How Does Preserving Tattoos After Death Work?

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Thousands of people enjoy the particular look that a tattoo gives them and value their ink even more as a piece of artwork. Tattoos are often gotten to remember a beloved friend or relative, as a memorial, or to remember a special moment in their lives. Still others get tattoos to represent something specific about themselves in a unique way.

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Whatever the reason you might have gotten a tattoo, until recently, the only downside is that the artwork ultimately dies when you do. However, thanks to a unique service, you can have your tattoo preserved forever and pass it down to a loved one who wants to remember you and your treasured ink.

Can You Preserve a Loved One’s Tattoo After They Die?

Until recently, tattoos were doomed to get buried or burned with the person they were on. However, a relatively new company has come onto the scene with a revolutionary way to fulfill some tattoo owners’ final wishes – tattoo preservation.

A company called Save My Ink Forever first got its start in 2016 when a friend of the father/son duo, both embalmers and funeral directors, mentioned that he wanted to have his tattoos preserved after he passed away. The conversation sparked an idea that grew into their family-run business.

The duo, Michael and Kyle Sherwood, took two years to come up with the proprietary formula that allows them to preserve tattoos and the skin they’re on for all posterity. Now, they work with people across the United States, the UK, and Canada to fulfill their final wishes and preserve tattoos for friends and family members.

» MORE: Need help with funeral costs? Create a free online memorial to gather donations.

How Does Preserving a Tattoo Work?

Tattoo preservation might not be for everyone, but if it’s on your loved one’s list of end-of-life wishes, then you’ll need to know what to do when someone dies in order to preserve their ink. The whole process occurs in several steps.

First, you’ll need to notify Save My Ink Forever that your loved one has passed away within 24-48 hours of their death. An authorization form will be provided to the next of kin to authorize the removal of tattooed tissue by the funeral home. 

Once the authorization form is received, Save My Ink Forever sends the funeral home a tattoo removal kit. If the funeral home has already worked with Save My Ink Forever, they would have received training for the process. The kit contains instructions, however, so any embalmer can complete the process.

Most excisions can be completed by any embalmer. For particularly large tattoo removals, however, Kyle, Michael, or a member of the team can be asked to travel to the funeral home to assist with the process. For one client with a near full-body removal, co-owner Michael Sherwood traveled to the funeral home and completed the process himself.

The removal process can be done before or after embalming, depending on the needs of the family. Once the removal is completed, the funeral home sends the tattoos to Save My Ink Forever.

When the tattoos are received, the company uses a proprietary formula to permanently preserve the tattoo and the skin it’s on. Since they only take a few layers of the epidermis, the tattoo, sometimes faded, is restored to its vibrant, full-color, fresh-ink look. The whole preservation process can take anywhere from three to four months to complete.

Once preservation is complete, a member of the team selects a frame that complements the tattoo and places it behind UV protective glass. If preferred, the family can pick out a frame for their loved one’s ink.

The final product is then given to the beneficiary, typically a close family member or best friend.

How Much Does It Cost to Preserve a Tattoo?

When it comes to keepsake gifts, costs can range from an inexpensive necklace pendant for cremation ashes to a costly cremation diamond. Now, this new keepsake concept of tattoo preservation can be added to the list of potential end-of-life costs to plan for. 

As would be expected, the smaller the tattoo that needs preservation, the less expensive the process. More extensive tattoos will require significantly more time, effort, work, and cost.

To help potential clients and families plan ahead, Save My Ink Forever provides a clear pricing guide. The costs include the start-to-finish process including shipping, preservation, and framing with UV-protective glass.

Here is what you can expect to pay if you choose to have your ink saved through Save My Ink Forever.

  • Individual tattoos: $1,600+
  • Complete arm sleeve tattoo: $5,000-$7,500 per arm
  • Complete leg sleeve tattoo: $10,000-$15,000 per leg
  • Full chest tattoo: $15,000-$20,000
  • Complete back tattoo: $15,000-$20,000
  • Complete body suit: $80,000-$100,000

Given the expense associated with this preservation method, Save My Ink Forever also provides tattoo preservation insurance through Ash Brokerage, underwritten by United Life. Insurance is probably the best way to go for anyone planning on an extensive tattoo preservation. 

Monthly insurance payments differ depending on how much insurance you want to go toward tattoo preservation after death, but they are lower than what you’d expect to pay for life insurance.

