This technique is performed by gathering energy, forming a vaguely diamond-shape "window" with the hand by keeping the fingers on each hand together, overlapping the index finger on the one hand with the pinky of the other hand, and overlapping the thumbs. The object being focused on gets zoomed in on and visualized inside that diamond, then the user (namely Tien) shouts "Tri-Beam, ha!" while releasing the large yellow beam from the hands. Tien also has the ability to fire it with one hand as seen when he fires the Spirit Tri-Beam at Nappa after he loses his arm.
In addition to being able to kill the target, the Tri-Beam can also easily kill the user as it drains their life energy. The attack has a tendency to cast the entire environment around it in a deep orange glow. The attack formation itself places the hands in a seemingly awkward position; and it appears that later in the series, the finger tips are touching, and the thumbs are the only things that overlap.
Prior to the events of Dragon Ball, during the King Piccolo wars, the disciples of Master Mutaito use Tri-Beams against King Piccolo's Demon Clan. This is in vain, as they are all killed except for Master Shen and Master Roshi.
Tien uses the attack during the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament against Goku. Tien also uses the Tri-Beam in the movie Dragon Ball: Mystical Adventure, to protect Emperor Chiaotzu from Master Shen. He later uses it against Yamcha at Kami's Lookout, against the illusion Saiyans in the Pendulum Room, and against Future Trunks during X.S. Cash's Intergalactic World Tournament in Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound. He also uses his Tri-Beam to destroy Super Buu's Finger Beam, thus protecting Mr. Satan and Dende when the Majin attacked them.
After training with Korin, Kami, and later King Kai, Tien perfects the attack as the "Neo Tri-Beam," which is essentially an "upgraded" form of the attack that allows him to control and enhance how much energy he puts behind it, inflicting even greater damage. This upgraded attack is powerful enough to hold even Semi-Perfect Cell at bay. The attack is extremely powerful, and despite the massive gap between Cell and Tien's powers, Cell was unable to break through the repeated blasts, though they did not inflict any real damage to him. Tien eventually collapsed from using the technique too much, but was saved from Cell by Goku.
During his battle against Frieza's army in Resurrection ‘F’, and in Dragon Ball Super, Tien uses his Tri-Beam.
- Spirit Tri-Beam – A one handed version of the Tri-Beam which uses Tien's life force as a source of power. Used as a final resort against Nappa.
- Neo Tri-Beam – A stronger version of the Tri-Beam, which can be used consecutively. Used against Cell so Android 18 could escape.
- Z-Assist Neo Tri-Beam - A variation of the Neo Tri-Beam used by the Future Warrior in Dragon Ball: Xenoverse when performing the technique while Tien Shinhan is their current Master. The Z-Assist causes Tien's soul (which appears as an astral projection of Tien performing the technique) to go into the Future Warrior's body while they're performing it, increasing the power of the Warrior's Neo Tri-Beam.
- Multi-Form Attack – Tien uses the Multi-Form to split himself into four identical copies and then, at the same time, each copy fires a Tri-Beam. Used in the Gokuden RPG series and Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans.