How Do You Make a Smooth Shading Tattoo?

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The shading tattoo is becoming more and more popular nowadays because of its beautiful appearance. You can do it yourself or with the help of an artist you trust.

This article will teach you how to make a smooth shading tattoo. First, you need to know what you’re drawing before starting because there are many different designs that require different types of work. Below we will teach you how to make a smooth shading tattoo for each of these designs by using the different techniques below:

First, you need to sketch in the sketch of your design. You will also see how the shading goes into the tattoo after it is completed. You should make sure your design is clear in your head before you start tattooing because you don’t want to waste much time on a drawing that you won’t be taking part in.

Once you have started drawing, make sure that it’s clean and professional. You won’t be ashamed if you’re looking at your finished tattoo later on because there was nothing wrong with your final product. As a beginner, however, making random lines through a design isn’t ideal because shading is done with light and shadow.

Here are the different types of shading tattoos:

1. Full coverage is the main way that you make a shading tattoo. This is what you’ll end up with when you’re using a full set of equipment such as needles and tattoo machine ink. It’s important that you plan out your design to avoid spending too much time on something that will be washed off in several weeks’ time anyway. When you’re designing your tattoo, use a light pencil first so that you can change the color and depth of the design once you have finished.

2. Two-color shading is ideal for those who are just starting to tattoo or for those who have a lot of experience tattooing. You will only need a few needles with pigment ink and a needle machine to make this process work. The coloring is done in one arm and the shading is done with the other arm (left hand) while moving slowly toward the middle. It’s important that you hold your hand in a relaxed position at all times during this process to prevent making any mistakes.

3. One-color shading is a great way to get a smooth and clean shading tattoo. You will need a particular machine with the right ink to do this. This type of tattoo is suitable for professional artists who are looking to make an impression.

4. Hatching is a great technique for making subtle patterns in your tattoo design. Here, you will need the same equipment as a one-color shading, but there will be no black ink and it’s done very slowly with the left hand using the needle machine.

5. Contour shading is a good way to shade as it doesn’t use as much coloring as the others. It’s still done painstakingly and more slowly than the other types of shading, but there is less chance of making mistakes because the technique allows you to use even more pigment ink at once. You will probably need two machines – one for the arm that touches the design first and another for the arm that works on the design afterward. You can also use colored pencils or markers to outline or draw some quick sketches on top of your design before starting to shade it.

6. Dots and dot shading is a great way to get small designs and lines added to a design. This type of tattoo is perfect for beginners, but you don’t need the correct machine or ink to do it because you can use anything from markers to colored pencils as long as it’s not black. You can also make dots with a ballpoint pen if you want something more simple, but it won’t look as professional.

7. Tiling is ideal if you’re creating a large design since it allows the artist to move quickly with only one needle on the machine at a time. You need a machine with one needle and a large amount of ink to give you different shades as you go, but it’s easy to make and simple to do.

8. White ink is available for shading tattoos, but it’s important that you don’t use it too often because it will look more like a white skin tattoo instead of something done in black. It’s also best used on top of another color so that your design isn’t washed out in the process. You should make sure that the artist who is doing your tattoo has the right equipment and adequate space to work in order to avoid making any mistakes while they are going over your design with an enlarger or adding gradients.

How Do You Make a Smooth Shading Tattoo
Photo: How Do You Make a Smooth Shading Tattoo

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Tips and Tricks for Smooth Shading Tattoo

Make sure you are well rested

The best way to get a quality tattoo is to prepare well. Your artist will tell you if they need you to stay off work for the day, but take it easy in general. You should plan on having plenty of time at home before your appointment and don’t drink alcohol or smoking the day before.

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Motivation can be a powerful thing

En route to your appointment, play some motivating music or podcasts about what you want. Once settled in with my partner and artist Mark Murphy, I opted for episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience – he’s one of my favorite podcasters on YouTube and has great interviews with guests who can give insight into their fields of expertise. Seeing the needles at work can sometimes be unsettling.

Try to keep your mind off the tattooist’s hands

A good artist will wait for you to feel completely comfortable before starting. When he does, try and focus on a song or podcast over the buzzing of the tattoo gun. The smell of laser ink is not near as bad as some think, but don’t eat beforehand – it’s just a waste (and you probably won’t want to anymore). It also helps to focus on your breathing and make sure you are relaxed. Once satisfied with a line of shading, let your artist know and he’ll move on.

