You wake up from a horrible dream with your heart pounding. You're soaked in cold sweat. You blink a few times, try to adjust to the dimness surrounding you, and give yourself a moment to let your head clear. You tell yourself to calm down, it was just a nightmare. Or was it? You jump out of bed and run to the bathroom. It takes a minute for your eyes to adapt to the light, but once they do, you look in the mirror and start examining your new tattoo. Oh God. Oh no! It wasn't a bad dream at all... You're living with a tattoo nightmare! You plunk down on the toilet seat lid, put your head in your hands, and start thinking about the mistake you made by letting your aspiring tattoo artist friend practice on you. Or maybe you went to a "reputable" tattooist, but s/he made a mistake or just wasn't as talented as you thought, and now you have a bad tattoo forever emblazoned on your body. Is there anything you can do about it, or are you stuck with a tattoo nightmare for life? Are other people sharing your same regrets? What can you do about this mess that's so upsetting that it's now infiltrating your dreams? Take a deep breath and relax, because there are solutions available to you. Before we get into that, though, let's take a look at other people's regrettable tattoos so you know you're not alone.
Bad Tattoos Happen to Good People
Tattoo nightmares are such a common problem that Spike TV created a show about them called Tattoo Nightmares. Yes, it's one of those reality tattoo TV shows that the tattoo industry frowns on, but at least they're doing something to rectify "tattastrophies" and show the world that bad tattoos don't have to mar your body forever. World-renowned tattooist Big Gus decided to participate in the show because "[t]here are over 40 million people with tattoos on them. Somebody's going to have a bad f*****g tattoo, and with scratchers or uneducated artists doing tattoos, we know this to be very true. They are either downright horribly disturbing or just downright funny. On the show, we take on the task of these people's tattoo nightmares and give them new hope..."
Big Gus believes the show is an opportunity to educate aspiring tattooists by showing them "clean tattooing, sterilization, customer service, [and] pride in your art and community", and he also views it as a challenge since it's a cover-up show, and covering up bad tattoos is a tricky business. It takes real talent to turn bad tattoos into tattoo art people will treasure for life. The bottom line is that there are talented tattoo artists out there like Big Gus who know that a bad tattoo can be covered up (or removed with laser tattoo removal treatments, if that's what you really want), and better yet, they know how to cover up bad tattoos successfully. In other words, there's hope for your tattoo nightmare!
Take a minute to look at some of the "tattastrophies" like yours that other people are living with by viewing the bad tattoo pictures below. It's just a small selection of the thousands of really bad tattoo photos scattered across the internet. Maybe these tattastrophy pictures will help you relax and take comfort in the knowledge that you're not the only one who has a regrettable tattoo. Other tattoos worse than yours do exist, and it's not the end of the world! (Note: You can click on most of the smaller images to view larger versions of the nightmare tattoos shown.)
What Can You Do if You Have a Nightmare of a Tattoo?
Fortunately, you have a couple options if you're dealing with a tattoo nightmare. You can either have it covered up with an awesome new tattoo or have it removed with laser tattoo removal treatments, which can take anywhere from 6 months to a year+ to be fully effective due to the down time in between treatments and the difficulties presented by bolder tattoos. (Read our Laser Tattoo Removal FAQs if you want to learn more about the process.) If you want to cover up your bad tattoo with a design inked by a pro that you know you'll love for years to come instead of removing your nightmare tattoo, you'll need to consult with a tattoo artist who specializes in cover-up tattoos. S/he may tell you that with the right design, your tattoo nightmare can be covered up easily, or you may learn that you'll need a few sessions of laser tattoo removal to lighten your bad tattoo before you can get it successfully covered up.
If you decide to go the cover-up route, check out our Can My Tattoo Be Covered up? blog post and our Covering up a Bad Tattoo article before meeting with tattoo artists who specialize in cover-up tattoos. Use our suggestions to come up with a solid cover up tattoo design idea that will help ensure that your tattoo nightmare is successfully obliterated when you find a talented tattoo artist to work with on your tattastrophy cover-up tattoo.
Dying to See More Tattoo Nightmares?
If you're interested in seeing more pictures of bad tattoos as well as lots of photos of really great tattoos, check out the Tattoo Pictures and Tattoos by Body Part sections of our online photo gallery. You'll also find loads of photos of bad tattoos on Google Images, if you're looking for more hilarious-yet-sad tattoos to put your own tattoo nightmare in perspective.
*Tattoo Nightmare photos complements of the Tattoo Nightmares Facebook page and various Google Images sources.