How to Shade Tattoos With Graywash

Written by izzy barden
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How to Shade Tattoos With Graywash
Gray wash shading is a much used tattoo technique. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Gray wash, in tattoo terminology, is a 50/50 blend of black ink and water, creating a grey colour that is ideal for shading. If done correctly, shading a tattoo can take it from a flat, two-dimensional image to a full and realistic three-dimension image, but should only be attempted by experienced artists. Gray wash ink is most commonly used in portrait tattoos, scripts and any other black and grey, colourless tattoo design.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Tattoo gun
  • Tattoo shading needles
  • Gray wash ink
  • Alcohol solution
  • Clean paper towel

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  1. 1

    Attach the desired shading needles to the tip of a tattoo gun.

  2. 2

    Dip the needles into grey wash ink to create a solid grey shade. If you want a lighter shade, dip the inked needle into sterile water.

  3. 3

    Tilt the tattoo gun so the needles are at an angle when they come in contact with the skin.

  4. 4

    Press the foot switch lightly to bring the tattoo gun to life and sweep the needles across the skin in a brushing motion. The motion is key to creating a fading effect.

  5. 5

    Squirt alcohol solution onto a clean paper towel and wipe the area before dipping the needle into more ink and continuing the tattoo.

Tips and warnings

  • The depth of the needles into the skin will produce darker or lighter shades. The deeper the needles inject, the darker the shading. Light shading should barely pierce the skin.
  • Always make sure to sterilise all tattoo equipment before using. Constant cleaning of the tattooed area is necessary during its application and healing process.

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