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Mastering the Art of Tattooing:
20 Essential Technical Tips for Tattoo Beginners

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Last Update on September 20th 2023 By TPS

Tattooing is a blend of artistry and technical precision. As a tattoo beginner, it's crucial to develop strong technical skills to complement your creative abilities. Drawing from years of experience as a professional tattoo artist, we're here to guide you through the critical technical skills you'll need to excel in this craft. Let's dive deeper into these 20 essential technical tips, complete with tips and tricks for the tattoo beginner.

Machine Mastery: The Core of Tattooing

1. Choose the Right Tattoo Machine for you

Choosing the right tattoo machine is a critical decision for any aspiring tattoo artist. It's akin to selecting the perfect brush for a painter or the right lens for a photographer. The tattoo machine is your primary tool, and your choice can significantly influence your tattooing experience and the quality of your work. When starting, it's advisable to begin with a rotary machine. They are user-friendly, relatively lightweight, and offer consistent performance.


Rotary machines are an excellent choice for the tattoo beginner as they require less tuning and maintenance compared to coil machines. As you gain experience and develop your skills, you can explore coil machines, which offer more customization options but demand a deeper understanding of their mechanics. Your choice of machine should align with your comfort level and the style of tattooing you aim to pursue, so take your time, do your research, and consider seeking advice from experienced artists before making this important decision.

Tip: Start with a rotary machine for their user-friendliness and consistency. As you progress, explore coil machines to diversify your skills as coil machine can create smooth lines and better shading.


2. Tattoo Needle Selection is Key

Selecting the right tattoo needles is a fundamental aspect of becoming a skilled tattoo artist. These needles are your tools for creating art on living canvases, so choosing wisely is crucial. Needle selection involves considering factors like the diameter and taper of the needles. The diameter determines the thickness of the needle, affecting the lines and shading you can achieve. Thicker needles are ideal for bold outlines and coloring, while thinner ones are better for fine lines and intricate details. 


As a tattoo beginner, it's advisable to start with a variety of needle sizes to practice and understand how each performs. The right needle can make all the difference in the quality of your tattoo, so take your time to explore and find what works best for your style and technique. Always prioritize hygiene by using sterile, single-use needles to ensure the safety of your clients.


Tip: Begin with standard round liner (RL) and round shader (RS) needles. They are versatile and excellent for the  tattoo beginner.

3. Understanding Tattoo Needle Configuration

Tattoo needle configuration is another essential consideration for aspiring tattoo artists. Configuration refers to how the individual needles, or sharps, are set up on the needle bar, and it plays a significant role in determining the type of tattooing you can achieve. There are various configurations available, including liners, shaders, and magnums, each designed for specific purposes. Liners consist of a small grouping of needles tightly packed together, making them ideal for creating crisp outlines and fine details. Shaders have a broader needle configuration, making them suitable for shading and filling in larger areas. Magnums, on the other hand, are used for soft shading and coloring due to their curved or stacked configuration, which allows for smoother ink distribution.


As a tattoo beginner, it's crucial to understand how different configurations impact your work. Experiment with various needle configurations to develop versatility in your tattooing skills, and as you gain experience, you'll naturally gravitate toward the configurations that best suit your artistic style. Always remember to use sterile, high-quality needles for the safety and satisfaction of both you and your clients


Tip: Familiarize yourself with these configurations to know which needle does what. For instance, 5M1 signifies five needles in a flat configuration, suitable for shading.

4. The importance of Tattoo Needle Sizes

Tattoo needle size is another vital consideration for tattoo artists. It determines the thickness of the lines or the amount of ink that can be deposited in one pass. Needle sizes are measured in gauges, with smaller gauge numbers indicating thicker needles. For instance, a 5RL needle is thicker than a 9RL needle. Thicker needles are commonly used for bold lines and filling, while thinner needles are ideal for intricate details and fine lines. Understanding which needle size to use for a particular design or technique is crucial for achieving the desired results.


Tip: Smaller needle sizes, like 3RL, are perfect for fine lines and intricate details, while larger ones, like 9M1, are suitable for shading larger areas. It's also worth noting that different needle sizes may require adjustments to the tattoo machine's voltage and speed.



5. Tattoo Needle Taper Matters

Needle taper is another critical factor to consider when selecting the right tattoo needle for your work. The taper refers to the length of the pointed portion of the needle and the angle at which it tapers to a fine point. The two common types of needle tapers are short and long.

