Creating and Applying Tattoo Stencils

The next step is making and applying the stencil, which is basically your outline. A stencil is the best way to get started. You can either use a pre-made stencil or make your own on paper. If you’re making your own it’s best to make a copy in black and white first and then do one in full color with solid outlines in black. Once you have both copies of your stencil complete. It is time to transfer your idea over to the skin.

Now, it’s time to put your image on the tracing paper. You will need to moisten the skin and slowly apply the tracing paper onto the skin, making sure the ink is facing down. Next, slowly remove the paper from the skin. You’ll notice there is a nice outline left on the skin where it has transferred. Let this dry before moving to the next step.

After the design has been transferred onto your customer and he/she is satisfied with the placement and location, you can begin the actual tattoo work.


Before getting started with this part of the process always make sure both you and your client are positioned comfortably. You’ll both be in that position for awhile so this is important. Remember the outline is the foundation for building the rest of the tattoo. If the outline isn’t good the rest of the tattoo won’t be either. Always make sure to check over your machine first and make sure everything is in order before getting started.

Before getting started with the outline it’s a good idea to keep a few guidelines in mind first. Always tattoo forward or sideways with the machine. This ensures the needles always have a backward pressure so there will be a continual flow of ink in the machine tube.

Remember that tight skin is a must to creating a good tattoo. The hand that is not gripping the tattoo machine must be used to keep the skin pulled taut. If you do not do this and tattoo on loose and saggy skin the art of your tattoo will suffer in the end.

The first step in beginning your outline is to dip the machine tip into the outlining color, which is normally black. This should be done before the machine is ever even turned on. The reservoir should be filled with ink so you can continue for a little while and create the first few lines easily.

Begin your outlining from the bottom of the design and work your way up. After the first few initial lines are done, be sure to stop and see what they look like to ensure there are no problems such as faint lines, etc. After this you’ll need to dip the tip into the ink several times to get the outline accomplished. Work to make your lines in one long motion. Remember to fill the tip every few seconds to avoid running dry. Avoid pressing too hard and always start at the top of a line.

After the tattoo outline is complete you can step back and take a break. Be sure to check it to ensure there is no need for touchups. Now you’re ready to continue with the rest of the tattoo, which is shading.

Shadowing and Shading

Generally shading with black is known as shadowing. This type of work is very eye-catching and attractive. Unfortunately, if the black shading is not done correctly it can really be the downfall of the tattoo. There is definitely an art form to learning to shade correctly. Black is a very bold color and it is important to master the appropriate techniques of shading. Besides simply applying black on the skin, to learn to shade right you need to learn the idea behind light and shadow to create a realistic shadow. This requires practice and lots of it. It there is one area that you need to master this would be it.

Always remember you can correct a wide variety of mistakes if you are able to shadow and shade with black. In fact, in the tattoo industry, artists are often judged by how well they can shade and shadow with black.

Basic Steps to Shading

Remember to use a 4 or 6 needle shader as well as the proper tube, with the needles sticking out 1/32 of an inch from the tip.

To start a shadow, begin with the blackest areas first and then work your way toward the lightest areas. Remember to work in circular motions but make sure you don’t overwork it or you’ll have black ink everywhere.

A technique known as sweep shading is used for both color and black shading. The tip of the tattoo machine is moved forward. As you move forward you will need to flick your wrist upward. Remember the sweep shading method requires extensive practice to get it right. It is important to make sure you get this technique right because it is often used for larger tattoos that require a lot of color and intricate designs.

To set up for sweep shading you will need to set the needles further apart. Instead of setting them at 1/32” they will need to be set at 1/16”. Increasing the depth will provide the depth needed for color.

To achieve a good color shading make sure you maintain constant, flowing and tight circles. Avoid shading an area more than once to avoid doing damage to the skin. Try not to press too hard on the needle tube as you move it over the area. When you complete an area, be sure to wipe it and then check to see if any touchups are required. Make sure you wipe away the excess ink so you can check the area that should be shaded.

Be aware you will need to follow a certain color sequence to achieve the best tattoo possible. Colors must be inserted in certain orders in order to avoid dulling, clouding and mixing of colors. Colors should be inserted in the following order:

Dark purple
Light Purple

Make sure you wait a few moments between colors before starting the next color. This allows the colors to set and reduces the chances of clouding.


After the Tattoo Session

After the tattoo session has been completed you will need to sterilize andyou’re your tools away. This is very important because it ensure safety and organization. Be sure to place your machines in an Ultrasonic Cleaner for at least 30 minutes and wipe down everything handled during the procedure. The floor of the area should also be mopped and all trash taken out. Remember to close the bags and staple them.

After you remove the needle bars and glass tubes from the Cleaner they will need to scrubbed. After drying it off and then checking it to ensure there is no excessive wear it can be reused.

Sterilization should be your number one priority! If you don’t, you can not only get in a lot of trouble and be put out of business, but you also run into many huge health issues.


Becomming a Professional