What Angle Do You Tattoo At?

Close up of tattoo machine needle angle
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Credit: Better Tattooing

Tattooing is a unique art form that combines creativity, technique, and precision. One essential aspect of tattooing is the angle at which the tattoo needle enters the skin.

In this article, we will discuss different tattoo angles, the factors that influence them, and the techniques used to achieve the desired results.

Understanding Tattoo Equipment

Before diving into tattoo angles, it’s crucial to understand the equipment used during the tattooing process.

Tattoo Machines

Tattoo machines are the primary tool used by tattoo artists. There are two main types of tattoo machines: coil and rotary. Both types can be adjusted to accommodate different needle depths and stroke lengths.


Tattoo needles come in various sizes, groupings, and configurations. The two primary needle types are liners, used for creating lines and outlines, and shaders, used for filling and shading.


Tubes, also known as grips, hold the needles and provide a comfortable handle for the tattoo artist. They also play a role in controlling the needle’s angle and depth.

Tattoo Angles and Techniques

There are several tattoo techniques, each requiring a specific angle and needle configuration.


Lining is the process of creating the outline of a tattoo design. It usually requires a steady hand and precise needle control. The angle for lining is typically around 45 degrees, allowing the artist to create clean, crisp lines.


Shading is the technique used to add depth, dimension, and gradients to a tattoo. The angle for shading can vary, but it’s generally between 45 and 90 degrees. This range allows the artist to manipulate the needle and achieve the desired shading effect.

Color Packing

Color packing is the process of filling in a tattoo design with solid color. The angle for color packing is similar to shading, typically between 45 and 90 degrees. However, the artist may use a higher angle to pack color more densely.

Factors Affecting Tattoo Angle

Several factors can influence the angle at which an artist tattoos, including:

Skin Type

Different skin types require different approaches to tattooing. For example, thin or delicate skin may necessitate a gentler touch and a shallower angle, while thicker skin may require a steeper angle to ensure proper ink penetration.

Tattoo Location

The location of the tattoo on the body can also affect the angle used by the artist. Curved areas, like the arm or leg, may require adjustments to maintain a consistent angle throughout the design.

Tattoo Design

The complexity and style of the tattoo design can also impact the angle at which it is tattooed. Intricate designs or those with fine details may require a shallower angle to ensure precision, while bold designs might benefit from a steeper angle for better ink saturation.

Common Tattoo Angles

There are two main angles that tattoo artists commonly use during the tattooing process:

45-Degree Angle

The 45-degree angle is most commonly used for lining, as it provides a comfortable position for the artist and allows for precise, clean lines. It is also frequently used for shading and color packing, as it offers good ink penetration without causing unnecessary trauma to the skin.

90-Degree Angle

The 90-degree angle is less commonly used, but it can be helpful for certain techniques, such as packing color in dense areas or working on harder-to-reach parts of the body. This angle may cause more trauma to the skin, so it should be used with caution and only when necessary.

Adjusting Tattoo Angles for Different Techniques

Tattoo artists must be able to adjust their angles depending on the technique they are using and the desired outcome. For example, when shading, an artist may start at a 45-degree angle and gradually increase the angle as they move from lighter to darker areas. Similarly, when color packing, an artist may use a steeper angle to ensure proper ink saturation.

It’s essential for artists to continually assess and adjust their angles as they work to achieve the best possible results.

Tattoo Aftercare and Healing

Proper tattoo aftercare is crucial for ensuring a smooth healing process and preserving the quality of the tattoo. Some essential aftercare tips include:

  1. Keep the tattoo clean and moisturized using a mild soap and fragrance-free lotion.
  2. Avoid exposing the tattoo to direct sunlight or soaking it in water for prolonged periods.
  3. Avoid picking or scratching the tattoo, as this can cause scarring or ink loss.
  4. Follow your tattoo artist’s specific aftercare instructions.


The angle at which a tattoo is applied plays a significant role in the overall outcome and appearance of the design. By understanding the different angles, techniques, and factors that affect tattooing, both artists and clients can work together to achieve the best possible results. Remember, proper aftercare is crucial to ensure a smooth healing process and maintain the tattoo’s quality.


1. How do I know if my tattoo artist is using the correct angle?

A skilled tattoo artist will have a firm understanding of the appropriate angles for different techniques and will adjust them as needed throughout the process. If you’re unsure, ask your artist about their approach and why they choose certain angles.

2. Can I request my tattoo artist to use a specific angle?

While you can certainly discuss your preferences with your tattoo artist, it’s essential to trust their expertise and allow them to make the best decisions for your tattoo.

3. How can I ensure proper ink penetration without causing skin trauma?

Using the correct angle and needle depth is crucial for achieving proper ink penetration without causing unnecessary skin trauma. A skilled tattoo artist will know how to balance these factors for the best results.

4. What should I do if my tattoo is not healing properly?

If you suspect your tattoo is not healing correctly or experience signs of infection, contact your tattoo artist or a medical professional for guidance.

5. How long does it take for a tattoo to heal?

The healing process for a tattoo typically takes about 2-4 weeks. However, the full healing process, including the deep layers of skin, can take up to a few months.

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