How to Shade a Tattoo

Posted by Dragon Tattoo on

 How to Shade a Tattoo

Shading well makes a huge difference in the quality of a tattoo. Properly done, it gives life to a tattoo and keeps it from appearing as flat and dull. This is a skill that takes years to refine and many artists develop unique techniques that make them stand out from the crowd. If you are newer to the industry, take a look at some tried and true tips below. 

Choosing the Right Machine

If you're shading a small area, a 10 coil machine is one of your best options. For shading larger areas, you'll need a 12 coil machine to cover the surface in an efficient time frame. In addition to choosing the best machine, many artists experience better shading results when they run their machine slightly faster than usual.

Prepping the Area

Shading comes after the outlining is completed. It is a good idea to clean the entire area before starting to shade. Wiping away all the excess ink gives you a clear and accurate view of the areas that need to be shaded. Cleaning the area also removes any remaining stencil marks that could potentially confuse you.



Shade Before Adding Colors

In the world of tattooing, inks are applied in order from the darkest to the lightest. Always shade your darkest areas before adding any light colors. This keeps the dark tints from dirtying the accent colors and highlights.

Choosing the Right Needle

Simple shading in small areas is possible with a round liner, but for most tattoos you need to use a shade bar. A shade bar has needles that form a flat line to cover more surface area in a single stroke.

Light and Shadow

Understanding how lighting and shadows play into art helps you apply great shading. Since shading is basically where the shadows are in a picture, getting it right means having a more realistic tattoo. Shading creates depth, contrast and it is one of the main techniques used to make a tattoo really stand out. If you find yourself struggling with this aspect, one idea is to take an art class. Depending on your tax status, you might be able to write off the expense of the class.

Using Shading to Cover Mistakes

Shading is an effective way to hide little lines that are out of place or other minor mistakes. You can also modify and update existing tattoos by enhancing the shading in the piece.

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