Use every tool you can

A good artist will constantly be asking if you need anything and after you’ve settled down enough, let him know. He’ll show you how to move the line around with a pen or ballpoint pen, how to make the lines sharper by using the knurling on the tip of your finger, bottles of ink for fingerprints, pockets for holding supplies, swabs for cleaning up after the tattoo is done. If nothing else is handy to mark with, a napkin or paper towel tied to your belt loop works too.

Keep yourself comfortable in general

I learned that I tend to get more comfortable once I start working because I can’t stop touching it. I also learned that taking off my shirt helped a lot, along with rolling up my sleeves if I’m standing.

Realize your skin gets darker as the day goes on

I was really pleased to find out that my tattoo looked finished to me after about an hour and then it just got better from there. I was surprised to see how much more detail came through after the outline was finished, including some areas where I hadn’t even put any specific details in. On other parts of my body, the sun/sunlight would make them look like they had faded a little bit, but not this one. The color grew stronger and better as the day wore on and it just continued to improve.

Be ready for some pain

There is a lot of debate over how much a tattoo hurts. I’d say that it’s relative, but know that there will probably be a certain flash of pain that you’ll never forget. It’s not bad though and I was surprised to find out that the majority of my discomfort came more from setting up the right way to work than the actual tattooing itself. That said, know your limits – especially if you plan on getting multiple tattoos so you can keep working with your artist (as I’m already planning to do).

Always wash your hands before and after you’re done with a tattoo

I just didn’t really think about this, but after I was done with my tattoo on the forearm, I had onions and garlic in my fingers. After washing them off, I got the chance to try blueberry muffins that my boyfriend baked that morning – only one toasted muffin fell apart when I tried to pick it up and there wasn’t much meat at the edges of the muffin. Needless to say, I dropped it on the floor because of all of the goo in my fingers…and still managed to eat some of it anyway. Moral of the story: wash your hands when you’re done.

Enjoy your new tattoo

Once you’re finished, it’s not like you just walk out. You can soak the area in cold water, shower, or lie down for a few minutes before putting some Neosporin on and wearing loose clothing over it to keep it clean and supported. I forgot about this part for about 30 minutes and had no idea that there was still ink drying – try not to do that! The color will be vibrant for about two weeks before it starts to fade a bit and the actual healing process lasts around three months before you can use any harsh soaps on it (lotion is fine). After that time, it’s no problem.

Know your limits – bring something if you have to

I was in a full sun position with my tattoo exposed to the light and I could see the bruising starting to show through on my forearm. I wasn’t sure what to do and asked Mark, “Should I cover it up with something? Ice maybe?” He said that he might go over it a few times just to get it all out, but otherwise, it was probably fine. When he was done he agreed that it didn’t look too bad, but wanted me to ask for some Neosporin because something had been exposed directly between the two of us and there were some open areas where the color could seep through.

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You don’t need to take a week off from work

I know that some people need the time to heal, but I was back to work the next day with no issues. The evidence of my tattoo is still fresh on my forearm, but only I get to see it there. Once it starts fading and scabbing over, people will have no idea what happened…except for the person standing next to me at the urinal.

Once you’re done with one tattoo, you’ll want another one

I’ve never really been one for multiple tattoos before this last month. I only had one before this, but that last month has been more than enough to convince me that I’ll be getting another one very soon. After seeing my own before and after on my forearm and how it’s never been an issue with anything I do, I’m more confident than ever.

I’m really happy with how it turned out and I now have a new avenue to express myself. It took a lot of time, patience, and effort to get one of these done, and would say the same for anyone who wants to get a great piece of body art like this. It was well worth it though because it’s something that will probably always be there for me to look at whenever I want.

Soft shading tattoo
Photo: Soft shading tattoo

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is meant by “smooth” and “shading”?

The term “smooth shading” generally refers to the fading from dark ink towards light ink, otherwise known as an outline, which powers through your design. The opposite term would be “grainy” or “scratched” which refers to the uneven gradient of ink that covers your entire tattoo. There’s a lot more to these terms than what I’ve explained here, but these are the general two meanings that stick out.

Is your design going to fade?

Your design is unique in every way and no two tattoos are exactly alike, so it’s impossible to say whether fading will apply to your artwork. Tattoo designs on one person can fade completely while another’s design might be barely noticeable after a year or three. The best way to determine whether your design will fade is to look at it again in six months and again in a year. There’s no right or wrong answer, but if you think that your design is going to fade after 6-12 months I would recommend getting it inked sooner rather than later so that it can blend in with your skin better.

Are black and grey the same?

No! Grey is the most commonly used color for shading tattoos and shading tattoos are much more common than black shading tattoos. Grey ink fades the fastest, so if you’re looking for a little more fade action you might want to consider black ink. For your design, I would either choose black or grey, depending on your preference.

