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How to Shade


Tattooing basically consist of three main techniques: line work, colour packing and shading. If you have those three techniques down, I believe you can tattoo pretty much anything (given that you have enough knowledge and background on said style).

When it comes to shading I don’t believe that there is one technique better than another. Whatever feels comfortable to you and, of course, looks and heals well.

There are, however, certain aspects that I believe need to be kept in mind at all times:

– The type of needle you use will either limit or enable you to perform a certain style (always keep in mind that a smaller needle has less area of resistance, therefore it penetrates skin easier). Use that information as you want. As I mentioned earlier, there is no right or wrong when it comes to the process as long as the final product is up to standard. You need to find what works for you.

– The style of shading you want to execute and what needle you are using will collectively determine how fast your tattoo machine will run, how fast your hand movements will be and how deep you want to push the needle. If you want a more “peppery” effect on your tattoo you would go deeper and faster, whereas if you want a soft shade you would work much lighter and slower so you can get a more saturated effect. Remember not to damage the skin, going on either extreme ei. working too deep or working too slow can result in a damaged tattoo, so you need to determine what works for you!

Don’t forget that the adjustments needed on these aspects usually are very small and precise, but as soon as you know your machine, skin in general and your capabilities you will be able to fine-tune your technique to exactly where you want it to be.

These are just some guidelines I try to stick to when analysing my tattooing, just to make my thought process clearer. I think if you stick to the basics and have a well-rounded theory on your subject matter like contrast, hues and textures, you’re A-OK!


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