tattoo shading techniques

Tattoo Shading Techniques (step by step guide & Mistakes To Avoid)

There are two ways to design a tattoo, one is called lining and the other is called shading, and it is always done after lining. It can help you to cover your mistakes and add an eye-catching three-dimensional look to your design. But shading is a Lil difficult from the lining it requires extra experience and practice. Many artists have spent years learning this skill to take their art to the next level but they have still failed to learn it. So if you are a beginner artist who is looking to learn tattoo shading techniques you are in the right place. For learning the master level of shading in a few minutes then read this article up to last.

In this article, I would take a very in-depth look, at why the skin goes red when some people shade. I will describe the common problem people face during shading. I will teach you the techniques to achieve that nice soft black and gray shade to the skin. And l will also keep you away from the mistakes that a lot of people make during the shading.

Most Commonly Used tattoo shading techniques

Now there are three most important techniques that every professional artist used for shading. The first one is the Pendulum technique ( Style), the second is Whip shading, and the third one is packing. All of them are different from one another in terms of performance and to apply to skin.

Whip Shading Technique

whip shading technique
whip shading technique

In the whip shading techniques, You will touch the body to inject the needle into the skin, then drag it across, And then flick the tattoo machine gently away from the skin.

When you touch the skin the needles go very deep into the skin but you can control the deepness with flicking. So when you do flick the needles will not go very deep and it will reduce the chance of infection. And as a result of this process, a dark mark will appear on the skin.

Note: During this technique, the most important thing to keep in mind, is that do not quickly change the area for whipping, it can damage your skin. So come down straight with your tattoo machine when you move the needles.

Pendulum Technique

pendulum shading
pendulum shading

In this shading technique, you will move your machine back and forth like a pendulum in a clock, this is why it is called the pendulum technique. The pendulum shading technique does everything like Whipe shading, but the only difference is that it leaves a dark mark on both sides.

Swing the needle down and up across the center in the same motion as you swing it around. Then, as you use less, more, and less ink, it will progressively penetrate and exit your skin. You’ll end up with feathery edges that have been smoothed out.

Note: always choose those needles that will create pendulum shades. So I recommend you to use Mags. The mags will help you to overlap slightly to cover all the empty areas.



You can do packing to fill solid for your tattoo design. During this shading tattoo technique, you will move the needles in an oval motion. keep it tight and make sure that the pressure is not heavier on one side of the needles because it can damage your skin.

This technique also fasts your shading speed, because the moving of needles in an oval motion covers more space as compared to the Whip and pendulum technique.

Note: During this technique keep your machine and hand speed lower, for well packing the ink into your skin.

Common Mistakes That People Do during The Shading

Above were the tattoo shading techniques that most professional artists use. Now Let’s move to the most common mistakes that beginner artists make during shading.

Wrong Needels

Wrong Needels
Wrong Needels

A needle is the main tool used in the overall design, so be careful in the selection of it. Because your wrong decision can impact your shade and can also infect your client’s skin. There are different types of needles and everyone is used for different purposes. So pick up the needle which is designed for shading.

Round Needle

Round Needle
Round Needle

Round tattoo needles (RL) are tightly arranged on a circle. So these needles are better for the lining, lashes, and nostrils.

Magnum Needles

Magnum needles
Magnum needles

This is the second type of needle, which is arranged into two rows. Magnum needles are further divided into two kinds one is called Stacked Magnum (M2) and the second one is Weaved Magnums (M1).

A stacked magnum (M2) is a perfect option for color packing and shading, and Weaved magnum (M1) is better for the lining. So I recommend you always use magnum (M2) for your shading.


  1. Keep it between 1.8mm and 2.5mm for short strokes. I will allow multiple travels without irritating your skin.

2. If it is between 3.0mm and 3.8mm then it is a medium stroke.

Note: You can pack and shade in ink if it’s 3.5mm and you only have one tattoo machine.

2 Rough Or uneven tattoo Healing

Sometimes your clients face problems in the healing process. These problems mostly occur because of using wrong tattoo shading techniques.

1. The first reason behind the patchy healing is empty space between the circle you. And it happens only when you select a large circle for motion. So always keep your circle small, tiny and tight.

2. Keep your motion of needles slow for soft and smooth shading. avoid fast motion for better healing.

3. Don’t forget to arrange your mags properly, and if you do not do this you will slick the skin like a razor blade. Which makes the healing process lengthy.


What is the best tattoo needle for shading?

There are many types of needles available in the market for tattooing. But Magnum needles (M2) is the needle that most professional artist recommends for shading.

Is it possible to shade a tattoo the next day?

Yes, You can do it. And it is better for your skin to wait 30-40 minutes before shading. In fact, most of the artists do lining and shading in two sessions with a break of 2 to 3 days.

Does the speed of a tattoo machine affect shading?

If you are a professional artist, who has a high speed then you can adjust it. But it is very difficult for a beginner artist to handle a high-speed machine with low hand practice. So this can damage your shading. I recommend you to set your machine at low speed for smooth packing of ink.

What are the different types of shading?

There are many types of shading. But in this article, we explained the three most popular tattoo shading techniques given above.

how do do shading on tattoos?

If you are a beginner artist then you are in the right place. All the techniques are described above so read them carefully before starting shading.


Anyway, there is no end to learning new things in your field. But if you are in the learning stage then this article will help you a lot. Our provided tattoo shading techniques will polish your skill and you can grow your tattooing business worldwide by applying these techniques. Keep learning and keep improving.

Adrein Martin

Who’s Adrien Martin

I’m Adrien Martin, a dedicated enthusiast of tattoo artistry. I delve into the captivating world of tattoo meanings and offer in-depth product reviews. My passion lies in unraveling the symbolic significance behind these captivating designs, revealing the profound stories and cultural relevance they hold. Join me on this artistic journey.

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