There’s nothing more crushing than showing off your tattoo for the first time and having someone point out a flaw. Shaky lines, especially on smaller or more delicate tattoos, can really ruin the overall impact of your ink. However, this doesn’t have to be the final product.
Tattoo artists can fix crooked lines, but it all depends on the extent of the damage done. Thin lines can always be thickened, and if the crooked lines are because of a blowout, they may be able to add shading to make it seem more consistent. More dramatic flaws may require a cover-up or removal.
Knowing what route you want to take before approaching an artist could make it a lot easier. However, you should also research these options extensively before deciding. Whether you are looking to fix your ink or want to make notes on what to avoid, you’ve come to the right place.
How Do Tattoo Artists Fix Crooked Lines?
Not every tattoo is created equal—some mistakes will be easier to fix than others. There is a lot that may influence the difficulty and extent of the fix needed. The type of damage, the magnitude of the damage, and the tattoo size are factors that can determine how an artist goes about fixing your tattoo.
- Getting a touch-up for your tattoo. Fading can cause gaps in the lines that might make it look uneven. This could be due to your artist working too gently on more delicate lines or a less than ideal healing process. Most artists offer free touch-ups (ask them about this beforehand), so you can simply make an appointment to get it fixed.
- Using shading to fix your tattoo. If the shaky lines on your tattoo are the product of blowout, an artist may be able to add shading to make it seem more consistent. This usually happens because an artist used too much pressure or stretched your skin too far when inking you in the first place. It can also help if the shakiness isn’t too severe.
- Thickening the lines to make them straight. Thinner lines can be leveled by having a tattoo artist go over them again. If you want it to look delicate, this might not be the best option. It would work best on bulkier tattoos since it wouldn’t necessarily take away from the overall effect.
- Covering up the mistakes. Fixing mistakes can be quite painful. This is usually the case with tattoo cover-ups. In some instances, lousy line work includes a thicker line than anticipated, and commonly smaller letters bleed together. This is when you should consider getting it covered up. This is the best fix for tattoos with severely crooked lines.
- Removing the tattoo entirely. If you’d rather live without a severely crooked tattoo, you may think of getting it removed. However, larger tattoos end up being costly and could take a while. It also depends on the level of damage your skin suffered. Your tattoo might not be removed entirely—consult a specialist before making this decision.
Why Are My Tattoo Lines Crooked?
Settling for the first and cheapest artist they come across is probably the most common mistake people make. The easiest option is not always the best, and you usually get the quality you pay for. It can cost a lot more than just money down the road. Cover-ups and removals are a lengthy, painful, and expensive process.
This doesn’t mean that expensive is always the better option; if someone doesn’t know what they’re doing, it can be messy regardless of the price.
So do yourself a favor, save your future self some time and money, and research extensively before getting inked. Check whether your artist has experience with the style of tattoo you want. Take a look at their social media or website. Find a portfolio to check fully healed tattoos, not just fresh ones. Since tattoos are forever, you should know whether the art can withstand the test of time.
What Can You Do to Help?
Luckily, artists want your tattoo to be crooked even less than you do. There are some ways you can help your artist avoid jagged lines. This won’t completely eradicate the risks of a shaky line—human error is always a factor—it could significantly minimize the risk.
- Consider the design carefully. If you’re getting letters tattooed, it would be wise to look into how the font will heal. Thick, compact lettering is much riskier than a bigger delicate script. They are far easier to fix in case something goes wrong.
- Double-check everything before getting ink. Artists typically stencil the design onto your skin before they start tattooing—but your skin isn’t exactly a level canvas. If the stencil looks a little skew, voice your concerns early instead of regretting it later.
- Warn your artist before any sudden movement, if possible. If you can feel a sneeze or a cough coming on, let them know, so they can move away in time. If you have seasonal allergies, ask your artist about taking medication before getting tattooed.
- Ask your artist about topical numbing cream if you think it’s going to be painful. Tensing up or jerking away could make even the simplest of tattoos go wrong. Most artists should have some on hand but be sure to ask them before applying it.
- Don’t talk while your artist is working. Most artists prefer to work in silence since tattooing requires a lot of concentration. Unless they initiate the conversation, limit your chatting to avoid distracting them.
- Don’t stress the artist. If you want to bring someone along, make sure that it’s okay with the artist. Avoid staring at them too much while they work since it could make them uncomfortable.
- Be aware of muscle movement in the tattoo area. Notice how much laughing or talking affects your ribs’ muscles or how scrolling your phone affects your upper arm. Find ways to avoid this since it could make the artist’s job difficult.
- Don’t rush your artist unless your goal is to get a tattoo that looks rushed. Schedule your appointment on a day when you’re not busy since tattooing may take longer than anticipated. Show up early to be safe and avoid extending the time limit.
- Make sure you are comfortable. If you’re settling in for an hour-long session, don’t settle for an uncomfortable position. The more relaxed you are, the better you can remain still for a longer time.
- Get large tattoos over multiple sessions. Big tattoos take a long time, and it can be tiring for both you and the artist. Breaking it into smaller sessions can make the process a lot easier to deal with, especially if it’s very detailed work.
- Take good care of a new tattoo. Healing plays a massive factor in the overall appearance of a tattoo. Infections can scar and ruin tattoos, making even the best quality tattoo look a little wonky.
Will My Tattoo Look Less Crooked When It Heals?
No. A tattoo that looks crooked when fresh looks crooked healed. Some things can change during the healing process—some parts of the tattoo may become faded, it might look a little less vibrant than it did fresh, but tattoos cannot change shape. Lines may fade, but they will not magically become less shaky.
Do Lines Get Thicker Over Time?
Sometimes they do. An inexperienced artist may pierce the skin too deeply or overstretch the skin, and your lines may heal thicker than you wanted. This is called blowout, and it happens because the ink is bleeding into the area surrounding the tattoo itself. Thin-skinned and sensitive areas are prone to this issue, so keep your tattoo placement in mind.
Do your research, and don’t rush it. Tattoos are a lifelong commitment, and you should treat them as such.
Avoid spur-of-the-moment tattoos; nothing is worse than waking up after a wild night out with a permanently embarrassing reminder. Tattoos done in situations like this never turn out well. Especially if anyone involved is under the influence—like at festivals or parties.
If you want a good quality tattoo, I suggest saving up instead of going for the cheapest option. Know what kind of work the artist has put out before since this would be the best indication of their ability. Give your artist the time they need and avoid distracting them while they work.