- Master the Art of Tattoo Shading
So You Want To Know More Details On Tattoo Shading Techniques?
Tattoo shading is what takes a tattoo design from a flat, 2-dimensional drawing to a 3-dimensional image that really pops. With shading, a tattoo design is given depth and form.
Without shading, a tattoo looks unexciting and old fashioned.
Many tattoo artists learn the techniques for shading tattoos through an apprenticeship. Before starting an apprenticeship, it’s a good idea to research the tattoo process and learn as much as possible about tattoo shading techniques.
There are many available resources, including tattoo books, websites and online video tutorials.
Tattoo shading can be added to either “black and gray” or colored tattoo designs.
Black and gray tattoos are a traditional style of tattoos that some historians say originated in prisons in the 19th century. Because colored pigments were not available in prisons, techniques were developed to add interest to designs created with black ink. These techniques included tattoo shading that was accomplished by varying the intensity of the pigment, from dark black to lighter shades of gray. The depth of injection was also varied to create dark and light areas within the tattoo design.
Tattoo shading works better on some tattoo designs than on others. Designs that feature portraits are well-suited for shading, as are images of skulls, animals, flowers and landscapes. Fantasy creatures like dragons are also good subjects for tattoo shading. A realistic, life-like image can be created through the effective use of shading, especially black and gray shading. Many beautiful examples of tattoo shading can be seen in tattoo magazines.
Today, the most effective type of tattoo shading is done with a tattoo machine. This machine uses a group of needles arranged on a bar. The needles are pushed rapidly in an out of the skin by the machine’s motor. The depth of the puncture can be precisely controlled with a tattoo machnie, which is an important requirement for tattoo shading.
These are the basic steps used for
tattoo shading with a tattoo machine...
1. Dip the needle into the black or colored ink. If a lighter shade is desired for a particular area of shading, then the needles should next be dipped in sterile water. A 50/50 blend of black ink and water will create a medium gray wash. More water should be used to create lighter shades of gray or color. Some tattoo artists prefer to create washes ahead of time by mixing ink and water to create the desired wash. There are also tattoo artists who prefer to use witch hazel or some other substance instead of sterile water to dilute the pigment.
2. To create consistent tattoo shading, the needles on the tattoo machine should be tilted and moved across the skin like a paintbrush. For darker shading, the needles are moved more slowly. For lighter shading, they should be moved more quickly. Many tattoo artists cover the skin with a lubricant before applying the ink to help the needle move smoothly across the area being shaded.
3. Needle depth should be adjusted according to the type of shading that’s being done. Darker shading should be injected with more depth and lighter shading with less.
4. Before dipping the needles into more ink, the area of the tattoo that was just completed is wiped clean of excess ink. This lets the tattoo artist see the finished effect before moving on to the next area to be shaded. Additional shading can be applied in the same area if a darker effect is wanted.
5. Many tattoo artists use white ink to add highlights to a shaded tattoo. White ink can also be used to smooth out the transitions between shaded areas.
While these are the basic steps for tattoo shading, there is room for variation in each step. Most expert tattoo artists have an individual set of preferences and tricks of the trade for creating different shading effects. The only way to get a feel for what can be accomplished is through practice and experience
Mastering the art of tattoo shading is one of the biggest challenges for a tattoo artist. A high degree of skill in tattoo shading is one of the things that sets a tattoo artist apart and establishes his or her reputation. Tattoo shading is a skill worth learning, since it separates a simple inked design from a real masterpiece of body art.
Still having problems learning how to properly learn tattoo shading?
The Ultimate Black and Grey Shading Guide