xxx = Why Line With a Shader Fireside Technique EP 29 Why_Line_With_a_Shader__Fireside_Technique__EP_29 Fireside Tattoo Network

Tattoo Techniques: Why Line With a Shader Fireside Technique EP 29

Why Line With a Shader? 

| Fireside Technique | EP 29

 “It looks like we have a wide variety of greys and blacks but really its just the amount pressure I’m putting down with my hand and the speed of my hand…”

–  Jake Meeks

As tattooers sometimes we forget that a tattoo machine is simply a tool which can make a variety of interesting marks. In this episode, instead of following the convention and using a regular liner to pull lines, we explore the idea of using a magnum to create lines. Trying this approach for a tattoo provides a much different look as well as adding new possibilities and tricks to your existing toolkit.

This episode was made possible thanks to:

by Jake Meeks –

Topics: Tattoo Techniques, Needle Groupings, Lining, Fireside Techniques

Taking A More Painterly Approach to the Tattoo

Jake Meeks sculpting a marker drawing of a tree on the client's back

I tend to start a lot of my large scale work with a loose marker drawing, I find it more efficient and a lot faster… its just a more natural way for me to approach it.”

–  Jake Meeks

Starting the Tattoo Stencil with a Loose Marker Drawing

So when it comes to large, flowing, organic work I like to start with a loose marker drawing. It allows me to be quicker in my approach of laying down shapes on the skin in a much more natural way. As I’m blocking in the shapes, I focus more on sculpting the dark and light values rather than focusing on making clean, defined line-work.

The First Pass on the Back Tattoo

Even though some of these lines look halfway solid, they’re really kinda soft at the edges… It looks like a rough charcoal drawing.

– Jake Meeks

Here we are on the first pass. The important part here when working with a magnum is to block in your darks and lights. You want to address any problems or questions the values bring up in this stage so that when you’re adding color later it easily flows in place. The goal is to get a rough value study down, leaving your edges soft and a little loose, similar to a charcoal drawing.

Blocking in Colors


“all of these shapes have been made with a mag… lots of greys and muted tones laid straight over that black, so a lot of my value decisions were already made…”

– Jake Meeks

Moving onto color now, since all my value problems were solved with the black, it was just a matter of glazing right over the tattoo with lots of muted tones to give life to the tree. From there, the background is then glazed right on as well, paying close attention to the positive and negative values as they approach the tree to avoid making the piece too crowded and busy.

Exaggerating Value Contrast in your Tattoo Design

“I’m just now using a liner for the first time… it allows me a lot of freedom to find my darkest points in the tattoo…”

– Jake Meeks

With the color laid in there, now comes the liner. During this phase of the tattoo, I’ll look at the piece as a whole and identify where my darkest darks are needed to help boost the contrast. Even the smallest black line across a field of grays will drastically change the relationship of all those tones. This makes the brighter ones jump more forward while sinking those more muted tones deeper into the background.

The Take-Away From This Technique

“What I’m encouraging you to do with this video is to just explore and experiment… make sure your seeing your tattoos healed…”

– Jake Meeks

So trying this magnum first approach to tattooing is an opportunity to break out of the mold a bit and experiment with your techniques. Try different ways that you may not have thought about doing and see if you end up liking it; always try to challenge yourself as an artist and step out of your comfort zone every now and then.



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Transcript can be found here. All Transcripts can be found here

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 Tattoo Overview video series offers informative, short, and detailed videos geared towards helping artists understand the science and nuances of tattoos and make more informed decisions to improve their work. We often take some of our more technical topics from our Fireside podcast and film an in-depth, narrated, time-lapse video showing exactly how Jake or our featured artists handle certain issues.

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