How Do I Know If My Tattoo Artist Went Too Deep?

Although getting a tattoo is often painful, it seldom leads to unbearable pain. Furthermore, tattooing is not a matter of simply running a tattoo gun over the skin; instead, requiring a steady hand and years of training. So how do you know if a tattoo artist went too deep?

When a tattoo artist performs a tattooing procedure on a client, they should not penetrate the skin deeper than 1/16 of an inch. If a tattoo artist penetrates the skin beyond the advised range, complications such as tattoo blowouts can damage the final product.

Although tattoo blowouts are rare, clients should still be aware of the dangers and signs when their tattoo artist goes too deep. Let’s explore these concerns in greater detail below:

How Deep Should A Tattoo Artist Go?

To better understand if a tattoo artist went too deep or not, it is essential to first learn about the processing of modern tattooing and how deep an artist should penetrate their client’s skin.

Unlike older/traditional methods of tattooing that usually involve needles inserted deep below the skin via a wooden handle and/or hammer (a strenuous and painful procedure), modern tattooing uses standardized tattoo machines.

Modern tattoo machines feature electromagnetic coils which move an armature bar up and down at approximately 6 000 motions per minute. The armature bar pushes the barred needle in and out of the client’s skin, which must be manually topped up with ink during the tattooing process.

Modern tattoo needles are made of various materials and typically range between 0.20mm and 0.35mm in diameter, depending on whether the needle is for shading or lining. As these needles are inserted into the skin, they create a hole where the tattoo ink will be stored.

A tattoo needle exits the skin and creates a vacuum seal that deposits the ink into the hole created via the initial entry wound. The trapped ink is subject to the healing process and becomes visible through the skin, thus making the final design.

However, as mentioned above, tattooing requires understanding the skin to successfully and safely deposit ink into the dermis. The dermis is a layer of skin that sits between the first five sub-layers of the epidermis and above the hypodermis.

Consequently, tattoo artists should aim to inject at least 2mm ink into the dermis, equating to approximately 1/16 of an inch of the client’s skin. Should a tattoo artist go too shallow, the final product will be unable to heal, while going too deep has other complications.  

What Are The Signs And Dangers Of A Deep Tattoo?

If a tattoo artist deposits ink into the deeper layers of the skin, the first sign will be increased pain. Along with increased pain during the tattoo process, the final product will be faded and barely visible, as the ink is housed below multiple layers of skin above.

More serious consequences of tattooing too deep include skin irritation, tattoo infections, scarring, and possible tattoo blowout.

Tattoo blowout occurs when ink penetrates the fat layer of the skin, causing the tattoo ink to move within the bottom layer of your skin freely rather than to be trapped in different vacuums (see above for further details.)

Consequently, the ink moves outside of the lines of the tattoo, creating a smudged and distorted image (not too similar to a drawing that has been colored “outside of the lines.”) Although tattoo blowouts can often be seen with the naked eye after a few days, procedures known as biopsies can detect tattoo ink in the lower layers of a person’s skin in the event of a tattoo blowout.

Although a tattoo blowout is not a severe medical condition, it can be unsightly and undermine your vision for your tattoo. Therefore, you should look to avoid a tattoo blowout by:

  • Choosing a reputable artist,
  • Inspecting your tattoo artist’s equipment,
  • Communicating to your artist if you are experiencing excessive pain during the procedure,
  • Take care to remain still during a tattooing session,
  • Carefully choose tattoo placement on your body.

How To Fix And Heal The Damage From A Deep Tattoo?

Although severe damage caused by tattooing too deep, like infections, requires the services of a medical practitioner to cleanse the wound and administer medication, tattoo blowouts are typically fixed/resolved in one of three ways:

  1. Correction tattooing,
  2. Laser therapy,
  3. Surgical removal.

1. Correction Tattooing

While a horrible tattooing experience may put you off the idea of other tattoos, one of the best methods of fixing the damage caused by tattoo blowout is to consult the services of a tattoo artist that specializes in cover-ups.

A skilled tattoo artist can salvage the original design by merging the smudged ink caused by the tattoo blowout with the original/correct line work. Alternatively, the tattoo artist may opt to cover the damaged tattoo with a new tattoo.

Often this is the easiest and cheapest method of fixing the damage caused by tattoo blowout.

2. Laser Therapy

Unlike tattoo correction, which adds more ink to your skin, laser therapy removes tattoo ink. Therefore, laser therapy is a popular choice for removing minor smudging due to a tattoo blowout or removing a ruined tattoo in its entirety, which you don’t want to cover up.

However, it is essential to know that laser therapy is an expensive and painful procedure that is seldom covered by medical aid schemes.

3. Surgical Removal

Finally, surgical removal is the most invasive tattoo removal method that may be necessary if a medical practitioner advises. Surgical removal requires the manual removal of the tattoo by a health care professional under surgical conditions.

Surgical removal should be a last resort and only utilized if a tattoo poses a health risk since it requires a long recovery time, likely resulting in scarring.


In conclusion, although tattoo damage and blowouts are rare, you should take the time to make sure your tattoo artist has the skills and expertise to safely perform the tattooing procedure; without the risk of going too deep!

Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Design and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):


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