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Smooth Shading Techniques: The Power of Curved Magnum Needles in Permanent Makeup

As professional permanent makeup artists, we constantly strive to refine our skills and explore techniques to deliver outstanding results to our clients. In this educational article, we will discuss the art of smooth shading using curved magnum needles, sharing valuable insights and tips to help PMU artists elevate their shading game.

Understanding Curved Magnum Needles: Curved magnum needles are indispensable tools in the realm of permanent makeup shading. These needles are uniquely designed with a curved configuration, featuring a fan-like arrangement of grouped needles. The curvature facilitates optimal pigment distribution, making them highly effective for creating seamless gradients. The results are an airbrush type of pattern

Benefits of Curved Magnum Needles:

  1. Improved Efficiency: The curved shape of magnum needles enables artists to cover larger areas more efficiently. By maximizing the surface contact with the skin, shading procedures can be completed more...

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3 Round Liner vs 3 Round Liner Tattoo Needles

Hello PMU Artists,
Have you ever noticed the differences  in how a 3 Round liner or shader needle are arranged? Maybe you're tattooing and seeing a different pattern when you switch from brow to brow or you notice a color difference.  Maybe your eyeliner got too thick on the inner part...

Of course this can be one of many "needle influencers" such as your speed, stretch angle depth, or pressure, but for a start, I would recommend to take a close look at your needle arrangement.

Are you leading your needle with 1 needle or 2?
Not only can the needle spacing be unique to each needle manufacturer but the needle arrangement is to consider as well.

 If you're trying to create a very thin line on the inner portion of the eyeliner, or a crisp line for lips it is most helpful to recognize exactly how your needles are configured so you can be precise when tattooing. 

Once you pay attention to this you may find yourself rotating your machine  for those tiny details...

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Tattooing Challenging Skin Types


When attooing over any type of damaged skin, realistic expectations are a must. While permanent makeup can help enhance features and conceal imperfections, it may not completely eradicate the effects of damaged skin.

  • MOLES can be incorporated into the design but usually tattooing over a mole isn’t advisable due to unforeseen circumstances such as a mole developing into a cancerous one.
  • REACTIVE SKIN aka skin that reddens immediately can be a challenge when reading your ink.  I find working slowly and getting in the color with least the amount of passes (that make the skin redder) is a good approach. The approach is In/Out/Done.  I may use a larger needle to implant more color quickly, slow my hand speed,  or alter techniques to soft pointillism, (with a smaller needle) which doesn’t redden the skin as much as whip or pendulum shading can.
  • BUMPY SKIN ODDITIES may or may not take color. I point these areas out to my clients because many aren’t...
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Tattoo Needle Storage


This way of storing needles is the best way I've found, so far. Since I may choose 1-3 needles per procedure, it takes time to select needles and return them to the box if I don't use them.

My cabinet stays organized for about 6 months and then I find needles I didn't use loose on the shelves and need to do some organizing. 

Right now I sort by vendor and find that is most useful when reaching for my favorites.


To your PMU success,

PMU Artist & Needle Specialist
Inside Needle Knowledge

Purchase the I.N.K. Course Now

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Curved Magnum Quick Technique Tips


Many techniques can be achieved with most any needle configuration including magnum needles. However, the magnum needles really shine when it comes to efficient coverage with an airbrush quality. The results can be soft or packed in solid. The effect form the magnum configurations are more air brushed looking than pixels that you would get from a round needle.

During the video I demonstrate a few techniques:

  • Stippling:  you can vary pressure for different opacities of color 
  • Small movements such as ovals:  pack in color
  • Pixel short movements on the surface. Either direction works and cross hatching will help blend the color.
  • Long sweeping /brushing movements build the color softly. Wipe and check frequently.
  • Back brushing is great for less color, such as top of the brow, blending down from the lip line for a borderless effect and also for areola edges. It's a personal favorite technique.
  • Moving forward at an angle will...
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Machine Stroke Length

Machine Stroke Length

 Machine stroke length refers to the amount of travel the cam wheel or stroke wheel makes around the machine bearing in one rotation. Machine stroke also refers to how soft or hard of a hit a tattoo machine has. 


