Shading Tips Using a Magnum Tattoo Needle

By Heather Savant
The 3D effects of this tattoo were created using different magnum shaders.

Magnum tattoo needles are also called magnum shaders because each shader is made of tattoo needles either stacked in rows or clustered into a circle. Magnum shaders work to provide depth and character to the colors put into the tattoo. Different sized shaders provide different effects. The size of the shader is determined by the number of needles it contains. For example, a 10 magnum round shader would contain 10 needles clustered together.

Flat Magnum Shaders

The shading done in the tale of this dragon was probably done using a flat shader to give it the

Flat magnum shaders are best used to areas that require curvature, such as hair. They can be angled to curve in a swooping line to give the illusion of flowing hair, water, or wind. Use larger flat magnum shaders, such as an 11, to cover a larger area of the tattoo. For a smaller area, use a smaller flat magnum shader, such as a 5. Flat magnum shaders contain two rows of needles, with the top row having fewer needles than the bottom row. This allows the tattoo artist to provide shading without the effects of "lines" in the tattoo that often occurs with single-row flat shaders.

Round Magnum Shaders

The flowers in this woman's tattoo were probably filled in with round shaders.

Round magnum shaders are used to fill in areas of the tattoo that require depth induced by shading or detail. Round shaders are used to fill in the smaller areas of the tattoo as opposed to a flat magnum shader due to their maneuverability. They work well in shading in large areas as well as they can fill in the area quickly, unlike flat magnum shaders. Round magnum shaders come in various sizes, from a 3 (three needles grouped together) to a 15. Round shaders hold more ink and are moved in a circular motion no more than three times in an area to fill in the area with color.

Using Shaders

Start with a darker color when shading in an area, and add the lighter color to give it a shaded effect. Use flat magnum shaders for flowing areas, such as hair and waves. Use round magnum shaders for smaller detailed areas such as flowers or large areas needing a lot of color like hearts.

Things to Avoid

Moving flat magnum shaders in a circular motion will rip skin and cause serious scarring.

When tattooing, be sure not to go further down than 1/16-to-1/32-of-an-inch into the skin. Doing so can cause excessive bleeding and unnecessary pain. Excessive bleeding can cause the ink to bleed out, ruining the tattoo. Blood poisoning can occur from the ink going to far into the skin and getting into the bloodstream.

About the Author

Heather Savant has written professionally since 2008. She currently writes for the Virginia Gardener website in addition to contributing articles to various other online outlets. She published a poem in the book "A Question of Balance" in 1992. Savant holds a bachelor's degree in human services counseling from Old Dominion University.