Short Taper: Needles with a short taper have a shorter pointed section, which makes them suitable for tasks that require precision and control. Artists often use these for intricate details and fine linework.

Long Taper: Needles with a long taper, on the other hand, are designed for tasks that involve shading and coloring. The longer pointed section allows for a gradual ink flow, making it easier to achieve smooth gradients and fill larger areas.

Tip: Selecting the appropriate needle taper depends on the specific technique and style you're aiming to achieve. For the tattoo beginner, experimenting with different tapers during practice sessions can provide valuable insights into how each type handles and how it impacts your work. Over time, you'll develop a better understanding of which taper suits your artistic preferences and tattooing style.

Ink and Color Mastery: The Artistic Touch

6. Quality Tattoo Inks Only Thankyou

Choosing the right tattoo ink is a crucial decision as tattoo ink quality not only affects the vibrancy and longevity of the tattoo but also the overall safety of the process. Tattoo inks come in various formulations, including traditional, vegan, and organic options. Traditional inks are the most commonly used, known for their reliability and color consistency. However, some artists and clients prefer vegan inks, which exclude animal byproducts and are often cruelty-free. Organic inks, made from natural ingredients, appeal to those with sensitivities or allergies.

When selecting tattoo ink, always opt for reputable tattoo ink brands known for their safety standards and consistency. Quality inks ensure that your tattoo heals well, maintains its intended colors, and minimizes the risk of allergic reactions or infections. Additionally, understanding color theory and how different inks blend or dilute during the tattooing process is essential for achieving the desired tattoo shades and effects. Always prioritize the health and satisfaction of your clients by using high-quality, safe tattoo inks in your work.


Tip: Invest in a set of reputable ink brands. Quality inks provide better color retention and reduce the risk of allergic reactions. Be aware of inks sold on Amazon and eBay as there are many that are fake sellers who recreate the ink using bottles and labels from popular brands for a cheaper price. These inks will be fine for practice only.



7. Blending and Shading Techniques

Mastering the art of shading and blending is essential for creating depth, dimension, and realism in your tattoos. Shading involves creating variations in color density to add volume and contours to your design. To achieve smooth and gradual shading, it's crucial to maintain a consistent hand speed and needle depth.


Blending, on the other hand, involves seamlessly transitioning between different colors to create soft, realistic transitions. This technique requires a keen eye for color theory and an understanding of how pigments interact with each other. Practice is key, and experimenting with different needle groupings and techniques will help you refine your shading and blending skills. Don't rush this process; take your time to ensure that your tattoos have the depth and realism that will truly impress your clients.

Tip: Practice creating gradients using ink consistency and hand speed. Experiment with adjusting voltage when using different hand speed to create gradual transitions between light and dark areas are key to realism.

8. Color Theory Proficiency sets you apart

Proficiency in tattoo color theory is fundamental for creating vibrant and visually appealing tattoos. Understanding the color wheel, complementary colors, and color temperature is crucial for achieving the desired results in your artwork. Whether you're going for bold and bright designs or subtle, muted tones, knowing how different pigments interact and how they'll appear on various skin tones is essential.

Continuous learning and experimentation with different color palettes will help you refine your skills and provide your clients with tattoos that stand out for their harmonious and eye-catching colors.

Tip: Study the color wheel and how complementary colors work together. This knowledge will help you create striking and harmonious color combinations. It's also worth noting that ink selection plays a significant role in color theory proficiency, as the quality and composition of your ink can affect the final outcome.

9. Color Matching to clients requirements

Matching tattoo color to a customer's expectation is a critical aspect of providing a satisfying tattoo experience. Effective communication is key here. Before starting the tattoo, have a thorough discussion with your client about their color preferences and what they envision for their design. Show them color swatches or ink samples to help them visualize the options. It's also essential to consider the client's skin tone, as certain colors may appear differently on various skin shades. As a professional tattoo artist, your expertise in color theory will guide you in making recommendations that align with their vision while ensuring the tattoo will look its best on their skin.

Tip: Keep a color reference guide and practice mixing inks to achieve the exact shades your clients desire. Consistency is key. Your client's happiness with the final result often depends on how closely you can match their color expectations, so take the time to get it right.

Safety and Hygiene: Non-Negotiable Practices


10. Sterilization Protocols

Maintaining strict sterilization protocols is absolutely non-negotiable in the tattooing industry. The safety of both the artist and the client hinges on this crucial practice and stops passing on bloodborne pathogens diseases. As a professional tattooist, you should always use single-use, disposable needles and tubes. These should be opened in front of the client, demonstrating your commitment to their safety.

Tip: When using reusable equipment invest in an autoclave for sterilizing equipment. Regularly test it to ensure it's functioning correctly as your clients' safety depends on it.

11. Workspace Setup

Maintaining impeccable hygiene standards and a well-organized workplace setup are essential aspects of being a responsible tattoo artist. Your workspace should be designed for efficiency and cleanliness. Start by thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces, including your chair, worktable, and any equipment that will come into contact with the client. Use barriers like disposable covers on all work surfaces and change them between clients. Additionally, invest in high-quality, easily cleanable furniture and equipment to minimize contamination risks.

Having a dedicated handwashing station in your workspace is crucial. Ensure it's always stocked with

soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. This will not only help you maintain hygiene but also set an example for your clients.

Tip: Use disposable barriers like chair covers and clip cord covers to maintain a sterile environment. Replace them between clients. The use of plastic cling wrap is an economical way to create a hygienically clean environment for you and your customer

12. Glove Protocol

Glove protocol in tattooing is a fundamental aspect of maintaining aseptic conditions and ensuring both your safety and that of your clients. Always start by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water before putting on gloves. Use disposable, nitrile or latex gloves that fit your hands snugly without being too tight. Avoid reusing gloves between clients; each pair should be for single use only.

During the tattooing process, it's essential to wear gloves at all times, even during tasks that don't involve direct contact with the client's skin, like adjusting equipment or handling ink.

After completing a tattoo, dispose of your gloves safely and wash your hands again. Properly disposing of used gloves is a crucial step in maintaining hygiene. By strictly adhering to glove protocol, you demonstrate your commitment to safety and professionalism in the tattooing process, which is vital for building trust with your clients.

Tip: Always have extra gloves on hand. If a glove gets damaged or torn during the procedure, replace it immediately to prevent any potential contamination.

13. Needle Safety

Tattoo needle safety and responsible disposal are paramount in ensuring the well-being of both tattoo artists and clients, as well as maintaining a clean and safe working environment. When handling needles, always exercise extreme caution. Use a sharps container designed for tattoo needle disposal; these containers are puncture-resistant and specifically crafted to safely hold used needles.

Once a tattoo session is complete, immediately place used needles in the sharps container. Never attempt to recap or manipulate used needles by hand. When the container is full, ensure it's sealed tightly and labeled clearly as "Used Tattoo Needles" or similar, in accordance with local regulations.

Tip: Proper disposal of designated medical waste containers is essential. Look in your local area for a designated medical waste disposal facilities that handle sharps containers. Never dispose of used needles in regular trash bins or recycling containers. 

Skin and Technique: The Canvas and the Brush

14. Understanding Skin Types

Understanding the different skin types is fundamental for the tattoo beginner, as it plays a significant role in achieving successful tattoo outcomes. Skin types can vary widely from person to person, ranging from oily to dry, sensitive to resilient. Each type responds differently to the tattooing process.

Oily skin tends to be more challenging for tattooing, as excess oil can make it difficult for ink to settle evenly. Dry skin, on the other hand, may require additional moisturizing to ensure proper healing. Sensitive skin can be prone to irritation, so choosing the right ink and aftercare products is crucial.

It's essential to assess your client's skin type before starting a tattoo to make informed decisions about ink selection, needle depth, and aftercare recommendations. Moreover, as a tattoo beginner, developing this knowledge will help you adapt your techniques for different skin types and provide your clients with the best possible tattoo experience.


Tip: Study various skin types and adapt your technique accordingly. Thin, sensitive skin requires a lighter touch than thick, resilient skin.

15. Practice Tattooing on Synthetic Skin and Fruit

Using synthetic skin and fruit for practice is a valuable step for the tattoo beginner on their journey to refining their tattooing skills and techniques. Synthetic skin, often made from materials like silicone, closely mimics real human skin, providing a controlled and forgiving surface to practice on. It allows the tattoo beginner to hone their techniques, such as needle control, line work, and shading, before working on actual clients.


Starting with fruit, like oranges or grapefruits to tattoo on, can also be beneficial for understanding how a tattoo machine feels in hand and how it interacts with various textures. These practice methods offer a safe and low-pressure environment to build confidence and skills before transitioning to human skin.

