Tattoo Needles – A Complete Guide | Types & Usage of Tattoo Needles | Important Tips

Tattoos have been around for thousands of years and they are more popular today than ever before in history. They are everywhere. Some studies show that around 35% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 have tattoos. Tattoos are a form of personal expression for most people, a kind of expression of their individuality and most adults feel sexier with tattoos too.

Outlining is an important aspect of tattoo art. This outline or inking is done through the use of tattoo needles. Different types of tattoo needles are used by tattoo artists to help create the most effective outlines. Whether it is star tattoos, butterfly tattoos, Celtic tattoos, dragon tattoos, or any other design, a tattoo needle is a must have for tattooing.

Today tattooing is done with electric tattoo machines that insert ink into the skin through a group of tattoo needles that are soldered into the rod and attached to the oscillating unit. This device drives the tattoo needles in and out of the skin 80 to 150 times per second.

At the end of this article, you will get insight knowledge on all about tattoo needles, how it works, what needles do what, and what types of tattoo needles are.  Before we dive into the types of tattoo needles we need to understand some basics behind tattoo needle

Understanding the diameter of tattoo needles

These aspects of tattoo needle sizing are a lot simpler than they appear. The figure is the number of needles that are contained in the needle. The diameter is the width of these needles when they are wrapped together around a central rod.

Here is an example of four needle diameters:

  • Size 6 = 0.2 mm
  • Size 8 = 0.25mm
  • Size 10 = 0.30 mm
  • Size 12 = 0.35mm

The larger the diameter, the thicker the tattoo needle and the more area it fills at the same time. Smaller is better for tighter lines, bigger means more efficient and faster shading. However, size ten is the most commonly used.

Types of tattoo needles

The choice of needles depends entirely on preferences. The cool thing is that there are so many types of tattoo needles to choose from. The most common are:

1. Round tattoo needle

This type of tattoo needle is often referred to as loose needles.

This tattoo needle gives great flexibility in terms of thickness.

It is also used as a liner or a shader, depending on how close it is placed on the skin.

round tattoo needle

2. Flat tattoo needle

Flat tattoo needles are welded to a needle bar in a straight line.

These needles are best for use in liner tattooing because their shape allows you to shed more into the skin.

If you want quick results, consider using larger needles.

Flat tattoo needle

Just like round needles, these units are characterized by their types such as FL (Flat Liner) or FS (Flat Shader). It is also common to find some of them marked by their size.

3. Magnum needles

These needles are the essential units for all of your shading work.

They have longer pegs that allow them to dispense a lot of ink onto large areas of skin.

Because they release a lot of ink in one pass, you only have to pass an area once to minimize skin damage.

These needles are available in different designs: stacked, woven and curved. It is up to you to choose the right ones for your application.

Important Tips to Choose the Right Size of Tattoo Needles

Choosing a needle size will depend on the type of tattoo you are doing.

  • Round tattoo needle for low small tattoos.
  • Thick lines, large canvas patterns (mental work), or shading will require a more rounded needle.
  • Magnum are versatile and the best solution for working with color.
  • Curved magnum are ideal for portraits and detailed color work.
  • Round liners tattoo needle types are for detailed lines and ideal for small tattoos.
  • Flat loaders give unique melting traces

Determining the size of needle to use is a process you can’t just sit down and check off a list. Think about the tattoo you are going to get, visualize it before you think about the needles you are going to use. Think about the colors, outlines, font, boldness, shading and thickness, then think about which needles will fit on the bill.

Start with commonly used and versatile needles, then expand your repertoire and learn the most effective needle types for different pattern types. Use your intuition, especially when you’re feeling more comfortable and more informed.

What tattoo needles do what? (Tattoo needle sizes and uses chart)

  • All tattoo needles are marked with a code which are: RL, RS, FL, and MAG all represent a group of tattoo needles.
  • RL needles are generally used for the liner because they are closely grouped. They are the best choice for line and dot tattoos.
  • Although RS stands for Round Shader, it does not mean that RS needles are used for shading.
  • FL stands for flat, meaning the needles are placed in a straight line and welded to a needle bar.
  • Mag means magnum. Mag needles can be divided into woven magnum, curved magnum, or round magnum and stacked magnum.
  • The type of magnum ideal for shading is the woven magnum, also great for blending and coloring large areas. Stacked magnums are used to shade, blend, and color large, narrow areas. Both can be used for the liner if you turn the needle to the side. So only do this after you’ve practiced the technique enough. Otherwise, there is a risk of damage to the skin.
  • Round Curve Magnums are also ideal for shading, and coloring large areas of the skin. The needles are curved to better distract the skin when getting in and out. With a normal magnum, the edges of the feeder can sink into the skin. With a round magnum, the arch of the needle allows you to move more freely over the skin without the risk of the edges sinking.

