Being a tattoo artist is no easy task, and having hundreds of different needle diameters, needle counts, groupings, and more does not make the job any easier. Whether you’ve been tattooing for years or just beginning your practice, it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate which needles to use and why.
- Understanding the different types of tattoo needles is essential for making informed decisions in your tattooing practice.
- Round needles are used for crisp lines, dot work, and traditional styles, while magnum needles are ideal for shading and filling larger areas.
- Flat needles are best suited for creating precise lines, especially in geometric or intricate designs.
- Consider the size, type, quality, and fit of tattoo needles when choosing the right ones for your artwork.
In this article, we break down the different tattoo needle types and sizes, so you can make the most informed decisions when choosing a needle for your next tattoo.
Types of Needles
There are three main categories of needles that are important to know: round needles, magnum needles, and flat needles.
Round tattoo needles are grouped in a circular pattern with a center shaft. Round liner needles produce a crisp line.
- Round liner needles: Round liners are often marked with a number followed by RL, like 7RL. The number indicates how many pins are in the grouping. They are best used for dot work, line work, Japanese and traditional style tattooing, lettering, and geometric work.
- Round shader needles: Like round liners, round shaders are configured in a circular shape. The individual needles are not placed as close together, allowing them to cover more surface area. They are used for filling and shading.
- Turbo round liner needles: Turbo round liners are similar to round liners but do not have a needle in the middle of the circle. Instead, they are hollow, causing less damage to the skin. They can hold more ink than most other needles.
Magnum needles deliver a lot of ink, making them the ideal needle for almost all shading work. They let out a significant amount of ink at once, making them great for shading large areas.
- Stacked magnum needles: Stacked magnum needles consist of two rows of needles, one on top of the other. The number of pins stacked can vary, offering different configurations for shading. This can range from 7 pins stacked with three on top of four, to 27 pins stacked with 13 pins on top and 14 on the bottom.
- Curved magnum needles: Curved magnum needles have an arch shape, allowing for more consistent lines and better ink placement. They result in less damage to the skin and are often referred to as "soft-edge."
Flat needles are simply a straight, flat line of needles. They are best used for creating lines because of their shape and ability to deliver lots of ink to the skin. They are often used for geometric tattoos or intricate designs.
Textured vs. Smooth Needles
Some needles are textured, while others are not. Textured needles hold ink better due to small grooves along the tip that the ink can cling to. They are great for solid color tattoos and can create deeper skin pigmentation.
Sizes of Needles
Needles come in a wide variety of sizes, usually ranging from .20 mm to .40 mm. The size of tattoo needles is referred to as their gauge or diameter. A small needle delivers less ink to the skin than a larger diameter needle.
- #8 Gauge: Very small needles referred to as bugpins, ideal for small and elaborate detailing. They have a 0.25 mm diameter.
- #10 Gauge: A versatile middle needle, commonly referred to as "Double Zeros," delivering a steady flow of ink. They have a 0.30 mm diameter.
- #12 Gauge: Commonly used for shading areas or creating bold lines, with a fast ink flow. They have a 0.35 mm diameter.
Other sizes of needles, such as #6 gauge, #12, and #14 gauge, are used for specific projects and are rarer than the #8, #10, and #12.
How to Identify Needles
Each type of needle has a different way of identifying it. The needle count indicates how many pins are used to make the needle, while the gauge identifies the size of the needles.
Each type of needle has a different way of identifying what it is. The needle count is the number that indicates how many pins are used to make the needle. This would be the number that comes before the lettering, like in "9RL".
The number that precedes that is the gauge identifier. So an #8 9RL would be an #8 gauge size and indicate nine needles with each #8 gauge configured in a circle shape around a center pin.
Another example would be a #10 15 CM. This would indicate a curved magnum shape made up of 15 needles that are all size #10.
#10 (Gauge) 15 (# of pins for the needle) CM (curved magnum shape)
Other Factors to Consider
In addition to size and type, consider the quality, packaging, and fit of tattoo needles. Choose high-quality needles to ensure optimal performance and avoid potential issues. Always check that the needles are pre-sterilized and in a sealed package. Double-check compatibility with your equipment and ensure you have the correct tips or tubes to match your needles.
In closing, although it can seem overwhelming at first, understanding tattoo needle types and sizes is essential for tattoo artists. Experiment with different types, sizes, and configurations to discover what works best for you. Remember to consider the specific requirements of each tattoo and strive for quality and precision in your artwork.