Getting a tattoo is a huge commitment– a permanent mark etched into your skin forever.
For many people, tattoos are a fashion statement, or a reminder of someone close to their heart.
But what happens when that permanent reminder turns out looking less-than-spectacular?
That’s where Blackpool’s very own ‘tattoo fixers’ step in, armed with a needle and plenty of ink to combat faded portraits, wonky lines, and the love hearts that represent bitter reminders of past relationships that didn’t quite work out as planned.
Revival Tattoos on Whitegate Drive and Mania Tattoo on Station Road are just two studios that offer a helping hand to tattoo enthusiasts who have grown tired of old, ugly tattoos.
Mania Tattoo manager Luke Williams, 32, said: “People come in asking for cover-ups every day. This is because the standard of tattoos has risen dramatically in the last 10 years. The quality of what can be achieved has changed. We’ve gone from cartoon style tattoos to masterpiece portraits.”
The demand for quick fixes has soared so much in recent years that some tattoo artists now boast their ability to effectively cover up old tattoos as their main talent.
Nathan Heywood, 25, of Revival Tattoos, is one of the few tattoo artists who specialises in covering up old and faded tattoos with bold ‘neo traditional’ style patterns, using bright colours to hide even the darkest of tats.
He became the first Englishman to walk away with a prize at the Westchester Tattoo Convention in New York last year, after impressing judges in the ‘best colour’ and ‘best neo traditional’ categories.
He said: “Cover-ups overwhelmingly outnumber the original tattoos that I do. It’s probably about 70 per cent cover-ups and 30 per cent ‘clean’.
“Fashion comes in and out. Ten years ago it was highly fashionable to have tribal tattoos and now they regret them.
“We get people travelling from all over the UK. As soon as word gets out that you can do cover-ups people are interested.
“Sometimes a tattoo can never be fixed, so all you can do is cover it up. I had a lad come in with a really awful tattoo of a skull and snake, so I covered it up - with a skull and a snake.
“It’s probably tribal tattoos I have to cover up the most. I’m not a massive fan of them. They’re basically just stylised black patterns - there’s no deep meaning behind them.
“A tribal tattoo is extremely difficult to cover up because they are almost solid black. That’s where the neo-traditional style comes in handy.
“Some people jump around they are so happy it’s gone. Some people even cry because they’ve had a really terrible tattoo that they have had for years and they’ve been to 30 different artists who have all told them there’s nothing they can do.”
While Nathan uses striking colours to disguise poor quality tattoos, Mania Tattoo offers laser removal treatment to customers with particularly bold tattoos to fade the pattern ahead of performing a cover-up.
They are set to star in Channel 5’s ‘Tattoo Disasters’ this September, where they will tackle some of the country’s most ill-advised tattoos.
Luke said: “The main cover-up that we get asked to do is ex-girlfriends’ and boyfriends’ names.
“There’s also people who have tattooed themselves at home who turn up with horrific things on their arms that their friends have done because they bought a cheap kit off Amazon.
“The cost can range anywhere from £60 to £1,000 depending on the size of the tattoo.”
And the worst tattoo they have ever had to fix?
Nathan said: “One person came to me with an obscene tattoo on their forearm that was so bad it had put them on anti-depressants.
“Another man had gone to an artist for a tattoo of his baby son and it turned out looking like Quasimodo. One eye was bigger than the other, the lips were wonky and the nose was flat. He wasn’t very happy!”
Luke said: “There was a young girl once came in and she had the word ARSENAL written down her arm in massive letters and it was just terribly done. All the letters were overlapping.
“It was one of the worst tattoos I had ever seen.
“In the end it turned out we couldn’t do anything for her because she was under 18.”