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Tattoo How To's

Whip Shading: A Step by Step Guide for Tattoo Beginners

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Last Update on October 9th 2023 By TPS

Whip shading is an advanced tattooing shading technique that involves moving the tattoo machine in a sweeping motion while applying ink. It creates a textured appearance and is often used to add depth and realism to elements like fur, fabric, or foliage. Here's a step-by-step guide for beginners to master whip shading.

Step 1: Tattoo Needle Selection

Choosing the right needle is crucial for whip shading:

  • Magnum Needle: For whip shading, you should use a magnum needle. Magnum needles have multiple needles grouped together in a straight or curved configuration. The number of needles may vary (e.g., 7M1, 9M1), but a 7M1 or 9M1 magnum is a good starting point for beginners.

  • Needle Configuration: Magnum needles come in different configurations. The "M" stands for magnum, and the number represents the arrangement of needles in the needle bar. A 7M1, for example, has a single row of seven needles in a straight line.

  • Needle Size: The size of the magnum needle determines the width of the shading. A smaller magnum needle (e.g., 7M1) is ideal for finer whip shading, while a larger one (e.g., 9M1) covers more significant areas.

  • Quality and Sterilization: Always use high-quality, pre-sterilized needles from reputable suppliers. Sterilization is essential to maintain a safe and sterile tattooing environment.


Step 2: Tattoo Machine Setup

  • Adjust the Machine Speed: Set the tattoo machine to a moderate speed. A slower speed allows for better control during whip shading.

  • Voltage Adjustment: Adjust the voltage to ensure the machine runs smoothly without excessive vibration. The ideal voltage may vary depending on your machine and needle setup, so consult your machine's manual for guidance.


Step 3: Tattoo Ink Dilution

  • Thinning the Ink: To achieve the desired textured effect, you'll need to thin your tattoo ink slightly. Add a few drops of distilled water to the ink and mix it thoroughly until you reach the desired consistency. It should be thinner than ink used for lining but not overly watery.


Step 4: Stance, Sitting and Hand Position

  • Proper Stance: Maintain a stable and comfortable stance. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your body should be positioned comfortably over the tattoo area.

  • 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 sweeping 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: The Whip Shading Motion

  • Start Slow: Begin with a slow and controlled sweeping motion. Allow the needles to make contact with the skin gently. This initial pass creates a base layer.

  • Gradual Increase: Gradually increase the speed and intensity of the sweeping motion as you move the machine back and forth. The goal is to build up the texture and shading gradually.

  • Varying Pressure: Experiment with varying the pressure applied to the machine. Lighter pressure creates lighter shades, while slightly heavier pressure adds depth and texture.


Step 6: Overlapping Passes

  • Overlap Strokes: To ensure even coverage, overlap each pass slightly with the previous one. This prevents gaps or uneven shading.


Step 7: Monitor Progress

  • Frequent Checks: Regularly pause and step back to assess your progress. Ensure the shading is consistent and textured as desired.


Step 8: Patience and Practice

  • Practice Makes Perfect: Whip shading requires patience and practice. Don't rush the process; take your time to master the technique.


Step 9: Clean and Sterilize

  • Post-Shading: After completing whip shading, clean the tattooed area and apply any necessary ointments or dressings. Dispose of used needles properly and sterilize your equipment for the next session.


Remember, whip shading is an advanced technique, and it may take time to become proficient. Practice on synthetic skin or practice pads before attempting whip shading on human skin to build your skills and confidence.

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