How to Shade a Tattoo in 2021? [Full Guide]

Last Updated on March 21, 2022

Assembling a tattoo gun doesn’t have to be tough

Tattoo making itself is an art. Not everyone can master it in a few days. Many People out there spend years perfecting their shading ability of tattooing.

Even if one already knows how to tattoo, you cannot learn master-level shading in a few days.

But, if you just want to know how shading is done and learn about the techniques used to do this task then you’ve come to the right place!

realism tattoo requiring shading

Tattoo Shading in 2021

There are many techniques being used at the moment for tattooing. Each of them has many steps and levels. Here we will discuss the most important of these steps.


First of all, you have to prepare yourself to draw a shape / any kind of picture. You can start practicing it just by drawing pictures on paper. It will be your muscle practice to be more accurate about pictures and their drawings.

Next Level Practice

When you think you are done with enough paper practice, just move to the next step of practicing the drawing. Just start drawing practice on a pork belly. It will provide you more realistic feel because it is a drawing practice on skin. You will observe and experience the use of color and pen on the skin.

Here medixsteve has explained how you can practice on pig skin:

Choosing Appropriate Apparatus

Now the drawing on a body/skin is actually done by special apparatus. It includes a tattoo machine, ink, and a needle. You have to choose the most appropriate tattoo machine along with the best tattoo ink possible. The Needle size depends on the Shape/picture of the tattoo you are going to draw. In other words, the needle size varies with the shape/design of the tattoo.

Speed of Tattoo Machine

Another factor that affects the shading of the tattoo is the speed of the Tattoo machine. The tattoo machine is adjustable between different levels. The speed depends on the design and shape of the tattoo to be drawn on the skin. Some tattoo shapes require the high speed of a Tattoo machine. On the other hand, some shapes (like shapes which have more details in them).

To create a softer shade, you should not speed much. On the other hand, using a faster speed creates darker shading.  You can adjust the speed as required depending on what type of look and depth you want to draw.

Preparing the Area/Skin

Before starting the actual tattoo drawing, you need to clear the area of the skin where you are going to draw. Especially if you had already done the lining etc. To clean the skin, you can use soap and water. Make sure that you have removed all the pattern marks, sticky residue, or grease, from that particular area, (if any) that will get in the way of your shading process.

Check out our buying guides:


Before starting the actual drawing of a tattoo on a customer’s skin, you should always ask the customer how should his/her tattoo look? For that purpose, first, draw his favorite tattoo on the page. Show him that your tattoo will look like this in the end.  This will help customers to be satisfied with your work.