How to Tattoo Fine Lines

Fine line tattoos rely on very thin lighters and light shading for their delicate look. Because they have become more and more popular in recent years, it’s important that every tattoo artist knows how to do them. 

If you aren’t sure how to do a fine line tattoo, keep reading. In this article, we’ll be breaking down the keys to creating a beautiful fine line tattoo (and avoiding blowouts), like how to:

  • Adjust your machine and hand pressure
  • Keep your lines perfectly steady
  • Add “delicate” shading to match your linework

Tattooing Fine Lines

Fine lines are hard because even a tiny shake looks huge in a thin line. Below, you’ll find a few tips for tattooing fine lines, as well as maintaining your stability while lining so you can eliminate any shakiness.


When you’re tattooing fine lines, you might want to use a bugpin needle. For example, using a bugpin 5 round liner will look like a standard 3 round liner.


Use Less Power

When you’re using a big liner, you need more power. You need a long stroke and a powerful machine without any give to it so you can push the line into the skin.

When you’re using a really thin liner, it’s very easy for the needle to go into the skin since there is not much surface area putting up resistance. Because of this, you don’t need to use a lot of power. In fact, if you use too much, you’re going to end up slicing the skin.


Check Your Cartridge

Sometimes, needle cartridges (especially cheaper ones) will have a little extra “wiggle room” between the needle and the edge of the cartridge. This can cause the needle to bounce around inside the cartridge and make your lines look shaky.

While this can cause problems with a larger liner, it can completely ruin a fine-line tattoo because any shake in a thin line will look really big. 

That’s why it’s important to check and make sure there’s no wiggle at all from the needle when it moves in and out of the cartridge. 


Use Three Points of Contact

As mentioned above, even a small shake will look huge when you’re tattooing a thin line. To prevent shakiness, you can use three points of contact.


First, you’ll want to either tuck your elbow against your ribs or place it on the massage table. This stops any movement of your shoulders and upper arm from affecting your linework.


Second, you’ll place the palm of your tattooing hand against the skin. This makes sure you’re stable while you move the tattoo machine. “Hovering” your hand off the skin will make it much harder to control your tattoo machine.


Third, you’ll connect the pinky of your tattooing hand to the thumb of your stretching hand. Bringing in the extra help from your stretching hand will allow you to remain stable. You can also use this position to manually control your depth

By placing your ring finger and pinky down on the skin, you can create a barrier that keeps your hand from letting the needle go too deep in the skin.


One of the hardest parts about tattooing thin lines is controlling the needle. Using three points of contact will make controlling the needle much easier.


Keep a Steady Pace

Avoid stopping in one area too long. It'll really tear up the skin. Instead, try to keep a steady pace while doing all of the line work.


Press Lightly

You don’t want to press down on the skin super heavy like you would when shading. You don’t even want to press down how you normally would when lining with a regular liner. You want to just barely press into the skin and pull your line steadily.  


Use Whip Shading

When shading a fine line tattoo, you’ll probably want to stick with the same needle you used for your linework. 

To avoid overworking the skin (and to keep with the light, dainty style of fine line tattoos), you’ll want to stick with light whip shading or stipple shading.

You can fill in your shading a few different ways:

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.

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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