There are two sides to shading a tattoo, the technical side and the artistic side. The artistic side takes many years of practice, which I suggest you study art books that cover pencil shading, color blending, color matching, and light reflection. The best way you can practice art is by repetition. Look at every thing, and then try to draw it. Pay attention to lighting. One rule of shadowing is that in light reflection the shadowed part of the image will be in the direct opposite position of the lighted section. The human eye can distinguish fourteen shades of grey. White is the absence of grey where black is the saturation of grey. White (skin tone) would be the shade one and the black will be the fourteenth shade. While shading you should do the best you can to use all fourteen shades. When shading you the dark line and the light line. The dark line is the darkest part of the area that will be shaded and the light line will be the lightest part. The dark line doesn't always have to be black, just like the light line won't always be white. You have to determine how dark the beginning area will be and how light the end is before you start and area. This is the measure of hues. A hue is the value of a color. If you take a line that fades form solid black to solid white then the black would be 100%, the white of the line would be 0% and the middle would be 50%. So if I said that your dark line need to be 35% and your light line needed to be 15% you would know that the line or area that needed to be shaded would be rather light. A good way to practice this theory on paper is to draw a number of lines each at a different length. At one side write a 100% and the other write 0%. At the 100% line make a solid black square as dark as you can get it. Then try to shade out the side of the box that goes toward the 0% until you can no longer see where the box started and the shading began. Use a pencil and don't smudge the graphite, this will not help you in tattooing. You should shade by going over the area many times instead of just pushing harder.
To understand the technical side of shading, you must understand that shading with a tattoo machine is a combination of times gone over, dilution of pigment, the speed you follow through with, and depth. Think of the skin depth the same way you would a light and dark line, in percentages. Unlike with a pencil where you get a darker line by pushing hard, tattoo pigment is as dark as it's going to get. If you push harder you will dig and scar the skin. Instead, we get lighter by diluting the pigment with water, witch hazel, or distilled water. The act of diluting the pigment to get a lighter affect is called washing. When you hear someone say I got a grey wash tattoo that means that the artist used only black and washed out the pigment to shade the image. There are two main methods of washing pigment, this would be pre mixing wash, and on the spot washing. To have an affective wash you need at least four main pigment densities. This includes solid black, dark wash, medium wash and light wash. To pre mix, you need three empty pigment bottles. The darkness of your wash is a personal thing that varies depending on the artist, so you will have to see what works for you. Line the bottles up in a row. I prefer 1oz bottles to keep it simple. Drip solid black pigment in each bottle according to how dark you want them to be. My pre mix (I use pre mix very little) is ten drops for dark wash, seven drops for medium wash, and three drops for light wash. Then you fill the bottles the rest of the way with distilled water. Make sure they are close tightly, and then shake them up well to mix the pigment. Make sure to mark each bottle because on the outside they will all look black.
The other form of grey wash is "freehand" or "on the spot" mixing. I prefer freehand but it takes time to learn is well, and you need to use the same black on a regular basis to get the feel for how it will dilute. If I were setting up for a grey wash tattoo I would have a large cap of black and four empty large caps. Sometime before I would begin tattooing I will fill the empty caps with water from the water spray bottle. If you dip your needle in black, then it's black, though you will use solid black very little during grey wash. If you dip your needle in black and then the first empty cap, you have dark wash. Dip in black, first empty cap, then the second you have a lighter wash. Dip in both and then the third you have medium, and so on until you get light. After a time of tattooing you will no longer need to use the black, each cap will take on a color of its own. You may have to periodically add water as the caps empty. It takes a while to get use to this method, but it allows you much more control over the hue value placed in each shaded area. Using speed of your movement is very important during shading. If you go slowly, then you will have a darker area filled in, just like the sponge. When I shade or color blend, my hand moves so fast that it's hard to not see my hand as a blur. Since you will have to move fast to get a light hue you will have to drag the needle or shade in the direction of your dominant hand. If you try to push the needle you will get stuck under the skin leaving a very dark spot and hurting your client. Your needle is only so wide. Because of this you will have to work your way up the dark line. Moving fast up the line will help you better blend the hue in so it looks like a solid area instead of a bunch of lines coming from the line. Practice this on paper with a pencil.
If one hundred percent of the needle depth is 2mm then fifty percent is 1mm. you should pull the machine out of the skin as you come to the lighter side of the area. This is called whip shading, due to the appearance of you whipping the machine. When shading or coloring a tattoo you need to keep in your mind that you can always add to a tattoo never take away, so you would shade light then get darker until you are satisfied with your out come. The starting point of the needle braking skin will always be darker due to the inability for measurement. You can not tell how dark your line will be until you see it in the skin. Your starting point will need to be your dark line. Let's say you are using a light washed grey to shade a line. You would shade out from the dark line very lightly but quick to about the 50% mark pulling the needle out of the skin by the 75% mark in a straight direction, not circles. Repeat this all the way up the dark line till it looks like a light, but solid hue. Always go in one direction, using whip shading start from dark line to light. If you use circles during wash, the hue will be too dark. Then starting back at the beginning of the dark line, do the same thing but reduce the length by ten percent every time. So the second pass will be from the dark line to 40%, pulling out by 65%. Repeat this until you get all the way to back to the dark line. Getting shorter strokes as you progress will give the area the shaded look. Even though you are using one hue of wash, every time you go over an area it will get a little darker. This is how you get the hue value form 100%
black to 0% white, or which ever value that you may choose. Going over each area several times is very hard on the skin; this is why we use different values of wash. If you know an area will be light then you will use a light wash, and a dark wash for a darker area. This way you don't have to go over something fifty times to get it dark enough. As you progress with this technique you will see how to shade a larger line with each wash hue to make a more dramatic change form white to solid black.
Color washing and blending is the same technique but less stuff. Black pigment is more watery and so dark; we have to use the mixes to get the desired hues. Color pigment is thicker and easier to work with. Lets say that I'm going to shade with only red. The dark and light line would still apply but you don't need a bunch of empty caps for each color. I would make sure my black or other pigment is full washed out of the tube, and then I would dip in the water designated for the red pigment. If I dip in the water quickly while the machine is running, then I have an 80% hue of red. I count two seconds then I have about a 50% hue, or a medium wash. Three seconds washed out the red for a 20% (light) wash. You simply shade with the light, then work your way to the solid red, blending it till smooth. You can wash any color just like you can with black and grey. The use of at least a seven mag during wash fading will make your tattoos look so much better. If you try to wash with a round it will work, but not nearly as smooth. All of the needles in a mag are right in a row, so as long as you run the mag flat on the skin they will all puncture at the same depth. A lining needle is round, by the time you get to the level of the needle that gives you the widest coverage, you're at half depth. The needles on the bottom are much deeper in the skin then the center needles. Since they are deeper they leave a darker mark giving your blending distinguishable lines. The smoother the shading transition form dark to light, the more realistic your tattoo will look, which leads me to another technique.
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Black with grey shading tattoo arts are like a representation of who you are and they have a power and magic of their own. This Tattoo tutorial is covering how to do black and gray portrait tattoo techniques. Learn about black with grey shading tattoo art and explore the exceptional techniques of making some beautiful designs.