There's a lot of ground to cover when it comes to the basics of tattooing. Most will learn through apprenticeships, but there's a benefit in doing research independently as well. This blog is a brief look at three fundamentals of tattooing.


Lining - lining is the technique used to create the basic shape of a tattoo. They can vary from thin to thick. There's a common technique known as “building up” lines by using multiple passes very close together to create a thicker line. Lining is a beneficial skill in tattooing and crucial in all tattoos because they can provide definition to the design. 

Three Fundamentals of Tattooing

Photo by: Thiago Barletta

Shading - Shading creates depth in tattoos, typically done with black ink. There are vast techniques you can use to create darker or lighter shadows. Artists can start with heavier pressure at the beginning of a stroke, lightening touch as they lift the needle off the skin at the end of the stroke. There are other methods for creating a lighter shade, too. Some artists will add white to black to make a custom gray. Others choose to add more water or other fluid to their black. It's important for an artist to understand how light falls and how to translate that.

Three Fundamentals of Tattooing

Photo by: Allef Vinicius

Lettering - First and foremost, make sure you spell everything correctly because there are no do-overs. Spacing is a factor that comes in when lettering because you don't want the letters to run together and be eligible. One helpful element is taking your time.  (Fun fact: Tattoo is one of the most common misspelled words). 

Three Fundamentals of Tattooing

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Cover photo by: Emiliano Vittoriosi