The difference between a flat outlined tattoo and a top notch, 3-dimensional piece of skin art lies in the shading skill of the tattoo artist.
A skilled tattooist knows how to use outline and shading to create a life-like work of art on the skin of the client. The best tattoo artists know how to choose the correct tools for the job, including a tattoo machine and the right needles and ink.
They are able to find the perfect design for each client and position it perfectly on the body.
Finally, they know how to use the tattoo machine like an artist uses a paintbrush to create a work of art.
The best way to learn the fine art of tattoo shading is from a seasoned professional tattoo artist. As an apprentice to an experienced tattooist, you’ll be given tattoo tips that will help you gain the skills to create a 3-dimensional tattoo image that seems to come alive on the skin.
Here are 4 tattoo tips for beginners who want to learn the secrets of top notch realistic tattooing.
Tattoo Tip #1 – Choose a design that’s suitable for shading.
Some tattoo designs are more suitable than for shading than others. Portraits of people and images of animals, flowers and skulls are good subject for shading, as are fantasy creatures like dragons. The design should have some larger rounded elements that can be filled in with graduated color to create the illusion of depth and shadows. Look through tattoo magazines and study designs that show the effective use of shading. Soon you’ll get a feel for which designs can be shaded and which are not suitable.
Tattoo Tip #2 – Use a tattoo machine.
One of the most important tattoo tips for top notch tattooing is to use a tattoo machine, also referred to as a tattoo gun. A skilled tattoo artist wouldn’t dream of attempting to apply a shaded tattoo design without a tattoo machine. The tattoo machine uses a group of needles to automatically inject ink at the correct depth in the skin. The machine is connected to an electric motor that rapidly moves the needles up and down at a rate of 80 to 150 times per second. This rapid needle movement allows a shaded area of a tattoo design to be filled with ink quickly and evenly.
Tattoo Tip #3 – Mix the tattoo ink.
Tattoo shading uses ink in shades from light to dark. Lighter shades of ink, often referred to as a wash, can be created by mixing ink and sterile water. The more water that you add, the lighter the wash. One of the more useful tattoo tips for shading from tattoo artists is to create washes ahead of time in the exact shades that will be required for a shaded tattoo. This eliminates the need for stopping and mixing ink while the tattoo is being applied.
Tattoo Tip #4 – Use the tattoo gun like a paintbrush.
A group of needles called shaders is used to fill in the outlined tattoo design with shading. Shader needles come in many shapes and groupings. Knowing when to use each type of shader is one of the more valuable tattoo tips to be learned in an apprenticeship.
Realistic tattoo shading is created by tilting the needles on the tattoo skin and using the tattoo gun like a paintbrush.
Most tattooists first cover the skin with a thin layer of lubricant to ease the needles smoothly across the area being shaded. For dark shading, the tattoo gun is moved slowly across the skin and the ink is injected deeply. For lighter areas, the gun is move quickly and ink is injected less deeply.
As soon as a small area of the design has been injected with ink for shading, the tattoo artist wipes off the excess ink with a clean cloth. The finished effect can then be viewed and the tattoo artist can decide if more ink is needed.
If a darker effect is wanted, more ink is applied. Making a dark area lighter is more of a problem, since the dark ink has been permanently injected into the skin. This is why a skilled tattoo artist works carefully to make sure no area of shading is too dark. Some tattoo artists use white ink to lighten dark areas of a tattoo and to smooth out transitions between different shades of ink.