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 tattooing over scars is different than tattooing normal skin

Note:

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

What Exactly is Scar Tissue?

Scar tissue is a cluster of cells and collagen that cover the site of previously damaged skin. Scar tissue can form over acne, surgical sites, cuts, scrapes, and anywhere else where healthy skin has been injured. 

Scarred skin is usually flat and pale when fully healed, but it can also be raised or sunken depending on the type of injury and the stage of healing.

Types of Scars

There are many different kinds of scars, and it’s important to understand the differences when you go to tattoo over a scar.

Keloid Scars

A keloid scar is a raised, red area of scar tissue that can form over the top of an injury. They often appear on the upper chest, shoulders, and upper back. A keloid scar can form over any of these types of injuries:

  • cuts
  • burns
  • insect bites
  • piercings
  • severe acne
  • surgery

Hypertrophic Scars

A hypertrophic scar looks similar to a keloid and may occur for the same reasons, but hypertrophic scarring is much more common, and the scars are likely to fade more quickly.

Atrophic Scars

Atrophic scars are lighter, flatter scars from less severe injuries and are the easiest to tattoo. Atrophic scars can come from light burns, small surgeries, and smaller cuts.

Acne Scars

Acne scars occur when an acne blemish swells and breaks down the pore. An acne scar can be shallow and heal quickly, but some result in deeper scars.

Tattooing Over Scars

tattoo hiding raised scars
tattoo around scar tissue

There are multiple reasons why people might want to tattoo over a scar. One of the most common reasons is scar camouflage, or trying to have the scar complete covered so that most people won’t know it’s there. 

Another reason to tattoo over a scar is because the scar happens to be in the area the client wants tattooed. Clients might also want to use a tattoo to highlight a scar or use the shape of the scar to build the tattoo design. 

Regardless of why the client wants to tattoo their scar, it’s important as a tattoo artist to understand what you need to consider before doing the tattoo.

When to Tattoo Over a Scar

Clients should wait at least a year before having a scar tattooed in order to avoid making the healing process more difficult. Fresh scars might get larger and change shape if they are further injured by being tattooed too quickly. There are a couple of other things to think about besides time when thinking about putting tattoos on scars:

Scar Texture and Color  

If the scar is hard and raised, it will be more difficult to get it to absorb ink. It’s much easier to tattoo over an atrophic scar because it will be flatter and more similar to healthy skin than a hypertrophic or keloid scar. 

While you can tattoo over a raised or deep scar, it’s more likely that the ink will spread into the surrounding skin or the scar will change shape. It’s best for the client to wait until the skin is as close to completely healed as possible before they get a tattoo. 

Hypertrophic and keloid scars will remain red even after they are completely healed, which means that it may be more difficult to get the color you want over top of the scar. Scars that are still very red and inflamed should not be tattooed. 

Tattooing over scars is more difficult than tattooing undamaged skin. Only an experienced tattoo artist should take on clients who want to get a tattoo over scars and stretchmarks. 

Tattooing Over Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are scars that develop when skin stretches or shrinks quickly. The change in the skin causes the collagen and elastin in the skin to rupture and then heal as wavy, red scars. Stretch marks can be flat, raised, or even slightly indented and are thought to occur in 90% of people. 

Stretch marks fade over time but can also pop up with any quick and significant change in the stretching of the skin. Here are some areas where you will commonly see stretch marks on clients:

  • Stomach
  • Breasts
  • Upper arms
  • Thighs
  • Buttocks

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

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’s 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.

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 style tattooing great for stretch mark tattoos and coverups.

Remember that it’s possible for scars to look irregular after being tattooed, so using texture is key in making the tattoo look intentional.

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

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 to apply, despite any curves or dips. 

stencil done by a tattoo artist

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 if you’re not careful.

Healing Tattoos Over Scars and Stretch Marks

The aftercare for tattoos that are done over scars and stretch marks is similar to what you can expect with tattoos over healthy skin, but the healing process might be slightly more difficult. 

Because toughened scar tissue is harder to saturate with ink, parts of tattoos that are on keloid or hypertrophic scars are more likely to need to be touched up. They may also need to be tattooed in layers, which would require multiple sessions with healing time in between. 

Because scarred skin has a different sensation than healthy skin, it might feel weird during the tattoo and the healing process. Scarred skin is unpredictable when more trauma is introduced, so healing will be different for each person.

Prepare for a Tattoo Career with the Artist Accelerator Program

Understanding how to tattoo on different types of skin is an important step in your journey toward a tattoo career, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist.

However, finding the straightforward information you need to progress is difficult. And with so much out there online, it’s hard to avoid picking up bad habits from incorrect and outdated resources.

This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into the tattoo business because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits.

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need for your tattoo career.

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

Over 2500 students have already gone through the course, with many of them opening up their own studios. If you want to join them and learn the skills you need to start working full-time faster…

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.

write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

SUGGESTED ARTICLES FOR YOU

MORE FREE CONTENT FOR YOU

How to Draw a Broken Heart Tattoo

December 1, 2022

Being able to draw tattoo designs is an important part of becoming ...

How to Draw a Broken Heart Tattoo

How Long is a Tattoo Apprenticeship? Tattoo Artist Timeline

February 9, 2022

Traditional apprenticeships take 1-4 years. Knowing why they’re so different in length ...

How Long is a Tattoo Apprenticeship? Tattoo Artist Timeline

What You Need to Know Before Buying Tattoo Inks

September 23, 2022

The ink you use as a tattoo artist is important. Of course, ...

What You Need to Know Before Buying Tattoo Inks

Our Community

Join the Tattooing 101 Community today and get free, instant access to tools and resources that take you behind the curtain of all things tattooing. From apprentice to shop owner, we've got you covered.