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Tattoo How To's

Parallel Shading: A Step by Step Guide for Tattoo Beginners

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Last Update on October 9th 2023 By TPS

Parallel shading is a versatile and fundamental tattooing shading technique that involves creating parallel lines in close proximity to achieve shading effects. This technique offers flexibility, allowing tattoo artists to create both subtle and bold shading by adjusting the spacing and density of the lines. In this step-by-step guide, tattoo beginners will learn the art of parallel shading.

Step 1: Tattoo Needle Selection

Selecting the appropriate needle is the first crucial step in mastering parallel shading:

  • Needle Type: Choose a round liner needle for parallel shading. Round liner needles consist of a single row of needles in a circular configuration, allowing for precise line work and shading.

  • Needle Diameter: Beginners should opt for a smaller diameter needle, such as 3RL or 5RL, to start with. Smaller-diameter needles offer greater control for fine, detailed parallel shading.

  • Quality and Sterilization: Prioritize the use of high-quality, pre-sterilized needles from reputable suppliers to ensure a safe and sterile tattooing environment.


Step 2: Tattoo Machine Setup

Prepare your tattoo machine for parallel shading:

  • Speed Adjustment: Set the tattoo machine to a moderate speed. A moderate speed provides the control required for consistent and even parallel shading.

  • Voltage Adjustment: Adjust the voltage according to your machine's specifications. Consult your machine's manual for recommended voltage settings to ensure stable operation.


Step 3: Tattoo Ink Dilution

Prepare your tattoo ink for parallel shading:

  • Ink Thinning: To achieve the desired shading effects, slightly thin your tattoo ink by adding a few drops of distilled water. Mix thoroughly until the ink reaches a consistency suitable for smooth shading, thinner than that used for lining but not excessively watery.


Step 4: Stance, Sitting and Hand Position

Position yourself correctly for precise parallel shading:

  • Proper Stance: Maintain a stable 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. Your hand's movement should be controlled and fluid during the parallel shading process. 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: Parallel Shading Technique

Begin the parallel shading process:

  • Initial Lines: Start by creating a series of parallel lines closely spaced to establish the base layer of shading. Keep the lines as consistent and straight as possible.

  • Spacing and Density: Adjust the spacing between the lines to control the shading effect. Closer lines result in darker and bolder shading, while slightly wider spacing creates a softer shading effect.

  • Maintain Consistency: Ensure that the lines are parallel and maintain uniform spacing throughout the shading process. Consistency is key to achieving a polished look.


Step 6: Overlapping Passes

Ensure even and seamless shading:

  • Overlap Lines: To maintain a consistent and solid shading appearance, overlap each pass slightly with the previous lines. This prevents gaps or uneven shading.


Step 7: Monitor Progress

Regularly evaluate your work:

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


Step 8: Patience and Practice

Hone your parallel shading skills:

  • Practice Regularly: Achieving mastery in parallel shading requires dedication and practice. Dedicate time to practicing on synthetic skin or practice pads to refine your technique and build confidence.


Step 9: Clean and Sterilize

Conclude the parallel shading process:

  • After Shading: After completing your parallel 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.


Parallel shading offers endless possibilities for tattoo artists, allowing them to create various shading effects, from subtle gradients to bold contrasts. With dedication and practice, beginners can achieve impressive parallel shading results in their tattoo artwork.

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