How To Tell If A Tattoo Artist Is Heavy-Handed?

Tattoo artists are talented. Imagine having to pierce needles into someone’s skin to create a complex design that will stay with them forever! However, you can find yourself in a permanent predicament if your selected tattooist is too rough on your skin. If this is the case, then they might be heavy-handed. How can you tell if a tattoo artist is heavy-handed?

A heavy-handed tattoo artist can cause ink bleed out and scarring. The tattoo takes longer to heal and hurts more than necessary during the tattooing process. Heavy-handed tattoos will take months to get better. Do your research before allowing a tattooist to permanently scar your skin.

How will you know if a tattoo artist is heavy-handed? Let us look at a few ways you can identify a heavy-handed tattooist, what damage they can cause, and what the possible solutions are.

How To Tell If A Tattoo Artist Is Heavy-Handed

Unfortunately, you cannot tell if a tattoo artist is heavy-handed until too late. Some heavy-handed tattoo artists tend to rush through the whole process to get it “over and done with”, especially when they have been sitting in a chair with difficult clients the whole day.

However, that should not be used as an excuse because the result of heavy-handed tattooists is not pretty. Expert tattoo artist ensures that they work delicately and with precision while they elegantly push the needles, which moves up and down at a speed of 50 to around 3,000 times a minute, into your skin.

When your expert tattooist is finished with their masterpiece, the tattoo will begin to scab, peel, and heal completely after one or two weeks. But unduly heavy-handed tattoo artists’ designs do not heal as nicely because of the amount of pressure they apply on your skin.

Healing will take much longer, and once you finally see some progress, you will discover the scar marks. Due to the rough tattoo application, the heavy-handed tattooist unknowingly (well, I hope so) damaged the tissue underneath your skin, thus forming a permanent scar.

Here are some common attributes of a scarring tattoo:

  • Raised Lines

The scars will appear on the skin parts that have the most tissue damage. The outlines of tattoos are usually darker; hence, the clearly raised lines along with the tattoo.

  • Redness

As scars form, they receive an increased blood supply resulting in the tattooed looking inflamed. After the scar “heals,” the redness will subside, and it will turn into a white or pinkish color.

  • Pockmarks

Scars form however they want. Tattoo scars can cause pockmarks that look like a small indention in your skin.

More ways of telling if a tattoo artist is heavy-handed are how they apply the tattoo. All tattoo fanatics know that certain body areas are much more painful to tattoo on than others.

However, never mind the placement of the tattoo; heavy-handed tattooists will always hurt their clients. Getting a tattoo should not be an unbearable experience, so the moment it gets too much to handle, stop the artist immediately!

Either walk away and find yourself a better tattooist or attempt to convince your current tattooist to put less pressure on your skin.

I want to emphasize the importance of researching tattoo artists. There are so many ways you can determine if a tattoo artist is great at their work! Visit their parlor, ask for their portfolio and how the tattoo process will work, and read customer reviews.  

Make sure that they possess the skills to create the design you choose. A good tattoo artist will always let their clients know if a tattoo design is too complex to create.

What Happens If A Heavy-Handed Tattoo Artist Goes Too Deep?

Blowouts occur when the tattoo artist deposits the ink too deep into your skin. The ink then spreads all through the layers of your skin, leaving a smudged and blurry design behind. This can happen if the tattooist is inexperienced, but it is most common among heavy-handed tattooists.

Fortunately, you can repair blowouts. Either book an appointment with an experienced tattoo artist for a coverup, or if you think a coverup is unnecessary, then you can inform the tattooist that you want them to make a few minor adjustments.

Can Heavy-Handed Tattoos Be Removed?

Laser tattoo removal is performed by using Q-switched lasers to remove permanent tattoos fully or partially. The Q-switched lasers break down pigment colors using a high-intensity light beam. Black or darker color tattoos are the easiest to remove since the pigment fully absorbs laser wavelengths.

Laser tattoo removal can take several weeks or months to successfully remove your tattoo, especially if it features light colors. Depending on the pigment color, different colors need to be treated with specific lasers.

The tattoo removal process is long and costly, so how would you deal with it if you need to remove a tattoo due to a heavy-handed tattoo artist? Heavy-handed tattooists tend to press the needles too deep, meaning they apply the ink further down in the sub-dermis.

It is highly likely that clients who have had a bad experience with a heavy-handed tattoo artist will seek professional help for removal. The dermatologist will first explain that the laser tattoo removal process will be difficult because the artist penetrated the tattoo ink and needles too deep into your skin.

It is possible to remove the entire tattoo after many appointments, but, unfortunately, the treatment cannot remove the scar tissue left behind by the tattoo artist.

How To Fix An Overworked Tattoo?

Sometimes tattoo artists tend to overwork your tattoo. This can happen to even the best tattooist, but it is common among heavy-handed tattooists. An overworked tattoo can cause numerous complications.

Overworking a tattoo can lead to scarring, alterations to the tattoo or extreme ink bleed out. The appropriate solution is to get the tattoo reworked.

If you received the overworked design from a heavy-handed tattoo artist, then you need to make a decision. I suggest making an appointment with a new tattooist so you do not risk any more damage to your skin.

Your chosen tattoo artist will refine your tattoo by restoring its color and attempting to fix its imperfections. You can also ask the tattooist to change the tattoo into a different design.

It can cost you a pretty penny because you are basically getting a new tattoo. Pick a tattoo artist that you can see is an expert in their field. Do not be afraid to ask them for results of overworked tattoos they have fixed!

Ensure that they can give you what you are looking for before investing a ton of money. How does an overworked tattoo look?

  • There is prominent scarring all over the tattoo.
  • The tattoo’s appearance changes during the healing process.
  • Pockmarks will surface
  • As it scabs and heals, you will notice extra ink or fluids released from the tattoo.

The overworked tattoo will appear blurry, faded, and disfigured.


Heavy-handed tattoo artists tend to leave their customers with permanent scars, blowouts, and disfigured faded tattoos. You can tell if a tattoo artist is heavy-handed when they apply too much pressure to your skin. Some clients find the experience extremely painful. A coverup tattoo or minor adjustments can easily fix blowouts.

Fixing overworked tattoos also requires alterations like restoring the tattoo’s color and repairing imperfections. Luckily, heavy-handed tattoos can be fully removed but will take much longer, and unfortunately, the scars will remain permanent.

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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