How to Shade a Tattoo ( 2 Easy Steps)

How to shade a tattoo

Are you a beginner and don’t know how to shade a tattoo properly? Then you are reading the right article.

The shading makes a huge difference. If done properly this increases the beauty of the tattoo. Proper shading can also cover the minor flaws that can occur during the lining of the tattoo making.

Even the professionals of tattoo artists took years to get perfect in the shading of the tattoos. You can’t master the art in just a few days but with proper practice and interest, you can learn proper shading in few months.

In this article we guide you step by step that how you can start tattoo shading being a beginner.

Keep reading the article.

How to Shade a Tattoo

Shading of a tattoo:

If you are going to do shading for the first time, get it done by doing the following steps precisely.

  1. Practice shading on a pork skin:

The first step to shade a tattoo is, try it on the pork’s skin. Trying this also needs some basic steps.

  • Practicing with the pencil and paints: Because shading a tattoo is as same as that of shading the still life painting. The main difference between tattooing and still life painting, you are playing with the needles in tattooing while during painting and shading you are just using your pencils and papers.

It is recommended, before getting into tattoo shading, to get fluent in pencil shading on the paper. Practice shading with the pencils and the paints on the paper.

Try to practice it with pressure.

  • Choosing the appropriate machine and the needles: Don’t try to tattoo on the pork’s skin with any tool and needle. Use the appropriate tool and the needle size for shading the pork’s skin.

If you do it with any of the usual needles that means your practice is not going to help you to be a professional and you are just ruining your days.

  • Adjusting the right speed on the tattoo machine: The slower speed of the tattoo machine makes lighter shades on the tattoo and the fast speed do the opposite. Adjust the speed of the tattoo machine depending upon your need and the tattoo style.

Adjust it properly and precisely.

  • Pork’s skin and shading: Get the belly part of the pork skin. We use pork skin for practice because pork’s skin is the analog of human skin.

Before using the tattooing tool on the skin get it ready by washing it with soap and water. Ensure that the skin doesn’t contain any grease, oily substances, and stickles it.

Start practice on the skin now.

  1. Tattoo planning:

The second step in shading a tattoo is planning the tattoo that you are going to make on the customer’s skin. Keep in mind; plan the tattoo according to the choice of your customer.

The tattoo planning includes the following step.

  • Shading type and areas: Have a peaceful sitting with your client and get a briefing from him about the tattoo. Ask him for the areas on the tattoo in which he wants shading and also confirm the type of shading he wants, light or dark.

Ask for the shading colors also. If the customers remain unable to choose the colors, do the shading with the contrasting colors.

  • Preparing a prototype sketch: According to the demands of the customer that you have listened to in the meeting try to draw a sketch. Once you are done with the sketch show it to your client. He will get the idea from the sketch that, how the tattoo is going to look when embossed.

The sketching also beneficial for you, this allows you to figure out that how you are going to draw it on the skin with the tattooing tools.

  1. Shading a tattoo: Finally, the main step for which we all are waiting is here.
  • Getting ready with your tattoo machine: Get yourself ready with your tattoo machine. Make sure that you are using the right tattoo machine that is made for the shading. Check your needles and inks also.
  • Lining and shading: Take a break once you are done with the lining. Do the shading after some time. Give some settling time to the lining.
  • Move-in a circular motion: Move the needle of the machine in a circular motion while doing shading. Starts from the middle and then moves in the outward direction.

Keep in mind that for dark shading you will have to apply more pressure and for light shading, little pressure will be applied on the skin.

  • Wiping off excess ink:  As you move forward in shading keep wiping the excess ink from the tattoo with the clean cloth.
  • Other essentials: While doing the shading keep in mind these minor steps also.
    • Dilute the ink when needed.
    • Change the ink intensity depending upon the shade type you are going to do.
    • Use Vaseline in every step this allows the ink not to penetrate the surrounding areas.
    • Use sterile needles.


What is the best needle for shading a tattoo?

The best needle for shading a tattoo is flat shade needles.

Be precise with the needles when you are doing shadings.

What inks do tattoo artist uses frequently?

The tattoo artist uses the premade mostly, but other than those some make their own inks by blending the dry pigments.

Who is the highest paid tattoo artist?

Don Ed Hardy is the highest paid tattoo artist. On average for an hour he will cost you 1500$. This amount can vary also depending upon the complications of the designs and things like that.

He is not only the highest paid tattoo artist in the world but he is also the richest with a net worth of 250$ million.

Check out top coil tattoo machines here.


Shading needs your patience and dedication. You cannot masters the art of shading in just two to three sittings you have to practice it for times so then you get into the shading art.

For practice, we have mentioned the basic steps to follow and you will see clarity in your shading with time.

Thank you for reading this article. If you like it let us know in the comment section below.


Pesapane, Filippo, et al. “A short history of tattoo.” JAMA dermatology 150.2 (2014): 145-145.

Caplan, Jane. “Bodies of inscription: A cultural history of the modern tattoo community.” The

Historian 64.2 (2002): 406-408.

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