Tattoo Blowout? Pro Tattoo Artists Answer All Your Questions.

Tattoo blowouts occur when ink is placed too far into the skin and begins to pool and spread. As a tattoo artist, it’s important to understand tattoo blowouts to better avoid them and do clean tattoos.

Whether you’re a new tattoo artist hoping to avoid blowouts in your own tattoos (or you think you might have a blowout in your tattoo), this article will answer all the most-asked tattoo blowout questions. 

In this article, our professional tattoo artists will break down:

  • Why tattoo blowouts happen
  • The tattoo blowout timeline (and if it’ll fade)
  • What you can do about a tattoo blowout

What is a tattoo blowout?

A blowout is a noticeable place where tattoo ink has been placed incorrectly in the skin. This is is caused when a less experienced tattoo artist presses the needle too deep into the skin. This delivers ink into the fat tissue of the skin, where the ink spreads, leading to a blown out tattoo.

What does tattoo blowout look like? Tattoo blowout examples

blowout tattoo
person’s skin with blownout tattoo
nk spreading beneath skin surface

A blowout is usually described as “fuzzy” or “blurry.” It might even look like there’s a puddle of ink in the wrong place, or that the tattoo is “bleeding” into the skin around a new tattoo. It will show up when an artist tattoos lines too deep in the skin during the tattooing process.

How does a tattoo blowout happen?

Blowouts normally happen in one of two ways:

1

The tattoo needle went too deep in the skin.

tattoo ink in the top layers of skin
ink in the dermis skin layer
tattoo needles placed too deep into the skin

There are three layers in the skin. If ink is placed in the top layer (the epidermis), the ink will fade quickly because it wasn’t put deep enough in the skin. If the ink is placed in the middle layer (the dermis), it will hold well. 

If it’s placed in the third, deeper layer (the subcutaneous tissue), it will spread. This is because it’s a fat layer, which can act like a liquid and move the ink around. 

Note:

It’s much easier to cause a blowout near delicate or thinner skin. For example, near wrists, ankles, fingers, toes, the tops of the hands and feet, or on older clients.

2

The tattoo needle went in the skin at the wrong angle.

tattoo needle at a wrong angle

Holding the tattoo machine at an angle allows artists to create darker lines. However, if the machine is angled too much, the needle might deposit ink at a “sideways” angle, creating a visible blowout.

Is tattoo blowout common?

Tattoo blowouts are more common for new tattoo artists. Getting the right needle depth in the skin - and keeping that depth consistent throughout the entire tattoo - is hard to achieve with limited experience. 

Is tattoo blowout bad?

Yes. Blowouts not only cause the design to look blurry, but they also cause more damage or even scarring to the skin. 

A tattoo blowout is not a major health concern. It’s normal for those areas to swell, be raised, or become agitated (particularly after sun exposure), but if you’re experiencing discomfort because of a tattoo blowout, it’s best to visit a dermatologist.

When does a tattoo blowout show up?

blowout tattoo

While a tattoo blowout happens while tattooing, you’ll be able to see it right away. Throughout the healing process, the blowout will become more prominent. 

Note:

When a tattoo is healing, there might be excess ink that looks like it’s coming out of the tattoo when it’s bandaged. This is normal for a day or two after an appointment, and this is not a blowout.

How long does tattoo blowout last?

Tattoo blowouts are usually permanent.

If the blowout is small, the ink might spread out enough beneath the skin that it’ll look like it’s faded. However, that ink is still there. 

Will tattoo blowout get worse?

Probably. Over time, the ink will continue to migrate under the skin, which can make it more noticeable. 

Can a tattoo blowout be fixed?

There’s no real way to “undo” a tattoo blowout. However, there are a few options.

1

Laser Removal*

 tattoo healing after laser treatment
laser therapy session on tattoo lines

Laser tattoo removal uses high-energy light beams to break up tattoo ink particles, making them less visible. You can do this process on the blown out tattoo.

*Procedure is not normally covered by insurance

Note:

Dermatologists recommend Q-Switched:ND:YAG laser or picosecond lasers for laser correction of blown out ink.

2

Surgical Tattoo Removal*

The most invasive option, surgical tattoo removal involves removing the section of skin that has the tattoo, and sewing the skin back together. This is very uncommon and few people take this option.

*Surgical removal is not normally covered by insurance

Note:

Depending on the size of the tattoo being removed, this procedure can cause significant scarring (and come with a lot of recovery time).

3

Cover Up Tattoo

tattoo cover ups

A new tattoo can cover up the blowout. However, keep in mind that the cover up will need to be a bigger (and probably darker) tattoo. 

Note:

As a client, you should tell your artist if they caused a blowout. They might offer to cover it up for free. However, if they aren’t an experienced tattoo artist confident in doing cover ups, it might not be worth the free tattoo. The only thing harder to fix than a bad tattoo is a bad coverup tattoo. We recommend finding an artist that specializes in cover ups.

Is a tattoo blowout dangerous?

Tattoo blowouts are not infections and don’t pose a major health risk. However, in the sun, the tattooed skin might become raised, irritated, or swell. It’s best to see a dermatologist if this happens. 

Note:

With a tattoo blowout, you are a little more likely to have some ink particles enter the bloodstream. While more research needs to be done, it’s believed that the lymphatic system removes ink from the bloodstream and puts it in the lymph nodes. There’s no research showing that this is dangerous, especially in very small amounts.

How to Tell if Your Tattoo is Blown Out or Just Healing

The main difference between a blowout and healing skin is that a blowout is something you can clearly see going on beneath the skin. Most of the visible healing occurs on the skin, and you might see some bleeding and scabbing or feel a little itchy. This is normal, and following proper aftercare instructions will take care of the skin while it recovers.

Tattoo Blowout vs. Bruising

Because blowouts are under the skin, it’s easy to mistake bruising from the tattoo process with a blowout. In this case, you have to give it time. Bruises will get better in a few days. Blowouts tend to get worse.

tattooed skin can bruise easily around the tattooed area

Tattoo Blowout vs. Infection

Tattoo blowouts can make your tattoo look messy, but there’s no pain associated with them (other than that of getting a tattoo). However, you probably will feel an infection. Infections can make the skin red, cause a burning sensation, and make the area swell.

If you think you have an infection from your tattoo, you need to call your doctor immediately.

people with infected tattoos should get medical or professional advice

Tattoo Blowout vs. “Oozing” Ink

Most people know that tattoo blowouts occur from the ink moving. This makes it easy to mistake a blowout with a tattoo that is oozing or “weeping.” It is normal for ink to come out of a tattoo for a few days. This is not a blowout and is a normal part of the healing process. 

excess ink will leak out during the tattoo healing process

Note:

If a tattoo scabs up and looks very faded when it peels, then you’re seeing the exact opposite of a blowout. The tattoo artist likely put the ink too shallow in the skin.

How to prevent tattoo blowout:

1

If you’re a client: Research your artist

The best way to avoid tattoo blowout is to find an experienced tattoo artist. Do some research on artists in your area, look at their reviews, ask to see healed work from previous clients, and zoom into images of their tattoos to see if the lines look crisp and clean. 

2

If you’re an artist: Research needle depth

Understanding needle depth - and how to control it - will prepare you to tattoo any part of the body without causing blowouts. For an in-depth look at line work and needle depth, check out our full Line Work Video Tutorial

3

If you’re a new artist: Avoid areas that are prone to blowouts

It’s much easier to blow out a line on thin skin. If you’re worried about causing a tattoo blowout on your first tattoos, you can suggest a new placement to your client on an area with thicker skin.

Become a Professional Tattoo Artist

Blowouts, shaky lines, and patchy shading are all frustrating issues that a lot of new tattoo artists run into. Most of the time, googling how to fix those problems leads to unhelpful information they’ve already heard - or bad advice that makes the problems worse. 

Without fixing these issues, it’s hard to build a portfolio or get a job in a tattoo shop - and it’s the reason a lot of aspiring tattooers can’t quit their jobs to go after a creative career they love.
If you’re feeling stuck like this, you’re not alone.
That’s why we put all the information you need to learn to tattoo the right way into our online tattooing course. The Artist Accelerator Program breaks down the process of learning to tattoo into 9, easy-to-follow steps anyone can use to become a professional tattoo artist without any previous experience

Over 2500 students have used the Artist Accelerator Program to break into the tattooing industry. We’ve had teachers, stay-at-home moms, truck drivers, restaurant and construction workers, and more find success, with some of them earning spots at tattooing conventions or opening up their own shops. 

To learn more about the framework they used to learn on their own time from the comfort of their own homes

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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