How to Saturate Solid Areas for Beginners

Being able to get good saturation in your tattoos is important because solid black fills help create contrast in your designs. If your solid fills look “patchy,” your tattoos will look faded.

If you’re not sure how to get a solid fill on skin, keep reading. We’ll be breaking down:

  • How to move the needle to pack ink without chewing out the skin
  • How to get rid of the “gap” between your linework and shading
  • Which needles to use to get good saturation

How to Tattoo Solid Fills

Getting a solid fill is important to almost every style of tattoo, particularly tribal and American traditional.

Move the Needle in Tight Circles

One of the best things to practice when it comes to getting a solid fill is moving the needle in small, tight ovals. We recommend using mag needles for packing in ink. However, if you aren’t comfortable with using a mag in small areas yet, you can repeat this motion using a round shader instead.

Pro Tip:

Angle your mag needle while packing to make sure the barbs don’t line up and slice across the skin all at once.

Shade Right Up to Your Linework

A lot of new artists will find that there’s a small gap between their shading and their linework. This is because there is a small gap between where the end of the cartridge casing is and the needles inside. So, while it might look like they’re shading all the way up to the line because the cartridge is up to the line, they actually need to go a little further so the needles reach the linework. 

One way to make it easier to shade up to your linework is to tattoo thicker lines. We recommend using a 14 round liner to get thick lines.

Use Standard Needles

It’s best to pack ink with a standard, 12-gauge mag. You don’t want to use 10-gauge bugpins because they’re smaller, and they won’t saturate as much space.

Use Only One Pass

You want to get to a point where you can completely saturate an area in one pass. If you need to go back over an area multiple times, it will overwork the skin. 

On fake skin, this will look like little chunks of the silicone are missing. On human skin, this can lead to scarring, blowouts, and other issues with healing.

Pro Tip:

If your hand speed is too fast, you won’t be able to get full saturation in one pass. However, if your hand speed is too slow, then you can accidentally overwork the skin.

How to Get into Small Areas with a Mag Needle

While you can use a round shader to get into tight areas, we recommend also learning how to do it with a mag. 

You will need to hang out your needle a little bit more so you can “float the needle” and see exactly where your needles are. (You won’t be going any deeper into the skin.)

How to Practice Getting Saturated Fills

When it comes to practicing your solid fills, we recommend the following:

  • When you’re done with a fake skin, you can practice filling in areas where you originally put your shading. (This lets you get more practice without buying more fake skin.)
  • Tattoo from different angles so you get used to creating those tiny ovals, no matter what position your client is in.

Learn to Tattoo Without an Apprenticeship

In the past, learning in the shop through an apprenticeship was the only way aspiring artists could learn to create solid fills in their tattoos. Today, however, artists are skipping the apprenticeship to learn on their own time at home with the Artist Accelerator Program.

The world’s oldest and largest online tattoo course, the Artist Accelerator Program’s easy-to-follow, 9-step framework lets anyone go from complete beginner to professional tattoo artist without the year of grunt work or hazing. 

Inside the program, you’ll be taught everything you’d learn in a traditional apprenticeship by professional tattoo artists and receive feedback on your art and tattoos in the program’s private online Mastermind community.

Over 2500 students have used the Artist Accelerator Program’s 9-step framework to break into the tattoo industry, with many opening their own studios or working in shops around the world. 

If you’d like to see the framework they used, click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
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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