Is the inking the same as a shadow?

No! Inking refers to the process of what is being applied to your skin and shading refers to the shading that is being left behind. There are some tattoo artists who will use inking techniques instead of shading as well, but this isn’t as common nor recommended for beginners.

Do you have to have an outline for smooth shading?

There’s no need for an outline when using this method! The line of ink you create will eventually fade and blend with your other lines of ink so that it doesn’t stand out from any others. You can use this on any design and regardless of where it is placed.

How do I get my design to look smooth?

This isn’t so much a question as it is a tip to help make your shading seamless. Because the light fades into the dark in most tattoo designs, the darker ink will naturally run into the lighter ink and you’ll end up with a seamless shading without having to try!

How do you create a seamless dotwork/pointillism tattoo design?

This is a little more difficult to answer because it depends on the design you’re thinking about getting. Dots can be blended together to form a “smooth” tattoo, but for the best results, I would recommend checking out your local tattoo artist and asking them for their advice on creating smooth dots. They’ll have a better idea of whether or not your design will look good than an article like this can provide.

I’ve got it in my head that I want a smooth shading, do you think that’s possible?

This is another question that will require some experience with shading tattoos to answer. The line between a “smooth” and “scratched” tattoo is very blurry, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll get an excellent result the first time you try. Even if your intention is to achieve smooth shading, it might take a few tries before you get one because the line between scratched and seamless can be difficult to gauge.

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These are just some of the many questions that people have when they are deciding whether or not they’re ready for their first shading tattoo. To use this information to your advantage you should make sure that your design is completely finished and that you’re knowledgeable about what you want to get inked! Good luck!

Related Questions

How many needles are used for shading a tattoo?

The number of needles is dependent on the size and intricacy of the design. Generally, five to fifteen needles per square inch (minimalist tattoos) and up to 50 (highly complex detailed tattoos) will be used. Some artists might use as many as 100 or more per square inch. 

“Generally, five to fifteen needles per square inch (minimalist tattoos) and up to 50 (highly complex detailed tattoos) will be used.” Shading is a tattoo technique that commonly involves using shades of black ink with varying levels of transparency.

How to improve tattoo shading?

There are a few different ways that shading can be improved on a tattoo. One of the easiest is to adjust the size of the linework. If you have too much black shading in a tattoo, it may be possible to add lighter lines and vice versa. A second way to improve shading is by adding color variations in different areas of the design—such as using red for skin tone and purple for hair color. The last way one can add shading is by using texture or brushstrokes, which will give your tattoos an added dimensionality and realism that they may not have had before. The most important thing to remember is that you want your tattoo to look realistic.

Can you use a rotary tattoo machine for lining and shading?

A rotary tattoo machine is a great tool for both lining and shading. It offers less control than an electric tattoo machine but allows its user to experiment with different patterns in the work area, which can be helpful in learning how to use the tool properly. A rotary tattoo machine can also be used alongside an electric one, allowing you to define certain parts of the design using one machine and other sections using the other.

How to shade a tattoo?

Shading tattoos is something that most people think only tattoo artists are able to do. However, although it takes a lot of practice and takes time to perfect, many people can learn how to shade a tattoo. It is important for you to know the basics before you decide on whether or not you want it done. This article tells about the steps involved in shading a tattoo and what will happen if you don’t follow them correctly.

How to shade a tattoo in this frequently asked question:

1) Set your base color: The first step comes when deciding on whether or not you want any shading at all, as well as for deciding what base color that will be. Obviously, you want to choose a color that is as close to the color of your skin as possible. It is best to do this step before you go into the tattoo artists’ shop. Otherwise, you will have a difficult time trying to match it later.

2) Set your darkest color: This is the easiest step in shading a tattoo and should be learned by all beginners. Choose a dark black or brown, add it around your base color, and fill in with black ink until the tattoo has about 3/4 of an inch of solid black in it.

3) Create your highlights: These are much more difficult than simply adding dark colors because there are many variations of light colors and not as many variations with dark colors. You will want to purchase black ink with a lot of white mixed in it, as well as a dark spot color that is close to the base color you plan to shade and use this combination on your tattoo.

4) Begin shading: Now that you have seen what your tattoo will look like before you have it done, all that is left is the actual shading, which is done by outlining the outline you created with black ink. Work your way around the whole tattoo first and then add lighter shades of colored ink, blending them in so there are no sharp lines.

5) Finish shading: In order to shade a tattoo very well, you must be extremely patient. It will take some time to get it perfect and you will most likely have to start all over on a few areas that you do not like. However, the time spent perfecting it will be well worth it.