how to fix shaky tattoo lines

Linework Problems – How To Fix Shaky Tattoo Lines. 9 Tips

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Are you struggling with shaky tattoo lines? It can be frustrating to spend hours on a design only to be left with uneven lines in the final tattoo. Getting a great line is difficult for tattoo beginners, but don’t worry, there are ways to fix shaky tattoo lines!

So how do you fix shaky tattoo lines? The problem is usually in either your hand stability or how you are stretching the skin. Improving both of those will improve the stability and look of your line and prevent wobbles. Slight improvements in technique can make vast improvements in your tattoos.

In this post, we’ll share some tips and tricks for fixing shaky tattoo lines so you can create a beautiful crisp line every time.

From adjusting your grip to stretching correctly, we’ve got you covered.

Keep reading to learn how to pull a clean line and become a better tattoo artist!

You may also like this post What Are The Basics Of Tattooing For Beginners

Help. How Can I Fix Shaky Tattoo Lines?

I got a question from one of our community asking for help with controlling shakiness when lining.

They ask

“I just need help with lining. I know it’s the basics but I just don’t seem to be able to do it. With pen on paper I can draw straight non wobbely lines but as soon I am on fake skin or on my own skin I see so many imperfections. My depth control is a lot better so I seem to have that under control. But the shaking, the shaking… well yes the shaking. I have tried even using beta blockers which seem to help but the lines are still not perfect. I must be doing something wrong. Are there methods that I can practice to help?”

I think shaky tattoo lines are a common problem when you are first starting out learning to tattoo so this answer should help everyone.

I also tried using beta blockers when I was starting out. They do help a little but are definitely not a long term solution.

It can be disheartening when all you want to do is create an attractive tattoo and your linework lets you down.

Bad tattoo lines can ruin an otherwise perfect tattoo.

Shakiness in your lines is usually a result of some kind of stability or stretching problem.

Lets run through a few ideas of things that can help…

1 – Don’t use too fine of a tattoo needle

One of the main things that can cause shaky lines is using a tattoo needle that is too fine. When you use a fine needle grouping, it amplifies any slight movements in your hand, making them more visible in the final tattoo.

A thicker line is much easier. to control.

A 3 or a 5 RL or even a single needle are very unforgiving when you are just starting. Avoid them in the beginning when you are trying to get your lines solid.

Fine line tattoos are not easy for complete beginners.

I would suggest that you try using a 7 Round Liner to start. This is a good size to begin with, as it is large enough to help stabilize your lines, but not too large that it becomes unwieldy.

Recommended Needle Sizes – 7 Round Liner or 9 Round Liner for the outline

{note – a finer needle is more likely to damage the skin so larger needle configurations can help with the healing process and avoiding blowouts}.

2 – Make sure you are anchoring your hand securely on the skin surface and not hovering

Secondly, it’s important to make sure that you are anchoring your hand and not trying to hover above the skin.

When you hover, it becomes more challenging to control the needle and keep it steady.

Instead, rest your hand solidly on the skin to ensure that you can pull a good clean tattoo line without any wobbles. This will help to steady your hand and minimize any unwanted movement.

Make sure you have 3 points of contact

You get maximum stability make sure you set up your working position to be as stable as possible. Try and get 3 points of contact whenever possible.

1 – Make sure your elbow is resting firmly on the table or lock it against your body and side.

2 – Make sure the side of your hand is resting solidly against the clients skin

3 – You can gain more stability by connecting your tattooing hand pinkie to the thumb your stretching hand. A slight touch will give you more stabilization.

Shaky Tattoo Lines Hovering Hand
Hovering your hand above the clients skin without making a good contact can lead to shaky tattoo lines
shaky tattoo lines solid hand
This hand is solidly anchored on the clients skin with the fingers supporting the needle. This will give a much better line

3 – Stretch The Skin In The Right Direction

The direction that you stretch the skin is crucial. If you stretch across the direction of the line, as soon as you release the stretch the line will look crooked.

Always stretch in the same direction as the line that you are tattooing to reduce shakiness.

This also helps with healing as you are creating less trauma in the skin.

4 – Use Vaseline to glide over the skin surface without juddering

Try smearing a layer of vaseline on the underside of your glove to smooth your hand’s passing across the skin.

This will reduce any friction and make your hand movement smoother. When you have smooth hand movements, it will be easier to create straighter, more controlled lines.

This layer of petroleum jelly also helps to preserve visibility as the vaseline stops the black tattoo ink smearing into the skin.

fix shaky tattoo lines with a layer of vaseline
A layer of vaseline or process cream on the bottom finger can help your hand to glide smoothly over the skin eliminating shakiness

5 – Stay Fresh – Fatigue can lead to the shakes

Tattooing is a physically and mentally demanding profession, and it’s easy to become fatigued.

You actually need to build up strength in your hands and fingers.

This is especially relevant if you are using a heavy coils machine. It may be that your hand muscle strength needs building up.

When I first stated I had a heavy brass machine and I couldn’t tattoo for more than 15 minutes at a time without getting the shakes. {I have very small hands}

When you are tired, your lines may become shaky, so taking breaks can help to prevent this from happening.

6 – Check Your Angle

A common mistake which can cause shaky tattoo lines is to be holding your tattoo machine at the wrong angle.

If it is held too upright at a steeper angle, {90 degree angle} you lose a lot of control over your line.

Make sure you hold it at a slightly more shallow angle which allows you ro see what you are doing and have better ink flow, more stabilization and control over the line.

7 – Check Your Tattoo Machine

Some beginner tattoo machines are completely useless. They have a loose action that lets the needle vibrate far too much and can not create a precise line.

This is much more likely to happen with Coil tattoo machines as the needle bar can vibrate creating a rough and crooked line.

And if you are beginner you mayn’t know how to set it up and fix this properly.

Its really so much easier if you buy a decent quality tattoo machine to start off with. That way you are not fighting against the difficulties of the machine as well as your lack of experience.

You can find out more about beginner tattoo machines here Dragonhawk Starter Tattoo Kit Review

8 – Practice to improve your confidence. 

The only way to improve is just keep doing it.

Work on fake skin and line over and over using these tips until things improve.

It really is something that comes with practice and confidence as well.

You need to be able to pull line confidently.

Sometimes if you are too tentative due to lack of confidence this also results in shakiness.

So just keep practicing over and over until you feel much more confident

Practice skin is a great way to practice your technique without the pressure of working on a real person. It can help you develop your muscle memory.

Free Practice Stencil

I have created a stencil template here which you can use to practice straight lines. Just download it, print it out and stencil it up.

I suggest practicing on a piece of fake skin daily, even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes.

Tattoo Lining Practice Stencil
Click To Download full size A4

This post may be helpful. How To Use Tattoo Transfer Paper – With or Without A Thermal Copier

9 – Take Your Time and Relax

Lastly, remember to take your time. Tattooing is not a race, and rushing through a tattoo can lead to stress and shaky lines.

Its’ also very easy to get mentally stressed and frustrated which doesn’t help

It’s better to take your time and relax. If you need to slow down and take a breather, do so. There’s no shame in taking your time to ensure that your work is of high quality.

Frequently Asked Questions About Shaky Tattoo Lines

Can A Tattoo Artist Fix A Crooked Line?

A tattoo artist may be able to fix a crooked line. However, it depends on the style of the tattoo and the extent of the shake. They may be able to sculpt the line or thicken it. However a blowout or bad flaw may need laser or a coverup to fix it. All depends on the design and extent of the issue.

Will My Tattoo Look Less Crooked When It Heals?

No. Once a line is tattooed crooked, that’s it. It cannot magically become more straight or better or change shape. It may fade a little and look less obvious. If you have a line that is wrong speak to your tattooist about a touch up or repair to improve it.

Conclusion – How To Fix Shaky Tattoo Lines

I hope that these tips will help you improve your lining technique and iron out any shaky tattoo lines issues so you can create a quality tattoo.

It takes time to become an experienced tattoo artist and create a consistent line so don’t be disheartened if you struggle in the beginning.

Remember that practice makes perfect, and with consistent practice and patience, you will see progress in your work and you will start pulling perfect lines.

Good luck with your tattooing journey, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions or concerns.


The information on the site is for entertainment only. Anything you do is at your own risk. Consult with your own Tattooist, Piercer or Doctor for advice.

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