It’s common for PMU Artists to use rotary tattoo machines.  Rotary machines have stroke settings anywhere from about 1.8 up to 5.0. Some machines have set strokes and others are adjustable with a turn of the grip (Axys) Some machines come with various cams or stoke wheels that you can replace after taking the machine apart (Xion)

 The stroke affects 3 key factors such as:

  • How hard the machine hits the skin
  • How fast the needle moves up and down
  • The maximum amount of needle throw out of the cartridge tip        

With a short stroke setting such as a 1.8 or 2.5, the cam or stroke wheel has a short distance to travel.  This in turn makes a lower stroke setting a softer hitting machine option...

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Needle Throw

Needle Throw

How far outside the cartridge tip do you extend your needles while tattooing? This is referred to as needle throw or some say needle hang.

There are benefits to a longer needle throw and a shorter needle throw and in the end it will depend on your comfort level.

 Here are considerations for a longer throw verses a shorter throw:

1-Longer needle throw:

There is more precision with more needle visibility and less ink puddling, you control needle depth.

You may need to dip more often if your needle is out too far and doesn’t retract back into the cartridge tip to pick up more ink.

Tip:  I prefer a longer throw for the precision aspect when tattooing the eyes and lining the lips. Seeing the needle clearly makes me feel more comfortable.  However, one  needs to control the depth of the longer needle throw and only work off the tips. To better understand and control the needle depth, use the senses of sight, touch and hearing.

  • See the...
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Digital Tattoo Needles


Do you ever wish you could practice tattooing without ink?   Well, you can with an app.

 There are tattoo apps that let you import a photo, select a variety of needles, color, speed, force/pressure and more.  While the translation isn't exact, exploring  hand movements, machine speed, hand speed, needles, and layering patterns and colors, with an app and Apple Pencil can improve your tattooing skills and techniques for sure.

Below you can see different patterns, combination use of needles from liners to mags and color selections.



The app in the video is called Tatt App by Cody Deegan  available in the Apple App Store.  

The tutorial inside the app ishelpful and the learning curve in the Tatt App is minimal.


To your PMU success,

PMU Artist & Needle Specialist
Inside Needle Knowledge

Purchase the I.N.K. Course Now



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Cross Hatch Shading

There are several ways to tattoo color into the skin and I often used cross hatching so I can achieve both texture and even shading. 

This works with most needle groupings.  If you see too much of a pattern and needle marks in the skin,  try moving the needles in the other direction on your second pass to create a blended shade.

My first pass was vertical and the second pass over it is horizontal.  I didn't wipe in between in this case but sometimes I do to check on the skin and saturation before adding another pass. 

This skin was radiated and is similar to an orange peel texture. Textured and bumpy skin can grab the ink the same over and over  if you move in one direction too many times so cross hatching is helpful for several procedure areas and not limited to just areola.  

 To your PMU success,

PMU Artist & Needle Specialist
Inside Needle Knowledge

Purchase the I.N.K. Course Now

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Permanent Eyeliner Needle Choices

This is an everyday common question PMU artists ask themselves before every procedure.

There are several ways to choose needles and the SKIN is always in the forefront of my choice. When I consider the skin I also include my client’s goals and will come up with a technique based on that.

Then the fun part….choosing my needles

The delicate skin and small lash line requires a small needle configuration. I used precision needles in a .253RL, .253RS available  at Tina Davies.

The liner (RL) gives me a denser pattern for the uppers ( which meets my client’s goals)and the shader (RS) gives me a less dense pattern for the lowers. Using a shader needle and a softer color create a dusting of color for the lowers.

How I use the  selected needles with my machine and hand speed, pressure etc. is where my artistry comes together. ‍


 To your PMU success,

PMU Artist & Needle Specialist
Inside Needle Knowledge

Purchase the I.N.K. Course Now



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Liner Shader Guide

This chart helps you pay attention to your hand speed, machine speed, and hand movements when using liners for a liner effect and shaders for a shaded effect.

It also shows how you can use:

  • Liners for a shaded effect 
  • Shaders for a liner effect

A great go-to chart is just the beginning!