Difference between a liner and shader tattoo machine

difference between a liner and shader tattoo machine
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Tattooing is an art form that has taken the world by storm and is something people from everywhere have taken to with great enthusiasm. Tattoos also allow people to express their individuality and set themselves apart in society.

When it comes time to specialize in this art, you have various options. There are design areas where one can excel: liner tattooing and shading. Some people get confused about the two because they are similar in design, but there is a difference between a liner and a shader tattoo machine.  

Also, in the tattooing community, many aspiring artists want to know more about the technical side of the process. One of the most common questions in this community would be related to the difference between a liner and a shader tattoo machine.

Many people are unaware of some differences between the two, so having access to multiple machines will likely make things easier for you in this respect.

Difference between a liner and shader tattoo machine

difference between a liner and shader tattoo machine

Shader and liner are two kinds of tattoo machines. Liner tattoo guns have needles that are different in size and can be used to make elaborate details in a design. The thicker the needle you use, your outline will get more detailed. Shader tattoo guns have tiny needles, so they don’t leave much room for error when shading smaller areas of the body they’re used on that need to be filled out with color.

Liner and shader tattoo guns are used to make a person’s tattoo dreams come true. However, there are some factors that can make these machines different. To understand it better, let’s look at the difference between a liner and a shader tattoo gun.

Needle Configuration

One of the most noticeable differences in tattoo machines for lining and shading is the number of needles and their position.

Typical tattoo machines used for lining use fewer needles than a shader tattoo machine. A liner tattoo machine has needles from one to seven positioned along a circle or loop. On the other hand, shading machines can have more than four needles placed in a line resembling a comb or alphabet letter. Shader tattoo needles are more in number than liner needles.

The needle configuration is the prime difference between a liner and a shader tattoo machine.

Speed and Power

The type of tattoo machine that you would use for lining types of tattoos is different than the one used for shading. This is because liners run faster than shaders and often require a lower-powered capacitor (22uF). While a shader requires an even higher-powered capacitor (around 100uF), many artists are now opting to decrease their power consumption and still have enough pop in their work by using a smaller capacitor of around 47uF, giving them just the right amount of power they need without going overboard. The high-power capacitor in the shader tattoo machine powers the needles and allows them to penetrate the skin and create long-lasting colors.


When setting up a tattoo machine, you can follow some general rules to help your design look more significant than ever before. For instance, the number of coils wrapped around the bar of your tattoo machine can vary depending on what kind of work you’ll be doing with it. Of course, you want to configure your equipment according to the type of inks you will be using; for example, a soft blackwork tattooing would require fewer coils than one that uses bold black ink and multicolored ink. The more coils wrapping around the bar, the more powerful electromagnetic forces working behind each needle become when the machine is turned on.

A shader tattoo machine should be set up with 10 to 12 wrap coils, while a lining tattoo gun will work well with eight wrap coils.


Tattoo machines come in all sizes and shapes. The size of your tattoo machine will depend on what you plan to use it for.

Shading machines are heavier than the lining. The average weight of the shading machines is between 8 to 284grm, while the weight of lining machines is from seven to eight oz.

If, as a tattoo artist, you are comfortable with your tattoo machine, then the weight shouldn’t matter to you, and you will be able to handle heavy machines for longer hours. Weight is the significant difference between a liner and a shader tattoo machine.

Strength And Movement

When getting a tattoo, the artist first outlines using a liner to keep it neat and precise. This makes the task a bit more difficult because they have to ensure they’re not slowing down to complete the outline without mistakes.

Liners move faster and use less power, while on the other hand, Shaders have more power because they have to hold up several needles. If they are not sufficiently powerful, the colors will not come bold and lively. A shader has 100uF capacitors at the maximum, but a liner has only 25uF capacitors.


Yes, you can use a liner to make shades. You will need to use liner needles for your shader that cannot be a hard-hitting color packer as it is usually purchased by businesses who want to create their graphics and prints onsite. Or you could get a soft lining machine that has six wraps which are highly recommended, and use it with a smaller needle setting. Your tattoo will have a traditional look when you make shades with a lining machine.

Yes, you can, but it’s entirely up to you how your tattoos will appear. You can make them the way you want. Often with tattoos, it’s a matter of picking out lines or outlining the image and then fleshing out the hues. But in your case, the choice is yours! You are an artist and, as such, can be creative with the tools if you so wish.

The average voltage setting for lining a tattoo is six volts, but people aren’t always following this rule. The tattooist adjusts the settings of his or her machine to find a hum or buzz that is right for them and their client.

As for shading voltages, tattooists use a range from 8v to 10v. Usually, the default voltage will do the trick, but you may need to adjust so that your tattooing process goes smoothly throughout.


We hope the significant areas of difference between a liner and shader tattoo machine are clear to you by now. But keep in mind that they complement each other. You cannot choose one from them if you want to make a complete and proper tattoo.

In this article, we have seen how they can be most effectively utilized when used together in harmony and connection with one another not to impede progress on your art but rather to keep it alive. If, as an artist, you want a proper and complete tattoo, we recommend you to use both together but also learn about the difference between a liner and shader tattoo machine, so that you can use your creativity the most.

That’s all about the difference between a liner and shader tattoo machines. Thanks for reading.

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