Proper Magnum Shading Techniques

Written by alec cunningham
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Proper Magnum Shading Techniques
Both a flat magnum shader and a round magnum shader were used to create this tattoo. (Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Tattooing is an art form that requires much practice to perfect. There are multiple needles that can be used to apply certain techniques to a tattoo. A liner needle is used to outline a tattoo, while flat and round magnum needles are used for shading after the outline has been completed. While a tattoo can be created without the use of one or the other, each needle works to provide a certain depth, creating an all around better looking tattoo.

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Flat Magnum Shader

Flat magnum shaders can be purchased with different amounts of needles. The amount of detail that can be added to a tattoo depends on how many needles the shader contains. Shaders with more needles are generally used to tattoo larger areas. A flat magnum shader is designed with two rows of needles. One row will usually have less needles than the other to give a more lifelike effect to a tattoo. This type of needle is used to create a flowing, wispy look.

Round Magnum Shader

Round magnum shaders also come in a variety of sizes. Needles are grouped in a circle on round magnum shaders. For smaller areas, use a smaller shader that contains less needles. Round magnum shaders hold more ink than flat magnum shaders and should be used when filling in intricate designs where multiple tones and shades of a colour will be used. For lighter shading, dip the needle in water before tattooing the skin to create a smoother look.

Tattooing Motion

Flat magnum shaders should never be moved in a circular motion; this can cause the skin to scratch, leading to excess bleeding and potential scarring. Flat magnum shaders should be used in a linear motion for the best effect. Round magnum shaders, however, should be used in a circular motion. Circling over an area no more than three times is enough to cover it. Only with practice will you be able to get a feel for exactly how certain needles should be used.


While using a magnum shader may seem relatively simple, incorrect use can result in negative consequences. Adjust the depth of the needle to make sure that it does not penetrate too deeply into the skin. Do this by rotating the dials above the gun's handle. As always, remember to sterilise the needle, gun, skin and tattooing area before and after the tattooing process. Never reuse a tattooing needle.

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