How to Tattoo Over Stretch Marks

Tattooing over stretch marks means working with uneven skin texture and uneven skin tone.

While it’s not always the case, most clients will want a tattoo to hide their stretch marks. As a tattoo artist, you need to know how to create a design that camouflages those scars and how to work with delicate scar tissue.

By the end of this article, you’ll know how to create designs that disguise stretch marks, as well as how to tattoo over scar tissue without causing blowouts or extra trauma to the skin.

In this article, we’re breaking down:

  • What you need to consider before tattooing over stretch marks
  • Which design elements best hide scarring on the skin
  • How to tattoo over scar tissue

Note:

Tattooing over stretch marks is an advanced technique. To do it successfully, you’ll need plenty of experience under your belt.

Deciding When to Tattoo Over Stretch Marks

Before you work with a client that wants their stretch marks tattooed, you’ll need to help them decide if now is the right time. 

raised stretch marks vs healed stretch marks

Wait Until the Stretch Marks are Healed

You need to wait until a client’s stretch marks are fully healed before tattooing. Full healing usually takes 1-2 years. Tattooing on top of fresh stretch marks that are trying to heal could risk the ability of the tattoo to heal correctly.

How to Tell if A Stretch Mark is Healed: Color

Do not tattoo on raised, pink or reddish-purple stretch marks. Fully-healed stretch marks are usually a white/silvery color and feel flat on the skin surface. If they are still raised, they will be harder to work with.

You should always have your client check with their doctor before tattooing over stretch marks or other skin conditions like scarring, moles, etc. 

Note:

Even when they’re healed, stretch marks are still damaged skin, and damaged skin is more sensitive. If your client is worried about additional pain, check out our Complete Guide on Tattoo Numbing Cream to learn the best way to use anesthetic products during a tattoo.

Understand Your Client’s Goals

The client’s goals for the future can play a big part in whether they should wait to get tattooed. 

For example, if your client might be pregnant in the future or is planning to lose significant weight, it would be best to wait because there could be more stretch marks to cover after those events. Additionally, new stretch marks where there’s already a tattoo could damage it and change the way the design looks.

Common reasons for stretch marks to discuss with your client:

  • Pregnancy
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle gain

How to Design Tattoos to Cover Stretch Marks

tattoos cover stretch marks

Anytime you’re covering scars or stretch marks, you’ll need to design a custom tattoo for that person’s body with their stretch marks in mind. Here’s a few things to consider:

1

Figure out the Size

Some clients will just want a tattoo in an area that happens to have stretch marks, so they might not mind seeing scarring outside the area the tattoo covers. But if they’re getting a tattoo because they want the scar tissue covered, you’ll need to create a design that’s large enough to do that.

2

Choose the Right Style

Some tattoo styles look better over stretch marks than others. Because you’re trying to hide the skin, a style with ultra-light shades and lots of skin breaks (like a realistic portrait) won’t do the job.

3

Design with Flow

how a tattoo artist uses flow to cover stretch marks

If a tattoo design flows with the body’s muscles, it’s much harder to notice imperfections in the design and in the skin. A design that flows pulls the eye away from stretch marks by emphasizing the shape of the body.

Note:

If you’re not sure how to create custom designs that flow with the body, check out our article on How to Draw Tattoos.

4

Use Texture

Part of covering up stretch marks is camouflaging them. While it might seem like a good idea to black out an area with skin discoloration from scarring, the difference in the skin can still be visible.

The best way to camouflage the skin is to do a tattoo with lots of design elements (like skulls, flowers, etc.) and texture instead of using flat color. This is what makes Japanese great for stretch mark tattoos and coverups.

Note:

Some people use “tiger stripes” tattoos to emphasize stretch marks instead of hiding them. Others use nano color infusion and skin colored ink to make them disappear.

tattoo artist uses tiger stripes and natural skin tone ink to hide stretch marks

Tattooing Over Stretch Marks: From Stencil to Afterare

1

Applying a Stencil On Curved Surfaces

Usually, stretch marks occur around the hips and stomach, which means you’ll be tattooing on a curved surface of the body. To get a stencil to curve with the body, you’ll need to cut little slits in it to make it easier to bend. The more flexible the stencil is, the easier it will be apply, despite any curves or dips. 

stencil done by a tattoo artist

2

Know in Advance that Touch Ups are Likely

Scar tissue holds ink differently. This means that those areas will look less defined or slightly blurry, and it may not hold ink the first time around. If the tattoo is patchy or looks like it’s fading, you’ll need to touch it up. 

3

Keep Your Needle Depth Shallow Over Scars

Scarred skin is damaged, meaning it’s easier to chew out. 

You’ll want to tattoo lightly and keep your needle depth pretty shallow. This is especially important to keep in mind while you’re lining. Pulling a needle through damaged skin can cause the needle to cut right through it if you’re not careful.

Note:

It’s super easy to cause blowouts on scar tissue. If you’re unsure, stay shallow in the skin. That will be much easier to fix during a touch up than dealing with lots of blowouts.

4

Scar-specific Aftercare

Usually, areas where stretch marks occur already have difficulty healing. Your client should avoid wearing any clothing with rough material, and they should try to keep the area hydrated with an unscented lotion. 

5

Touch Up Appointments

Stretch marks tend to not hold ink well. If your client needs additional touch ups, make sure you still keep a shallow needle depth. 

Learn More From Professional Tattoo Artists

Stretch mark tattoos require artists to fully understand correct technique, needle depth, how to adapt to a person’s skin texture, and more. Without that knowledge, it’s impossible to create good tattoos - especially in areas with damaged skin. 
However, figuring out how to do that online is hard. A lot of the information on the internet is outdated or incorrect, which causes new artists to develop bad techniques that keep them from reaching their potential. 
Not only does this limit the tattoos they can create, it also means fewer clients and fewer shops willing to give them a spot. 
Luckily, artists can still learn online without limiting their growth as an artist with the Artist Accelerator Program. 
The Artist Accelerator guides you through the process of learning to tattoo with an easy-to-follow, 9-step system. You’ll learn all the right techniques and get personalized feedback from professional tattoo artists in our online Mastermind community so you can grow as an artist fast.
Over 2500 students have used the program to break into the tattooing industry all over the world, with many of them leaving jobs they felt trapped in to open up their own shops. 
Learn from home at your own pace and build the skills you need for a career you’re passionate about.

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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