Save My Ink Forever categorizes their insurance plans according to the planned monetary amount, age, and gender. Here is a sampling of what you can expect to pay monthly for life depending on the amount you want and the age you start paying:

 

$10,000

$30,000

$50,000

$100,000

Age

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

25

$13.74

$12.91

$32.89

$30.39

$52.04

$47.87

$99.92

$91.58

30

$15.24

$14.20

$37.39

$34.27

$59.54

$54.33

$114.92

$104.50

35

$17.10

$15.70

$42.97

$38.77

$68.83

$61.83

$133.50

$119.50

40

$19.43

$17.72

$49.97

$44.82

$80.50

$71.92

$156.83

$139.67

45

$22.30

$20.19

$58.57

$52.24

$94.83

$84.29

$185.50

$164.42

50

$25.83

$23.03

$69.17

$60.77

$112.50

$98.50

$220.83

$192.83

If you’d rather pay out your insurance payments in a few years or in one lump sum, the company also offers plans for that. Insurance plans offered include amounts from $10,000 to $100,000 in $5,000 increments. 

Payment options include monthly payments for life, 20-year payments, 10-year payments, five-year payments, and lump-sum payments. If you happen to have the cash on hand, you could end up saving quite a bit of money over the long run by choosing to pay one lump sum upfront. 

Here is what you can expect to pay if you choose to pay one lump sum upfront for your tattoo preservation insurance.

 

$10,000

$30,000

$50,000

$100,000

Age

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

25

$2,310

$2,126

$5,770

$5,220

$9,618

$8,701

$19,236

$17,402

30

$2,614

$2,411

$6,679

$6,072

$11,133

$10,120

$22,266

$20,240

35

$2,969

$2,748

$7,742

$7,082

$12,904

$11,804

$25,808

$23,608

40

$3,396

$3,143

$9,023

$8,265

$15,038

$13,776

$30,777

$27,553

45

$3,887

$3,608

$10,029

$9,323

$16,715

$15,539

$33,431

$31,079

50

$4,439

$4,131

$11,676

$10,866

$19,460

$18,111

$38,921

$36,233

To break this down, let’s say you want to insure your tattoo preservation for $10,000. If you’re a 25-year-old man and you decide to pay monthly for life, you’ll pay $13.74 x 12 = $164.88 per year. If you live until you’re 75 years old, that’s $164.88 x 50 = $8,244 over your lifetime. By choosing to pay a one-time payment of $2,310, you can save a whopping $5,934!

This savings trend continues regardless of the amount, gender, or age bracket you fall into. If you’re looking for long-term savings, paying upfront for your tattoo preservation insurance is the way to go.

Who Offers Tattoo Preservation Services?

While this isn’t one of the more common items on the list of what to keep after someone dies, the demand for the service is only growing. At this point, Save My Ink Forever is the only company offering tattoo preservation services. According to their own stats, however, around 42 million Americans have tattoos and 60% of those people have more than one. 

It stands to reason that either Michael and Kyle Sherwood will expand their business to handle growing demand, or others will start offering services.

» Did you know? Caskets can be bought online, without the funeral home markup. Find the perfect casket

How Do You Display a Preserved Tattoo?

When you preserve tattoos through Save My Ink Forever, the company displays preserved artwork pieces tastefully in a frame behind UV glass. When it’s kept away from direct sunlight, the brilliant ink should be able to last indefinitely and can be passed from generation to generation.

The framed pieces can be hung on a wall and displayed like fine art or set up on an easel for display. Either way, they should be kept away from all direct sunlight, so check to make sure the area you’re planning to display it in doesn’t become awash with sunlight.

The Legacy of Tattoo Art

For many with tattoos, the pieces of artwork represent parts of their life and personality they’d rather pass on than take to the grave. Now, thanks to an enterprising new company, you can have your ink preserved and passed on to your loved ones.


Sources:
  1. Adamakos, Tess. “Is Preserving the Tattoo Skin of a Corpse Ethical?” News, Inked, 28 December 2018. inkedmag.com.
  2. Hartley, Patricia. “Three Reasons Your Funeral Home Should Offer (and Promote) Tattoo Preservation.” Funeral Industry News, Connecting Directors, 17 July 2019. connectingdirectors.com.
  3. Murphey, Jessica. “Preserving a Loved One’s Tattoos After Death.” US & Canada, BBC, 3 May 2019. bbc.com.

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