Shading vs Outline Pain

What Hurts More: Shading or Outlining Tattoo? Plus, How to Reduce Pain.

Hey there, brave soul! So, you’re thinking about getting inked, huh? Or maybe you’re just curious about the art of tattooing. Either way, you’ve probably wondered: “What hurts more, shading or outlining a tattoo?” Well, buckle up, because we’re about to dive into the nitty-gritty of pain when getting a tattoo.

Now, before we start, let’s get one thing straight: getting a tattoo is not a walk in the park. It’s more like a walk over hot coals…while being poked with tiny needles. But hey, beauty is pain, right? And nothing screams “I’m a tough cookie” more than a beautifully crafted piece of body art. 

We’ll dissect the tattoo process, compare the pain levels of outlining and shading, and even throw in some handy tips to manage the pain. Because we’re nice like that. So, grab a comfy seat (you might want to sit down for this), and let’s get started!

Let’s Understand The Process of Both

So, what’s the deal with tattoos? Well, it’s essentially a process where a skilled artist uses a special machine to insert ink into the second layer of your skin, the dermis. Sounds fun, right? 

Now, there are two main steps in this process: outlining and shading. 

  • Outlining, also known as line work, is where the artist traces the design onto your skin. Think of it as drawing with a pen, but the pen is a needle, and the paper is your skin. It’s the skeleton of your tattoo, the foundation upon which everything else is built. 
  • Shading, on the other hand, is like coloring in a coloring book. Except the coloring book is your skin, and the crayons are, you guessed it, needles. Shading gives depth and dimension to the tattoo, making it pop and come to life.

You can follow this guide to better understand the process of getting a tattoo done.

Now that we’ve got that down, let’s move on to the juicy part: which one of these lovely procedures hurts more?

Pain in Tattoo Outlining

tattoo outline pain
Instagram @michellelynntattoo

Let’s start with outlining. Imagine a tiny, very sharp needle, rapidly poking into your skin. Sounds like a good time, right? Well, that’s essentially what outlining feels like. 

The lining process uses a group of needles to create a thin, precise line. It’s like a bunch of tiny bee stings, all in a neat little row. The pain can be quite intense, especially if the tattoo is in a sensitive area. 

But here’s the kicker: the pain of outlining can vary depending on several factors. For instance, the type of needle used, the location of the tattoo, and even your personal pain tolerance can all affect how much it hurts. 

Some people describe the pain as a sharp, intense sting, while others say it feels like a constant scratching sensation. One thing’s for sure, though: it’s definitely not a tickle fight.

Pain in Tattoo Shading

tattoo shading pain
Instagram @michellelynntattoo

Now, let’s talk about shading. If outlining is like a swarm of angry bees, shading is more like a horde of mildly annoyed ants. It’s less of a sharp, stinging pain and more of a constant, dull ache. 

During shading, the tattoo artist uses a different type of needle to fill in the design with color or gradients. This process can feel like a deep, vibrating sensation. Some people even find it somewhat soothing. (Hey, we’re not here to judge!)

But don’t let that fool you. Shading can still pack a punch, especially if it’s done over a large area or in a sensitive spot. And just like with lining, the pain can vary depending on different factors. 

So, is shading a walk in the park compared to outlining? Well, it’s more like a walk in a slightly less scary park…with slightly fewer angry bees.

Comparing the Pain: Outlining vs Shading

Alright, it’s time for the million-dollar question: which one hurts more, lining or shading? Well, the answer is…it depends. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming!)

You see, pain is a funny thing. It’s subjective and can vary greatly from person to person. What feels like a minor annoyance to one person might feel like a torture session to another. 

Some people find outlining more painful due to the sharp, intense nature of the pain. Others find shading more uncomfortable because of the constant, vibrating sensation. 

And then there are factors like the location of the tattoo, the size and complexity of the design, and even your state of mind during the session. 

So, in the battle of outlining vs shading, the winner is…well, there’s no clear winner. But if we had to give a general answer, many people tend to find the outlining process to be more painful due to the sharp, precise nature of the needlework. However, remember that everyone’s experience can vary, and what’s most important is to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the process.

Here’s what some tattoo artists say about their experience with lining or shading pain tolerance.

Tips to Manage Tattoo Pain

Now that we’ve thoroughly scared you with all this talk of pain, let’s switch gears and talk about how to manage it. Because believe it or not, getting a tattoo doesn’t have to be a torturous experience. Here are some tips to help you keep the pain in check:

  • 1. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water before your session. Hydrated skin tends to take the ink better and might lessen the pain.
  • 2. Get a Good Night’s Sleep: Being well-rested can help your body cope with the stress of getting a tattoo.
  • 3. Eat a Good Meal: Having food in your stomach can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent you from feeling faint during the session.
  • 4. Avoid Alcohol: Contrary to popular belief, getting drunk before a tattoo session is a bad idea. Alcohol thins your blood, which can lead to excessive bleeding and poor healing.
  • 5. Use a Numbing Cream: There are over-the-counter numbing creams available that can help reduce the pain. Just make sure to discuss this with your tattoo artist first.

Remember, pain is a part of the tattoo experience, but it doesn’t have to ruin it. With the right preparation and mindset, you can walk out of the tattoo studio with a badass piece of art and a cool story to tell!

You can also go more in-depth with handling pain through this guide.


So there you have it, folks! The lowdown on tattoo pain, the difference between outlining and shading, and some handy tips to keep the ouchies at bay. 

Just keep in mind that everyone’s pain tolerance is different, and what might feel like a pinch to one person could feel like a punch to another. But at the end of the day, the pain is temporary and the art is permanent. 

And hey, if you’re brave enough to willingly let someone poke you with a needle for a couple of hours, you’re already a badass in our book. So go forth, get that tattoo, and wear your pain like a badge of honor. After all, no pain, no gain, right?

While pain is subjective and can vary greatly from person to person, many people tend to find the outlining process to be more painful due to the sharp, precise nature of the needlework. Although, some people might find the constant, vibrating sensation of shading to be more uncomfortable.

Several factors can influence the level of pain experienced during a tattoo session. These include the location of the tattoo (some areas of the body are more sensitive than others), the size and complexity of the design, the type of needle used, and even your state of mind during the session.

There are several strategies to manage pain during a tattoo session. These include staying hydrated, getting a good night’s sleep before the session, eating a good meal beforehand, avoiding alcohol, and considering the use of a numbing cream (with the approval of your tattoo artist).