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Tattoo How To's

Circular Shading: A Step by Step Guide for Tattoo Beginners

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Last Update on October 20th 2023 By TPS

Circular shading is a fundamental tattooing shading technique that involves using circular motions to apply ink. It's commonly used for soft shading, creating smooth gradients, and transitioning between light and shadow areas. Here's a comprehensive step by step guide for tattoo beginners:

Step 1: Tattoo Needle Selection

Choosing the right needle is crucial for achieving optimal circular shading results:

  • Needle Type: Select a round shader needle specifically designed for circular shading. Round shader needles consist of several needles grouped together in a circular arrangement, providing the precision required for this technique.

  • Needle Diameter: Consider the diameter of the needle, which directly affects the shading's fineness and coverage. For beginners, a medium-sized round shader needle (e.g., 5RS or 7RS) is recommended as it balances detail and coverage.

  • Quality and Sterilization: Prioritize the use of high-quality, pre-sterilized needles from reputable suppliers. Ensuring proper sterilization is essential to maintain a safe and sterile tattooing environment.


Step 2: Tattoo Machine Setup

Prepare your tattoo machine for circular shading:

  • Speed Adjustment: Set the tattoo machine to a moderate speed. A slower speed provides greater control during circular shading, allowing you to achieve smoother results.

  • Voltage Adjustment: Adjust the voltage according to your machine's specifications to ensure consistent and stable operation. Refer to your machine's manual for voltage recommendations.


Step 3: Tattoo Ink Dilution

Prepare your tattoo ink for circular shading:

  • Ink Thinning: To achieve the desired soft shading effect, slightly thin your tattoo ink. Add a few drops of distilled water to the ink and mix thoroughly until it reaches a consistency thinner than that used for lining, yet not overly watery.


Step 4: Stance and Hand Position

Position yourself correctly for precise circular shading:

  • Proper Stance: Maintain a stable and comfortable stance with your feet shoulder-width apart. Position your body comfortably over the tattoo area to ensure optimal control.

  • Sitting: When sitting, it's essential to position yourself aligning your body and tattooing hand with the tattoo area. This not only provides better visibility and control but also allows you to use your free hand effectively.

  • Hand Placement: Hold the tattoo machine with a relaxed and steady grip, allowing for controlled and fluid hand movements during the circular motion. Your free hand can be used to gently stretch the client's skin, creating a taut and even canvas for tattooing. This additional support from your free hand helps ensure precise and consistent tattooing while minimizing discomfort for the client.

Step 5: Circular Shading Motion

Initiate the circular shading process:

  • Start Slow: Begin with a slow and controlled circular motion. Let the needles gently contact the skin to establish a base layer of shading. This initial pass creates the foundation for the subsequent layers.

  • Gradual Increase: As you progress, gradually increase the speed and intensity of the circular motion while moving the machine back and forth. This incremental approach helps achieve the desired shading effect with smooth gradients.

  • Varying Pressure: Experiment with adjusting the pressure applied to the machine. Lighter pressure results in lighter shades, while slightly increased pressure adds depth and texture to your shading.


Step 6: Overlapping Passes

Ensure even and consistent circular shading:

  • Overlap Strokes: To maintain uniform shading coverage, overlap each circular pass slightly with the previous one. This practice prevents the formation of gaps or uneven shading.


Step 7: Monitor Progress

Regularly assess your work:

  • Frequent Checks: Pause periodically to step back and evaluate your progress. Ensure that the shading remains consistent and aligns with your artistic vision.


Step 8: Patience and Practice

Hone your circular shading skills:

  • Practice Makes Perfect: Circular shading may require patience and practice to master fully. Dedicate time to practice on synthetic skin or practice pads before applying this technique to human skin. This practice will build your confidence and proficiency.

Step 9: Clean and Sterilize

Conclude the circular shading process:

  • After Shading: After completing your circular shading, carefully clean the tattooed area and apply any necessary ointments or dressings. Properly dispose of used needles, and ensure your equipment is thoroughly sterilized for the next tattooing session.

Circular shading is a foundational technique in tattooing, and with dedication, practice, and attention to detail, you can achieve beautiful, seamless shading effects in your tattoo artwork.

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