flourishes that go into the design are often what separate a high-quality tattoo from one that looks, well, kind of cheap.

However, it’s not unusual for people to be a little disappointed with their tattoos once they’ve finished healing. The shading might be uneven, the colors might be patchy, or the lines might look a little dull.

Your tattoo is permanent, but that disappointment doesn’t have to be.

You can get rid of those small imperfections in your tattoo by getting a touch-up. A touch up essentially means tattooing over your existing tattoo to fix any problems with it.

Unlike getting a new tattoo, a touch up usually involves adding small details or a bit of color to the existing ink. They’re typically quick jobs that don’t require you to spend much time under the tattoo gun.

Touch ups are routinely used as a way to correct new tattoos if they’ve healed a little poorly, but they can also give new life to an old tattoo. Over the years, your tattoo will gradually fade. A touch up can make an old tattoo look fresh by making the colors pop and the details stand out like they used to.

An alternative to a touch up is a cover up, where a whole new tattoo design is drawn over an existing one.

A tattoo cover up

Who Usually Needs a Tattoo Touch Up?

Just about anyone who gets a tattoo might need a touch-up. The skin’s natural healing process can create imperfections in the tattoo that can only be fixed by a bit of extra ink work.

That being said, there are some things you can do to reduce your likelihood of needing a touch-up.

The most important thing you can do is follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions to the letter. If your tattoo doesn’t heal properly, you’re far more likely to have problems with the final product.

Tattoos will also usually fade slightly after they’ve finished peeling, and while this fading is normally minimal, it can sometimes be more obvious, and requiring some touch-up work.

You should also avoid overexposure to the sun. If possible, keep your tattoo covered whenever you’re outdoors and be sure to protect your tattooed skin by using sunscreen that offers adequate protection (although lay off the sunscreen and stay out of the sun for the first few weeks after getting a new tattoo).

Finally, make sure you’re getting tattooed by a reputable artist, or at least one with the right certifications or qualifications. Someone who doesn’t have enough training, experience, or skill is more likely to give you a tattoo that you’re not happy with, and that will need extra work done to it at a later date.

There’s no fail-safe way to avoid needing a touch-up, but taking good care of your tattoo while it heals is your best bet.

How Much Do Tattoo Touch Ups Cost?

Many tattoo artists guarantee their work, which usually means they’ll do any touch-ups you need free of charge.

There are, however, a few things to keep in mind.

First, you need to follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions very carefully; otherwise, they might charge you for any required touch ups. It’s like any other commercial guarantee. If you use the wrong chemicals in your washing machine (or decide to use it to wash your dumbbells), you’ll void the warranty and have to pay for any repairs out of pocket. The same thing happens when you don’t take proper care of your tattoo.

Some studios also have time-frames for free touch-ups. They might only give you a complimentary touch up if you get it done within a few months of getting your original tattoo.

Note that some tattoo artists will charge for any touch-ups, no matter how minor. This is perfectly within their right, and you should not assume that your touch up will be on the house unless you were told so explicitly.

Plus, of course, you are almost certainly going to have to pay for the touch up if you get it done by someone who did not give you the original tattoo.

When you have to pay for one, the price of a touch up will vary quite a bit depending on the size and complexity of the original tattoo, and the amount of work required to fix it. Since most touch-ups are fairly minor jobs, the cost will only be a fraction of the price you paid for your original tattoo.

Even if you get a touch up free of charge, you might still want to consider giving your tattoo artist a tip. After all, your touch up will require sterilized equipment, ink, and a bit of their time no matter how small it is.

What to Do if You Think Your Tattoo Needs Touching Up

First and foremost, wait until your tattoo has completely healed before deciding on a touch up. You should never tattoo your skin while it’s still recovering, even if it is only a small section. It’s good to know how long to wait before getting a touch up, so this might be something to ask your tattoo artist after getting inked.

If you notice any imperfections once your tattoo has healed, book an appointment with your artist to get it fixed. Even if you don’t see anything wrong with it, it might be a good idea to get your artist to look it over. They have a trained eye and might be able to spot blemishes that you overlooked (as many of them are perfectionists when it comes to their work).

Book your touch up ahead of time, just like you would any tattoo session. Even if it only requires a small amount of work, your tattoo artist is likely to be busy with other clients and might not be ready to do your touch up if you show up unannounced.


Not every tattoo comes out perfect, but touching up a tattoo is often all it takes to make it look as good as new again.

Once your tattoo has healed completely, take the time to scrutinize it closely, and book an appointment if it needs a little extra work to look perfect.

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