The Basic Elements to Proper Tattoo Shading

The ability to do good shading is a skill that can really make a difference in the quality of a tattoo.  Tattoo artists spend years perfecting their shading skills in order to make their designs really stand out.  There are so many aspects that go into learning proper shading techniques, but there are some basics that every tattoo artist should learn early on.

  • The Machine – A 10-coil machine can be sued for shading, but it’s best for small areas.  A 12-coil machine is a better choice, as it has the power needed to run the larger needle groupings that are used to cover bigger surfaces.
  • Speed – Many artists find that their shading goes better if the speed on the machine is higher than they typically run it for lining.
  • Preparing the Area – Shading takes place after outlining, and it is recommended to clean the entire area of the tattoo with soap and water.  This helps to get rid of excess ink left by the lining process, as well as to get off any stencil marks or sticky residue that have been left behind.
  • Black vs. Color – The term “shading” can be used differently.  In some shops, it refers only to using black ink to add dimension to a tattoo.  In other shops, the use of color can also be referred to as “shading.”  Because the term can have more than one meaning, it’s a really good idea to understand how it is used in the shop where you will be working or serving your apprenticeship.
  • Techniques – There are multiple ways to get a shading effect on your artwork.  The perfect approach for one artist may not give the desired results to another.  It’s a good idea to learn a variety of techniques and then choose the one that is best for a given situation.
  • Shading Before Coloring – Inks are generally added to a tattoo in order from darkest to lightest.  This means that shading is often the step right after outlining, even though logic might tell you that shading would be the last step.  This keeps the darker ink from muddying the lighter colors and requires you to do some advance planning.
  • Shader Bars – While some shading can be done with your round liners, most shading will be done with shader bars.  They include needles that are lines up in a flat row to cover more space in a single pass than a round liner.
  • Art Appreciation – Understanding the effects of light and shadow play an important part in good shading.  This is an area where it can be extremely helpful to take an art class.  You can possibly even write it off as a business expense!
  • Clean the Needles – …and the tubes, and the tips, etc.  Once you finish shading, you want to make sure that there is no black ink left anywhere that might be able to accidentally mix with the lighter colors you will be applying next.
  • Cover Up Work – Shading can be used as a method for covering up other work.  One example is using shading to hide where you added a line or element that was a mistake.  It is also used to cover up or modify older tattoos that someone regrets or wants to change for some reason.  Shading can be an effective tool for turning an unwanted design into something fresh and new.

“Here’s The ‘Insider’ Tattooing Tips, Tricks
and Secrets of Elite Tattoo Artists
Click Here

Except in cases where there is little to no shading used as a method for developing desired contrast, shading creates a wonderful play of light on your designs and gives them the depth.  The 3-D feel really makes them pop.  When a tattoo artist isn’t particularly skilled in this area, the result is designs that are flat and don’t have much appeal.  This is why artists spend so much time and energy developing their abilities in this area.

Elite Tattoo Artist Insider