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 workShading is often the hardest part of tattooingNeedless to say, a bad shading has ruined a lot of good designsHere are the things to consider if you’re learning how to shade a tattoo artwork.

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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.

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