Mastering Blackwork Tattoos and Fine Lines with Boris Bianchi | Painful Pleasures Community

Mastering Blackwork Tattoos and Fine Lines with Boris Bianchi

Blackwork, fine lines, stippling, and lettering are key tattooing techniques. Learn how to conquer them from the best in the game, Boris Bianchi.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: May 3, 2024

Immerse yourself in the world of blackwork tattoos, lettering, and fine-lining—some of the most valued techniques and styles in the tattoo universe.

Now meet the King of those styles: Boris Bianchi, otherwise known as the Peony King, renowned for his skill in nailing blackwork and fine-line tattoos. But hold on, it’s not just the classic peony he excels at—his signature style can transform any subject into a blackwork masterpiece with delicate linework that’ll make any fine-line tattooer jealous. And when it comes to stippling, he’s a true aficionado. So if you’re ready to elevate your blackwork and fine-line game, Boris is your North Star.

So Who is the Peony King?

Skull and sword tattoo by Boris Bianchi

Meet Boris Bianchi, also known as the Peony King, the owner and creative force behind Paeonia Tattoos in Miami. This one-of-its-kind shop is known as the only luxury cafe + speakeasy tattoo studio in Miami. It’s also the only multi-international-award-winning shop in Florida. With a trophy case full of global accolades himself, Boris is more than just an award-winning artist running an award-winning shop—he’s got a style that stands out from all the other blackwork, lettering, and fine-line pieces out there.

But what sets him apart?

That can’t 100% be put into words. But one thing’s for sure: he’s got a talent for weaving his signature blackwork, fine-line, and lettering style into a wide range of subjects. Whether it’s a Harry Potter-inspired pop culture piece or a culturally significant design like this Hanuman tattoo, Boris’s adaptability knows no bounds. In a sea of other artists who’ve chosen fine-line work, blackwork, or lettering as their go-to style… a Boris piece always steals the show. Dive into his top tips for nailing a tattoo every time (peony or otherwise).

Start from the Top, then Work Down (and Linework First!)

Culturally inspired blackwork tattoo by Boris Bianchi

When tackling complex pieces that span multiple sessions, Boris takes it one step at a time. But his approach changes based on how the client wants to go about it.

So, for example, if he’s got a client booked for a 3-day back-to-back session on a huge piece? He always works from the top down, tackling each part of the tattoo individually. This prevents him from overworking the skin, going back over the same spots, or losing focus.

On the other hand, if his client is more “loosey-goosey,” and he’s working with a less rigid schedule, Boris sticks to one main rule of thumb: outline first, then shade. This structured approach provides a solid framework for the tattoo and guides the rest of the process.

Stippling Secrets

Harry Potter-inspired sword and flower tattoo by Boris Bianchi

Not to sound dramatic, but Boris’s stippling technique is legendary. His secrets are pretty hands-on and technical, so you can easily apply them to your own processes.

First, for best stippling, he runs his machine at 4.0v—but, he was sure to mention, he grieves the fact that there isn’t a machine he can run at 3.5v. That would be his ideal voltage for top-notch stippling.

Second, he uses circular or side-to-side motions, avoiding harsh pressure on the skin. By gently floating the needle, Boris achieves a softer, smoother stippling effect that adds depth and texture to his tattoos.

Last, he prefers using darker gray washes for stippling. Blackwork, after all, is part of his signature style.

Blackwork Tattoos + Shading Pro Tip: Control the Weight of Your Hands

Blackwork floral tattoo by Boris Bianchi

This goes hand-in-hand with Boris’s stippling advice. However, you can apply this tip across the board to any tattooing technique. Boris swears by adjusting the pressure of his hands to control the darkness and heaviness of his ink flow. This is especially helpful for him, seeing as his favorite black tattoo ink is Allegory Ultra Black: ultra-rich as its name (and the best ink on Earth according to Boris).

Be Sparing with (or Totally Avoid) Numbing Creams

Especially with delicate linework tattoos or lettering, your client’s skin needs to be workable. Consequently, Boris advises caution when using numbing creams. They can alter the skin’s texture, making it tougher to work with, even leathery in some cases. Plus, they often take a while to kick in and may not always be effective. So, you’ll consistently end up reapplying cream that takes too long to activate and may not even yield the desired effects… all while altering the texture of your canvas.

All that being said? Boris will occasionally offer numbing cream for longer sessions. More on that below.


Let’s give Boris’s top tattoo supply picks the spotlight they deserve.

Peak Solice Pro

Close-up of Peak Solice Pro in action

Boris often uses multiple machines. But the Peak Solice Pro recently won him over. With adjustable stroke settings, he can tackle any piece with precision using just one machine. It eliminates the hassle of doing a switch-a-roo mid-tattoo.

Peak Stellar Needles + Cheyenne Capillary Needles (Check out Boris’s KEY CONFIGURATIONS for Fine Lines + Smooth Shades)

Box of Peak Stellar needle cartridges (unopened with white backdrop)

Boris’s needle game is strong… even when he’s crafting delicate fine linework. But for bold outlines and intricate details, he swears by a single needle for lining and a tight 3 for stippling. He particularly loves Cheyenne Capillary round needles and open liners—in fact, he says he dreams about them. But he’s since added new Stellar configurations to his line-up as well. And when it’s time to add depth and texture, Boris switches things up with a 9-round for blacks and a 13-mag for overlapping areas. It’s all about creating that unique texture and smooth, clean shading that help his tattoos stand out.

Allegory Blak + White

These are Boris’s go-to inks for bold blacks and subtle grays. By diluting Allegory Blak, he achieves the perfect shades for his signature style. As mentioned above, Boris considers Allegory Ultra Black to be the best ink on Earth. For graywash stippling, he also name-dropped Allegory’s light, medium, and dark graywashes.

Recovery Numb Spray

Bottle of Recovery Numbing Spray

For those marathon tattoo sessions, Boris will occasionally turn to Numb Spray to keep his clients comfortable and focused. The convenient spray application makes this numbing agent less time-consuming to use. Plus, it’s faster acting than other numbing solutions.

But overall, Boris does his best to avoid numbing solutions altogether.

Recovery Derm Shield

One roll of Recovery Derm Shield tattoo bandage on a white backdrop

With its clear, beautiful packaging, Recovery Derm Shield is Boris’s post-tattoo care essential. He swears by this bandage, which ensures smooth healing without any complaints, even for sensitive skin.

Water (Yeah, Really… Good Ol’ Fashioned H2O)

Rinse cup of water

Simple yet effective, water is Boris’s preferred cleaning option. It’s gentle on the skin and gets the job done without any fuss. But his #1 reason for relying on water (and water alone!) is that Green Soap often reacts poorly with the adhesive on Recovery Derm Shield. When Boris cleans his clients’ skin with water and nothing else, his clients experience a smoother recovery when they opt for a Derm Shield bandage.

Recovery Glide

Tub of Recovery Tattoo Glide

This was the first Recovery product Boris ever tried, and it won his heart right away. Recovery Glide keeps his tattoos looking fresh and vibrant. Its smooth formula ensures optimal healing without clogging his client’s pores or making the skin unworkable.

Go Earn Your Crown

Try out Boris’s favorite tools, utilize a few of his tips, and see how they can help your own blackwork, fine-line, and lettering skills. Don’t forget to utilize these techniques to make a style that’s all your own. Standing out is the best way to be the King or Queen of anything.

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