What is a tattoo blowout and how to avoid it?

Tips and tricks to avoid expanding the line in a tattoo


Tattooing is not easy. Numerous factors influence the process, making it crucial for a skilled professional to master them.

However, drawbacks can still arise regardless of one's experience level, whether they are a seasoned tattoo artist or just starting out. Unexpected events can sometimes occur.

Today, we will discuss a phenomenon that all professionals fear: the expanded line effect known as a blowout.

Let's dive into it.

What is a blowout?

Surely, you've come across tattoos with oddly thicker or blurred lines, where the ink appears expanded in unaesthetic ways. This effect is commonly known as Blowout.

Unfortunately, this mistake is quite common and is the biggest fear for those involved in tattooing. Contrary to popular belief, it is not solely an oversight by beginners. Even artists with years of experience can encounter this issue.

Blowout occurs when the ink extends beyond the intended boundaries of the design, resulting in prominent spots. More often than not, this situation arises due to poor execution of the tattoo.

By saying it's poorly executed, we don't mean that it's poorly designed or aesthetically unappealing, but rather that the technique used during the tattooing process was flawed. In most cases, the responsibility lies with the tattoo artist.

Now, let's delve into what blowouts look like and the factors that cause them.

Characteristics of blowouts

Blowouts are often noticeable as they manifest as a stained area surrounding the tattoo. In the case of line tattoos, there may be a blurred effect around the lines, commonly referred to as blur.

In more severe cases, the blowout is more pronounced, resulting in a thick line with prominent raised areas. Initially, this swelling may be mistaken for normal swelling after getting a fresh tattoo. However, as time passes, it becomes increasingly worse.

It's important to note that blowouts are permanent. While they can be somewhat "fixed" through cover-up tattoos or laser removal, there are limitations to what can be done.

Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done once a blowout occurs. This is why it is crucial to exercise extreme caution during the tattooing process. Remember that laser treatments are expensive and undergoing them is far from pleasant.

For this reason, it is essential to be cautious with the client's skin to avoid future complications and, above all, to be a skilled professional.

Furthermore, blowouts can appear immediately after the tattoo is done or develop over the years.

You may observe tattoos that have aged and expanded, becoming blurry and even changing colour. This is primarily attributed to poor injection techniques by the tattoo artist.

However, it's not solely limited to inexperienced artists. Even those who neglect some fundamental aspects of the technique can inadvertently cause a blowout.

Myth: it is said that micro-tattoos and, especially, micro-realism expand over time like a blowout.

You cannot judge a newly made tattoo, you must wait for it to complete its entire curing cycle to determine if it has turned out really well or if you have to improve in some aspects.

This is partially true. Highly skilled and professional tattoo artists, such as Kozo, Jiro, or Paw.tattoo, among many others, have mastered their techniques to ensure that the ink remains fixed and doesn't significantly move over time, resulting in long-lasting and visually appealing tattoos.

However, it is important to clarify a distinction between the natural expansion of ink over time and the unwanted expansion that occurs due to poor execution during the tattooing process.

Developing a good technique is not an instant process; it requires a thorough understanding of different skin types and knowing how to tattoo at the appropriate angles and depths.

This is something that can only be acquired through practice, trial, and error. Still, to avoid uncomfortable injuries that result in badly healed tattoos, it would be wise to at least train over other types of surfaces, such as synthetic skin; a safe method that can be truly helpful if you know how to use it correctly.

Curious to learn how an experienced master of realistic tattooing works in this medium? Then perhaps our NEW Workshop on Basic Black & Gray Technique could be of interest to you. Inside, Coreh López guides you through 2 full tattoo processes over synthetic skin, so you not only learn how to benefit from it but also, jump from semi-realism to realism risk-free.

Either way, as sure as you feel about your technique, never forget to assess your tattoos properly, by maintaining regular contact with your clients after the healing period. This is when any errors or successes become more evident.

It's crucial to avoid rushing judgments on a newly made tattoo. It is necessary to wait for the complete healing cycle to determine if the tattoo has turned out well or if some aspects need improvement.

What factors can cause a blowout?

1- Blowouts are primarily caused by improper needle injection, either too superficial or too deep.

The skin consists of different layers. The outermost layer is the epidermis, followed by the dermis in the middle tissue, and the hypodermis, which contains a higher content of adipose tissue.

The epidermis serves as a protective barrier for the body, and it is composed of multiple cells that continuously regenerate, making it highly dynamic and subject to rapid changes.

