How to Line with a Round Shader

While a round liner needle is usually used for the linework in a tattoo, sometimes artists will use a round shader. This is because round shaders cover more space than a liner, which makes a line look thicker.

However, there’s a few tricks to getting a good line with a needle that’s usually used for shading. 

That’s why, in this article, we’ll break down how to:

Lining with a Round Shader

Tattooing with round shaders can be a little bit different than tattooing with a liner. 

The needles are not pushed inward, coming to a point. They're just straight out. This means you’ll get a thicker line, but it's also going to leave little areas on the outside that can look fuzzy because it's not a perfectly crisp line. 

Because of this, if you are going to use this technique, we recommend sticking only to Traditional style pieces. (We prefer to simply use bigger liners as opposed to shaders because of the “fuzziness” that comes with round shaders.)

Hold Your Machine at a Higher Angle

Just like you would with a larger liner, you need to consider the angle of your tattoo machine and whether each barb in your tattoo needle is able to pierce the skin. If you’re holding the machine at a steep angle (more parallel to the skin), then your needle might not be puncturing the skin correctly, which will make your line look thinner and faint. 

Instead, you want to hold your machine up at a larger angle (more perpendicular to the skin). However, you don’t want to hold your machine straight up and down, as this can cause other problems.

Dip Into Your Ink Often

Bigger needles, especially round shaders, use a lot of ink because you're making a really thick line. Each time you lift up, make sure you're dipping into your ink cap. This will keep an appropriate amount of ink in your cartridge to be able to pull a line.

Expect to Cover More Space

Because a shader is not pointed like a round liner, the same number of needles covers more space. For example, if you have a 9 round shader, it’ll cover the same area as an 11 or 14 round liner. 

You do not need huge needle groupings in order to make thick lines if you’re using a round shader. (We recommend avoiding using something like a 14 Round Shader for linework because your lines will end up very thick.)

Slow Down Your Hand Speed

When using a larger needle, you’ll want to slow down your hand speed. If you go at your regular hand speed, your linework will come out very light. Slowing down will make sure you get a consistent line the whole way through.  

However, slowing your hand speed will not get rid of the “fuzzy” areas a round shader leaves behind. This needle grouping is usually set up for blocking in small areas of shading instead of creating linework, so it won’t produce perfectly crisp lines.

Pro Tip:

We recommend using round liners over round shaders for linework. 9 RL will work for many tattoos that need bold lines.  

Whip Out Your Lines

When you need to pick up the needle to get more ink, make sure to flick out your needles (sort of like whip shading). 

This will make sure that piece of linework “fades out” - which makes it easier to seamlessly join a new line. If you do not whip out your needles, then you’ll see a little ball of ink where you pulled the machine up off the fake skin.

Become a Tattoo Artist With the Artist Accelerator Program

Having a career in tattooing is not only fulfilling, but it’s also the most stable way to make a living as an artist. However, for decades, the process to become a tattoo artist has been notoriously difficult. 

The apprenticeship process requires aspiring tattoo artists to work 50-60 hours a week without pay for 2-4 years. That, combined with the toxic culture of abusing apprentices, makes getting into the industry almost impossible for newcomers. 

That’s why we created the Artist Accelerator Program. Our online course provides a simple, structured way of learning to tattoo that has been proven to work by over 2500 successful students, with many of them having gone on to open their own shops all around the world. 

Inside the program, we’ll take you through every step of the tattooing process in 9 clear, easy-to-follow modules and support you along the way within the Tattooing 101 Mastermind online community.

In the Mastermind group, you’ll collaborate with other students, get answers to your questions, and receive personalized video feedback on your artwork and tattoos from professional tattoo artists. With this friendly community of both new and experienced tattoo artists, you’ll never be stuck again. 

When you join the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll have instant access to the full course and the Mastermind community, as well as our 30-Day Flash Challenge and recorded interviews with tattoo artists from all over the world. 

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

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Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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