Whip Shading vs Pendulum Shading for PMU – Techniques Explained & Compared

By Emily M.| Last updated on May 10, 2023
whip shading + pendulum shading
⏱️ 5 min read

Machine shading in permanent makeup is a complex skill that takes time and dedication to master. It represents the perfect balance between hand position and speed, machine speed and needle length, as well as pigment flow and shading motion.

To help you better understand different shading techniques, we bring you a detailed look into whip shading and pendulum shading, what they are and how they compare to each other, plus which one to choose for different PMU treatments.

Let’s get started!

What Shading Techniques Are There?

The most popular machine shading techniques used in PMU are whip shading and pendulum shading.

Both were adopted from the tattooing industry, which uses several other shading techniques, like packing or stipple shading, but whip and pendulum are the ones which make the most sense in PMU, as they give the most natural effect.

So let’s look into them in detail.

Image source: Instagram @alex.pmu.academy


While pendulum and whip shading are the basic, go-to shading techniques, more experienced artists tend to use a combination of motions and even develop their own signature techniques.

As long as you know how to stay gentle on the skin, you can play around with shading techniques.

What Is Whip Shading?

Whip shading is a technique that implies making contact with the client’s skin in one direction, either away from the artist performing it or toward them in a back-and-forth motion.

It’s important to note that although this swinging motion may look the same as the pendulum shading technique, the needle should only penetrate the skin in one direction when whipping.

Depending on the desired look, the artist will either use an upward or downward flicking motion to deposit pigment into the skin.

Keep in mind that when whipping away from yourself the pigment will gradually spread out in that direction, and the opposite applies when whipping toward yourself. Usually, you’ll notice that you’ve implemented more pigment when whipping away from yourself than toward yourself.

Whipping is the most commonly used shading technique among PMU artists as it can provide even pixelation which is most important when creating an ombré effect.

You can combine this technique with pendulum shading or other shading techniques to create the best, customized look for each client.


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Benefits of Whip Shading for PMU

The majority of machine brow artists prefer using the whip shading technique due to its comfortability and ease of use. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of whip shading:


Whip shading allows for quicker coverage of larger areas compared to other shading techniques. This makes it ideal not only for brows and lips but for scar and stretch mark camouflage treatments as well.

Soft Gradation

The whip shading technique produces soft, feathery strokes that create a subtle gradient effect. That’s why it is particularly suitable for creating ombre powder brows and ombre eyeliner.

Image source: Instagram @carolinakortschak.pmu

Minimal Trauma

Due to the rapid motion and light pressure, whip shading typically causes less trauma to the skin compared to other shading techniques.

This can result in faster healing and reduced discomfort for the client, which is especially great when working on the thin and delicate skin of the lips.

What Is Pendulum Shading?

Pendulum shading is a technique that implies using the PMU machine at a 90-degree angle and swinging it from side to side in a back-and-forth motion, creating smooth pixelation that spreads from the center outwards.

This technique is somewhat advanced so if you’re a beginner artist, a good tip is to first practice using it with a pen and paper until you’re able to achieve really smooth transitions.

Pendulum shading requires precise control of hand movement to create even and symmetrical results. If you’re getting blocky-looking results, you’re probably not swinging your needle enough to get a true pendulum movement.

This shading technique represents an easy way to implement pigment quickly, making it great for powder brows and brow techniques in general, but also for different lip tattoo styles.

Benefits of Pendulum Shading for PMU

Pendulum shading can give experienced artists optimal color saturation in a much smaller amount of passes when compared to whip shading. Here are some additional benefits of pendulum shading:


Pendulum shading allows for precise control over the placement and intensity of the pigment. This technique is particularly useful for creating defined lines, shadows, or gradients in areas that require more detail, such as lip shading and lip outlining.


The pendulum shading technique can be used to achieve various effects, ranging from soft and natural to bold and dramatic. It offers more versatility compared to whip shading, making it suitable for different client preferences and desired looks.

Color Saturation

Pendulum shading tends to deposit pigment more deeply into the skin, resulting in higher color saturation. This makes it a good choice for clients who desire bolder and longer-lasting results.

Whip Shading vs Pendulum Shading: Which to Choose?

Both whip shading and pendulum shading are techniques that every permanent makeup artist who does machine work should learn to do and use interchangeably. Let’s compare these techniques across the following categories:


Whip shading involves a rapid back-to-front or front-to-back motion, while pendulum shading utilizes a sweeping, pendulum-like motion.

Whip shading is generally faster and more beginner-friendly, while pendulum shading offers more precision and requires a smaller amount of passes.

Suitable Areas

Whip shading is often used for eyebrows, where a natural, soft gradient effect is desired.

Pendulum shading is commonly applied to areas that require more precise detailing, such as lips and eyeliner.

Client Preferences

Whip shading produces softer, more natural-looking results, while pendulum shading can create more defined and dramatic effects.

The choice between whip shading and pendulum shading depends on the client’s personal style and the look they want to achieve.

Shading Tips and Best Practices

Now that we’ve covered all the important information and differences between these two shading techniques, here are some of the most important steps to follow for even pigment implementation when shading:

  • Make sure your needle is penetrating the skin at 90 degrees.
  • Start by shading in one direction and switch to a pendulum after you build the momentum.
  • Don’t shade in random sections, work from top to bottom or from bottom to top.
  • Don’t implement too much pigment at once to prevent patchy results.
  • Control your speed. Don’t shade too fast as it can cause irritation and swelling.
  • Mind the fade. The color will fade and soften during the healing process.

Image source: Instagram @pmuhub

To Conclude

Both whip shading and pendulum shading are important shading techniques in the realm of PMU. Whip shading offers speed and a soft gradient effect, making it suitable for clients who desire natural-looking results in areas such as eyebrows.

Pendulum shading, on the other hand, provides precision, versatility, and higher color saturation, making it ideal for clients seeking defined lines, shadows, or gradients in areas like lips and eyeliner.

Ultimately, the choice between the two techniques depends on the client’s preferences and the expertise of the PMU artist. So if you’re a beginner, you should work towards mastering both!



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