The dermis, on the other hand, is a more stable layer with slower regeneration. It contains various components such as sweat glands, nerve endings, lymphatic vessels, and collagen.

When ink is injected into the dermis, it can remain there for years, unlike the epidermis, which experiences more frequent turnover.

Lastly, the hypodermis is composed of fatty tissue, and it is crucial that needles do not penetrate this layer. Doing so would not only compromise the quality of the tattoo, but also risk causing significant skin injuries.

2- The use of low-quality inks.

Surprisingly, the quality of the ink used can also contribute to poor tattoo execution. Some inks lack the necessary consistency and are overly watery, resulting in inadequate adherence to the skin.

There is a common misconception regarding vegetable-based inks, suggesting that they lack highly concentrated pigments. However, this is not true. Both traditional and vegetable-based inks, as long as they are of good quality and approved, should not cause any issues.

Drawbacks in tattooing arise from other factors, not specifically from whether the ink is of vegetable origin or not. It's important to prioritize using high-quality inks to ensure the best outcomes in tattooing.

3- The client's skin type.

The skin type of the client can also play a role in the tattooing process. Some individuals have highly sensitive skin that tends to swell excessively even with minimal needle pricks. In such cases, the outcome may be affected regardless of the artist's technique.

To address this, it is advisable to have a conversation with the client beforehand. Gathering information about their skin type, discussing any concerns or questions they may have

4- Additionally, blowouts can occur due to the carelessness or accidents of the clients themselves.

There are individuals who engage in activities like exercising immediately or shortly after getting a tattoo, despite the recommendation against it. This can be extremely detrimental to the tattoo, as the stretching of the skin and exposure to rubbing and impacts increase the likelihood of ink spreading.

When a recently tattooed area experiences an impact, there is a high risk of the ink expanding, leading to a blowout. In such cases, even if the tattoo artist has executed their job skillfully, the chances of a blowout occurring remain significant.

It is important to note that while some clients take responsibility for their actions and acknowledge their mistakes, others may not and may approach the tattoo artist to complain, falsely attributing the blowout to the artist's fault. They may even request the artist to fix it.

To avoid conflicts, make it obvious how they should take care of your new tattoo and stress the importance of not exposing it under any circumstances. If they don’t follow those steps, the responsibility does not fall on you, since their carelessness is beyond your control.

Are there risks in blowouts?

Primarily, blowouts themselves do not pose a direct health risk. However, there is a possibility that because of the reasons mentioned earlier, such as client carelessness, there may be complications during the healing process. These complications, such as infections, can pose health risks.

It is crucial to exercise extreme caution when determining the appropriate needle depth and voltages during tattooing. Applying excessive pressure not only increases the chances of ink blowouts, but also risks causing significant injury to the client. Such injuries can have severe implications in the future.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance to take all necessary precautions to avoid these issues. Always prioritize the well-being of your clients and treat their bodies with the utmost care and respect, as they are sacred.

What to do in the event of a blowout?

As we have developed, there is little to do when these errors appear. You may notice them right away or a few months, or even years later.

Even so, from all experiences, you learn, and if this happens to you, we recommend that you do the following:

1- Detect the error.

Look closely at the tattoo and check if the ink has spread around the edges or if there is excessively raised texture in the lines. The issue may be that it was injected too superficially, causing the ink not to adhere properly. Conversely, if you applied too much pressure, the needle may have reached the hypodermis layer. That's why knowing how the skin reacts to the healing process is key.

2- Ask the client if they have followed all the healing steps correctly.

It is crucial to inquire whether the client has followed all the necessary healing steps correctly.

This is of utmost importance. Please ask the client in a polite manner if they have taken sufficient care to avoid any potential issues. It is essential to emphasize that the long-term durability and quality of the tattoo primarily depend on proper tattoo care.

If, upon humble and self-critical evaluation, you have performed your job diligently and these issues have still arisen, it may lead to the suspicion that the responsibility does not solely rest with you, but rather with the client.

3- Offer solutions.

Regardless of who is ultimately responsible, it is important to approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Engaging in an argument with the client will not be productive, as they undoubtedly feel frustrated and disappointed with the outcome of their tattoo.

Instead, we suggest calmly and confidently explaining the possible reasons behind the issues and offering potential solutions. It may be necessary to discuss options such as a cover-up tattoo or cover-up or laser removal.

Need to learn more about tattooing techniques and expand your tattooing knowledge? We offer one of the most comprehensive guides to
learning this craft professionally. So, feel free to browse our website to find out all about our professional tattoo MasterCourses.