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A Basic Understanding of Tattoo Shading

Why Shading?

There’s no question that quality tattoo shading is one of the most important elements of a tattoo. Good shading can add depth, value, and artistic quality to a tattoo. Shading can also be one of the hardest aspects of tattooing to master. So whether you’re an aspiring tattoo artist, looking to hone your skills, or just someone wanting to learn about the process, it’s important to keep in mind that shading is a crucial element to the art.

Covering Up The Past

Mistakes are a part of life, but when they are done on somebody’s skin, it becomes a whole new matter entirely. As your shading skills begin to develop, you will begin to notice your self-correcting abilities growing simultaneously. The reason this is so, is that valuable shading skills allow you to correct slight errors along the way. This is of course no excuse for being sloppy, but when mistakes do happen at least you have something of a last resort. With that said, let’s briefly jump into the art of shading.

Practice Makes Perfect

Like other elements of tattooing, it is best to practice in the safety of your own sketchbook. If you can master this with pencil and paper, you’re well on your way to being able to work with ink. Better yet, your mistakes are all contained within the privacy of your own sketchbook, rather than on your client’s skin.

As you practice, get to know the difference between pressing hard and lightly. Not only do these slight alterations feel different in the hands of the artist, they can dramatically affect your sketch. The same rule applies while tattooing.

It is commonly recommend that you try your hand at this on a pork belly. Not only do they feel similar to the skin of a human, they give you another added layer of experience beyond that of your sketchbook alone.

Use The Right Equipment

You will now have to make sure that you are using the right tattoo machine, as well as needles. Find the proper setting for the shading you desire. Make sure you have had plenty of practice in your sketches, that way you can be a good judge of what type of shading would be appropriate for the tattoo itself. Would lighter shading work better than dark shading? Perhaps a blend of both? How extensive will the shading be? You will also have to wait some time before you begin on your shading. Some artists leave the shading for another day altogether.


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