Discover How Long it Takes to Shade a Tattoo and Make it Look Incredible

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If you have been considering getting a tattoo, you may be wondering “how long does shading a tattoo take?”. Shading is an intricate and important part of any tattoo, and understanding the time frame involved is crucial for any tattoo artist or potential customer. This article will provide the answers to all your questions about how long it takes to shade a tattoo. Read on to get the details and find out what you need to know.


Factors Affecting Shading Time

Factors Affecting Shading Time

Tattoo Size

The size of the tattoo plays a major role in determining how long it will take to shade. The larger the tattoo is, the longer it will take to shade and color.

Tattoo Placement

The placement of the tattoo can also affect the amount of time it takes to shade. Some areas of the body are more difficult to shade and will take longer than other areas of the body.

Tattoo Style

The style of the tattoo is also a factor in how long it will take to shade. Some styles, such as photorealistic tattoos, require more detail and can take longer to complete.

Inks Used

The type of inks used for the tattoo can also affect the amount of time it takes to shade. The lighter and more vibrant the ink, the longer it will take to shade.

Tattoo Artist’s Skill Level

The skill level of the tattoo artist is also an important factor in determining how long does shading take on a tattoo. An experienced and skilled tattoo artist is more likely to complete the tattoo in a shorter amount of time.

Average Shading Time

Average Shading Time

Small Tattoos

Shading a small tattoo can take anywhere from 1-2 hours. The length of time depends on the intricacy of the design and the expertise of the artist.

Medium Tattoos

Medium tattoos require 3 to 6 hours of shading. This time can vary depending on the complexity of the design, the size of the tattoo, and the skill of the artist.

Large Tattoos

The shading of large tattoos can take several hours, ranging from 6 to 12 hours. The amount of time required depends on the size, complexity and intricacy of the design, as well as the skill of the tattoo artist.

Tips for Tattoo Shading

Preparing the Skin

Before starting the shading process, it is important to prepare the skin. This includes making sure that the area is clean and dry, and that any loose skin is trimmed away. It is also important to make sure that the skin is properly stretched out and that any excess oils or lotions have been removed. This will help ensure that the shading process is as smooth and even as possible.

Taking Breaks

Shading a tattoo can be a long and arduous process. Therefore, it is important to take regular breaks to ensure that the skin does not become overworked and that the shading looks as even and smooth as possible. Taking breaks also helps to ensure that the artist does not become too fatigued and can maintain a steady hand throughout the process.

Applying Aftercare

Once the shading process is complete, it is important to apply aftercare to the tattoo. This includes cleaning the area with a mild soap and using a thin layer of a specialized ointment to keep the skin moisturized. It is also important to keep the area protected from the sun and other harsh elements to ensure that the tattoo remains vibrant and that the shading does not fade.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I ensure that my tattoo shading is even?

  • Use the Right Needles: Make sure to use the right sized needles for shading a tattoo. Smaller needles are best for finer details and larger needles are better for wider, broader areas.
  • Start Slowly: Start with a light stroke and gradually build up the pressure as needed. This will help you to create a more even and consistent look.
  • Be Patient: Take your time and be patient when shading a tattoo. This will help to ensure that the shading is even and done correctly.
  • Use Dots: When shading, use small dots as opposed to lines or sweeping strokes. This will help to create a more even and consistent look.
  • Practice: Practice shading on paper or other surfaces to help you gain more control and learn the proper technique.
  • Check Your Work: Regularly check your work while shading a tattoo. This will help to ensure that it is even and that all the details have been taken care of.

What Type of Needle is Best for Shading a Tattoo?

Tattoo needles vary in size and shape, and these are important factors when choosing the right needle for shading a tattoo. For a smooth, even shading, a round shading needle is ideal. These needles are usually grouped in 3, 5, 7, or 9 and work best when the tattoo artist uses a light touch.

For a more defined shading effect, a magnum needle is recommended. These needles are grouped in 5, 7, 9, 11, and 14, with the higher numbers giving a more textured effect. As with round needles, it’s important to use a light touch when shading with magnum needles.

Finally, for a more painterly effect, a flat shading needle is the perfect choice. These needles are generally grouped in 3 and 5 and require the artist to use a firmer touch. However, it’s important to use caution when using a flat needle to avoid creating uneven lines.

What are the Best Techniques for Shading a Tattoo?

Stippling: One of the most popular techniques for shading a tattoo is stippling, which involves tapping the needle into the skin to create a dotted texture. This technique is often used to create smoother transitions of color and texture.

Shading Needles: Tattoo artists commonly use special needles for shading. These needles usually have a curved shape and multiple points that allow for even distribution of ink.

Color Blending: Color blending is a technique used to create a smooth transition between colors. The tattoo artist will slowly mix different colors of ink together by hand to create a gradual shift in tones.

Cross-Hatching: Cross-hatching is a technique used to create a textured effect. It involves making a series of overlapping lines that form a cross-hatched pattern. This technique can be used to create soft shadows or to add depth to a tattoo.

Stroking: Stroking is a technique used to create a smooth, blended look. The artist will use long strokes of the needle to fill in areas with a single color. This technique is often used to shade larger areas.

What factors influence the length of time it takes to shade a tattoo?

The complexity of the tattoo, the skill level of the artist, and the size of the tattoo are the main factors that influence the time it takes to shade a tattoo. A highly detailed and intricate design will take longer to shade than a simpler design, and a larger tattoo will also require more time. Additionally, an experienced artist will be able to shade a tattoo faster than a less experienced one. The amount of ink used and the type of shading technique employed will also affect the length of time it takes to shade a tattoo.

Are There Any Health Risks Associated With Shading a Tattoo?

Shading a tattoo is generally considered safe, but there are risks of infection associated with the process. The introduction of bacteria into the skin can cause inflammation, redness, and pain. The risk of infection is higher when using unsterilized equipment, so it is important to always make sure the tools used for tattooing are cleaned and sterilized. Additionally, using the wrong type of ink or needles can cause irritation or an allergic reaction.


Shading a tattoo may take several hours, depending on the size, complexity and skill of the artist. It is important to discuss the expectations of the finished result with the artist to ensure the best outcome. Professional artists will be able to provide more insight about the length of time needed for a specific tattoo.


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