Tattoos are all the rage these days, with more and more people getting inked than ever before for a wide variety of reasons.

Tattoo artists have upped their game, and now produce some of the most astonishing artwork, some of which wouldn’t look out of place in a fancy art gallery. Unfortunately, even the best tattoos are prone to losing their vibrant colors, fading and bleeding as the years roll by, making them look a shadow of their former selves.

Here are twenty amazing tattoos that have sadly faded over the course of the years.

The Old Man

This extraordinary tattoo of an old man with his hand up to his mouth looked incredible when it was first unveiled. However, the passage of time hasn’t done it any favors. Rather apt when you think about it. We do indeed tend to fad away as we get older, making this tattoo unintentionally profound.

A Circle Of Snakes

As tattoos age, what tends to fade first are colors such as white and red. Here we can see this happening to an intertwining snake tattoo on a woman’s back. As you can see, as well as slight bleeding, the orangey red and the white highlights on the snake have begun to fade as the pigments in the ink lose their vibrancy.

The Great Wave

This tattoo of Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ painting looked incredible when it was first unveiled. It really showed off the tattoo artist’s skills as a copyist. However, four years later it’s not holding up so well as the vibrant blues and whites begin to fade with the passage of time.

Musical Notes

Red, orange and yellow are all colors that tend not to keep their vibrancy as a tattoo ages. This is perfectly illustrated here, where the shimmering reds and oranges that swirl around the musical notes on this back tattoo are almost barely visible just a few years after this tattoo was inked. In time, depending on the quality of the ink used, the tattoo will fade to the point where just the notes will be visible thanks to the sticking power of the black ink.

Illegible Runes

Another problem with tattoos as they age is the bleeding effect. When a tattoo is first inked into flesh, it appears crisp and fresh as a daisy. Unfortunately, human skin is not an impervious canvas. As a result, the ink will slowly start to bleed as the tattoo ages, making the tattoo appear blurry. Not so much a problem with a picture, but any writing you have tattooed on your skin will eventually be nigh-on illegible.

The Fading Pegasus

This astonishing tattoo of the winged horse Pegasus looks like it’s done by a talented graphic designer with a keen eye and a killer knack with a set of Sharpies. Sadly, the passage of time hasn’t done it any favors. It now looks like something a high school student doodles on the back of an exercise book.

The Key Fades Away

Another tattoo that looked amazing when it was freshly done, but now is a shadow of its former self. Again, the pigment in the yellow has not stood the test of time, and the black ink has begun to bleed into the flesh. The bleeding in particular is very noticeable in this tattoo. Who knows what it’ll look like in twenty years’ time!

Long-Haired Zombie

One of the things that tends to suffer as a tattoo ages is the detail. This is particularly sad when a tattoo is created by a particularly talented artist, such as in this case where a long-haired zombie has been expertly tattooed on to a man’s upper arm. Sadly, time has faded out some of the detail, but it still looks pretty cool.

The Wizard

The curse of orange, red and yellow ink strikes again. This tattoo of the Arthurian wizard Merlin originally had lots of detail picked out in these shades, but over the course of seventeen years, they have faded considerably. This is most noticeable in the flames around the wizard, in the total loss of detail in the face and the fading of the yellow in the hem around the wizard’s cowl. A real shame.

Disappearing Swallow

It’s not just reds, yellows and oranges that have a tendency to fade over time. Blacks, blues and purples – usually the colors with the most sticking power – can fade too, as we can see with this tattoo of a swallow. Just four years after it was inked, the swallow has faded considerably. Time for a top-up tattoo, we think!

Fire And Ice

The quality of the ink a tattoo artist uses can also be a factor in a tattoo’s sticking power. These dual ‘fire and ice’ lotus flower back-of-the-hands tattoos looked pretty darn cool when they were fresh, but fifteen years later they’re a shadow of their former selves, with pretty much all of the reds, greens, yellows and whites disappearing. This may be because of the quality of the ink used.

Seize The Day

Certain parts of the body take to being tattooed much better than other parts. Tattoos inked into the skin’s dermis (the deep layer of skin under the epidermis) will last for a person’s lifetime, though the colors will fade over time. Tattoos inked into other parts of the body, such as the inside of the mouth, will eventually fade to almost nothing as the body’s immune system works to remove the pigment in this part of the body in a different way to how it does it with the dermis.

Fading Fingers

Another area of the body that doesn’t hold tattoo ink half as well is the sides of fingers. Over time, a tattoo inked here will fade away. This is particularly annoying as people often have words tattooed on the sides of their fingers, oftentimes spelling out sentences or strings of sentiments. As the tattoos fade, these sentences can lose their meaning as bits of words fade away.

Palm Print

Pads, which we have on the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet, are also susceptible to fading, as you can see in these before and after photos. The ink is absorbed into the body much quicker in these places – even black ink, which is usually the most durable ink of all.

Not So Peachy Now

Heels are also not the best places to get inked, as this photo of a peach tattoo shows. Our old friends orange and yellow are fading away after just two weeks, and the greens used in the leaf and the browns in the stalk aren’t faring much better either. Within a year, this peachy tattoo will probably be all but gone!

The Disappearing Skull

Some tattoos fade worse than others. This skull looked pretty sweet fourteen years ago, but is sadly now a shadow of its former self as pretty much all of the color has drained away. Now there’s hardly any of the vibrant blues and purples of the original. The black outline is most prominent, though even that has faded and bled as the years have gone by.

The Sting In The Tail

Here’s another example of why you should think twice before having a tattoo inked into your palm if you want it to stick around for decades to come. This star and scorpion tattoo looked amazing when it was first inked, yet just one and half years later, points of the star were already fading away, and the scorpion was disappearing fast.

Flesh Wounds

Quite a clever one, this (in a horrible sort of way). The tattoo has created the illusion that the flesh has opened up and you can see the fat, tendons and muscles underneath. Unfortunately, the curse of red and yellow struck again. Thirteen years down the line, what was once crystal clear is now just a confusing mess that could be anything.

Nice Sentiment

The insides of fingers are just as bad at retaining ink as the outsides, as you can see from this photograph. ‘Do what makes you happy’ is a great sentiment, and a philosophy we should all strive to follow. Unfortunately, ‘No hat manes you happy’ doesn’t carry the same gravitas. Perhaps another visit to the tattoo studio is in order?

Blurred Shark

This tattoo of a shark looked pretty cool thirteen years ago. Unfortunately, the years haven’t been kind to it. The very subtle blues used in the picture have long since gone, making the shark appear almost monochrome, and the tattoo has seriously bled into the skin.