Factors to consider when buying tattoo needles

  • There are a few factors to consider when purchasing tattoo needles. You should consider the shape of the units. If the tattoo needle you want to purchase is twisted, blunt, or bent they are not for you as they will not give ideal results.
  • Also take into account the type of welding. You need to be very careful how they attach to the pole and center pole. If the solder is loose, stay away from the needles as they are more likely to loosen as you apply the tattoo. Buy from a reputable store to increase your chances of purchasing good quality needles.
  • Note: If you plan to buy needles online, you have no idea whether or not they are sterilized. So buying a tattoo needle from a reliable brand is much better. You can also read reviews from other buyers before placing orders.
  • Each tattoo needle must be sealed in a blister pack which can be seen on the product picture. Some traditional tattoo needles have a blue dot, which means they are sterile. Never use a needle this is not sterilized.
  • Make sure the needles are welded well before placing an order. Please check the picture carefully when viewing the product page. If the tattoo needle is loose, don’t buy it. Using a loose tattoo needle is risky as it can come off while you are tattooing.

How tattoo needles work

The tattoo needle is like a hand-held micro mixer that goes deep into your skin. When you get a tattoo, you feel like all the layers of skin are chopped up and nibbled away by the penetration of the sharp needle.

The human skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutaneous tissue. The outer layer, which acts as a protective barrier and does not contain blood vessels, is called the epidermis. Underneath there is a thicker layer called the dermis and that is where the tattoos go.

Since the epidermis is constantly being renewed (we produce and remove the top layer of skin throughout life), the tattoo artist pushes the ink through the epidermis and leaves it in the dermis. The dermis stays pretty much the same all our lives and therefore tattoos stay permanent while many other things that are done on the skin don’t.

How tattoo needles work is simple: when the circuit is connected, two magnetic coils (the two large cylinders) generate a magnetic field, pull a bar magnet down and push the tattoo needle outside. When the bar magnet is lowered, the tattoo needle breaks the circuit and rises on a spring.

This causes the tattoo needle to move up and down very quickly when the circuit is connected. When tattoo needles penetrate into the skin, they draw ink into the dermis (the layer of skin just below the surface).

Ultimately, this ink is permanent due to a quirk of the human immune system: the body responds to the wound with white blood cells that try to engulf and eliminate invaders.

These white blood cells gobble up debris and fall out when injured. So it’s no surprise they happen when a needle sticks you over and over and your skin keeps sucking ink. Macrophages are self-feeding and their cell membranes will keep your tattoo ink nice and comfortable for years.

How deep should the tattoo needles go?

A tattoo needle penetrates about 1.5 mm (1/16 inch) into the skin. A tattoo artist should make sure the ink penetrates just deep enough to be permanent, but not too much. The depth varies across the body – it’s deeper on the soles of the feet and thinner in other places like the genitals.

If the tattoo is done too deep, it can cause unnecessary pain and bleeding in the third layer of skin, the subcutaneous layer. It can also appear fuzzy, even when healed, as you have to look deeper (through multiple layers of skin) to see it.

The depth of penetration of a tattoo needle is one of the most important skills any tattoo artist needs to improve. The depth of penetration of a needle affects not only the quality of the tattoo, but also the pain of the client.

Tattoo artists adjust the length of the needle so that it only penetrates 1/16 of an inch into the skin. A skilled tattoo artist will also always make sure that the ink penetrates deep enough into the skin to be permanent, but not so deep that the flesh in that area is damaged and scar tissue begins to form.

What happens if a tattoo is not deep enough?

If a tattoo is not deep enough, it creates an irregular tattoo that disappears as your skin begins to shed its layers. While a very deep tattoo can damage the nerves or flesh, or create thick scars that will eventually warp your tattoo.

If a tattoo artist gets too deep into your skin, it can cause excruciating pain and excessive bleeding. It is therefore important that the tattoos reach 1/16 of an inch on the skin.


Tattoo needles plays a major role in tattooing. As a newbies in tattooing, you must figure out what tattoo needles is all about. The ability to properly apply the tattoo needle takes years to learn. So it is very important to take the time to learn and understand the fundamentals of tattoo needles. Hopefully the above information has been of great help.