Shading is one of the things that makes an artwork better. This is especially important when you’re a tattoo artist, where the shading often determines the quality of the work. Shading is often the hardest part of tattooing. Needless to say, a bad shading has ruined a lot of good designs. Here are the things to consider if you’re learning how to shade a tattoo artwork.

What Makes A Good Tattoo Shading?

  • Realistic Light Source

Shading is directly related to a light source. After all, you can’t have shade without a light, and that can be easily seen in tattoos. Shading should be lighter in areas near the perceived light source. Meanwhile, a darker shading is needed in areas where shadows are supposed to appear.

  • No Uneven Area

An uneven shade would look dang ugly after tattooing. When the wound heals, the result can have a very washed-out design or unnecessary dark ones. To get smooth shading, you might have to use several tattoo techniques, which can be learned and polished through experience.

  • No Tattoo Scarring

Tattoo scarring happens when the wound in the skin is too deep. The tattoo artist often end up running the needle in a specific area multiple times. Although it will not be apparent after the tattoo session, you can see the result once the skin is healed. It often appears as a small skin lump noticeable even in darker designs. This can be avoided if the tattoo artist is quick and precise during the process.

How to shade a tattoo?

  1. Planning stage

The step is one of the most important parts of shading a tattoo. In this step, the artist is expected to determine what type of ink and tattoo machine should be used for a certain design. It is also the perfect time to determine the perfect lighting shade for the best realism effect via light and shadow. Finalize the details about the design with your customer. The more you ask, the more accurate the design will be according to specification when finally inked on the skin.

  1. Practice first before trying the real thing

One of the things the artist can do to avoid unwanted mistakes is by practicing the design first before inking it in the skin. Practice makes anything perfect, including tattoo shading. As they say, most tattoo artists have one or two crappy tattoos in their legs because of practicing.

If the design is custom, try drawing it on paper first, and figure out what shading technique should be used for each drawing detail.

  1. Select your weapon (and fix some issues)

Make sure that you have the right marker and needles to use before getting into it. Usually, one can do basic shadings using round liners. But for a better and more even shading, the use of magnums or mags are recommended. Check if you have a sufficient amount of ink, needles, and various other supplies. Also, check if your tools are clean and working properly. Take note if you’re using amateur tools, this will be seen in your artwork.

  1. Ink the outline (try to wing it at first try)

Even if you’re excited to try shading, don’t forget one of the golden rules of tattooing: add inks in order from darkest to lightest. This means that before shading colored designs, you should make the outline first. The outline is the most important part, as it is the primary object of the shading.

We recommend you to draw the outline and wing it in the first try. Backpedaling to fix the pattern can cause scarring, or even worse, a bigger risk of infection. If a mistake was made during the outlining phase, the artist is advised to follow the pattern and fix the mistake later on.

  1. Start shading

Before shading, it’s important to clean the finished outline with soap and water. This process is done to remove all the excess ink in the lining process. After that, the shading is up to you and your skills. There are four shading techniques you can use to get the best result, but knowing when to use a technique will be based on your experience.

  • Packing – Using small circular motions to shade the outline
  • Brush – Using the needle gently like a hand brush for smoother shading
  • The Whip – Flicking the needle in and out of the skin to create a rougher looking shade.
  • Stipple – Up and down movement used to create dots in the skin as a shade

Applying more power to your inking will yield a darker result. Lighter shades usually need lighter strokes. You might have to dilute the ink as needed o get a smooth transition from harder shade to lighter ones.

  1. Clean-up during and after shading

This is especially important when the design requires other colors. Left-over blank ink might get accidentally mixed with light-colored ones, which can ruin the whole design. You can remove the left-over black ink by running it in a cloth, letting the ink pour out. Do this before changing ink color. After shading, clean up your tools and throw away the needles used during the tattooing process. Don’t forget to teach the customer about the proper tattoo aftercare.

How do you shade a tattoo smoothly?

What tattoo needle is best for shading?

Just like round needles, flats use the same size tube as the needle amount. A 7FL (7 Flat Liner) would use a 7F tube. Magnum needles are perfect and the most popular for shading. They are the grouping which holds the most ink, therefore they easily transfer and pack large amounts of color into the skin.

How many volts do I need for shading tattoo?

Here’s the Short Answer. When doing line work, best practices indication you run your machine at 7.5-8.5 Volts. When shading 8-10 Volts is what maximum artists use.

How do you shade with a single needle?

What angle should I tattoo at?

Use a standard angle between 45 and 60゚ to put color into the skin. Most people work in small tight circles, but with mags, I have found that a Box Motion works better than circles.

Do single needle tattoos hurt more?

While this pain isn’t usually intense, it can hurt a lot if your tattoo artist works on the same area for a long time. It also tends to hurt more when multiple needles are used at the same time, rather than a single needle. This is the case when your artist adds shading to your tattoo.

Can you use numbing cream before tattoo?

An over-the-counter numbing cream found at a pharmacy or a prescription numbing cream can be applied to skin before getting a tattoo to mellow out the pain that comes from getting a tattoo. No numbing cream or over-the-counter painkiller can successfully eliminate the complete pain of getting a tattoo.

Does coloring tattoo hurt more?

Tattoo Shading

Color and shading simply provide more dimension than line work. Contrary to what you might expect, many people report that the shading hurts significantly less than the outlining of the tattoo. If you’ve already made it through your line work, pat yourself on the back.

What is a tattoo blowout?

Tattoo blowouts occur when a tattoo artist presses too hard when applying ink to the skin. The ink is sent below the top layers of skin where tattoos belong. Below the skin’s surface, the ink spreads out in a layer of fat.

What color fades the fastest in tattoos?

Black and grey are the hardiest tattoo colours. They are dense and bold and their appearance lasts longer than colours. In contrast, the most vibrant colours such as hot pink, yellow, light green tend to fade faster. Darker colours, such as deep reds, are more fade resistant.

Why do black tattoos turn green?

Black ink is the most likely to turn green. This change is related to the skin, the type of pigment used in modern black tattoo ink, and factors such as exposure to the sun.

Where do tattoos last the longest?

“[The longest-lasting tattoos are] on flatter, less abused areas of the body like the flat of the forearm, upper arms, shoulders, back, and thighs,” tattoo artist Toby Gehrlich tells Bustle. “These areas can usually withstand the test of time.”

Why is my tattoo fading after 3 days?

it really is very normal because the tattoo is in a healing stage, the layer which looked very amazing after the completion will be coming out so it looks faded while in reality your skin is absorbing the necessary ink and the rest is going to be off and when your tattoo starts healing the excess ink will peel off.

Can I wash my tattoo with just water?

Use lukewarm water, at least at first, because water that is too hot will be painful and could open your pores and cause ink to leach out. Do not stick your tattoo directly under the faucet, instead cup your hand and gently pour water over it. Gently wet the entire tattoo, but do not soak it.

Why is my tattoo fading so fast?

Sudden and extreme weight gain will have an immense effect on the elasticity of the skin and can distort the appearance of your tattoo. The ink pigments will break down over time as your skin stretches, thus causing your tattoo to appear faded.

How do I know if my tattoo is healing properly?

Other signs of a properly healing tattoo
  1. pink or red skin at the site and surrounding area (not a widespread rash)
  2. slight inflammation that doesn’t extend outside the tattoo.
  3. mild itchiness.
  4. peeling skin.