Tattooing Skills & Techniques | Outlining

Lamar Street Tattoo Club usually writes about the other side of the needle, but tattooing skills and techniques, especially in outlining, are essential. This is why we’ve put together everything you possibly need to know about it! We also go over safety and some of the most common questions you, clients, or new and aspiring tattoo artists may be wondering.

Tattoo Outlining

Outlining the basic shape of a tattoo is the first step after creating a stencil and transferring it. There are many different-sized needles and various colors you can use for your initial outlining. 

Often, you will start with a thin line and add layers with each pass until the line is the thickness needed. It is important to consider the design features, overall image, size, location, ink color, thickness, and technique you’ll use before you begin your outline. After all, it’s only permanent.

How to Outline a Tattoo

Step 1: Prep the Skin

Before you really begin, you must prep the skin for the tattoo. Shave the area and add a sterile lubricant or antiseptic spray; then, and only then, should you add the stencil if you will be using one.

Step 2: Prep the Machine

Now that the skin and stencil are ready, you can get started….after you make sure you have the ink prepped and the machine ready. Turn the machine off, and lightly place or dip the tip into the ink cap. Remember, you’ll have to refill, with more dips, often. Test your machine on a paper towel to test the ink and fix any band issues if it spills or spurts.

Step 3: Hold The Machine Correctly

If you want the correct lines, then you need the correct form. Hold the gun at a slight angle, like a pencil, and keep the machine forward or sideways; this helps the needle stay at the bottom of the tube with the ink and will make for a more solid line.

Step 4: Begin the First Line

It’s often best to start at the bottom of the tattoo or wherever will have the most gravity pulling. This is because gravity makes things go down…like blood, sweat, and, yes, ink. If these areas run down onto other parts of your stencil, it can smudge and slow or distort the process.

Press the needle and pull your hand along the line to make your first line. Move the tattoo gun with your fingers, keeping your hand posted in place as you first begin. This will help you apply even and consistent pressure, making your lines even and consistent too.

Tight skin tattoos better, so be sure to pull the area tight as you work. When the needle hits the skin, the sound will be quieter, this is called ‘chocking down,’ so if you don’t hear the change, the machine is probably too fast and should be slowed.

Step 5: Repeat Step 4

Tattooing is basically a bunch of tiny dots very close together, making a line. The faster you go, the further apart those dots become, causing gaps or inconsistencies and needing more passes. Go slow. Take your time. Do it right.

As you finish each line, pull the needle up and away, take pressure off the footswitch, and turn the machine off. You can now wipe away any excess ink or blood with a paper towel so you can see the lines better, continue this process until all the outlining is complete.

Step 6: Finishing Your Outline

After you finish, clean it up and ensure there aren’t any areas that need to be touched up. Fixing any outline mistakes is easier now before color or additional details are added, so go over everything closely and carefully.

Remember To Put Safety First, Second, & Third

Safety both before, during, and after the tattoo process is just as important, if not more, than your outlining skills. An amazing tattoo doesn’t matter if it gets infected. A great image doesn’t matter if it isn’t cared for properly after the fact. And no tattoo is worth getting a bloodborne pathogen.

Make sure you and your shop take the correct precautions to protect your clients and yourself.


  • Follow OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standards
  • Make sure your customers are of legal age unless you enjoy legal drama
  • Alcohol thins the blood, don’t tattoo the intoxicated as it could cause excessive bleeding
  • Ask clients to sign a consent form and explain the process to them
  • Properly dispose of all needles and keep your space clean
  • Keep your shop stocked with everything you need for safety and to maintain a sterile work environment
    • Disposable gloves
    • Skin Cleansers
    • Antibacterial soap
    • Antiseptic Wipes
    • Disinfectants
    • Sharps Box


Call or Visit to Get Your Appointment Booked at Lamar Street Tattoo Club

Send us a submission form if you want to work with the best tattoo artists and the most renowned tattoo shop in Dallas (with the best aftercare to keep your tattoo looking fresh for longer). Contact us, and we’ll get back to you with a consultation, appointment time, and tattoo artist recommendations if you don’t know who you want.

Walk-ins Always Welcome, Appointments Preferred.

Contact Us

Lamar Street Tattoo Club
1709 S. LAMAR St.