When you see a color tattoo, you may not think much about the underlying value structure, but organizing the major dark and light shapes before getting into color is crucial for the tattoo to read well and last a long time in the skin
In this episode of Fireside Technique, we’re diving into the beginnings of a color sleeve by blocking in the dark and light shapes first. Hopefully you will pick up a few tricks and techniques that will provide a solid foundation for your tattoo before laying down any color at all.
Video by Jake Meeks –
Writing by Daniel Pushcarich -
Topics: Tattoo Techniques, Shading, Color Tattoo, Fireside Techniques,
I always recommend starting your color work with bold, black shading. The goal at this stage is to just block in the shadow shapes to quickly define and separate the light and shadow forms.
I’ll typically use this technique in larger pieces and allow the black time to heal so the area can be saturated with color in a follow up session. This stage is all about keeping it simple and working from general to specific.
It’s beneficial to keep in mind that you don’t actually have to mix black, gray, or white into a color to mute it down. Considering that most ink manufacturers have so many shades and variations of different colors now that you’d probably be able to find any transitional or muted hue.
Another trick to consider is just mixing the colors you already have together. Mixing a complimentary is a more clean way to mute a color down. A little bit of purple into yellow, or green into red will give the colors a more natural appearance.
For a more In depth look at this subject check out the deep dive page for:
To get value transitions when shading the major shapes, I focus on hand movement and pressure used with the machine. Keeping the first passes light and soft will act as an underpainting for the rest of the tattoo and allow you to build up saturation gradually.
But again, this phase of the tattoo is all about staying loose and focusing only on describing the major forms.
The best part of keeping the tattoo loose in these stages is that it allows you to iterate and test ideas. Working from broad, general shapes to more specific details is a great way to troubleshoot and make adjustments throughout the tattoo process.
You can see how I’m defining just a few smaller details to help guide myself later. Bumping up some edges to push contrast and help define different shapes apart from each other. Even though I’m adding these small adjustments now I’ll still come in at the very end with a liner and some black to give it that final contrast boost.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your machine should be a natural extension of you and your natural mark making. If you are having to change the way you make a mark to suit how your machine is running, you need to correct the machine so that it is working for you. You’ll save a lot of time down the road with a properly running tattoo machine.
Trying things out is the main thing. Everyone's preferences are different so just taking an opportunity to try different types/styles of machines, grips, cartridges, power supplies etc. Obviously you want to stay within your budget so it's not reasonable to just buy a bunch of machines and parts, but ask some of the people in your shop if you can try out their machine or set up.
If you work with coils and balance seems to be an issue maybe consider rotaries as there are so many fit and form options out there. If you want to stick to Coils then maybe consider taking a class on building/tuning your machine. Extracurricular learning is always a plus because it not only benefits you but it makes the clients experience better.
If you are a beginning tattooer or just struggling to create dynamic designs, we can help.
We would be honored if you would take a look at our Fireside Foundations course. This course introduces the “Fireside Method” of tattoo design. The Fireside Method is a series of design principles that are approached in a specific order starting with the shape of the body we are designing for. Join NOW!
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The Fireside Tattoo Network is home to the Fireside podcast, Fireside Technique video series and our Fireside Weekly blog.
The Fireside Tattoo podcast is hosted by veteran tattooer Jake Meeks, check out our episodes where we discuss, argue and wax philosophical, from tips for all levels of artists to trends in the tattoo world. Many guest artists have sat down for interviews and in-depth conversations and many more are planned…check back often!
Our Fireside Technique video series offers short, detailed how-to videos geared towards helping artists improve their work. We often take some of our more technical topics from our Fireside podcast and film an in-depth, narrated, time-lapsed video showing exactly how Jake or our featured artists handle certain issues.
Tattoo technique is, no doubt, an art of its own. Like any skill or trade, tattooing has been closely guarded by tattooers throughout modern history. We take a different approach here at Fireside. Our goal is to embrace the information age by making a conscious effort to help artists of all skill levels solve their technical tattoo challenges.
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