Tip: Invest in synthetic practice skin or use fruits like grapefruits to simulate skin texture. These are forgiving surfaces for practicing your skills. However, while synthetic skin and fruit can be excellent tools for practice, they cannot fully replicate the complexities of tattooing on real people and slight changes in your approach will be required.

16. Proper Skin Stretching to create a good working surface

Understanding and mastering the technique of skin stretching is a crucial skill for the tattoo beginner. When tattooing, you'll often encounter different areas of the body with varying skin textures and contours. Properly stretching the skin during the tattooing process helps create a smoother canvas to work on, making it easier to achieve precise lines and shading. It also minimizes discomfort for the client by reducing the sensation of the tattoo needle.


It's important to exercise care and control when stretching the skin; excessive or improper stretching can cause damage or distort the tattoo. Practicing this technique diligently and gradually developing a feel for how the skin responds in different areas of the body will significantly enhance your tattooing skills and the quality of your work.


Tip: Stretch the skin gently and consistently to ensure clean, precise lines. Mastering this technique is crucial for line work.

17. Needle Depth Control

Depth control is a fundamental aspect of tattooing that every tattoo beginner must master. Achieving the correct needle depth ensures that the ink is deposited in the right layers of the skin, leading to a tattoo that looks both vibrant and heals well. Consistency in depth prevents overworking the skin, reducing the risk of scarring and other complications.


To maintain proper depth control, it's essential to familiarize yourself with the different areas of the body, each with its unique skin thickness. Moreover, practice on synthetic skin and, when you're confident, on willing clients to hone your depth perception skills.


Tip: Learn to gauge needle depth by observing how much of the needle's tip is exposed. Practice on practice skin to achieve consistent depth. Patience is key, rushing through this learning phase can result in subpar tattoos. As you gain experience, you'll develop a better sense of how your machine and needles work together, ultimately ensuring the best possible outcome for your clients.

18. Lining Techniques to create clean crisp lines

Creating clean and precise lines is a hallmark of excellent tattoo work. To achieve this, it's crucial for tattoo beginners to focus on mastering their technique. First and foremost, ensure that your machine is appropriately tuned, with the right needle and voltage settings for the task at hand. Practice consistent hand speed and pressure, maintaining a steady rhythm as you work. Keep your hand steady, using both your fingers and wrist to guide the needle.


The angle at which you hold the machine can also affect the line quality; experiment with different angles to find what works best for you. As you practice, pay close attention to your ink flow and avoid going over the same area repeatedly, which can lead to blurring. Regular practice on synthetic skin and diligent attention to your technique will result in beautiful, well-defined lines that are the foundation of any outstanding tattoo.


Tip: When lining, use long, confident strokes rather than short, hesitant ones. It produces smoother lines.

19. Sanitizing Stencils

Using stencils is an invaluable aid for tattoo beginners. They provide a precise outline to work within and help you achieve the design your client desires. When creating or applying stencils, hygiene is of paramount importance. Ensure your hands are thoroughly cleaned and that you're using sanitized tools when handling stencils.


Disposable gloves are a good addition to your hygiene routine. When it comes to applying the stencil to the skin, use stencil transfer solutions that are specifically designed for tattooing. These solutions are safe and won't cause irritation to the skin.

Tip: After use, remember to dispose of any disposable materials properly, and clean and sanitize any reusable stencil tools meticulously. Maintaining a high standard of sanitation throughout the stencil process is not only essential for client safety but also for producing a professional, high-quality tattoo.

20. Critical Eye for Detail

Developing a keen eye for detail is a fundamental skill for tattoo beginners and experienced artists alike. Tattoos are intricate works of art, and even the smallest imperfections can be noticeable. Pay close attention to line work, shading, and color saturation. Continuously refine your ability to spot irregularities and correct them promptly. It's equally vital to listen to your clients' preferences and ensure you capture their vision accurately. A tattoo is a permanent expression of their individuality, and your commitment to precision will not only result in satisfied clients but also establish your reputation as a skilled artist.

Tip: Always have a critical eye when reviewing your work. Identify areas for improvement, and seek feedback from experienced artists to enhance your skills. The littlest of detail can make a big difference in the final outcome of your tattoos.

The Final Thought

Your journey into the world of tattooing requires a strong foundation in technical skills. By implementing these 20 technical tips, accompanied by useful tricks for tattoo beginners, you'll not only develop your craft but also ensure the safety and satisfaction of your clients. Remember that practice and continuous learning are essential in this art form. Happy tattooing, and may your technical prowess shine!

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