How to Darken Faded Tattoos

by Sharon O'Brien Huey ; Updated September 28, 2017

No matter your budget, there are ways to darken a faded tattoo.

Hemera Technologies/ Images

A new tattoo’s colors are always crisp and vivid, but as any seasoned tattooed person will tell you, eventually the lines will soften and the colors will mellow; that’s a normal part of the tattoo process. Sometimes, however, a tattoo will fade prematurely. This can result from too much sun exposure, for example. Whether your tattoo has faded over time or because of a flaw in the initial tattooing procedure, don’t despair: There are ways to save your tattoo.

Step 1

Consult with your tattoo artist. This should be your first step if you think your tattoo has faded. Getting an expert opinion can help you discern whether the fading you are experiencing is normal for the type and age of your tattoo. In many cases a tattoo artist will touch up a tattoo at no charge if, in fact, he determines that the work he performed on you has faded. Check with the tattoo shop about its policy on this before you contract with it to do your tattoo.

Step 2

Schedule an appointment to have your tattoo retouched. The fact of the matter is that tattoo colors fade over time. Some colors fade more than others. For example, shades of red, orange and yellow will need to be touched up more frequently than blacks and gray shades. Many people don’t realize that there’s more to having a tattoo than just a one-time visit to a tattoo shop. It’s important to educate yourself on what is involved in the long-term maintenance of tattoos before you decide to get one.

Step 3

Consider a complete cover up. Sometimes it happens the day you get it or sometimes it doesn’t happen until 20 years later, but the truth is that bad tattoos do happen. If you have a regrettable tattoo, then a cover up might be just what you need. An experienced and talented tattoo artist can rework an existing tattoo so that the old one is not even distinguishable.

Step 4

Moisturize your tattoos. Moisturizing your tattoos is a quick fix that will revitalize them -- at least temporarily. A generous amount of moisturizer or a thin coat of petroleum jelly will make the colors of your tattoo ‘pop,' giving it an almost new look.


  • The more experienced your tattoo artist is, the less chance of getting a low-quality tattoo.


  • Always use sunscreen on tattoos that will be exposed to UV rays.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images

About the Author

A senior editor of major reference publications, Sharon O'Brien Huey's work was first published in 1975. Her writing has appeared in "Subject Guide to BIP," "Literary MarketPlace," "American BookTrade Directory," "Who's Who In America," "The Official Railway Guide" and many other well-known reference publications. O'Brien Huey also held the position of Rights and Permissions Manager for "Highlights For Children."