Tattoo Advice Part 3: How will my Tattoo Age?

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Have you considered how your tattoo art will change over time? This is a good question to ask yourself before you spend the time, money and pain on permanently altering your physical appearance.

I overlooked how my tattoos would age when I jumped head first into collecting. Now, I’ve had 20 years to see how my tattoos have aged. Once crisp lines have become fuzzy around the edges from ink slowly migrating outward. Bright colors have now become pale in hue. I like to think of the change being likened to screen resolution moving from 4K toward Standard definition. Not to mention all the scrapes and sun exposure doing damage to the skin. I can definitely say that some of my tattoo work as aged better than others. So what are the factors that contribute to how a tattoo will age?

Technical Prowess in Tattooing has improved, But Skin as a medium remains unchanged

The tools and skills of tattoo practitioners have improved over my lifetime allowing artist to push the limits of what is possible to render on skin. The one thing that has not changed is the medium itself; human skin. Skin like the rest of us is going to age. It will eventually sag and wrinkle. Not to mention all the extra wear and tear throughout a person’s lifetime. I can personally assure you that this is going to affect the appearance of a tattoo.

What do tattoos on the elderly tell us about our own tattoo future?

Elderly Tattooed Man aged tattoos

If you have ever seen a tattoo on an older person, you will likely be able to see how time has affected the tattoo work. The tattoos will have a faded appearance and lines might appear a bit fuzzy. If the same thing happened to your current tattoo, would you still be able to decipher what the tattoo was? Or would it become a blob.

The Benefits of Skin Care

While weathering and fading of Tattoos is inevitable, you can still mitigate the effects time has on your tattoo. Part of maintaining a tattoo is skin care. A regular regiment of moisturizing and applying sunscreen can help provide longevity to your tattoo. Dryness and sun damage can cause skin to have an aged appearance, thus affecting the overall look of your tattoo.

Future Proofing a Tattoo through design

Boldness and Scale in Japanese Irezumi body suits has stood the test of time and remains a popular style today

If tattoo longevity is important to you, consider color choice, scale, and contrast when selecting a design. All tattoo pigments have a lightfastness (how light exposure subjects colors to fade) associated with each color. A general rule of thumb is that lighter colors will fade faster than darker ones. A tattoo with darker saturated colors will to last longer than a tattoo with faint pastel colors. Black is considered to the backbone of all tattoo designs because it has the best lightfastness.

Contrast in a tattoo can help to ensure that different elements of a tattoo remain readable for the long term. A poor use of contrast will cause all the elements to blob together. If all the elements of a tattoo have a single value (shade light to dark) chances are it will not read well over time.

Scale is more important to a tattoo than most people think. While a small intricate tattoo is beautiful while fresh, over the long term as ink migrates outward the design will likely become a smudge or blob. If the same design is scaled up, there will be more negative space between the lines allowing the tattoo “room to grow” and be less affected by time.

Touch ups and Re-Working

While some collectors do not mind having a weathered tattoo, others might opt to have the tattoo re-worked bringing new life to old artwork. It is possible to tattoo over the top of old tattoo work, the one caveat being that darker colors will always show though lighter colors.

Want a Professional Opinion from an Artist and Seasoned Collector?

Wondering if your tattoo idea is going to stand the test of time? Feel free to reach out for a consultation to talk through how you can make your artwork into something that will last.

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